I wanted to write a short post explaining my posting schedule, so that the followers of this blog know when they can expect to see new posts from me.
I have finally settled into a schedule at university as lessons have now started, so I can create more of a definitive schedule for when I will be uploading posts to this blog. I will put in every effort to keep to this schedule (I know how important consistent posting is in blogging!)
Unfortunately I can’t commit to a blog post everyday, but I have huge admiration for anyone who does. My schedule will instead be four posts a week, uploaded on:
If you want to stay updated with my blog, please do give it a follow. I’ve really enjoyed it so far, and it’s been really exciting seeing it grow.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
C.S.Lewis’ problem is one that is very familiar to me, as I’m sure it is to you.
I caught the reading bug at a young age. I used to stay up past my bedtime, huddled up under my duvet with a torch, reading as late as I could. It didn’t really matter what I was reading, whether it was a prescribed reading from school, a borrowed book from a friend, or an old favourite from years before. A far more simple judgement was passed on the books I read- either I loved it, or I forgot about it.
As we get older, however, it becomes far more important to assess whether a book is worth reading before starting it. We have less time to read, and what time we can give over to this hobby needs to be used in a way that is valuable to us. We need reading as a respite, not an addition to the boredom of daily life.
This point became even starker to me as I progressed through my undergraduate degree in English Literature. Suddenly, it wasn’t just my enjoyment that mattered when deciding whether I should read the book. External ideas (fuelled by my imposter syndrome as a first generation university student) about the academic worth of books began to influence my reading decisions, forcing me to create quite a pretentious reading list for about a year. By this, I mean, I read War and Peace just so I could say that I had read War and Peace.
I’ve just graduated, and I’m about to start a masters course in English Literature in September. After submitting my dissertation, I began to read for pleasure properly, probably for the first time since I was 18. I went to a book shop, I scoured the popular fiction section and I looked at what was popular on social media (TikTok advocates very strongly for certain books and I couldn’t just ignore that). I went home with some books that I thought would be interesting to me, rather than books I thought would validate my position as ‘the reader’.
This blog is going to try and offer book reviews that can speak to both the simplistic enjoyment of books, and a more academic assessment of them. I’ll be reviewing books that I’ve read for pleasure, and ones that are part of the reading lists for my modules at university. I think that offers more of an accurate picture of how we read as adults, half for our entertainment and half to serve a higher purpose, maybe to educate us or offer different perspectives on a certain place, topic or issue that we might not encounter in everyday life.
I hope you enjoy these reviews, and maybe find some inspiration for your own reading in them.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make this my first book review since I ended my hiatus from this blog. It feels more apt to come back with a book I absolutely loved (spoiler alert, sorry), but I honestly haven’t read any books that I’m obsessed with recently.
Better to come back with something to say rather than a boring review…
First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that I, like most people, am very familiar with the film adaptation. It’s almost like a rite of passage to watch Bridget Jones with your mum in England at this point, and I’ve rewatched it more than once. Because of this, I didn’t go into this book with zero judgements and expectations, and that definitely affected my opinion about it.
Once thing I will note that probably seems obvious, is that the diary form is much more enforced than in the film. Every chapter is an entry into Bridget’s diary, and I think this does actually add to the connection you form with the central character. You’re even more aware that this is her innermost thoughts, and I think I became more invested in her as a result.
This is a classic example of ‘chick-lit’, and if you go in wanting a semi-mindless escapist book then you’ll probably have a really enjoyable reading experience. Is it Chaucer? No. But it does what it’s trying to do very well, and I think it would make a great holiday read. I’m definitely not trying to reinforce the idea that anything marketed as for ‘chicks’ has less value and should be ridiculed, because reading anything has value and worth in itself if you enjoy it.
There are some issues with the book that really damaged my reading experience though. I definitely expected there to be more plot, and this is a far more character-driven novel. I didn’t feel like there was a great amount of character development though, which you would normally expect from a book that’s low on plot. Some people were revealed to be not what they seemed, but that was more of a character twist than development. I think it’s something I’m far more used to seeing in more recent books, and perhaps Fielding was writing just before that trend started.
