Tag: Crime and Punishment

Understanding my Fascination on Russian Literature

Posted January 31, 2017 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I am not entirely sure where my interest in Russian literature came from. I think it started with a fascination with the Cold War, which lead to a desire to understand the complex nature of the Soviet Union, both its politics and the people. The first Russian novel I read was Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, however my obsession with Russian literature came soon after. When I first became a reader I was using the 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die list as a guide to work out what to read. While I would love to complete the full list, it has served its purpose, which was to expose me to good literature in all genres, allowing me to find where my literary tastes lie.

My Russian literature obsession grew from my interest in satire, beginning with Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, which is a dystopian tale of globalisation. However under all that, it is an autobiographical novel of a Russian immigrant. I loved discovering the story underneath the plot, and I quickly discovered that Russian literature was a treasure trove for that. Russia has a very complex history; this is often reflected in its literature and makes it a big part of Russian culture.

Just a brief history on Russian literature, which has its roots in Chivalric romance, epics and chronicles on the Russian life. It is here at its roots where we establish the importance of irony and satire in the literature. It was Peter the Great’s efforts to modernise Russia that gave way to Russian literature in the 18th century. While I have not read any of these authors from this time, authors like Antiokh Kantemir and Vasily Trediakovsky were notable contributors to its literature. The 19th century is the golden age for Russian literature with Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekov, Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy creating some of Russia’s greatest pieces of literature. It was also where the literary movement Russian Romanticism was established, which explores metaphysical discontent with society and self, from notable authors like Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov. The silver age in the beginning of the 20th century was focused around poetry and the avant-garde. Poets often associated with the silver age include Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak.

This was then followed by the Soviet era, which was the rise of Socialist realism, Russian formalism and futurism. While the Soviet era was an extremely complex period for literature, and covers so many different literary styles, it is easier to put all of the work from the Soviet Era together. If you want to break out the soviet era, you could do that by Samizdat, Tamizdat and Gosizdat. Samizdat ‘self-published’ is the distribution of literature illegally published (often by carbon copies of typescripts) and distributed among other Russians. This is similar to a method used in the Tsarist era, and allowed uncensored literature by authors like Mikhail Bulgakov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to reach an audience. Tamizdat ‘over there’ is when a soviet writer has their works published in the West because they could not publish in Russia. Most Soviet authors had to rely on this method to have their works published, most notable example of Tamizdat is Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Gosizdat ‘State publisher’ was the term used for officially sanctioned publications. In all honesty, I cannot think of a single modern classic from the Soviet Era that was published originally by the state. Although the Russian literature magazines where many works were first published would have been state run.

The post-Soviet era covers all literature published after the collapse of the USSR. Although the censorship of the soviet era was officially lifted, writers still approached sensitive subjects in a similar fashion. In part by the political/economic chaos of the post-Soviet era and partly to follow the traditions of great Russian literature. Although authors like Boris Akunin enjoy huge success in popular fiction, writing a historical detective series. This does not include the authors that fled Russia or the Soviet Union and became authors after gaining citizenship elsewhere, such as Ayn Rand, Isaac Asimov, and Vladimir Nabokov.

While there is a rich history of Russian literature, often there are common themes that appear throughout the ages. Most notably is the struggle for stability; Russian history has been a whirlwind of war and tyranny. This struggle often translates as redemption through suffering. This could be a struggle with religion, philosophy, society or even one’s self. That struggle can be seen in novels ranging from the likes of The Brothers Karamazov to Vladimir Sorokin’s 2006 science fiction novel Day of the Oprichnik. Although my wife might agree with Russian literary critic Viktor Shklovsky, who said “Russian literature is devoted to the description of unsuccessful love affairs.”

Authors within Russia often fall into the social class (I don’t think I need to explain the role class plays in Russia) known as the intelligentsia. This class of intellects are tasked to guide or critique society’s culture and politics. This is why Russian literature plays such a huge role in Russian culture, and also explains why literature was so controlled in the Soviet era. Union of Soviet Writers was formed by Stalin to control the field of literature in the USSR. Membership was not mandatory but if an author was not a member, they would have very limited opportunities for publication. Despite their best efforts, thankfully we still have a rich selection of Soviet literature critiquing the culture and politics of the time.

