Friday, September 11, 2015

Summer reads | Fiction fanatic

After spending my entire university career reading history books every second of every day, I left excited to rediscover my love of reading, with a fiction-only summer ahead of me. Here’s how it went:

The Fifteen Lives of Harry August

What a way to begin my summer of fiction! This book was incredible, and within the first few chapters it quickly made its way into my top ten. Eloquently written by Claire North, the story line was captivating and one can only applaud the historical research that was clearly undertaken. Without giving too much away, Harry August doesn’t die, or at least when he does die, he is born again in exactly the same place on exactly the same day. His life is different each time, as different choices are made and people are met. There does however, become one consistency as Harry realises the world is ending much quicker than expected and he may just figure out why. It sounds like an episode of Smallville, but I can assure you it’s much better. With characters you love to hate, and a theory of time and space that is infatuating, you’ll read the entire book in a weekend compelled to know the ending.

Go Set a Watchman

With To Kill a Mockingbird being my favourite novel of all time, this story had a lot to live up to. The pressure was on for Harper Lee, and I am upset to report that I was left disappointed. To Kill a Mockingbird follows a young girl named Scout, aged ten, observing the events unfolding in her hometown in 1936, as a black boy is arrested for the rape of a white woman. Scout’s father becomes the boy’s lawyer, and there was something so endearing about hearing the story from the perspective of a small child. This however, was not lost in Go Set a Watchman, as a grown up Scout again observes the events occurring in her hometown. Lee’s poignant and articulate writing style meant I began the book with high hopes, falling back in love with my favourite characters, though one I held dear was lost, and growing an awareness of the context that was developing in Southern America at the time. Slowly however, the eloquence was mute, as you begin to realise where the story is heading. It appears that all in the first book was not as it seems, and I couldn’t help but feel that a character, who I’d invested so much time into loving and admiring, was butchered right in front of me. His moral disposition was severed and I was left with a sense of anguish, as though I’d somehow been cheated. I withdraw from saying anymore for those still wishing to read the book but my advice would be to take it lightly, and think of it as a separate story – to avoid running the risk of ruining the much loved classic that is To Kill a Mockingbird.

Looking For Alaska

*Extreme Spoiler Alert*

I just cannot accurately depict my views of this book without saying exactly what happens. So if you want to read it without knowing how it ends, do not read on.

This book was my scapegoat. I was having a tough time and feeling down, so I would pick up this book on the train to and from work, and it cheered me up. John Green is a decent writer, and the way he introduced the characters made them all instantly likeable to me. Miles was a lone wolf, bored with his very average life and looking for adventure, so he heads off to boarding school and meets a crazy, free spirited girl who he falls hopelessly in love with – very predictable I know, but sometimes predictable is exactly what one is after when they are reading a love struck coming of age story. This was what I needed at the time, characters that I would in the real world call friends and a love story I could become invested in. Then, suddenly, everything changed. The crazy free spirited girl, who took central focus of the story... died. Alaska died. Suddenly my scapegoat that cheered me up at the end of a miserable day, left me hopelessly wiping tears away before other passengers began to notice my silent sobs.

Maybe it was something everyone knew was going to happen, when I began researching the story, it appeared to be the worst kept secret since President Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe, but I didn’t know. In fact I had no idea, until she left the night she died, and I had a twang in my stomach that told me she wasn’t coming back. It’s strange how much of an effect words on a page can have on me, maybe John Green achieved his aim of evoking a reaction – he certainly got one out of me – but I guess it was bad timing. I wasn’t ready for her to die, I wasn’t ready for my fun, exciting novel to be turned upside down into grief and desperation so quickly.

Possibly this should be a book I pick up when I’m mentally prepared to have hopes slashed and my mood dropped. Or possibly, a book that could bring comfort for those who have lost a friend, with the ultimate message clearly being... that there’s a way out of the labyrinth.


Now this is what you call a love story, in fact I should have read this instead of Looking for Alaska.

Meet Georgie McCool, a comedy writer who struggles to find a balance between work and family – a narrative I’m sure many could relate to. Rainbow Rowell however, made this fairly predictable and already written a thousand times narrative, sparkle all the way up my street - introducing a magic landline that rings into the past, pugs having pug babies and a little girl that says ‘meow’ instead of hello. What more could you want in a love story? Oh, and did I mention that it was real. Yes, real. No Prince Charming and Cinderella fairytale, just a marriage that’s falling apart due to a lack of effort, and of course the story of how it began in the first place – the messy, unromantic and not at all soppy story. That was my favourite part of this book, it wasn’t about butterflies and head over heels romance - it was honest and down-to-earth. There’s nothing like creating realistic expectations, and Rainbow Rowell’s didn’t disappoint.

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