I grew up in a world where being passionate about something, almost anything in fact, was enough to label you a ‘nerd’ – and a nerd wasn’t something you wanted to be; John Green was a name only known on YouTube, and geek culture wasn’t a fashion trend, it was something to laugh at. Reality wasn’t like the Disney movies, where you had to be some kind of ugly science genius to be a nerd (and even that was bad enough) – you just had to care about something.I don’t know if that’s just part of being a teenage girl, if it was just another shitty side effect of 2009 or what, but it sucked. Being a fairly smart kid with a thing for books, this wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted – pretending not to like anything is exhausting. Being ‘cool’ was more important than anything, even to the adults in my life.
‘The Book of Other People’ is about character. Twenty-five or so outstanding writers have been asked by Zadie Smith to make up a fictional character. By any measure, creating character is at the heart of the fictional enterprise, and this book concentrates on writers who share a talent for making something recognizably human out of words (and, in the case of the graphic novelists, pictures).
As the description says, The Book of Other People is a collection of short stories. Compiled by Zadie Smith, the collection is tied together by her simple challenge to the writers; write a character. Sounds easy, right? Believe me, it’s not. The vaguer the brief, the more difficult it can be to write. It’s no surprise, looking at the list of authors, that the characters in this collection are all brilliantly thought out and well rounded. Smith has enlisted some of the best contemporary writers around, including David Mitchell, Nick Hornby, Miranda July, ZZ Packer and Colm Toibin.
If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t really posted lately. The last few weeks have been crazy and exhausting, so blogging has unfortunately had to be put at the bottom of the pile. But, things are starting to level out, so I thought I’d just do a quick update to let you know what has been keeping me away from the internet (not an easy feat).
So again, MASSIVE apologies for not posting much over the last few weeks, but I’m back! I’m hoping to get some posts scheduled for next week over the weekend. Watch this space!
Since I’ve not been posting, however, I have had time to think and get organised with the blog. I started with the premise that even though I don’t expect it to get ‘famous’ or become a source of income, at least not in the near future, I was still going to treat it as a professional endeavour. As a result and since starting, I’ve learned a lot about blogging. I’ve started applying these things already, but I think it’s time to properly get into gear.
One tip a lot of people have offered is this: Have A Focus. While this blog is predominantly about books and literature, I do want to have the freedom to write about other stuff too. I’ve decided, then, to split my posts into 3 categories, posting one on every blogging day (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as it stands):
‘Me’ Mondays: Personal, Lifestyle and Opinion posts. These will include any of my opinion or personal posts that don’t fit the other categories, and possibly some lifestyle stuff too. This will include ‘Writing About Writing’ posts.
Review Wednesdays: This isn’t going to change! I still intend to post reviews every Wednesday, whether they’re book, film & tv, theatre or even video game reviews.
‘Fandom’ Fridays: Nerd time! These will include posts on all sorts of things I’m passionate about, from specific ‘fandoms’ to general geekery. This will include non-review literature posts.
I know it seems like there’s very little room for creative pieces here, and there’s a reason for that – I don’t write them and you don’t read them often enough. If I do write anything creative it will be posted on Mondays, if not as an extra piece in the week.
See you soon,
Hey guys! I’d just like to apologise for the lack of posts lately. Over the next few weeks my posts will probably be quite erratic – if you haven’t seen on Twitter/Instagram, I graduated yesterday! I am at home for tonight but heading to London tomorrow for a very busy weekend, then on Monday I start a two week work experience placement. Until I have the time to sleep again & I get back into a regular pattern posts might not be as regular as usual. Bear with me!
See you soon (I hope!),
It is undeniable that the Harry Potter series deals with social issues in many ways – they are written into the text in such a way that has shaped the way generations have and continue to view the world. Millions of young people have grown up with Harry, often looking to the Wizarding World for guidance. It is unsurprising, then, that as we and our society develop, that we both appreciate the ways the series explores social injustice and acknowledge the aspects that are unsatisfying. While the series tackles many issues in an immensely overt way, there are things that could be improved.
Hermione, for instance. In the current stage show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hermione is played by Noma Dumezweni. Many were unhappy with the idea of a black actress playing her. Others however, myself included, feel that Hermione as a black woman adds to Hermione’s story. She faces racism in the wizarding world for her ‘blood status’ – she’s a muggleborn, which is frowned on by some “purebloods” – wizards born into wizarding families. She faces immense prejudice at the hands of Draco Malfoy and other purebloods, and in the film series has a racial slur, “mudblood”, carved into her arm by Bellatrix Lestrange (Deathly Hallows, Part 1).
