Book Reviews – My 2018 Reading List So Far

What books will you delve into this summer?

This year I have seen my piles of ‘completed’ and ‘to read’ books at their highest as I’ve attempted to not only conduct much wider reading for my studies, but also to devote more time to reading for pleasure instead of procrastinating over various other things. To continue to enjoy my time pouring over these books I have decided to write a few short reviews on some of them from my growing pile, in the hopes of giving some of you a good reading recommendation for this summer!

‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker: this story is known widely as a must-read Gothic classic, and rightly so. After finishing the novel, I felt rather ashamed that it had taken me quite so long to delve into the lurid supernatural world of Transylvania and 19th century England that Stoker so marvelously harnesses to reflect the anxieties of the Victorian fin-de-siècle. My love of the novel is rooted in not only the thrillingly perverse settings and scenes, but also the note of satirical commentary I detected in Stoker’s writing. This may just be a personal interpretation, but the novel at moments had me chuckling due to the melodramatic actions of the characters that are a clear investigation of the masculine and nationalist anxieties of the time. This novel is one of my strongest recommendations – I promise that once you start reading, the story will transport you to haunting places, the effects of which will stay with you as long as they do with the poor journalist, Jonathon Harker.

Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë: this dashingly passionate and Gothic love story (love being a somewhat odd word to use to describe the obsessive and demonic connection between Cathy and Heathcliffe) started off wonderfully for me, as I was transported to the wild Yorkshire moors, yet I felt that from the mid-point of the novel there was no exciting development that kept me intensely hooked. To critique such a famous book feels wrong, and I do not deny its righteous status as a must-read classic, yet my slight disappointment at the plot development and conclusion left me feeling underwhelmed when I turned the final page. I recommend this novel to anyone who may enjoy a monotone but interesting, twisted love story – for me, it simply didn’t live up to my expectations.

Much Ado About Nothing’ by William Shakespeare: this play stood out for me as one of my favourite pieces of writing I read this year due to its highly entertaining plot line, set-piece comedy and witty dialogue that not for a moment leaves you feeling bored. If you are new to reading Shakespeare then it may take a short time to adapt to the 16th century language, but once you understand the flow of the story it feels as though you are in the plot amongst the characters, experiencing the hilarious yet complex emotions involved in the love stories between Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero. This play created the literary trope of eavesdropping for dramatic effect that now is such a vital element within many comedies and dramas. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is a classic romantic comedy from 1600 that is best compared in significance to the modern day Bridget Jones’s Diary. To me, Shakespeare is at his best when he is writing comically, and combine this with his outstanding skill to portray human emotion, and you have a marvelous read.

‘Nights At The Circus’ by Angela Carter: when I first came across Carter’s writing in my Literature studies, I was captivated and mesmerized by her use of language that can best be described as ‘word gymnastics’. What characterizes her work is the use of the archaic and mythical to express, stunningly, her ideas about society in the late 20th century, from her feminist views on patriarchy to socialist beliefs about class issues. I strongly believe that my review simply cannot encapsulate the sublime nature of her stories, which leaves you with a feeling of liminality that is so effective at suspending you at a point of consideration that is vital in interpreting her work. After reading this novel about a circus of half-beings and warped humans that travels across Europe at the turn of the 19th century, I now feel I have a deeper understanding of just how creatively language and the tradition of fairy tales can be used to express modern day beliefs. And as for the shockingly normal protagonist Fevvers, a half-human, half-swan, circus aerialiste: never before have I been so deeply intrigued by a literary character. Carter is now one of my all time favourite authors, and I recommend her work to anyone seeking a refreshingly provocative set of tales.

Thank you for reading,

Fran

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