In both Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, authors had to be careful of what they said, many were exiled to a labour camp for what they wrote. So literary devices were often deployed to say what needed to be said in a more creative way. Literary devices often found in Russian literature include metaphors, allegories, irony, satire and even propaganda to express the author’s views. Which is why many Russian classics are very philosophical or political in nature. It is the dangerous writing that seems to have stood the test of time.

There is so much to offer in Russian literature, I know I have so much I need to learn and read but I am excited about the prospects. I find it sad when I see “Russian novel” used as shorthand for lengthy or turgid; I never understood that. While War and Peace is often considered a challenging book due to its length, there is a reason why it is considered a masterpiece. I would love to gain some recommendations on Russian literature I should check out. My personal favourites include Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and for something really weird, Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin.


The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Posted May 23, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 4 Comments

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoevskyTitle: The Brothers Karamazov (Goodreads)
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Translator: Constance Garnett
Published: Dover Thrift, 1880
Pages: 736
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

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

Written in the final years of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s life (he died four months after it was published), The Brothers Karamazov is probably his most philosophical novel. It tells the story of four very different brothers who all got involved in the murder of their own father. While similarities can be made between this novel and Crime and Punishment as they share similar themes, they are still vastly different. Rather this book deals more with life, death and the meaning of life.

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

At the start of the novel we meet Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, who fathers three sons during his two marriages and is rumoured for have fathered a fourth illegitimate son. He often makes the list when people talk about ‘the most disgusting characters’ in literature, or similar topics. This forms the basis of the plot and the brothers grow up with very different lives, separated from their father and each other. As a result these four brothers are very different; Dmitri is a sensualist, Ivan a rationalist (an atheist), Alexei is a novice in the Russian Orthodox Church and Pavel, well let’s just say, silent and sly.

The very different personalities of these brothers is what allows Fyodor Dostoevsky to explore all his philosophical ideas. One of the major themes in this novel is that of religion and while questioning faith is a common theme in modem literature at the time, in Russia it was considered big deal. In 987 Vladimir the Great sent out envoys to study the various religions of neighbouring nations in order to pick the right religion for Russia. Seems a little unorthodox (no pun intended) but eventually the nation adopted Orthodoxy. What became Russian Orthodoxy was embraced by all of Russia and had its own vision of creating a country of love and humility.

This is important because The Brothers Karamazov is not about questioning the existence of God but rather the role of the church when it comes to morality. It should be noted this was at a time where the Russian Socialism movement was gaining some traction and their goal was to create heaven on earth. With characters of vastly different ideals, Dostoevsky was able to explore the ideas he had floating in his head from different angles. Was Christianity simply a mask for the authority? In one of the most famous chapters Ivan talks about “The Great Inquisitor” which is a powerful argument of scepticism and against religious faith.

Other major themes found in the novel are that of fate and free will. This is closely connected with the ideas around religion. For Alexei, he has the freedom to commit to the order of the church, something that seems like a paradox to someone like Dmitri. Fyodor Dostoevsky explores the psychological makeup of control by society and authority. This plays into the Socialist debate at the time; do we have free will, when we are being controlled by the church or the Tsar. Or maybe we have the freewill but blindly follow the laws put in place by the church and the authority without question.

For Ivan, he lives by the philosophy that “everything is permitted”, which leads to another major theme, that of justice and morality. The murder of Fyodor Karamazov is at the centre of this theme, as well as the trail the follows. The Brothers Karamazov essentially wants the reader to question life, question their beliefs, and the roles of earthly or divine justice. The justice system found in the novel appears to be weird and problematic. The innocent are found guilty, the jury are manipulated by lawyers and the book even questions harsh punishments; like exile to Siberia. It is here we wonder about the different between morality and the laws imposed upon us.

There is so much more you can get out of The Brothers Karamazov (for example family) but for me, this reading through was about questioning life in the lead up to death. I really liked how Fyodor Dostoevsky used the different brothers to explore the different angles and question his own beliefs. Dostoevsky often wrote about society, religion, politics and ethics, however in his final years while writing The Brothers Karamazov, we get the sense that he was thinking more about his own life and his legacy. In fact his tombstone is inscribed with the verse from John 12:24; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it dies, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Most people know that I’m a fan of Fyodor Dostoevsky and I am so glad to have read The Brothers Karamazov however next time I plan to read it in the David McDuff translation, rather than this one translated by Constance Garnett.


Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

Posted December 18, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

Howards End is on the Landing by Susan HillTitle: Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home (Goodreads)
Author: Susan Hill
Published: Profile, 2009
Pages: 244
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: eBook

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

While searching for a specific book from her library, Susan Hill discovered that the book was not where she thought it would be. However she did discover many books that she had not read, or deserved a re-read. This inspired a new reading project, to spend the next year dipping into her own library and read the books she has forsaken. Howards End is on the Landing not necessarily charts her reading but more Susan Hill’s opinions on literature and the bookish world.

First thing you discover is that Susan Hill’s house is full of books, not sorted and no order. She had to search for the book she was looking for, expecting it in the one place but not finding it. I love having my library like this, I recently had to look for my copy of Anna Karenina and I just loved looking at all my books and remembering the stories and memories that go with each one. This is the basic premise of this memoir; Hill goes through her bookshelves and shares memories and thoughts she has about the state of literature.

Susan Hill goes on talking about her thoughts on being an author, the publishing world, self-publishing, libraries, bookshelves, re-reading and even the joys of reading slowly. I have recently discovered the joys of re-reading and reading slowly so on so many thoughts, Hall and I were on the same page. Even though we come from different lives, it was such a joy reading a book devoted to her memories of all the books that sit on her shelves, and scattered across her house.

I have tried to spend a year not buying any new books, in the hopes to read more of the books on my shelves. It did not work. I did however discover how great the library is and started using my local library more. I also discovered how easy it is to get books without having to spend money, especially ARCs. The book buying ban did not work, I still have shelves full of books I still need to read. I know my taste in literature has drastically changed, and I am not sure if I should cull some of these books even if I have never read them.

The end of Howards End is on the Landing talks about if she had to cut down her library to forty books, which ones she will keep. The thought of culling your library so drastically terrifies me but I did enjoy pondering which books I would keep if I did have to cull that much. Or maybe my house burnt down, which books I would rebuy to start my new collection. I know Frankenstein, Crime and Punishment, Lolita, and most of the books on my favourite’s shelf would remain. However it is not about picking favourites, more about picking the books you would like to read over and over again. Which makes for an interesting thought process.

I am interested in the topic of memoirs in association with books like what is found in Howards End is on the Landing. My memories with this memoir will be closely associated with sitting in a hospital in Nouméa as my mother-in-law passed away. It gives me mixed feelings to love a book so much in such a sad time for my family. I even read this as an eBook on my phone, an experience I do not enjoy either but it was more convenient than carrying a book around.

I found Howards End is on the Landing to be one of the better books about books out there, I am disappointed that my memories of it will be attached to such a tragic event. I found Susan Hill to be very tender towards her love of books, while remaining unafraid to express why she did not like a book. She is never dismissive of the books she did not enjoy, she just does not have the desire to read them. I think it would be a hard balance to get that balance right without sounding like a cranky reader. Howards End is on the Landing will hold a special place in my heart and I do hope others get a chance to read it.


The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Posted September 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy MillerTitle: The Year of Reading Dangerously (Goodreads)
Author: Andy Miller
Published: Harper Collins, 2012
Pages: 252
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Hardcover

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

It is no secret that I am a fan of books about books; I especially enjoy a bookish memoir. The idea of reading and learning about someone’s bookish life is fascinating to me. Let’s be honest, I blog about books because I think I have an interesting bookish journey to talk about and I want to capture that for posterity sake. I would love to learn how to write a bookish memoir, so I read anything I can get my hands on. I have even written a post asking for recommendations for books about books and I am always on the look out for more.

I am not sure how I discovered Andy Miller’s memoir The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life but I do remember being really excited about it. I ordered the book and it sat on my shelf for a little too long. With a holiday to America planned, I packed the book in my suitcase and was determined to read it. Turned out Simon Savidge from Savidge Reads started talking about this book about the same time and now I look like I was just following him in an effort to be as cool as he is.

