Friday, 10 May 2013

My Love Affair with Pride and Prejudice

If I were to have one book in the whole world to read, it would be the battered old copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This worn out book lives forever on my bedside locker, as it did my mother’s before she gave it to me. This novel never fails to excite me. Although the tale is well known to me now, each time I read this book I get engrossed in the characters so effortlessly portrayed by Austen. However, these are but part of the appeal to this book. To me nothing can beat her use of irony and wit providing an endless stream of humour that can never fail to bring a smile to your face. To be without this book would be like being without a closest friend. With the opening of this novel, a day can turn from lousy to exciting.
The other thing that is truly remarkable about this novel is its characters, as mentioned above. I can never fail to fall in love with Austen’s use of dialogue to give amazing depth to her characters. This allows us to feel for her characters and creates the perfect atmosphere with which to tell her tale. As highlighted above I am thoroughly in love with this book. I would give it a rating of10/10, which might seem fanciful but I truly hard set to find any faults with it. I would highly recommend giving it a read!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

Before I read it, the title of this book had always loomed imposingly in the distance. It was one of the greats, one of those intimidating books whose name is permanently etched into your brain, it was Pride and Prejudice, it was Great Expectations, it was War and Peace - it was 'classic fiction' in the most terrifying sense of the word. I expected it to be dense, and wordy; I expected it to be a book that meant something and knew it. This couldn't have been further from the truth.

In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger takes the reader on a journey through New York through the eyes of the teenage protagonist, Holden Caulfield. And through this somewhat eventful city jaunt, we catch a glimpse into the mind of one of the most angst-ridden, self-destructive protagonists known to literature. Obsessed and terrified by the thought of change, when confronted with adulthood, he declares it phony, unimportant, distancing himself from the changing sands of time and wishing he could simply stop the clock, and stand still. Ultimately, it's the novel's central theme of craving inertia which drives it, and gives it meaning.
But what draws you in, what forces you to continue, is Salinger’s excellent narration. He commands Caulfield’s voice masterfully, and wholly inhabits his mind, effortlessly conjuring the character, making it seem as if he is speaking directly to you, his words echoing endlessly in your mind. Salinger and Caulfield are both storytellers at their heart; their burning passion to make you empathise with them is what motivates them, and what makes their stories so engaging. He lightly sprinkles the text with colloquialisms and slang - Catcher isn't a book which views highly of itself. For much of it, it's as if Salinger has simply made a carbon copy of his mind onto the page. Caulfield isn't afraid to aggrandise himself, he doesn't shy away from making himself seem faultless. And this lets us understand his character that much better - he isn't an all-knowing, all-encompassing narrator. We're not meant to believe his every word and look up to him as a role model. We're supposed to dislike Holden, we're supposed to view his actions critically and judge him for them.

The Catcher in the Rye is a story that doesn't place itself above the reader. It's a story that doesn't try to teach you a moral, it's a story which doesn't take itself as anything more. In writing it, J.D. Salinger wrote a masterpiece which, while amongst the classics in its quality, surpasses them in its relatability.
By Mike Dolan

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss: A nostalgic response by Daniel M.B

It was a bleak winters evening back in 1998, I had recently discovered Pokemon so my eyes were
glued to the television enthralled by Ash Ketchums ambition and determination to “catch them all”.
I even enjoyed the card game although I had no idea how to play and was completely illiterate. They
were aesthetically pleasing and that was enough to keep my interest. There was a sudden clinging of
keys at the door and in walked my Dad holding eight bags of groceries, his face was going red from
the weight and a vein popped in his temple. He dropped the bags with a huge sigh of relief, knelt
beside me and simultaneously patted my head. “Now my bonny lad, will you be a good boy and
bring in the last little bag in the boot” he said. I willingly obeyed and toddled out to the car, picked
up the plastic bag. Under the plastic bag was a multi-coloured book cover entitled “Green Eggs and
Ham”, my eyes gleamed in awe of the colours, you could say I was somewhat of a child-magpie
when it came to objects that shone. I brought the book in, delighted with my recent discovery and
gave it to my mam asking her to read it to me. My mam read me the book several times, over and
over, night after night until I started finishing her sentences when it came to my favourite parts. I will
never forget reading all 70 pages by myself in my living room (granted some of it was memorised not
read...) feeling as accomplished as ever. It was the first book that I had ever read and for that reason
holds huge sentimental value for me. I do like “Green Eggs and Ham” Dan I am.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is, as Terry Pratchett might put it, 'a mystery inside a riddle, wrapped in an enigma'. In fact, the author's name is not John le Carré, as the cover may have you believe, but is in fact David John Moore Cornwell. He took the name 'John le Carré' when he was working with the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (lack of punctuation intentional) is a story about a man, George Smiley, who has retired from the British secret service, so we can see the experience le Carré brings to the table.

It is this authenticity that makes the novel for me. Everything in the novel feels real, from the rather grey London atmosphere the author conjures, to nail-biting tension that so electrifies the book's plot. The book is not filled with action, this story is not akin to the action-packed world of espionage that Ian Fleming wove so famously for James Bond to rampage across. Tinker Tailor Solider Spy is a sombre and nervy affair.

The reader is thrust into a world where nobody is to be fully trusted, given that most of the characters spy on others for money, armed with nothing but an insight into the truly brilliant mind of the protagonist, George Smiley, as he pieces together a mystery and tries to uncover a mole in the secret service even after he's been cut off from it. Though it doesn't involve a detective, aside from a few bit characters, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy boasts as good a 'whodunnit' as any book out there.

The great thing about the book is the sense that the reader gets of the planning that le Carré put into the book. Everything is thought out and everything the characters do is rational and fitting with their personalities, and this only contributes to paranoia imbued within the book. In short, Tinker Tailor Soldier is a compelling and tense thriller that had me at the edge of my seat throughout.
by Luke B.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

First inspiration from the Last Ship Home

 In a time when I could count the years of my life on my hands my brother and I received a book called The Last Ship Home by Rodney Matthews. It was a fantasy art book containing paintings that he had done from literature and from his own imagination. It was a simple book; square in shape and significantly larger than an A4 page. It had a most spectacular cover of a ship floating through the sky towards a cliff-side village and then a corresponding one on the back cover of the same ship drifting away from the village resulting in the decay of the landscape.

My brother and I spent many hours as children exploring each of the pictures, inspecting every detail with curiosity by tracing outlines with small fingers. I recall at one stage we would take it out every night to look at the pictures, flicking through each page and excitedly pointing to a character exclaiming “He’s my favourite!”  (But of course he would always get the best guy)

I remember my brother reading me the titles of each of the works before I even knew how to read, titles such as “An Unlikely Hero”, “Rivendell – The Last Homely House”, “The Martians” and “Alice and the Caterpillar” – depictions of scenes from The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The War of the Worlds and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – all books that I would then read in the years to come.

For me Last Ship Home planted the seed of curiosity that would germinate and flourish into a part-time hobby and full-time interest in books and art. Even now, a decade later, do I open the book to look at a specific picture and find myself once again pouring over each page with new found wonder and inspiration.

By J. Deering 2013