Sunday, 19 July 2015

Recently Read #4

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

It's been ages since I posted my last 'Recently Read', the reason being that I dedicated the end of May, all of June, and a few days in July to re-reading the Harry Potter books (writing reviews for those books would've been pointless, as it would just have been me declaring my ever-lasting love for them). I'm currently ploughing through my Summer to-read list, and thought I would share my opinions on the first three books that I've read. As usual, I've included a little blurb in italics before my own mini-review.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, this is the story of a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives. It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and friendships, love and life. Stripped down to its bare bones, it's about the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

I'd heard so many good things about this book before I read it, so I was a bit scared I'd be disappointed, but I wasn't. Set in rural Cornwall and in New York, it follows Elly, from the age of seven until she's in her thirties. Through her eyes, we also get to know the people around her; an array of quirky, original characters. No one in this book is perfect - everyone has their issues - but in the end what binds them together is their unequivocal love for one another, which runs like a current throughout the book. It's a story about growing up, about coming to terms with the fragility of life, about accepting oneself, and about accepting others. With the risk of sounding very cliché... it made me both laugh and tear up. Beautiful, beautiful book.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history can only tolerate so much.

This is a book I've been meaning to read for quite a while, and with the publication of the sequel this summer I decided it was high time. To be honest, I found it a little bit hard to get into, but once I did - after about fifty pages - it was difficult to put down. It's an incredibly touching, thought provoking and clever book, with lovable characters and an interesting story that really grips you. I haven't read many books set in the South of the U.S at this time (the only one I can think of is Of Mice and Men, which I really didn't like), but it was interesting to get a look into the culture at the time, the mindset of the people in smaller towns, and the differences between the South and the North. And Scout is such a charming protagonist.

In this celebrated work, his only novel, Wilde forged a devastating portrait of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young aesthete in late-19th-century England. Combining elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction, the book centres on a striking premise: As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and gross sensuality, his body retains perfect youth and vigour while his recently painted portrait grows day by day into a hideous record of evil, which he must keep hidden from the world. For over a century, this mesmerising tale of horror and suspense has enjoyed wide popularity.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is not an easy book to write a mini-review for (so prepare for a jumble of words, odd sentences and plenty of adjectives). There’s no wonder why this is considered a masterpiece. It’s incredibly well-written (Wilde really had a way with words), with a massive dose of cynicism and wittiness. It’s psychological horror combined with dark humour, plenty of paradoxes, and biting wit. It’s an inquisitive study of vanity, selfishness, sin and morality. It’s incredibly quotable, and left me feeling a little bit stupid at times. Occasionally, I found it a bit slow and tedious, but at other times it was hard to put down, and on the whole it's most definitely a must-read. Complex, paradoxical, fascinating and witty, is what it is. Oh, and beautifully written.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these books?

Love, Mimmi.