Andy Miller worked as an editor at the time of writing this book (I assume he still does) and found himself only reading for work. On impulse he picked up a copy of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and something just clicked for him. He set out to read ten books, which he called The List of Betterment, which consisted of books he has once lied about reading or felt he should read. This list obviously expanded over the course of the year but it was his starting point into rediscovering a passion for reading.

My discovery for reading was not unlike Andy Miller’s except mine involved Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the 1001 Books Before You Must Read Before You Die list and it wasn’t a lost passion. I loved this book, I was so happy to read about all the awesome books Miller was reading in the course of the year. While this memoir is not healthy for my TBR and judging by Andy Miller’s glowing praises for Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes, I really need to get onto this novel first.

My only problem with this memoir is that Miller didn’t spend enough time talking about my favourite novels, like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Iwas happy to see that The List of Betterment not only includes canon but also involves books like The Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1 by Stan Lee. It is just good to see a memoir that doesn’t just involve highbrow literature. He even considered calling this book How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life referring to Dan Brown.

There is so much to talk about within this memoir, especially when talking about the fifty books mentioned in the book. I’m hoping that I can find some more great bookish memoirs to follow this one. The Year of Reading Dangerously is essentially a book about connecting with great books and the positive effects reading has on a reader. I highly recommend the book and I hope the Andy Miller will write a follow up about his continuing bookish journey.


Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Culler

Posted June 6, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan CullerTitle: Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Goodreads)
Series: A Very Short Introduction #4
, 1997
Pages: 144
Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, as you might have guessed by the title, gives you a quick overview on the importance of literary theory. It is a little introduction on the history and the progression of literary studies. It was interesting how the book looked at literary criticism as a field of studies that is losing a battle to cultural studies. Even thought this field steams from the study of literature, people seem more interested in studying music, movies and TV than literature. Cultural studies seem to be pushing out literary studies and, sadly, the two fields may merge.

I got the broad-brush strokes on literary theory from this book but it never really explored any literary movements in great detail. I really wanted to learn more about the different schools of thought. The book provides a basic idea of what each school is focusing on; “‘the class struggle’ (Marxism), ‘the possibility of unifying experience’ (the new criticism), ‘Oedipal conflict’ (psychoanalysis), ‘the containment of subversive energies’ (new historicism), ‘the asymmetry of gender relations’ (feminism), ‘the self-deconstructive nature of the text’ (deconstruction), ‘the occlusion of imperialism’ (postcolonial theory), ‘the heterosexual matrix’ (gay and lesbian studies).” This did allow me to have a general idea of the schools but I suspect there is a lot more complexity to them. Also this is a very small sample of the different schools of thought; probably just the more popular ones..

In the end I found the most informative section of the book to be the appendix, which had a brief definition of most of the literary schools of thought. This was the information that I was looking for but the book did provide a decent starting point for someone like me. I know I will need to read a lot more about literary theory but I’m starting to get a handle on what to expect. I know I’ll never be an expert in all fields but the more I learn, the more I understand each school of thought in a basic sense.

I feel like my interests will be focused on psychoanalysis and Marxism. I like the idea of using psychology to analyse characters in a book; it could be dark and twisted and that is the type of thing I’m interested in. You only have to see my opinions on Frankenstein and Crime and Punishment to see that. I’m also interested in the social structure and how society affects the characters, so I think Marxism will be an interesting field of study as well; it will also have the added bonus of freaking out my in-laws.

This A Very Short Introduction series of books are a great idea, I can see myself trying out some different ones in different ranges of topics. They don’t just focus on literature, you can learn about religion, sociology, music, history, psychology, science and so much more. I plan to try out a few more of the books; I’m thinking the one on Marx might be my next choice. They are short and if you prefer they are also available as audiobooks.


How do you pick an imprint for classics?

Posted May 3, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 8 Comments

Every publisher seems to have their own classics section. Penguin Random House now control most of the market (Penguin Classics, Modern Classics, Signet Classics, Vintage Classics, etc). So how do you choose which collection to buy from? Do you even pay attention to the publisher? When I first started hording collecting books, I didn’t pay too much attention and went for the prettier cover but I’m beginning to wonder if this is a decent solution.

