Month: May 2013

ArmchairBEA 2013: Ethics & Non-Fiction

Posted May 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 26 Comments

armchairBEANow this is a hard topic, firstly I’m not sure if I know enough about the book blogger code of ethics (there should be one set in stone or in hardback at least) and I often struggle with reading and reviewing non-fiction. First of all, ethics; I don’t think I’ve experienced much to do with plagiarism but I think it is important to always give credit where credit is due. I like to tag my posts make it clear if I’m reviewing an ARC, just so people know that the book has been given to me for free. I think it is important to be transparent with our blogging so we can be viewed as an honest and trustworthy blog. I have had some positive and negative experiences with authors and my reviews; I think it is important to have bad reviews so people know what we like and what we hate. Now I try to be critical and constructive in my reviews but authors still take offence. There is nothing against the author, you don’t have to unfollow me on twitter and most of the time I’m willing to try another of your books. But if it doesn’t work for me, I want to write why, I never want it to feel like a personal attack; authors just have to accept that not everyone is going to like their books. I hope I didn’t get too sidetracked but I think we have an obligation to write negative reviews as well as positive.  I want to start being more vicious with my reading and abandoning books so I don’t waste to much time on the books I’m not enjoying but I also want to document my reading journey here as well so I’m looking for ways to implement abandoned books into this blog so people get a full picture of what is happening in my reading.

Ok, when it comes to Non-Fiction, I struggle to get into most books and I’m really trying. I want to learn more and I’ve been reading some books about the Romantics lately, but how do you review them? With fiction it’s easy to breakdown a book and say what you like and dislike but when it comes to non-fiction how do you give an overview of the book without sounding like Wikipedia? I’m sure you can talk about what works and doesn’t work in that non-fiction book but only to a limited extent, these are real events you can’t really say “here is why the holocaust didn’t work for me”. I want to open up this post to both ethics but more importantly to Non-Fiction.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Banner by Nina of Nina Reads and button by Sarah of Puss Reboots

Monthly Review – May 2013

Posted May 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As May comes to a close, like all months, I want to have a quick look at what happened. First of all I managed to get fully up to date with my reviews; a few months ago I was about 20 reviews behind, waiting to be posted. Now when I finish a book the review will go up within a few days (sometimes more) and this frees me up to do other bookish posts. This is so exciting because I really like to write my thoughts about the world of literature without being confined to reviews. Also as you can see we are smack in the middle of being green with envy of everyone attending the Book Expo of America (BEA). I’m participating in Armchair BEA again and this will hopefully mean new blogs and new people to talk to. I’m also currently overseas so I’ve scheduled all these posts, I still have access to internet but I wanted to be free to comment and read instead of writing blog posts.

As for this month, the book club theme was Supernatural and we got to read the classic Victorian Gothic novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. My review went up yesterday and there have been some interesting discussions about the book and its influences in modern pop culture over at Goodreads if you’ve missed it. Next month’s book is going to be a little obscure, something I’ve not heard of; I’m really looking forward to diving into The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.

Last month I was in the middle of a reading slump so I was worried that May would be a terrible month for me but I’m pleased to say the slump didn’t last long. I was able to read heaps of great books including Invitation to a Beheading, Main Street and The People of Forever Are Not Afraid. Interesting enough the highlight of the month was none of those books, but a reread of The Great Gatsby; I just enjoyed returning to that novel and then picking it apart trying to understand it. I would love to know what your highlights of the month were or even what you read this month.

My Monthly Reading

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted May 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Gothic, Horror / 0 Comments

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis StevensonTitle: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Goodreads)
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Published: Signet, 1886
Pages: 92
Genres: Classic, Gothic, Horror
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic gothic horror novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is probably known to many people; it’s been adapted many times and is often a symbol of the horror genre in pop culture. We all know the story; mild-mannered Dr Jekyll by day but at night, thanks to a potion, Mr Hyde is unleashed. But do we really know this tale; the tale of good and evil, or maybe the unleashing his secret inner persona, or maybe this is a story about dissociative identity disorder?