There are also some problematic ideas and attitudes in this novel, and I would advise anyone who is thinking of reading it to just look at some content warnings. There is frequent mentioning of specific weights, fatphobic comments, and calorie counting throughout, and I do think some of the things said surrounding this could be harmful to someone who was struggling. There is also a comment about sexual harassment at work that hasn’t aged well, so keep that in mind as well.
Scroll to the end of this review to see my rating if you don’t want any spoilers!
In-Depth Thoughts (Spoilers!)
The main thing I noticed between the book and the film was how strangely paced it was. You join Bridget when she’s single with a simple work crush, and before you know it she’s moved in with Daniel Cleaver. Then he gets exposed as a cheater and she’s single again, with brief mentions of Mark Darcy throughout. Suddenly, she’s dating Mark, her mum’s a wanted person, and then at the end he announces his love for her. It just doesn’t seem to follow the timeline established by other romance or chick-lit books, let alone real world logic. It just made me far less invested in the characters and their relationships because nothing felt realistic.
The men also seemed to be presented differently than I expected, with Daniel becoming almost intolerable. Without Hugh Grant’s face attached to his character, he becomes a sleazy office flirt who becomes boring the second you start seeing them, and then has the audacity to cheat on you. Maybe my tolerance for men misbehaving in relationships is lower than women in the late ‘90s, but I just wasn’t sucked in by him. Mark Darcy, on the other hand, was awkward but not as stand-offish as he was in the film. His characterisation was certainly more appealing, but their relationship had no depth to it. It just wasn’t to my taste.
Bridget herself just doesn’t really develop over the course of the book. Sure, she ends up with the nice guy not the player, and maybe she’s got a bit more self love, but she’s ultimately the same as she was when she wrote the first diary entry. This, again, is a sign the book has not aged very well, because I wanted more from her. I really wanted her to realise her worth outside of her relationships, because although she’s an honest and open look at female insecurity, I wanted to find escapism from this through the book. The constant criticism of her weight and appearance got really taxing, and I think it would be a better story if this was toned down slightly.
After all the complaining, I want to highlight some of the aspects that I did like. This book is really funny, and it provides the same entertainment as reality TV or a soap opera does. I was not bored reading this book, which is a great success considering I basically knew the whole plot going into it. I also think that Fielding writes a really great representation of female friendships, and it was nice to read something in which these are given the appropriate level of narrative attention. Bridget Jones’ Diary is also a key text in the chick-lit genre, and it would be a massive oversight to overlook the huge influence it’s had on later popular literature.
Final Thoughts and Rating
Overall, Fielding’s book does what it says on the tin. It’s a feel-good, mindless book written to entertain and give escapism. There are some issues with the book in terms of pacing and character development, and certain elements haven’t aged well, so coming to this completely new to Bridget Jones might not leave you with the most favourable impression, but if you love chick-lit it’s worth a read for sure.
I’m giving Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding 2.5 stars.
A long-established dichotomy is that of book vs film, page vs screen, literature vs cinema. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve been urged “wait until you’ve read the book before seeing the film” with the threat that I’d “ruin it” for myself if I did otherwise.
I’ve never really stopped to consider whether this has been true in my experience, and to collect my thoughts about this topic. As readers, I’m sure this will be a relatable issue, and hopefully you enjoy this discussion piece!
I think my automatic response to this question is that yes, you should probably read the book first if you are invested in getting the material as directly as possible. I suppose this doesn’t necessarily promote the idea that film is secondary to literature, and I do think that in some cases it makes sense to follow that approach.
There have definitely been times when I’ve held off watching a film because my interest initially lay in reading the book. In some cases, this has lead to me never doing either, largely due to my ever growing tbr pile and unfortunate tendency to get put off whatever my next read is if I decide on it too far in advance. Nevertheless, if I’ve heard good reviews about a book and I really like the concept, I’d try to avoid the film until I got chance to read it.
All of that generally works on the presumption that the film won’t be as good as the book, or at least that it will weaken the reading experience. I do think the latter is true; one of the best parts of reading is getting to imagine everything for yourself, and a film kind of spoils that. I don’t actually think it matters whether the film is better or worse than the book, because I’ve come away from books feeling like the film actually made vast improvements (Bridget Jones’s Diary I’m looking at you).