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Sure, I would love to own every book released in the Pulp! the Classics; they are fun and I do own a few of them already but buying a classic because of their covers isn’t really effective. Not all editions are the same, in particular translated classics. When picking up a Russian classic do you know which translator to pick? Do you spend time researching the best translator or do you have a publisher you can trust?

I’ve often contemplated this question and since studying at university I’ve noticed that they often recommend two publishers more than any other; Norton Classics and Oxford World Classics. While they don’t have the best covers, I’ve had the greatest success with Oxford World Classics, to the point that I don’t want to buy any other editions. If asking the internet which translation of a novel I should read, for War and Peace it is Louise and Aylmer Maude and for Crime and Punishment, Jessie Coulson is often the answer. They are the translators used in the Oxford World Classics.

I’m not sure what it is, I just trust Oxford World Classics more than any other and they often offer some great questions to ask yourself in the back of the novel. My new found love for Oxford World Classics and the reason for this post is not to give a sales pitch or anything like that; I’m just curious if others think about this topic in as much detail as I do. If so, which publisher do you trust over all others?


First Steps: Russian Literature

Posted July 27, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in First Steps / 0 Comments

literary stepsFirst Steps is a new segment that was inspired by the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. Each week or two we look at what books from different themes, genres or maybe authors and suggest some that are worth trying. Not necessarily all easy to read books but the ones that are worth the time and effort. My goal is to have First Steps guide you to some great books in places you don’t normally venture to.

I’ve been reading this amazing book called A Constellation of Vital Phenomena which is set in Chechnya and it got me thinking about Russian literature. I love reading books set in Russia and written by Russians, I don’t know why there is something about the books that draws me to them. They are often epic, slightly odd and the prose and character development are well worth reading, don’t get me started on symbolism and motifs. But it’s sad to think a lot of people are scared of reading Russian literature and while there are so many I haven’t read yet, including War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, Doctor Zhivago and anything by Anton Chekhov I thought I’d share five Russian novels I would recommend. I have left out Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart simply because they are Russian Americans and it’s hard to work out which country can truly claim them.

Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin

This weird and wonderful postmodern novel is quite frankly so bizarre you just have to check it out. I wanted to add something contemporary to this list and thought this was the perfect choice. Set in a futuristic Russia where the Russian Empire has been restored back to the draconian codes of Ivan the Terrible.

 
 
 

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

If you are fans of the dystopian genre and you haven’t read We, you really need to get onto it. This book is often considered as the first truly dystopian novel and has inspired authors such as Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut. Zamyantin bases this future on his personal experiences during the two Russian revolutions (1905 and 1917) and the First World War.

 
 

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Yet another weird and wonderful Russian novel, this time in the genre of Magical Realism. The whole book is based around a visit by the Devil to two passionately atheistic Russians. While this is an overly simplified synopsis it really is the basis of the entire book; if I really want to write a fully detailed overview of this book it would include a black cat, an assassin, a naked witch, Jesus and Pontius Pilate in one bizarre novel.

 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Don’t let the size of this book scare you, this isn’t necessarily a hard book, just long and like most Russian classics it is worth the effort. The story of love, infidelity as well as a battle of classes and the fading out of an old society to make room for modern one. If you are a patient reader and love a story with well written characters that is beautifully written then this book is worth reading, it simply is a masterpiece.

 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I love this book so much. Before there were psychological thrillers and books like the Dexter series, there was Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov is a conflicted character; he is showing a lot of interest in the classes and thinks he is of a higher class than others believe. But when he commits murders, guilt, remorse or regret plague him. This is a novel that focuses on the inner turmoil as well as the impact on his intellect and emotions. Beyond perfect and the type of book that you just want to read over and over again.

I know a lot of people avoid the Russian books but I’m drawn to them, I would love to know what people think and if they do avoid them, why. If you have read some great Russian novels, let me know as well because there are so many out there, I would love to know which ones are well worth reading.