This is a reread for me so like I did in The Great Gatsby; I’m going to quote my old review (which is relatively short) but expand with what I know now. First we need some context; Robert Louis Stevenson had already had some success as a Victorian adventure writer before he came up with the idea of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He had already written Treasure Island and his collection of short stories New Arabian Nights; in fact it is believe that he came up with the idea while working on his revisions for the short story Markheim (which, in my opinion, is his best piece). So already you get a sense that he knows what he is doing and if you’ve read Markheim you can see the similarities clearly. It was the late into the Nineteenth Century where there were extraordinary technological advances being made and people had a growing pessimism towards a possible decline in arts and religion.

The Promethean personality is something we’ve seen in books like Dracula by Bram Stoker, but this novella has more in common with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Both involve scientists that defy the laws of nature and God with major consequences. Also, they play on the concept of good and evil and the dangers of advancing sciences but they also have been written in a way that to this day people debate the meaning of the novel.

Some say this is a novella that looks at that great Victorian idea of inner conflict with humanity; that good and evil exist in us all and it is an internal struggle between the two. While others suggest that maybe Stevenson was interested in exploring mental health, especially when it comes to split personalities or what should be correctly called a dissociative identity disorder? When I first read this book I got a sense of both, saying “[That] it’s a vivid portrayal of a split personality, split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality each being quite distinct from the other.”  As an interesting side note Vladimir Nabokov has famously argued that the “good versus evil” view within this novella is misleading, as Dr Jekyll himself is not, by Victorian standards, a morally good person.

“The novella’s impact is such that it has become a part of the language, with the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” coming to mean a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next.” While this is true, the tale has left a bigger impact on pop culture than just one phrase and classic horror movies. Within comic books both The Hulk and Batman’s rival Two-Face have clear influences from this novella; in fact you might argue that all superheroes are influenced as well, all living a double life.  Even the framework has been used in other fables, gothic, horror and speculative fiction.

“Robert Louis Stevenson is an amazing writer and this book is well worth the read, I’ve always enjoyed a story that tries to explore two sides of a situation.” Not only does this highlight how much I’ve improved in my reviewing but it serves as a reminder of my interest in plots that explore both points of view. Frankenstein still remains my ‘go to book’ for this even though rereading Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has rekindled an interest in Robert Louis Stevenson’s thoughts on the whole “good versus evil” view. I much prefer Markheim and think I might go read it again now.

ArmchairBEA 2013: Blogger Development & Genre Fiction

Posted May 29, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 26 Comments

armchairBEADay two here at Armchair BEA and we are talking blogging and genre fiction. This could be interesting; I can’t wait to see what people say about both topics. When it comes to blogging I take this serious; it’s not that I want to become a professional and earn money (sure that would be nice but I want to treat this as a hobby, I’d love to get paid for doing what I love but I’m happy to have fun) I just like things organised and looking good. I’m not entirely happy with the way my blog looks but I think I lack the coding and graphic design skills to fix it so I leave it the way it is. Now when it comes to blogging platforms, I’m an elitist and think a self published wordpress blog is the only way to go; it is the only way to be flexible and professional. I’ve also recently discovered this amazing plugin thanks to The Oaken Bookcase which has been a book blogging lifesaver (after the hours spent going though older posts to fill in the information) so if you are on check it out.

Last year I wrote a Top Tips for Book Blogging post as part of Armchair BEA but think time I think I would just like to share my goals for this blog which should lead into the talking about genre fiction. This blog originally started as a way to document my reading journey, I’ve always thought my target audience is me and any other readers are just added bonuses. Now I want to be a literary explorer, I don’t want to get tied into only reading one genre, so before I started this blog I started a Goodreads book club also called Literary Exploration  in which we try to read different books in different themes and genres. Now this is all voted on so sometimes I think the book club can get a little stuck on reading cannon books but it is a lot of fun and still takes me out of my comfort zone. This led to the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge where we challenged people to read a book from different genres. This has had such a positive result that I think it will become a yearly challenge (with some fine tuning) and I hope it will continue to push people out of their comfort zones.

