Summer 2018 Book Reviews

What a summer it has been! The weeks flew by as fast as ever, but the amount I got to experience and explore in that time make up for how short the holidays felt. Granted, the amount I had going on has meant I haven’t had a chance to create blog content, but now that the season has come to an end, I have a chance to sit down and reflect upon it all. To start, the summer gave me time to read many books and poems that I spent hours enjoying – so, I think it is a good idea to get back into blogging with a few reviews of my summer 2018 reading!

‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ by Ann Radcliffe (1794): As a lover of Gothic fiction, this is a classic novel that I had much anticipated reading, especially considering its wide influence on later literature, such as Jane Austen’s ‘Northanger Abbey’. The novel is typically Gothic in its gloomy castles, psychological distress of the central heroine (Emily St. Aubert, a sensitive and resourceful girl), scheming villains and supernatural horrors, but there was so much more to this unusual tale than typicality. The length of the novel means there are continually shifting layers of meaning that incorporate dramatic romance, heartbreak, friendship, and loss into the story, that means all readers are able to find something they love within the pages. The conclusion of the novel is something I had not yet seen: it was satisfying in a way I didn’t anticipate, due to the shift in focus to reason and hope, away from terror. I particularly loved the vivid and sublime descriptions of the mountainous scenes that Radcliffe incorporated frequently, to convey her heroine’s perceptiveness and virtue. I recommend this novel to someone who is fond of classics, but also seeking challenge!

‘The Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel (2001): When I was assigned this book as part of my English coursework, I was reluctant to begin it because I was convinced that it was not a genre that I would enjoy. However, once I’d read the first few pages, I was well and truly hooked: the humorous and wise voice of the main character, ‘Pi’ Patel, reaches out to you and presses you to consider everything that he is saying. I laughed out loud at many points, but also felt sorrow as he desperately fights for survival at sea for 227 days, with his unconventional source of strength: Bengal tiger, Richard Parker. Though the story is tragic, and the issues touched upon sad, it is a warming and enjoyable book that I know people of all ages would enjoy.

‘The Odyssey’ by Homer (8th century BC): the date of this epic poem by Homer, an ancient Greek bard considered a poetic genius in modern day, may be enough to put many people off of reading it, as it did me initially, but I can promise that when reading the modern English translation, it is amazing how close to home much of the story feels. The tale of hero Odyssey, King of Ithaca, and his journey home from Troy, is fundamental in the literary Western canon and so is a must read to anyone who is interested in the history of Western literature. Though at times the story is repetitive (due to the repeat use by poets of certain ‘pre-approved’ lines for performance) and the many ancient Greek names can be confusing, the story of courage, loyalty and resilience is enjoyable, and is echoed throughout literature centuries later.

Along with these books this summer, I also enjoyed reading much poetry by literary legends such as Keats and Shakespeare, which I recommend because of what poetry is: short but beautiful pieces of writing that can tell a powerful story in as much as 14 lines. So, poetry is a good reading choice when you don’t have time to commit yourself to a large novel, but you’re seeking some short-term escapism.

I hope all of you have had a lovely summer, and that amongst some of these recommendations, you have found a new ‘must read’! Thank you for reading.

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