In the novels, JK Rowling doesn’t specify the colour of Hermione’s skin. While I believe that writers should limit character descriptions and leave the reader to garner their own impressions of the characters, stating that Hermione had dark skin could have strengthened the impact her struggle with racism stronger.
Another aspect I feel could have been explored was Dumbledore’s sexuality. Rowling revealed on a book tour for the last novel in the series that Dumbledore was gay. Many LGBT+ people look to the series for it’s messages of acceptance and love, and relate to struggles such as Hermione’s. A gay character further opens up the world to LGBT+ people, however Rowling chose not to write in Dumbledore’s sexuality – at least not overtly. Of course it would be difficult to publish a children’s book, particularly in the 90s and early 00s, with an openly gay character – but considering the immense success of the Potter series, I seriously doubt sales would have been that affected if she had written it into one of the later novels.
In a book series that has taught me and so many others about acceptance, love and equality it is disheartening that some things like these examples that could have easily been included were left out. At the same time, the series isn’t solely a social commentary, and manages to balance discussion of several important issues with magic, dragons, mermaids, Dark Lords and even the odd Quidditch match. We can make several real life comparisons and learn a lot from the series, even if it isn’t perfect.
See you soon,
Featured Image by Vondell Swain
‘Rose Bazelet is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the house on rue Childebert, ignoring the sounds of change that come closer and closer each day. Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her late husband. As Rose delves into her memories, she reveals the secrets held within the walls of her beloved house.’
The House I Loved is set in Paris, 1869, towards the end of Napoleon III’s reign and the height of Georges-Eugene Haussmann’s ‘Renovation of Paris’. The renovations saw whole neighbourhoods in central Paris demolished and rebuilt in line with Haussmann’s designs. Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel centres around one particular road, the rue Childebert – now part of the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Her protagonist, Rose Bazelet, lives on rue Childebert, in her late husband’s family home.
The novel is written in the form of an extensive letter, written by Rose to her late husband Armand. Rose is an elderly woman who is set in her ways and is incredibly attached to her home. She sees it as the last link she has to her late husband and beloved mother in law. She often reminisces about happier times, but ends up delving into dark, repressed memories of the house and her life.
Before I read it, I wasn’t sure about this book. While the time period and location seemed interesting, a closed setting such as the basement and the style of writing the book as a letter/series of letters is restricting and been done a lot. I found myself fortunately mistaken in many ways, but I did find it predictable in many ways. It is the kind of novel that you predict the ending of from the start of the novel. Although the story does go off into many tangents, these can also be easily predicted. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in small doses, but I managed to predict large portions of the novel, when I’d much rather be surprised in at least some small way.
Despite this, it was an enjoyable and emotional read. For historical fiction, it was easy to read but informative. If I could go back, I’d have read up on the context a bit beforehand – I knew nothing about it, and while the novel does explain it well I find that when reading historical fiction I prefer to know at least a small amount about the context in order to fully understand it. Tatiana de Rosnay does provide a good level of context and the text was easy to understand without knowing anything else about the time period.
See you soon,
So, I’ve been doing a lot of writing today, but I’m an idiot and thought it was Tuesday. It took me until 8pm to realise I had the wrong day because I am a genius. This isn’t going to be a particularly long or interesting post but it will help you get to know me better at least: I’m doing the reading habits tag!
1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
My room, but it’s not something I think about.
2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Okay, this may get me killed, but if I can’t find anything to use as a bookmark I do fold the corners of pages. Scraps of paper and receipts are probably more common markers than bookmarks in my books though – I lose them too easily!
3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?
I like to stop on a 5 or a 0 page if not a chapter. It just feels neat and it’s easier to remember if I lose my page for whatever reason.
4. Do you eat or drink while reading?
Yes – I don’t like crumbs in the pages but I do eat while I read. I hate myself, too. Plus, there’s something cosy about a hot drink, cold weather and a good book.
5. Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?
I like background noise but I don’t generally have anything on – it tends to distract me if I’ve chosen the song/show because I’ll concentrate on that instead. There’s never a lack of background noise in this house, though!
6. One book at a time or several at once?
One, generally speaking – I have two on the go at the moment though.
7. Reading at home or everywhere?
Anywhere, but I prefer at home/somewhere on my own.
8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?
In my head, it comes more naturally to me – I even used to read to my youngest brother and start reading in my head without realising. I like hearing poetry but I still don’t really read it aloud.
9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
Nooooo! You never know what you might ruin or miss!
10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
Keep it like new – or, I don’t intend to break spines, I can’t say they all stay nice here though!
11. Do you write in your books?
Not really, I did for course books sometimes but not pleasure reading.