Now I like to read literary books but I do enjoy some good hard crime (hard-boiled and noir) but as a literary explorer I have to force myself to read all genres. I really struggle with Fantasy (not so much urban fantasy), Romance, Erotica, Chick Lit, Paranormal and Young Adult fiction but I really try. I think it is important to be willing to try other genres because there are always great books to experience and if we are not willing to try we end up missing books that could become our next loved book. A recent example of this for me was The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu, I expected Young/New Adult but I got so much more for the book.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Banner by Nina of Nina Reads and button by Sarah of Puss Reboots

ArmchairBEA 2013: Introduction & Classics

Posted May 28, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 54 Comments

armchairBEAIt’s here again for another year; while most book bloggers or book lovers in America get to spend the next week at BEA, we sit here being green with envy and wishing we were there. BEA is the Book Expo of America, held in New York, where all the bibliophiles of America get to be enticed with new books from publishers. While us poor Australian book bloggers don’t have this kind of opportunity we can still participate with Armchair BEA. This is a virtual conference for people that can’t make it to BEA. Over the next few days I will be joining in with this event and their daily blog post topic suggestions.

I participated in Armchair BEA last year and found it to be a great success for finding great book blogs and for my little blog which was only just starting out. Now I’m older (maybe wiser), I hope this will be another successful event for both me and my blog. Day one is a general introduction, like last year we are given a choice of some questions to answer as a way to introduce ourselves and our blogs. Also today’s genre discussion will revolve around classic literature which I will talk on quickly after the questions.

  • Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I think I answered this question last year as well but I wanted to answer it again for any new readers and because I think I have had an interesting reading journey. My name is Michael and before 2009 I wasn’t a reader but then suddenly something clicked and I started becoming obsessed with books. I started this blog a little over a year ago as a way to document my literary explorations and talk about my new addiction.

  • Which is your favourite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?

I think this would be My Experience with the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List, the reason I love this post so much is because it serves as a good introduction to me as a reader and blogger. I talk about starting out as a reader and my hunger to discover great literature and also talks about my long term goal of reading the entire list.

  • What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?

I would love to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and adopt a book just like Daniel Sempere did, and if you tell me this place doesn’t exist you are only shattering my dreams. In all seriousness there are many places I would love to visit but I think I would have to say Lake Geneva, the birth place of my favourite novel of all time. If I had a choice, it would be during that dark and stormy night in 1816; those romantics are nuts but they are also really interesting people.

  • What is your favourite part about the book blogging community?

I just love the community behind book blogging, I follow some great book bloggers and I hope to discover some more during Armchair BEA. I love reading new reviews and chatting to other bookish people via twitter and comments, it’s just the highlight of blogging. But there is a huge negative that comes with the book blogger community  and that is the way my TBR suffers, I think it grows faster than I can read, I have no idea how I’m ever going to catch up and get it under control.

  • Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?

I’d love to see more male book bloggers; it’s hard to find them. I’m not sure if it reflects on the amount of male readers out there; I hope not but I would love to know there are more men out there that share a passion for literature. I’d also like to more bookish opinion posts rather than just book reviews and interviews; there are a lot of things we can talk about on our blogs and I think we fall into the trap of just writing reviews. I know I fall into this trap.

Now that I’ve answered these questions, it’s time to move on to talking about classic literature. As part of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list I will be reading a lot of books that are considered western cannon and I’m looking forward to them most of all.  There are so many books out there I want to read and I feel like I’m still playing catch up with all the ‘must read’ novels. For people starting out with classics I would recommend picking which ever one looks the most interesting. There are classics in all genres and if you love Science Fiction maybe try Philip K Dick or Isaac Asimov, Fantasy try J.R.R. Tolkien or even mysteries I recommend Raymond Chandler or James M Cain.

It’s hard to recommend books to non classic readers, you just have to take your own reading journey and try books that interest you. I’m sure once you experience the joys of reading classics you will want recommendations and I recommend joining something like The Classics Club to challenge yourself to more classics. I don’t want to say too much about classics, I want to take to the conversation to the comments but I’d like to ask some questions of the readers to help the conversation along;

  • What is your favourite classic?
  • Which classic would you like to read but are dreading?
  • Are there any classics that you were presently surprised by?
  • Finally are there classics that just seem too hard and why?