There are also some films that, despite the fact that they’re adaptations of books, I’m really only interested in the cinematic form. Certain genres are not my favourite to read (action and sci-fi are probably the best examples of this), but I really enjoy watching them. Even if the book is very hyped up or a classic, I’d much rather have an enjoyable watching experience than struggle through a book that’s going to leave me feeling bored and dissatisfied.
I also think it’s important to acknowledge that films are a far more accessible medium of entertainment, and that it’s okay to prefer film. There’s a lot of intellectual snobbery that surrounds the ‘book vs film’ debate, which does very little to address the problem that for some people, reading is not a pleasurable, or in some cases possible, experience. Just as audiobooks have helped widen the accessibility of texts, films bring the concepts and ideas in literature to people more easily.
All in all, I think my opinion is that the divide between book and film should be seen as a far more nuanced relationship than simply competitors. It’s okay to say that certain books should be enjoyed as texts before they are watched as films, but I do think we need to be more careful about how we express these views. In my opinion, it’s better for people to access things in the way that’s best for them, rather than shame people into having a subpar experience of something.
I mention quite often on here that I’m currently an English Literature masters student, and yet I’ve realised I’ve shared very little to do with my experience. I didn’t create this blog to be about my academic life, but it’s becoming more and more of a presence. I don’t really feel like I can keep referring to it in passing (and often using it as an excuse for inconsistent posting) without doing a bit more of a deep dive.
I’ve also been on a bit of a hiatus on this blog because of my studies, so returning with a post updating you all about them feels apt.
I think the best way for me to do this (at least in regards to my postgraduate experience) is through monthly updates. I’ll use these posts to talk about the books I’ve studied, what the highlights and lowlights have been, how my dissertation is progressing, and a brief projection of what the next month has in store. As this post is being published halfway through November, I won’t be giving a projection in this post.
I’m hoping this will be interesting for people who have been or want to be literature students at the very least.
Books I’ve Studied
October’s reading was pretty well varied, and in general I enjoyed what I was required to read. Before I start talking too much about them, here is a comprehensive list of everything I read:
Mythos by Stephen Fry
The Twilight of the Gods by Richard Garnett
Bisclavet by Marie de France
This is not a Werewolf Story by Sandra Evans
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
A selection of poetry by Charles Baudelaire
A selection of Romantic poetry (Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley etc.)
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
I enjoyed a lot of the books that I studied in October, and this was enhanced by studying them. Whilst the initial reading experience for some of the 19th century texts wasn’t the best, I always find that they retrospectively gain favour once I’ve thought about them more critically. Some books like Mythos and Wuthering Heights had been on my tbr for a while, so it was nice to finally get round to reading these.
I got to study a wide variety of texts, including poetry and children’s literature. I haven’t studied poetry for years, so whilst I had completely forgotten all terminology it was fun to get back into this!
I have to confess that I didn’t like all of the books I read last month though. My least favourite was probably Uncle Tom’s Cabin, mostly because it was a difficult read. Although considered revolutionary at the time, the language and characterisation used is now really unacceptable, and as such I struggled. I found it really interesting to consider the context of the novel though, and we had a really productive conversation about it in our seminar.
Highlight of the Month
Honestly, my highlight for this month is joining such a wonderful postgraduate community through my new course. Because I did a joint honours degree at undergrad, I sometimes felt like I was stuck in between two departments, and struggled to meet people because my time was split in half. Now, I’m on a course with only 30 people, so we’re a far more cohesive group.
I’ve had so many interesting and fun discussions in seminars, and it no longer feels like we’re entering classes to have a fixed discussion about a text. The tutors are taking a week each talking about their specialist interest, so our conversations are always infused with their passion. We get to tailor our sessions to our personal interests to the extent that I haven’t really felt bored at all.
Lowlight of the Month
My lowlight of the month is the workload, which was probably quite evident from my absence on this blog. I think that as much as it was hard being stuck inside during the lockdowns of last year it really forced me to have enough time to get everything done. Now, though, the need to find a good work/life balance is a big priority, but it feels very incongruous to my workload.