12. Who do you tag?
Anyone who wants to do it – comment below to tell me your reading habits!
See you soon,
Over the last few weeks, a lot has happened in British politics. If you know me, you will probably have guessed that it was only a matter of time before I waded into this mess. I, among a large number of others, have been bitterly disappointed in the decisions made by our country and its leaders. Still, this isn’t going to be a rant about the EU referendum; rather the things I’ve noticed during it.
Social media can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to politics. It allows for open discussion and sharing of information. It also allows for false information, scaremongering and aggressive arguments – with very few consequences. Throughout the process of the EU referendum I’ve seen a vast amount of both good and bad political discussion on social media, particularly Facebook. The scale of these posts is very unusual, unless there’s a vote coming up. It’s not necessarily that people don’t care, but people don’t believe they need to remain active in politics – and this is simply wrong.
Political decisions literally shape the way our country is run, and the only way we can have a say in that is by being active and showing our country’s leadership that we care. Voting, while incredibly, incredibly important, is not the be-all-and-end-all, and to truly use your vote it’s important to have a good understanding of what you’re voting for. It is vital for young people to stay active and use our voices throughout the political cycle – the government may not always listen, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak our minds and get our opinions out there; we cannot be heard if there’s nothing to listen to. Our futures depend on the decisions our government make now; that isn’t something to be apathetic about. So what can we do?
Remember That Your Vote Counts.
If there’s one thing this referendum has shown us, it’s that our votes count. The majority of people, including Leave campaign leaders and many Leave voters, believed that we would vote to remain in the EU. Over the days following the referendum, there were many stories in the press of ‘Bregretters’ – people who had voted leave, mostly as a ‘protest’ vote, and were now regretting it. There is no such thing as a protest vote; if you don’t believe in something or don’t want it to happen, don’t vote for it. There are consequences to all of our actions, especially in something like this. Our entire country’s future has been changed – that isn’t something to take lightly.
Have an Opinion – and Back It Up.
Having an opinion on general issues and current affairs allows you to choose who/what to vote for more easily. You don’t have to know everything about everything, but reading up on issues that interest you will help you see who else is interested in and working to deal with those issues in a way you agree with. In order to be able to back up your opinion of course, you’d need to;
Again, I’m not saying you need to learn how everything in British politics works, or who makes the tea in the Houses of Parliament, but getting educated on the issues allows us to make informed decisions when it comes to voting.
Having an opinion is important, but it isn’t enough – being able to back up your opinion with facts and figures is vital; if you can’t find the research to support your views, you may need to rethink. Often political parties and groups rely on people not researching, and instead following their emotions wholeheartedly. Britain First, for example, use speculation, scaremongering and “patriotism” to reel people in and convince them to join their cause; a cause built on racism, islamophobia and hatred. One of their most recent campaigns has been based on a claim that there is an illegal immigrant camp in Sherwood Forest, and that inhabitants are cutting down trees and littering; a claim that has been debunked by the real builders of the camp, British teenagers (now in their twenties) who built it from fallen trees several years ago – not by destroying the forest. A quick Google search is enough to refute many of BF’s claims, and the same goes for a lot of political campaigns and promises.
Don’t base your votes purely on election propaganda – a lot of the time this is grossly over-exaggerated and promises aren’t likely to be kept. Research party leaders, watch debates and work out who you trust and agree with before believing any promises made in the run up to a vote. In the EU referendum, for example, many Leave voters were left regretting their decision after promises to put £350m a week into the NHS were debunked by Nigel Farage, and later Iain Duncan Smith. Of course they should have kept their promise, however with their reputations and track records, it is hardly surprising that this was never the intention.
Michael Gove was recently quoted saying that “People in this country have had enough of experts” – while this may well be true, it’s simply bad politics. We need experts for a reason; they know what they’re talking about. Of course your opinions can be partially based on emotion, you have to care about what you’re talking about, but that can’t be your only reasoning for thinking and voting how you do; you’re better than that.
Engage in Conversation and Have An Open Mind.
Don’t be afraid to discuss politics and your views with others, even if they disagree – it is just as important to understand other peoples’ views as well as your own. We can learn and develop our views in talking to other people – plus it gives you somewhere to show off all of your research! Saying that, however;
Keep it Civil.
It doesn’t matter how awful or just plain wrong someone else’s opinion is, it won’t get you anywhere to get angry. Share your views and use your research to back them up; no one can argue with fact, no matter how hard they try.
Last but not least, just to bookend this:
VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.
I don’t care who/what you vote for or how tactically you vote, so long as you get out there and do it. We could be faced with a general election much sooner than planned, so be prepared and use your vote wisely.
See you soon,