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Banner by Nina of Nina Reads and button by Sarah of Puss Reboots

The Hunter by Julia Leigh

Posted May 28, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Hunter by Julia LeighTitle: The Hunter (Goodreads)
Author: Julia Leigh
Published: Penguin, 1999
Pages: 188
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Under an assumed identity of Martin David, Naturalist, M arrives to hunt down the last Tasmanian tiger rumoured to exist within Tasmania. On the edge of the wilderness, he will soon slip into an untouched world of silence and stillness. Hunting the last thylacine, an animal extinct since the 1930’s, but a sighting has been reported.

Julia Leigh, born in 1970 in Sydney, Australia, has received critical acclaim even though she has had a very small writing career so far. The Hunter in 1999; a novella in 2008, Disquiet; and then she wrote and directed the 2011 movie Sleeping Beauty (not to be confused with the fairy tale). I tend to think that most of her acclaim came from people expecting great things from her after she was selected to be the protégé of Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison in 2002 as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts international philanthropic programme.

The Hunter is an interesting novel because it follows a post colonial narrative which is unheard of for an Australian novel. When it comes to Australian adventure novels, most of the time characters just get lost in the wilderness not go hunting dangerous animals.  This leads to an interesting portrayal of the thylacine, which I will look at later. The Hunter may be a stripped back quest narrative but it feels very American and masculine for an Australian female author. American in a sense that the hunt narrative could be compared to Moby Dick, Old Man and the Sea and even The Bear, comparisons which she has acknowledged. Masculine in the way she gives approaches this novel with detachment, contempt and control over the death hunt subject matter. You could compare the paired back minimalist prose to something found in hard-boiled fiction, but not quite.

M is the archetype of a hunter, a figure that inhabits the story rather than one the lives in its world. There are not too many details of this character, but he seems to have similar characteristics as the hero in a spaghetti western. Ruthless, cold, calculating and inhuman but never unethical; though the lack of character development is an important part of this book. It forces the reader to keep him at arm’s length so we can study him. It’s almost like Julia Leigh has been taking active steps so that we never warm to him.

He is never a role model or anti-hero; he is just a faceless man in pursuit of the last remaining thylacine. What does the thylacine represent in this book? Imagination, hope for the future, guilt of the past, living in harmony with nature or a biotech ghost in a Tasmanian gothic novel? It’s up to the reader to decide, but while we are on the subject of the thylacine, does this animal both represents the Australian wildlife, an animal going extinct to raise global awareness as a form of Ecocriticism or is it supposed to be an animal that could harm or kill the hunter? These are the questions that I believe Julia Leigh wants us to ask as readers.

Julia Leigh setups a situation where the reader has to reason with their imagination and emotions in order to get the reader to think about what the author might be saying. I really like how you can read The Hunter as an adventure, a Tasmanian gothic or as ecocriticism. No matter which way you read this you are not wrong. I thought of this more as a western; just with the way the protagonist was portrayed and the people drinking in the bar reminded me of those rednecks drinking in a saloon in those spaghetti western films. I’m interested to see how people read this book and just see what they got out of it.

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

Posted May 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 1 Comment

Alex by Pierre LemaitreTitle: Alex (Goodreads)
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Translator: Frank Wynne
Series: Verhoeven Trilogy #2
Published: MacLehose Press, 2011
Pages: 368
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When someone is kidnapped, the first few hours are critical; the chances of finding the victim alive drastically decrease after that. The beautiful and tough Alex Prévost is no ordinary victim but can she escape? Her time is running out. Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on, no suspects, no leads and no hope. All they know is the girl was snatched off the streets of Paris and shoved into a van. The mystery of the fate of Alex will keep Verhoeven guessing until the bitter end.

This is the second book in the Verhoeven trilogy but the only one that has been translated into English so far. While it is very much a standalone novel, I got a feeling that some critical information about Commandant Camille Verhoeven was missing in the development of this character. This could be the simple fact that this is the standard and over done thriller formula. I picked up this book because I’ve heard it being compared to Gone Girl a few times and thought it was a good excuse to read some translated crime.