I don’t think the matter has been helped by the fact that it’s open season for graduate schemes, so I’ve had that on my plate as well. Honestly, it’s not so bad on a week-to-week basis, but I’ve felt the threat of burn out coming on a couple times already and we’re only just starting to approach deadline season.
I was tempted to take this section out, purely because I think it could be embarrassing if I don’t make much progress between months. However, there’s no point in giving insight into my life and a literature student if I don’t include the bad with the good, so it’s here to stay.
At the moment, my dissertation is firmly in the initial research stage, and I’m currently just refining my topic idea. I’ve been finding it hard to fit work for it in on a weekly basis, and I really need to start deciding on some primary texts. I’m hoping that by the end of November things will have calmed down enough for me to really knuckle down with this, so hopefully in the next couple monthly updates we’ll see real advancement.
I’m not sure whether I’ll be sharing specifics about my dissertation yet (in the interest of anonymity and academic integrity), so for now I’m not going to get into the details. This could change in future monthly updates, I just need to think this through a bit more.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Please wish me luck for the next month of study!
Some of you may have noticed I’ve been absent from this blog since the middle of October. This is very bad form from me, and something I’ve been beating myself up about for the last few days (definitely hasn’t helped me to get back into it).
There are quite a few reasons why I’ve been slacking when it comes to posting, chiefly due to being generally overwhelmed. Combining university work with job applications, sports and trying to have a good work/life balance has proven too great a task for me, and as a result I had to let this go for a bit.
I’m hoping I can get back to posting consistently now, and start afresh going into November. I have some content ideas that I’m really excited about, and I’ve got some good reviews coming out soon, so keep an eye out for those!
I’m returning to my blog following the weekend with a rather melancholy post. My friend and I were talking about books we want to read yesterday, and I was reminded of the horrible struggle of being a bookworm.
I can’t read everything.
Now, this seems like a fairly logical. Of course you can’t read everything ever written in human history, and even if you could, why would you want to?
What is so troubling to me is the never ending tbr pile, that grows and grows without sign of ever slowing down. I don’t want to read everything, but even narrowing it down to the books I really want to read doesn’t dent the pile all that much. When you consider the books that have already been published, and then the new releases that are unending, the problem soon becomes clear.
As a bookworm, I have such a strong desire to read everything that’s worth reading, and experience all the greats of literature, but I know I don’t have a chance. I love reading, and missing out on something wonderful is a not so great thought.
Instead of dwelling on this fact, though, I’m trying to use it to make the most of what I can read. If I don’t have time to read absolutely everything, there’s no time to read things that I don’t like. I hardly ever leave a book unfinished, but maybe it’s time I became more ruthless. I’ve read books simply because I thought it was impressive to do so, and looking from this perspective that’s such a waste.
I guess the point of this post is just to acknowledge how hard it is to choose what to read. The struggle of deciding which books to spend my precious limited hours reading remains strong, but keeping this in mind might make it slightly easier.
I’m a big believer in abandoning what society tells you to read and picking books based on your own preferences and interests, and what better reason to truly commit to this than realising it’s impossible to get around to everything. I’d much rather miss out on a stuffy classic that holds no interest for me (no offence classics lovers) than on what could potential be my new favourite book!
Obviously I don’t have full control over what I read because of my literature degree course, but this conversation reinforced how important maintaining reading for pleasure is. I’ve had a tough start to term (expect a blog post about that on Friday) but I am proud of myself for making an effort to read outside of what’s required of me.
If you struggle with the knowledge that you’ll never be able to read everything that’s out there, let me know in comments. We can at least share our frustrations!
I have killed several people (some brutally, others calmly) and yet I currently languish in jail for a murder I did not commit.
If you like dark comedy, I think you’ll really enjoy this book. Mackie writes a really clever twist on the usual crime novel by making her narrator, Grace, fully transparent and unapologetic about her crimes. The premise is familiar; a confessional written from jail, a wrongful conviction, and the idea of vengeful killing in connection to a dysfunctional family. Yet, somehow, this novel feels really fresh and different from anything I’ve read before.
