Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
I love Thomas Hardy. I always thoroughly enjoy his books, knowing full well that my mind will easily produce a beautiful image thanks to his skill at elongating even the tiniest of details. I revel in the depths of each character, enjoy looking at the landscapes he creates so expertly and his social conventions are insightful. I wish more modern authors would allow themselves to be influenced by late 19th Century writers…
Not my first time reading Far From the Madding Crowd, and it is by no means my favourite Hardy novel but I love his heroine characters. I read Bathsheba as strong and confident (whereas I am sure that my Husband would take her as fickle with a lack of life skills), she creates such a dynamic twist to the plot, almost as if Hardy struggles to keep up with her choices. The story is set in a rural town, with Bathesheba as the new owner of a farm after her Uncle died and left it to her. The story follows the relationship between her and her 3 very differing suitors; the first is simple but steadfast Gabriel Oak. The second a wealthy William Boldwood who owns the farm adjacent and finally there is the lustful Sergeant Troy.
Bathesheba is a real woman, who has enough determination in life to run her farm, but simultaneously enough love in her heart to be wooed by a strapping young soldier. She makes mistakes and retributions. She is gossiped about yet highly respected. She has the brains to ensure the success of the farm and it’s workers yet she has the faith in God to see her through turbulent times. I would like to think that she is one of the earliest fiesty characters in literature.
Like the first time I read Far from the Madding Crowd, I loved it. I have a couple of favourite quotes; the first is Oak’s proclamation of love very early in the book;
“And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be— and whenever I look up, there will be you.
I particularly like this as later on in the book, when Bathsheba is in turmoil she glances into Oak’s house to see him sitting by the fire, suggesting that his simple and constant love remains as steadfast and true as the day he revealed it.
The below quote I think is very poignant,
Published: October 22, 2013, paperback July 2014
Author: John Grisham
A few months before reading this I read The Confession for the second time within less than 12 months. I never re-read books (unless it is Harry Potter). So when I discovered Grisham had a new book out I was stomach butterfly excited!
I downloaded Sycamore Row as soon as I could and completely devoured the book like a lioness who has gone without zebra for weeks. The book followed Jake Brigance, a solicitor introduced in an earlier book ‘A Time to Kill’. I haven’t yet read A Time to Kill, however I happened upon the film one evening and was emotionally gripped, one of the best films I ever seen due to a dramatic storyline and a brilliant acting.
Back to Sycamore Row, it follows the aftermath of the death of a wealthy cancer stricken Southern man, Seth Hubbard, leaving his estate to his black house cleaner and naming Jake Brigance as the estate’s solicitor. Big sparks fly as Seth’s children and Grand children contest the decision made in his last, hand written Will claiming he was under duress or that he was too poorly to be in his right mind.
What is so superb about this story, is the way that Grisham can have you gripped to every word on the page as you eagerly urge the characters to discover just a thread of information. A truely captivating read that once again draws on the racial segregation of Southern America.
I think the ending is the best part, you must read it!
Daughter by Jane Shemilt
It has taken me a while to type thoughts to blog. This is a hard hitting book and I think to provide a review half heartedly would somehow dishonor the story. Plus, when a book leaves a lingering feeling of emptiness, how can one find the words to put into a review?
The book is centred around a missing girl and the subsequent deteriation of her whole family. It infuses past and present narrative to create a seamless flow of thoughts and memories, all from the mothers perspective. When I bought this book, I didn’t realise the strength of the story I was about to unfold, it opens the door to an otherwise locked life, that of a parent with a missing child. The way in which each character intereacts with each other is chilling, shocking, yet so real.
I could never have guessed the ending, but the way in which I got there was predictable. But not in a negative way. It was more Shemilt luring out my understanding of grief. We all know, have all seen tears on the TV news, in films and we all think we know what goes through peoples’ minds. But to read it in such a raw and obvious way makes you realise that you know nothing. That you pray to God this will never happen to you.
In terms of the pace of the story, it is slow. But you don’t need it to go any faster as the perfectly dovetails that of the trauma, fast in the beginning, slow and agonising in the middle, then normal and reluctant towards the end.