Alex does have an unreliable victim, like Gone Girl but comparing this book to that one is a big stretch. The whole style and feel to Alex was nothing like the psychological thriller that is Gone Girl. This novel does try to be psychological but comparing the two is pointless, this novel takes a whole different route and the only real similarities are the genre and the unreliable victim. I tend to think marketing people look for connections between books as a way to promote books and this can be destructive.

Alex is a thriller told from a third person narrative that follows both the victim, Alex and Commandant Camille Verhoeven as he tries to piece together this enigma of a case. While this tends to work well in exploring the two sides of this case as victim and investigator, I sometimes wished I could get into the mindset of both characters. Without spoiling any of this novel, there are parts of the book that could have been interesting to explore the psychology of the characters. I think Alex was a complex character that could have been used better within the book to improve both plot and the overall novel.

Now, there are so many plot holes within this novel that really got to me, from the very first few chapters I got that feeling everyone was attractive, despite their age. It seems like Pierre Lemaitre knew of no other way to describe someone. I don’t want to spoil anything for people that want to read this book so I won’t mention the biggest plot hole I found (if you have read this book I’d love to discuss it with you). There is also a lot of repetitiveness within this novel, I don’t know how many times Lamaitre can mention she wasn’t average and when she was a teen Alex blossomed into a bombshell with large breasts but it was too many. Then you mix the generic thriller formula to the mix and you are left with a novel that could have done great things but took the safe road.

I think the unreliable victim narrative could have been executed a whole lot better and we could have had a decent novel with twists and turns. I’m a little disappointed that the author decided to play it safe and go with the cliché plot that is known to sell books. Books like Gone Girl that take risks and surprise the reader are the ones that are remembered and respected by readers. Sure sometimes we want something that we know will be enjoyable and doesn’t require much effort for a cosy winter (or summer read) but when you set up a book like Pierre Lemaitre did in Alex and chose not to take full advantage of the situation I feel let down and disappointed.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Posted May 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Imperfectionists by Tom RachmanTitle: The Imperfectionists (Goodreads)
, 2010
Pages: 277
Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

With the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, climate change, the economy and constant tragedies and crime, a newspaper has plenty of material to fill its columns. But for the staff of this international paper based in Rome, the real stories are not the ones on the front page but the ones that happen in their own life. The Imperfectionists is a quirky novel about the people that write and read this newspaper.

My first thought of this novel was, this is going to be the newspaper equivalent of A Visit from the Goon Squad and in some parts it is, but I actually enjoyed this book. Don’t get me wrong, A Visit from the Goon Squad has some positives to it and a lot of people enjoyed it, but for me I just think it was over hyped and you get to know a character and then the novel moves onto something different. This is a problem with The Imperfectionist as well but I got this sense that each little story came to a relatively decent close; this is tiny little stories to give you a small insight into each life. These stories don’t really make up an overall plot; that happens between each chapter when you learn a little more about the overall rise of this paper.

This novel mainly focuses on the newspaper industry, founded in the late fifties, in a time where the paper is still the primary source of news for most people. This novel tracks the changing time and the effect it has on the people that work for this paper. Television and the twenty four hour news channels had a huge effect on the newspaper industry but this paper managed to stay in business and now with the information age and the internet they are really struggling to remain relevant. This newspaper refused to create a website and insisted on sticking to the old ways and this turns out to be their downfall.

Each member of the staff that show up in the chapters of the book have their own issues to deal with as well; love, relationships, parenthood and normal everyday life. The thing I enjoyed about this book was each character was unique and handled life differently but then all of them had their own issues to deal with that were more important than the problems facing the newspaper they worked for. Sure they worried about their jobs but life has its own challenges and these are what are explored with the newspaper industry decays.

This works like a collection of short stories, each have their own plot but then in between  each one there it the main plot which follows the newspaper from conception to where it is today. I really liked the way this was done; it felt like each story wasn’t irrelevant to the overall plot. Their names pop up and you have a sense of understanding that person enough to know just how they may feel. Each little story is different, but they are told in the same third person style so they seem to tie together really well.