I think this book has the perfect balance between satirical comedy and deep social analysis. This definitely isn’t an easy task, and Mackie toes the line to create the perfect anti-hero. This book really had me questioning who I was rooting for, and to what extent my investment in the characters became morally problematic. We all love a complicated crime case that defies the evil, soulless villain stereotype and draws in a whole manner of issues that complicate our notions of human compassion and justice- this is exactly what How to Kill Your Family presents.
The plot is very well-written, and maintains momentum despite the series of murders on paper creating a fairly monotonous plot. I don’t think this book is overly gory or violent, but it does offer detailed descriptions of the process of murdering someone, so if you are particularly sensitive towards death I perhaps would avoid it. I listened to this as an audiobook and it never got too intense for me, but it’s definitely something to take into consideration.
Mackie doesn’t shy away from the darker sides and actions of Grace as a character, and yet the anti-hero still gained my sympathy due to her dysfunctional family. I think my opinion varied throughout the books and with each murder as to whether I could feel some measure of understanding for her motivation, but this never impacted my enjoyment of the book. All of the characters are unlikable to a certain extent, including Grace, who is arrogant and has a superiority complex that at times made me physically eye roll in response. However, I think this just made her and her crimes seem more realistic- you couldn’t have a likable narrator killing off her family.
Overall, without spoiling anything, this is a really great crime novel that is perfect for anyone who loves dark humour and is looking for their next read.
In-Depth Review (Spoilers!)
I liked the structure of the narrative, and how it followed Grace’s enactment of her plan with the present day dispersed throughout. At first the time jumps confused me, but I think that was just because I was listening to it as an audiobook and therefore not as tuned in as I would be reading it. I though the murder of her grandparents was a really interesting starting point, because it was the death that felt the most movie-like and outlandish (how many people have plotted to drive their grandparents off the side of the road in a foreign country?). Here, we get to see Grace in action before we have much investment in her character and story, and it established from the outset the problematic nature of any positive feelings towards her that develop later. I did worry at times that it would get a bit repetitive watching her murder each person one by one, but the extreme circumstances of their deaths stopped that from happening. Killing someone by remotely locking a sauna door and strangling them in a sex club can never be seen as boring.
I though Mackie struck the right balance between telling Grace’s tragic backstory and not overdoing it, and it felt like the sympathy I ended up feeling for her was organic rather than orchestrated by the author. I really began to doubt my judgement of people and morality by the end of this novel, and was very uncomfortable by the fact I was rooting for her crimes to go undiscovered and for her to be successful. I think that stands testament to the quality of Mackie’s storytelling and writing. It managed to be both funny and tackle deep social and moral issues, which I think is a really difficult task.
The only problem I had plot-wise was with the ending. It all just felt a bit too convenient to have an outside player swoop in last minute and steal her success away. I liked that Harry was peppered into the narrative the whole time, but it did feel like a way that Mackie could resolve the uncomfortable feeling of rooting for a murderer by delivering some wrong-doing to her at the end. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the twist, but it just felt a little too abrupt for my liking. Perhaps this was again down to me listening to the audiobook (having a male voice suddenly start talking was a little confusing!). I wish we could’ve seen Grace’s reaction to finding out that her plan had been intercepted, which I think would’ve tied the story together a little better.
In terms of characters, Mackie did a good job at not turning the family into caricatures of dysfunction. The Artemis family were awful and arrogant, but they felt like real people of the upper class that are too deep in their own privilege to care about social issues. The same goes for Grace: of course she was unlikable and judgmental, but without it her ability to murder would have seemed completely unmatched to her personality. She is completely savage about anyone or anything she doesn’t agree with, and yet she remains somewhat relatable. I think the strength in her character came from her killing the family members directly implicated in her difficult childhood. When she starts killing peripheral members of the family, it becomes harder to sympathise with her.
Overall Thoughts and Rating
This was a really enjoyable, unique book that is perfect for anyone who likes dark comedy and books that address deeper social issues. The plot and the characters invite the reader to invest and challenge their own morality, which makes for an effective and intense reading experience.
I’m giving How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie 4 stars.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Everyone knows this idiom, but does anyone really follow it? I know I can definitely be swayed by a cover, positively or negatively. I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of a deep dive on this topic, and unpick what my opinions on this famous topic are.