This book has a 3.6 on Goodreads. I think the problem lies in the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of action, just memories and anguish. People also don’t recognise the book as belonging to a typical genre, something Shemilt exaplins so well:
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Psychological suspense, (thriller/drama) is the nearest that I can get to placing the book, not a very meaningful label as so many books within this capacious scope are completely different from each other. My background is medical, I’m an ex- GP, my husband is a neurosurgeon. It was helpful to use this known world to create the back drop to both books, and some issues from that world become important. In Daughter: the dangers of labelling, of short cuts, doctors playing God. But Daughter isn’t a medical drama; it’s a story about a missing girl and the themes of grief, loss, harmful secrets, betrayal and fear do resonate with others in this genre.
An extract from her website.
I am giving this book 5 stars because I think it is brilliantly written, it demonstrates a real talent from Shemilt and I can’t believe this is only her debut.
BOOK SMART; THE UNEXPECTED HEALTH BENEFITS OF BEING AN AVID READER
I loved seeing this article pop up on my facebook newsfeed, it literaly felt like my insides were shining with the confirmation that reading is good for one’s health!
Reading, it transpires, has a profound effect on mental agility, the memory and our aptitude for imagination and compassion…..It can also help to alleviate stress and aid sleep.
Personally, I read because I crave the feeling of submersion, the feeling of flying away and the ability to completely cut out the real world. I allow each word to engulf me, transforming each into a visual picture, a movie inside my head.
“By losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination,” says cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis, leading the survey.
At the end of the article is a survey:
WHAT’S THE THING YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT READING?
1. It helps me to unwind and relax
2. The potential for escapism
3. The fact that it challenges me
4. The ability to gain a new perspective
Answer the question and you can see the percentage of readers who voted for each answer. I obviously chose number 2, and in all honesty the results surprised me!
If you want to read the full article, click here.
Fractured by Karin Slaughter
There is a local bookshop which sells second hand books from anywhere between 1 and 5 Euros. What I enjoyed about my visit was the ‘lucky dip’ style of purchase, books were concealed in brown paper wrapping with only a few critic reviews written on the front to entice your purchase. I picked up a large paperback, which stated it was a bestseller and that the “climax will blow you away”….for 1 Euro. The novelty was fun and I will definitely return.
The whole book is centred around a time frame of approximately 3 days, with an investigative team above that of a city police department, swooping in and taking charge of a crime. Two main characters are flawed (shock) and put aside their differences and history to work together in solving the case of 2 murdered teens and a third missing.
The writing style is adequate, that is to say that there is nothing I can really say negative about the book but then it is not like I can sing from the rafters about how great it is either. I am glad I payed only a euro.
3 stars for this read…
My year in books: 2014
Not my best year for reading, but I did get engaged and married so I am not going to be too hard on myself. A total of 23 successfully finished, and additionally some half read books I could not bear to finish; one being The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (Sorry Georgie!).
Just a few awards to dish out, obviously my opinions are my own so please do not start abusing me for my choices…
Best book of 2014
Tracks by Robyn Davidson. The true story of Robyn’s trek from the centre of Australia to the West coast, a truly remarkable account. It was funny, sad and exciting and left me wishing I was there, nay, her! I simply could not get enough of this book and I feel it has made me a better person for having read it. Maybe I appreciate people’s dreams or something, not quite sure how I ameliorated myself but I feel it, and that is what counts.
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. This book I think deserves to be on everyone’s reading list. It is a love story, written from a sad and distant perspective, and it is beautiful in every way. This is no story, it is a piece of literary art. It pains me to say, but unfortunately a story with this depth and skill is apparently no contender for the modern day dribble that we see on the Kindle best sellers, people need to wake up and smell the well written books!
Worst book of 2014:
This is a no brain-er. It has to be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. What killed the ambience of this hollywood read was the terrible writing, shallow characters and the poor quality of the kindle version, to boot! I admit, the story had me turning the pages, but compared to a real thriller (John Grisham is a fantastic thriller writer) it was a wet flannel.
January – 😦
February – 12 Years a Slave
March – A Respectable Trade
May – The End of the Affair
July – Insurgent, Allegiant, Tracks
September – Bite, Sycamore Row
November – Birdsong, Philomena,
December – Dear Daughter
Having the books in list form has reminded me of many an unfinished review. Please bear with me…
Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
A few weeks ago Stylist magazine published an article on the best books that have fallen below the radar in 2014, of which I instantaneously ripped out and stuffed it into my handbag. I couple of weeks later I then perused the page again with a smug, self congratulatory air and named Dear Daughter as the first book I would devour.