There are some problems with this novel as well, sometimes you want more from a character you like and sometimes I found myself getting bored. As an overall novel I did end up enjoying it; I found myself racing through this book and that is rare for me when it comes to short stories. I don’t know much about author Tom Rachman; I know his has written another short story but not another novel. I would be interested to see how he goes with a follow up novel and see how he approaches it. The Imperfectionist was enjoyable but I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone, unless they want something similar to of A Visit from the Goon Squad.

The Yearning by Kate Belle

Posted May 23, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Yearning by Kate BelleTitle: The Yearning (Goodreads)
Author: Kate Belle
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2013
Pages: 323
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In 1978, in a small country town, a fifteen year old girl’s world is changed with the newly arrived substitute teacher. Solomon Andrews is inspiring, charismatic, charming and beautiful and she wanted him more than anything else in the world. While he was aware of this shy girl interests he thought it was a harmless high school girl crush; that was until the erotic love letters started coming. He knew he should resist but her sensual words stirred him. First love feels like a great love, a forbidden love.

Kate Belle’s The Yearning is not erotic fiction and it’s not really a romance; this is a book that is hard to put into a genre. Well, in a sense you could categorise this book as romance but it’s a dark romance, a one sided romance; I don’t think there is a genre called ‘disturbing obsessions’ or ‘infatuations’ so how can you put this into a genre? I know, I know, genres are annoying and we should get rid of them all, and just have fiction and non-fiction but as a quick way to identify books, I do like to label a book.

I went into this book thinking it sounded a little like Me and Mr. Booker by Cory Taylor but thought maybe there might be similarities to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (also books I’ve not read yet; An Education by Lynn Barber, What Was She Thinking? by Zoë Heller and Tampa by Alissa Nutting) but this book managed to surprise me in the direction Kate Belle took with The Yearning.

A rather daring novel, which I felt there was a sense of predictability within the plot; it was exquisite in parts but also awkwardly erotic and sexy in the approach. Fifteen year old Eve’s desires for her new next door neighbour Solomon Andrews starts off as a simple crush but as her obsession with the sexy teacher grows, so does the yearning till it reaches a dangerous level. To me I like to think this is a look at the intensity of a high school crush and the ignorance towards understanding what true love is; in high school you think every crush really is your soul mate.

Then you get the point of view from Solomon Andrews, who is not as despicable as Humbert Humbert; while he comes across as a hebephile, I get the feeling maybe he is just a pansexual and will take whatever he can get. Without going into much thought into the psyche of Solomon I will say he is weak and should know better, he lets his desire to get laid and the feeling of being desired get the better of him. Highlighting the dangers of giving into your desires and also the problems with falling for someone that is bound to break your heart and have a negative impact on your life.

This novel then takes a surprising turn, something similar to The Reader; it shoots forward twenty years. Now Eve’s is about to marry Max even though that yearning for Solomon has remained and her heart still belongs to him. This marriage is very problematic and she never tries; the relationship as husband and wife is a disaster, the sex is not satisfying, she pressures him into children and the list goes on and on. The downfall of the marriage and the link with her yearning for Solomon is clear to Eve from the start and soon became evident to Max as well.

Now I like uncomfortable novels and I really liked how Kate Belle approached The Yearning with the dark romance and desires. I also liked how she created Solomon as a character you end up having a love/hate relationship with, leaving the reader unsure how they should feel about him; obviously you are meant to hate him but you can’t help feeling other emotions towards him. This only get the book so far for me anyway; I got to about the middle of this book, when Max showed up before it went downhill. The first half was new, somewhat exciting and sexy in all its awkwardness but the second half was a real let down. Sure I like how her yearning for Solomon affected her future relationships but I got a sense that this has all be done before. It just felt so predictable and I was no longer surprised. Many people might be alright with this but for me it felt like the book started off strong and then hit a wall.