A little disclaimer: these are just my opinions, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone who likes these book covers, or perhaps has published books with these covers themselves. I appreciate there’s a lot that goes into covers that limit what can be created (money, access to resource or skilled creators etc.), and I would never want to foster more gate-keeping or elitism within literature.
What Book Covers Do You Like?
For me, there are two very distinctive categories of book covers that I’m particularly drawn to. Firstly, there are the stereotypically ‘pretty’ covers, often with pastels or shiny decoration that are more often than not illustrated rather than photographic. Here are some examples of the covers I own that fit into this category:
I just find my eye drawn to these books in stores, and therefore I’m more likely to pick them up and read the blurb. I do sometimes choose editions of books I already know I want to read based on the cover, because a minor price difference really isn’t enough incentive to look at an ugly book on my bookshelf for years to come.
The second category of covers that I’m particularly drawn to are the weird ones. These tend to be a little out of left field, and definitely play into my love of the absurd. These are still often illustrative rather than photographic, but that’s definitely less important than it is for ‘pretty’ book covers. Here are some examples:
Once again, I just find myself drawn to these covers, probably because they stand out so much. I like that these covers set the tone for the rest of the book, especially if that book requires you to let go of reality and accept the strange logic it presents you with. I also really enjoy reading books with strange covers around other people and just watching their confusion as they try to figure out what you could possibly be reading. Maybe that’s just me.
What Book Covers Don’t You Like?
Personally, I don’t love covers that include photos or realistic illustrations, particularly of people or when there’s a generic background photo with the title in large text over it. I just think it cheapens the look of the book, and often makes it blend in with the crowd. When I’m buying books in person, I don’t always go in with set titles in mind, so naturally I end up picking up the ones that are unique and stand out. Examples of these include:
This doesn’t mean that I’d avoid books with these covers if I was really set on reading them, it just means I’d be less likely to buy them randomly. I think these covers just sometimes feel like an afterthought or a literally translation of the content of the book, whereas illustrations (especially abstract ones) feel like a more subtle reflection.
Do you judge a book by its cover?
The ultimate question, and what this blog post was building up to. I think it’s very clear that I have preferences that definitely guide my selection of books when browsing in physical bookstores, but I don’t think these are decisive. There have been times when I’ve bought a book that I was interested in without even looking at the cover, and I really don’t worry all that much about the appearance of my books. I buy a lot of books for university that are required to be either Penguin or Oxford World Classics, so most of my books are fairly plain and (dare I say it) boring. I also buy most of my books online, so I really rarely do the cover-based browsing where my preferences take the reins.
I think if money was no object I might be a lot more selective about the editions of the books that I buy, but I could never see myself refusing to buy something because the cover wasn’t to my taste. Some of my favourite books have been purchased purely because I found the cover interesting though, so the superficial method has served me well.
I guess in my case the idiom still stands but with a small addition: don’t judge a book by its cover, but perhaps let it influence you.
I got this idea from the brilliant @ May’s Book Vault, so please check out her post after mine! I thought this was the perfect follow on from my childhood favourites series, because instead of hearing about the books I have read, you get to hear which ones I haven’t!
I’ve decided to just focus on popular series that I haven’t read, but I might do a similar post for stand-alone books in the future.
Without further ado, let’s begin looking at the big gaps in my reading of popular literature!
The Divergent Series
This series followed The Hunger Games (which I have read) to dominate popular culture when I was a teenager. I actually own all the books, but I just never got round to them. I was told not to watch the films until I’ve read the books, and subsequently I’ve completely missed the Divergent series.
I think it was purely just a timing problem, because I think I bought them at the same time as the Maze Runner series, which went on to being one of my favourites. I don’t really see why I would read these now, especially considering I remember hearing some more negative things about the later books. This was definitely a series I should’ve read in my teenage years.
The Mortal Instruments Series
This is one I am quite sad that I missed, and once again it is a simple matter of timing. I actually borrowed City of Bones from the library, but I was reading Pride and Prejudice at the time so I had to return it before I got the chance to start it. I’ve seen rave reviews about it, and everyone on BookTube was obsessed with these books years ago, so it really is on me.