Consumed within a couple of days, I could not put this book down. I revelled in the re-awakening of an addiction, which hadn’t flared up for some time. It was such an unusual read, as though I were watching an interview on E-Entertainment with the same digression and memories a person would have if they were sat in front you. There was also supporting evidence thrown in for weight such as Twitter feeds, news articles and texts which entertained the E-news similarity. Elizabeth Little is an artist when it comes to setting up and delivering cliff hangers, I thought I predicted the climax. But I was wrong, and that felt so good!
It is the story of a wealthy American-Swiss Socialite who is jailed for murdering her philanthropist Mother. It starts with her release 10 years later.
An excellent read, written in a modern, swearing way which usually I would have steered clear from. I will say this, missing words occur regularly.
My other half sent me this, makes for an interesting read;
click here to read the article
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Bought this on a whim somewhat foolishly after seeing that it was doing well in the charts and although I read it to the conclusion, I was disappointed.
The book follows two pretentious teenagers that seem to take great pleasure in the fact that they are so intelligent. The way that the characters interact with each other and the world merely stands to make them thoroughly unbelievable as characters as they simply do not behave like real life people do. It makes it seem as if the author is trying to show off how intelligent and brilliant he is by throwing in these deep meaningful and analytical conversations between the two main characters.
The book also deliberately throws in these ‘heart breaking’ occurrences that merely irritate the reader as oppose to cause them to well up with sadness. It actually eventually made me dislike both parties by the end of the novel. What was the most ‘throw up in your mouth’ cringeworthy was the sex scene where the author appears to have neglected to acknowledge that a string of chemo and radiotherapy is likely to have rendered both characters infertile and mentions ‘awkward condomy moments’ which feels like he is trying to keep parents happy as he promotes safe sex. It again, completely detracted from any realism with this book. The fact that she attempts to use the word ‘condomy’ is completely at odds with her usual poetic self.
My advice is to see that this book is aimed at a mainly female young teen audience and to avoid it if you do not fit into that category.
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
This book was bugging me. Well not the book but my boyfriend, constantly telling me I should read it. I asked him why? He couldn’t say, but assured me it was a great read. So thanks to his clear hidden talent for sales I downloaded it (Ha, there used to be a time one would buy or borrow a book).
I was blown away, Greene is no author. He is an artist! The story seamlessly flitters between the present and various stages in the past. It is really hard to review this book without revealing anything about the plot, it also has a bizarre ending that leaves so much to the reader to attain closure.
I know it may seem like a strange review, with no substance. But this book blew me away with it’s sheer brilliance. Talent.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I began reading this book a few months ago, but a stream of good literature came along so I ditched it without hesitation. When it comes to books, I can be fickle like that.
When I think back to my first thoughts, there was no chemistry, hence why I found it so easy to just cast aside. But I was recently left high and dry after finishing A Respectable Trade as I didn’t have any new downloads to choose from and being on the tube I couldn’t even use my 3G! My heart started to pound, a little sweat formed above my brow and my face was I imagine quite panic stricken. Frantically tapping through my library to find anything I hadn’t read yet, Gone Girl saved the day. A little rusty at first but after a few days I got into a nice rhythm, it is a hefty book don’t you know?!
If you are a regular visitor to my blog you will know two things, the first my love of historical fiction and the second being my hatred for modern literature (juxtaposed I know!). So I didn’t have high expectations, I expected even less some form of actual writing skill. The story plods along and just when you feel like dropping off Gillian drops a bombshell. She uses this method frequently and after a few I realised just how much of a clever ploy this is. I won’t divulge said bombshells as you may not have read it yet, and there is a film coming out this October. But take it from me, they are big news!
The book is in 2 parts, the second half got really interesting! I almost couldn’t put it down. She turned the whole story on it’s head and aside from a few snore-y parts, which I admittedly skimmed, I was genuinely hooked.
This book could be a five star, for many it probably is considering the amount of people I saw reading this on my daily commute…and the awards;
- New York Times Janet Maslin’s 10 Favorite Books of 2012
- Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainer of the Year
- People Magazine Best books of the year
- Edgar Award nominee for Best Novel
- Amazon and Barnes & Noble Best of the Year
- Macavity Award nominee for Best Mystery Novel
- Anthony Award nominee for Best Novel
- The Women’s Prize nominee for Fiction
- Strand Critics Award nominee
But for now, it is a 4.