Thursday, 19 February 2015

Recently Read #1

So, I thought I'd start sharing the books I've read and enjoyed every now and then, doing mini reviews of sorts. I always enjoy hearing people's thoughts about books, and I enjoy talking about books (yeah, there's a reason I'm doing English Lit...), so I think it'll be fun to do this type of post once in a while, as a sort of follow-up to my book hauls. I've read a few more than these four this year, but I decided to pick out my favourites among the new books I discovered. I decided to include the blurb in italics before my own wee comment :)

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Ethan works at his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena's vivacious cousin enters their household as a 'hired girl', Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.

I have to be honest; I had never heard of Edith Wharton until I read Ethan Frome. It's one of the books we're studying this semester for English Literature, and I'm really glad I got the chance to read it. It's a very short book at just above 100 pages, so it's an easy read, but other than that there's nothing light about it. In the prologue, you get a glimpse of Ethan twenty-four years after the main events of the novel. Right from the start, you know that this is not a story with a happy ending. Still, I found myself drawn into the story, desperate to know the fate of the characters. Wharton's writing is hauntingly stunning and the story is both tragic and beautiful. Just a warning - don't read it if you're in a bad mood.  

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Written for Virginia Woolf's intimate friend, the charismatic, bisexual writer Vita Sackville-West, Orlando is a playful mock 'biography' of a chameleon-like historical figure who changes sex and identity at will. First masculine, then feminine, Orlando begins life as a young sixteenth-century nobleman, then gallops through the centuries to end up as a woman writer in Virginia Woolf's own time. A wry commentary on gender roles and modes of history, Orlando is also, in Woolf's own words, a light-hearted 'writer's holiday' which delights in its ambiguity and capriciousness.

I've wanted to read something written by Virginia Woolf for a while, so I was glad to get a chance to do it since Orlando is another book I had to read this semester. This is another rather short book, but unlike Ethan Frome, it's a fun read. It's really bizarre and random, but very enjoyable. However, while being light-hearted, there's definitely depth in it as well. It was written more than eighty years ago, and I find it frankly amazing that Woolf was so ahead of the time and dared to discuss gender roles so openly. She seems to have been an incredible woman, and I'm really keen to read more of her works.

The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

I read this over Christmas so it's not that recent, but I really liked it so I figured I'd include it anyway. This is the type of book that's hard to put down. It's incredibly heart-wrenching and well-written. It's impossible not to be moved as you gradually find out more and more about Matthew's (the protagonist and narrator) life. But along with tragedy, there's also humour, hope and life. Overall, everything feels so real, and perhaps that's why it's so moving. 

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

New York City, 1924: the height of Prohibition. In a police precinct on the lower East Side young typist Rose Baker coolly records the confessions of killers and gangsters. But when a new typist arrives - the captivating Odalie - Rose finds a true partner in crime. Flitting between sparkling speakeasies by night and their work at the precinct by day, the girls are drawn further into a dark, glamorous world. Soon Rose's fascination with Odalie and her glittering life turns to obsession. But does she know the real Odalie, and what will happen if she dares to find out?

This was a birthday gift from one of my friends, who know how much I love The Great Gatsby. The Other Typist is like a fusion between The Great Gatsby and a psychological thriller, and it's really good. Rose is an unreliable narrator, and truth is a major theme in the novel. What is true and who can you trust? At times I did feel like it dragged on a bit and hinted too much to the plot twist that was coming, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing style is excellent and very Gatsby-like, the plot is very clever and the plot twist left me mindboggled. Also, major plus for strong female characters. 

What books have you enjoyed reading recently?

Love, Mimmi.