I really liked elements of The Yearning and ended up hating others, so this leaves me a little confused with my overall opinion of the book as a whole. Much like the genre, I’m not sure just how to rate it, so I’m going to be neutral and give it two and half stars. This book has gotten a lot of positive reviews, so I think this just shows how bitter and cynical I am to give this book a middle of the road rating. If this book sounds like it will interest you, check it out; don’t let me put you off.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Posted May 21, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia WoolfTitle: Mrs Dalloway (Goodreads)
Author: Virginia Woolf
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1925
Pages: 185
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Clarissa Dalloway goes around London preparing to host a party that evening. It’s a nice day and she finds herself being reminded of her youth in the Bourton and wondering about her life and her choice of husband; marrying the reliable Richard Dalloway instead of the mysterious and challenging Peter Walsh, as she never had the option to be with Sally Seton. These conflicts have been reintroduced when Peter pays her a visit.

The novel begins with Clarissa’s point of view and follows her perspective closely, travelling forwards and back in time and in and out of her mind to construct an image of her life. Clarissa is bubbly and lively, caring a great deal about what people think of her, but she is also self-reflective. She is often questioning life and constantly wondering whether happiness is truly possible. Though she is happy with her marriage to Richard she feels both great joy and dread towards her life and struggles to strike a balance between her desire for privacy and her need to connect with others.

Her husband Richard Dalloway is a member of the conservative government and plans to write a history of The Brutons, a great military family. He is a loving husband and father and devoted to social reform while appreciating English tradition. Peter Walsh is a close friend of Clarissa, once desperately in love with her. When she rejected his proposal, he moved to India; though frequently having romantic problems with women throughout the novel he is currently in love with a married woman in India. A socialist and highly critical of people, he is conflicted about everything in his life. Then there is Sally Sutton, a close friend of Clarissa in their youth, she was a wild handsome woman who would say anything. They were sexually attracted to each other as teenagers. Sally now lives in Manchester where she is married and is known as Lady Rosseter.

This is primarily a novel about life and relationships, with Clarissa reflecting on her life and wondering if she has made the right choices when it comes to marriage. There are so other themes that play a big part within this novel as well; some of these include disillusionment towards the British Empire, fear of death, oppression and balancing life between the need to keep up appearances and having some privacy. I won’t go into these themes in any detail, for the simple reason that I feel that Virginia Woolf leaves it very open to interpretation and it is up to the individual reader to make of it what they will.

For me, the major theme that came out was the struggle Clarissa had with trying to play the good hostess by drawing people together through her parties and her introverted nature. I saw Clarissa as an introvert, though she has a bubbly personality, she is often feels shrouded within her own reflective soul and thinks the ultimate human mystery is how she can exist in one room. She likes the idea of being independent and able to spend time to reflect but she is also aware of the inevitable loneliness that comes with a life of self reflection. If you understood something completely different from this novel, please let me know how you read this book in the comments below.

Now that I’ve looked at the themes of this novel, I want to have a quick look at some of the motifs and symbols used in Mrs Dalloway. The most important of them is time, which is so important to the structure, themes and characters of this novel that Virginia Woolf almost called it The Hours. Time keeps order to this novel; with all the thoughts, memories, and encounters within Mrs Dalloway, it becomes a vital element to the book. Also the old woman in the window across from house symbolises the life Clarissa desires; a private life with time to reflect. You also have things like the flowers with all their colour, varieties and beauty being a motif for emotions, Shakespeare and poetry representing these emotions as well and water suggesting the possibility of death.

Virginia Woolf can be a difficult author to read and requires a lot of thought but as I’ve now discovered with Mrs Dalloway, it is worth the effort. I remember reading To the Lighthouse and really struggling, but when I was told it was about sex, I thought I really missed the point. It’s a novel I plan to revisit again but as I mentioned in this review, I think Woolf writes her novels in such a way that you can interpret it anyway you want.

I don’t know if I would call myself a Virginia Woolf fan now, but I was really impressed reading and studying Mrs Dalloway. I will admit that that I’m planning to read A Room of One’s Own and reread To the Lighthouse. Maybe after that I might call myself a fan but I would recommend reading Virginia Woolf for all serious literature readers and studiers and anyone that needs to increase their pretentious levels. For me, Mrs Dalloway was both an interesting book and an interesting endeavour into improving my critical reading skills.