The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Posted July 25, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Science Fiction, Thriller / 9 Comments

The Shining Girls by Lauren BeukesTitle: The Shining Girls (Goodreads)
Author: Lauren Beukes
Published: Harper Collins, 2013
Pages: 389
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

During the depression era, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens onto other times. But it comes at a cost, he has to hunt down and kill all the shining girls; those bright girls burning with potential. He stalks them through the different ages, leaving clues on their bodies. But when one of the girls doesn’t die she starts to hunt him. Can Kirby Mazrachi track down this time-traveling serial killer before it’s too late?

Right off the bat, a time traveling serial killer was enough to sell me on this book, it sounded unique and familiar all at the same time. I started reading this book instead of reading the novel I needed to read for book club (which is And the Mountains Echoed) as a way of procrastinating and simply because I wanted something light and entertaining while I wasn’t feeling too well. I flew through this novel and while it was dark, twisted and often graphic, I still felt like it missed something.

I like my serial killers to have an inner conflict; the inner turmoil of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, the dark passenger of Dexter in the Dexter series (and TV show) and if you’ve seen Mr Brooks, the guy in the back seat (played by William Hunt). I love the psychological elements that are found in these examples and this is what I look for in a novel about serial killers. I want to know their motivations, their convictions, the struggle between good and evil within each one of them and when I didn’t get that in The Shinning Girls, I was disappointed by that.

Then again I love how graphic this book is; there is a real thrill to read the macabre and Lauren Beukes doesn’t hold back in the book. While the author doesn’t go into too much detail about the time travelling mechanics, when someone asked me if the time travelling elements were believable in the book I had to stop and think. Firstly can time traveling be believable? Then I spent time thinking about the different theories around time traveling and going back and forth in time, never really seemed to alter the future at all. Why didn’t Harper just go back to the same day and finish Kirby off? Or even a different day? There are so many questions that are left to the imagination and nothing about time travelling was ever be truly explored. You know what? I think I prefer it that way, there are too many theories regarding time travel, I think it was best to leave it up the reader to draw their own conclusions about some of the plot. I don’t like it when everything is wrapped up neatly and every thread within a novel is covered off. I want something left to my imagination, I want to form my own ideas and I want to question the book in the end.

I think Lauren Beukes made a conscious effort not to fill in all the gaps; there are so many questions, backstory and motivations that could have been filled in but leaving that all up to the imagination of the reader just worked better for this book. It also can set up for possible sequels and spin offs. This means when Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way and MRC brought the rights to make this into a TV series (even before the book was released in America) I think Beukes decision paid off. With all those lose threads, it give the TV adaptation room to move and vary from the book if needed (in order to set up a few seasons). Adaptations are tricky and I’m often against them but with a book like The Shining Girls, I think they have a good foundation to work with and expand without upsetting too many of the diehard fans.

The Shinning Girls is far from perfect; there are things I would have liked to see done differently but this was pure entertainment and the fact that there are a slight literary quality about it helped as well. I’m curious to see what happens with the TV show and I’ll be sure to watch it if it ever makes it to air but in the meantime, this is a Science Fiction/Thriller that I’m happy to recommend to people. There is a lot to think about and it is one hell of a read.


Top Ten Tuesday: The Worst Movie Adaptations

Posted July 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Adaptations, Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

I had so much fun doing Top Ten Tuesday last week that I thought I would join in again. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Top Ten Best/Worst Movie Adaptations. I want to look at ten books that should have never been made into movies because they never work and never will work in this particular format. These are mainly books that have a strong internal monologue, the emotions and inner turmoil is vital to the book and/or they are too many narrators to really work.

10. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
There was a mini-series that wasn’t too bad but the latest attempt at adapting this movie was so bad. I’m a fan of Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Stephen Fry and John Malkovich but no one could save this movie.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I’m sorry but the 2005 film just doesn’t work for me, there is none of Austen’s wit and only really covers the basic story. I only recently read Pride and Prejudice and adored it but most of the things I love about this book don’t translate to film.

8. Dune by Frank Herbert
David Lynch was faced with the impossible task of turning this seminal sci-fi classic into a movie and he failed, hard.

7. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
One of those movies, I wish I could unsee. The book was so great, why would they destroy that with a film adaption?

