Step away from the red nun squad

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

My book

A pretty book cover, isn’t it? The woman on the front strongly resembles a nun, doesn’t she? Well, that is a running ‘joke’ all the way through the tale. Published 1985, this is a very current book (although it has still seen more years than I have) and is 324 pages long despite looking relatively thin. And no, she’s not a nun. She’s the opposite.

The Handmaid’s Tale was compulsory for my Literature class to read, but I admit being a bit excited to look at it. It was probably my first peek into the world of American fiction (discounting novels aimed at teenagers or younger such as Twilight). A book with character, I’d call this.

I watched the film adaptation only after having read this. The film’s not as good, in my opinion, but I rarely think films better than the books they are based on.

The story

Oh, how young and innocent I was. The Handmaid’s Tale genuinely shocked me. The thing begins with a Bible quote; it almost lulls you into a false sense of security. Alright, by the standards of most romance novels, what features isn’t even that strong, but it astonished me, nonetheless, that this somewhat controversial book is compulsory reading in some schools.

I’ll give you a clue with the synopsis: Continue reading

Just when you thought you couldn’t hate Hitler more

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

My book

I bought Anne Frank’s diary as something to read during any lull on my work experience placement. I’m not sure now about how wise my decision was, since my placement was at a primary school and the young kids there kept asking why I kept crying on my book.

My decision stood, nevertheless, and I’ll never regret reading it. I picked it out mainly because I was studying the Second World War in History and I thought it would be more interesting than reading the textbook that I was meant to.

Published 1947, Diary of a Young Girl is 287 pages long. If you get a copy, get it complete and unabridged. There’s a certain wholeness to having the entire thing there and I wouldn’t be able to pick out a bit which was more or less necessary than the rest.

The story

My God, it’s real! It’s all true, ignoring the fact that this is subjectively written and therefore exclusively from the narrow view of a teenage girl. The blurb comments: Continue reading

Boy, it was sort of phoney and all. It killed me.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger

My book

If I hadn’t been told to read it by my English teacher, I probably would have brushed past The Catcher in the Rye without a second glance. As well-known as it is, it isn’t a book that entices you. The book cover is dull – I heard that the author felt very strongly about controlling that – and there’s no blurb. It’s also the sort of psychological coming of age tale that I never read, because it hits a little too close to home. I’m glad to have been exposed to it though and at 230 pages long, it didn’t take me too long to read.

The story

Now here’s a story which is like Marmite: you love it or you hate it. It’s very difficult to split into ‘best bits’ and ‘worst bits’ but I’ll do my best. Since there’s no blurb, I’ll try to give a brief summary. Continue reading

I understand women less now

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

My book

My Literature class (which is almost entirely composed of girls, which is great when we gang up on the lads) were talking about feminism. Although most of us consented that, yes, we were feminists of a type, it seemed such a vague concept in so many ways that I decided to look it up. The Female Eunuch is perhaps the most famous book for feminists; the book that started a whole new movement upon its publication in 1970 (or so it’s said). So I bought it.

Firstly, let’s look at the book cover of my Harper Perennial Modern Classics version. It’s incredible; really bizarre. The symbolism is clear, and disturbing. I admit that it was this interesting little picture that made me look forward to reading it more than anything else though. Maybe I’m just disturbed.

I will give a warning though. This book is 397 pages long if you include the ending notes (but I suggest not reading this since it breaks up the pace of the book to keep flipping to the end). You need committment to get through a book like this, because it isn’t a story- it’s pretty much a textbook.

The story

Obviously, there’s no plot to this book. It is set out in chapters examining the ‘conditioning’ of little girls into crushed women. That’s the general theme of the book. The blurb on the back explains: Continue reading

No man is an island, but some lucky sods own one

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

My book

I own a lot of the Collins Classics edition of books. Why? Because they are extremely cheap at my local bookstore. They aren’t the best copy to get. The covers aren’t gorgeous and the glossary at the back of the book is pretty much useless and really quite arbitrary. If you just want a copy to read and enjoy though, they do the job.

Robinson Crusoe is such a famous book that I had been planning to read it since I was young. I’ve always liked survival stories and wildlife, so I thought that it might be ideal for me. At 262 pages, it didn’t seem unmanageable either.

The story

The book cover is wrong, for a start. The defining moment of this novel is when Crusoe discovers a single, solitary footprint in the sand.

You probably know the story of Robinson Crusoe. A guy got shipwrecked on an island a long time ago, right? You wouldn’t be wrong. It was published in 1719, so you can expect a lot of backwards thinking. What did surprise me was that it isn’t all as expected. Yes, he’s shipwrecked, but not until Chapter 3. The blurb has this to say: Continue reading

Look what I unearthed!

North Child by Edith Pattou

Note: This is a review that I wrote for my GCSEs. North Child was my favourite book, and partly still is. Though modern, fantasy and aimed at children and teenagers, I believe that it is a true classic.

A book which inspires a fresh new view of the Norwegian fairy tale ‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’ but is certainly not just for the children!

We all like to curl up with a heart warming tale of adventure, fantasy and romance but we don’t want to be caught reading ‘Sleeping Beauty’, do we? With beautiful illustrations, titbits about ancient map making, seamanship, Scandinavian languages, Norse mythology and Arctic travel, the novel is both moving and highly informative. Ultimately, this is the perfect book for someone wanting to relax into a chair and begin a dangerous, exciting voyage into a world of fact and fantasy that will not only move you to tears but also set your heart stuttering in astonishment.

Set in Norway during a time when most of the world was still unknown, Rose is born to a superstitious but loving family. Destined to travel far until a death suffocated by ice and snow, her mother would do anything to shelter the unruly child but not even Rose’s family can do anything against her stubborn attitude once her sister falls ill. An ice bear appears at the door promising good health, prosperity and a life of comfort to the family if Continue reading

The Original Spy Chase

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

My book

Why did I choose to read this book? It isn’t the type of book that I usually select out of my bookshelf. Not being a trains spotter, the cover on my Wordsworth Classics edition doesn’t exactly entice me.

Well, recently I was in London. My friends and I went to see a play at Piccadilly Circus. That play just happened to be The 39 Steps. I recommend watching that, by the way, as it’s hilariously funny and only has four and a half actors (you’ll understand upon seeing it). Anyway, to cut a long story short, someone was going around the theatre selling copies of this little book. By little, I mean it’s only 122 pages long.

I have to be realistically shallow. I bought this book because I like books, because it was cheaper than the programme and because the guy selling it was really cute.

The story

Firstly, let’s not judge a book by its cover. This book has very little to do with trains, although there is a scene that takes place in a train. Let’s not judge it by the play either. The play is extremely funny and tongue-in-cheek, but doesn’t bother attempting to keep firmly to the plot laid out by the book.

If you officially want what the book’s about, here’s the actual blurb: Continue reading