6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The most recent adaptation was a horrible, horrible adaptation of such a wonderful book. It was weird how they did the movie and they left so much out. I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley so I was looking forward to the end. I’ve not seen any of the other adaptations of this classic and I never want to see them.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I keep meaning to write about the Baz Luhrmann version but keep putting it off. This is a book about unlikeable characters and symbolism, and that never worked. To be honest I don’t think Baz read the book and just tried to remake the old Robert Redford movie.

4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
I’ve never seen a Dracula movie that actually works, it’s hard to be faithful to Bram Stoker’s seminal piece of literature and still try to adapt it.

3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I’m looking at you Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, and Robert Duvall. It doesn’t work and it shouldn’t be tried again. Try something like a modern retelling like Easy A, it’s not The Scarlet Letter but at least it works.

2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Most of this novel plays out in the mind of Rodion Raskolnikov; mental anguish and moral dilemmas don’t translate on the screen, I never have watched a Crime and Punishment adaptation and I don’t think I ever will.

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
No, just stop it, you will never get it right in a movie, you can’t tell both Victor and Monster Frankenstein’s story at the same time and explore their thoughts and emotion on the screen. Stop trying to ruin my favourite book.


Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Posted May 3, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

Burial Rites by Hannah KentTitle: Burial Rites (Goodreads)
Author: Hannah Kent
Published: Picador, 2013
Pages: 352
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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

In a small town in northern Iceland 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is waiting her execution for her part in the brutal murder of two men. District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and two daughters have been appointed to act as Agnes jailors leading up to her death. Horrified to have a convicted killer living with them leads to the drama that is Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.

I remember hearing about this book when Waterstones released their Waterstones Eleven list for 2013. This list is their picks for the most promising Fiction debuts of the year. While I’ve never really known of this list till this year I was very interested to discover some books that I thought I would need to get my hands on. Books that I immediately added to my list included Idiopathy by Sam Byers, The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence, Pig’s Foot by Carlos Acosta and of course Burial Rites. Hannah Kent is an Australian author and Deputy Editor for Kill Your Darlings, an independent literary publication. I was surprised how much buzz this book got leading up to its release and the fact that she sold the manuscript to so many countries before people had a chance to read it and talk about it.

Burial Rites is told from multiple perspectives.  There is a first person narrative from Agnes which appears to be unreliable as she doesn’t seem to have a clue about some of the things going on around her. Then there are all the other perspectives which are told in third person, I thought I would get annoyed with the switching perspective and the reliable third person verse the unreliable first but really it didn’t bother me at all. The way the story progresses you don’t really notice too much in the change and it really helps the reader to understand what is happening in this little town even if Agnes is unaware.

The differing opinions towards Agnes were really fascinating, in this sense I found myself being reminded of Crime and Punishment. The psychology of each character gets explored, from Agnes’ acceptance and waiting for her fate to Jon’s fear of corruption to the compassion, understanding and a whole range of issues. As the novel progresses and people learn more about Agnes and/or the crime, you can see the way they change in behaviour. I was so drawn to the way Hannah Kent really explored her characters and the way they behave towards Agnes as they learn more about the whole situation.

This is based on real events; Agnes Magnusdottir was the last application of capital punishment in Iceland and while I didn’t find much about the crime and the execution, I did feel like Kent has researched enough for this novel. Using historical events to write fiction is a trick thing to do, sometimes you can get it right, like in the case of this novel and Wolf Hall, but sometimes you just mess too much with the personalities of who you want to portray and it doesn’t feel authentic, A Treacherous Likeness is a good example of this. I’m sure it helps that a quick search of Agnes Magnusdottir doesn’t give you much information apart from being convicted for the murders of Nathan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson so it is hard to tell just how accurate this novel is. Though I feel like I know a little more about the last execution in Iceland than originally (which was nothing); even if it was learnt from a historical novel.

Burial Rites was a great read, I found myself being sucked into the world and enjoying the way each character was explored. Trying to pronounce the Icelandic names is always hard but I’m pleased to see there is a little guide at the start of the book to help with pronunciation. A brilliant debut novel from Hannah Kent and she will be one Australian author I will be watch in the future. This psychological novel really is worth reading, but then again I do enjoy a novel that explores the psychological elements of murder.