The main reason that I wouldn’t read this series now is because I think I’ve outgrown them. It’s also a matter of buying books that aren’t my favourite genre just for the sake of it (I’m really trying to reduce my book buying). I’d never say never, but my never reading them is as close as possible.
The A Song of Ice and Fire Series
A.k.a The Game of Thrones series. What could be more popular in modern times that this TV show? Unfortunately, I never started watching it, and by the time I realised it was something I should watch it was far too big of a task to catch up. The same applies for the books; it’s not my favourite genre, and the books are all very long, so I’ve just never felt the urge to read them.
I know a lot of people read the books because of the TV show, so I think it’s quite logical that I would have not read them. I’m not too sad about missing out on this one, because I know they wouldn’t be my favourite. There are a lot more long books out there for me to tackle that would be more to my taste, so I think I’m fine with avoiding these!
The A Court of Thorns and Roses Series
I know, booktok is going to hate me for this one. I’ve heard a lot of people praising this series as being amazing, and I’ve had a lot of people urge me to read them, but I just can’t see it happening. I’m not really a series reader anymore, and honestly I don’t think I’d ever reach for them.
Fantasy is something I don’t read much of anymore, and if I do I like to stick to stand-alones. I think if this series had been popular in my early teens I would’ve read them for sure, but unfortunately I think that time has passed for me.
The His Dark Materials Series
Finally, we move onto the series I feel most guilty about not reading. I really don’t know what went wrong with this series, because I do own The Golden Compass. Maybe it was the film that didn’t click with me and put me off reading the book, or maybe it was starting with the second book in the series. Whatever it was, I begrudgingly have memories of being actively disinterested in this series when I was younger.
For similar reasons that I’ve mentioned above, I just don’t see myself ever reading this series. Now when I read literature aimed at younger age groups, it tends to be re-reads or by authors I know I like. I just don’t see where these books would fit into my tbr, and if they did I think they would just consistently be pushed to the bottom.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the series I’ve managed to skip over the years. I’m sorry if your favourite was listed- try and convince me otherwise in the comments!
If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.
I had a lot of high hopes for this classic because it seems to be a lot of people’s favourites, and I’m a lover of 19th century Gothic writing. I’m not quite sure I would place this in my top spot.
My opening statement probably sounds quite disparaging, but I really do think this is a good classic. It feels particularly accessible because of the plot and writing style, so if you’re new to classics and you like spooky romances, this would probably be a good place to start.
That being said, I wasn’t blown away by Wuthering Heights. That might in part be because of my high expectations, but I was left feeling a bit disappointed.
The story itself was quite interesting, and I think if you go into it playing less attention to it as a romance you’ll get a lot more out of the book. There are a lot of different themes and ideas going on that get quite lost if all you focus on is the central characters and their relationship to one another.
I did really like the darkness of this book, and the fact it doesn’t shy away from the bad parts of life and human nature. Sometimes reading classics can feel like a very idealised version of life, but Brontë manages to capture negative experiences in a way that is realistic and yet intriguing.
The characters for me are where my disappointment largely lies. I wasn’t really invested in any of them, and so whilst I could pass judgement based on the morality of their actions i didn’t really care what happened to them. Not to say that they’re not well-written, but something just didn’t click for me.
I’m going to discuss the book in more specific detail, so if you don’t want to see any spoilers scroll to the bottom of this review to find my rating and concluding thoughts.
In-Depth Thoughts (Spoilers!)
As I said above, I really don’t want to be too down on this book, because it is popular for a reason. I enjoyed Bronte’s writing a lot, and I think this is a great example of classics addressing the same topics and classes of people whilst being accessible to a modern reader. Her descriptions of the landscape and spaces that the characters inhabit were very vivid and captured the Gothic feeling of the novel perfectly. I think the scene she creates helps to set the bleak and tumultuous tone that permeates the story, and reinforces the atmosphere of isolation.
In terms of the plot itself, I did find it slightly anti-climactic. I feel quite indifferent to the narrative choice of having Heathcliff and Catherine’s history being relayed to Lockwood by Nelly, and him recording it in his journal alongside his own narrative. I think it served its purpose of showing how interlinked the characters were and it did keep the mystery of what happened suspended for longer, but it did just seem like a convenient way to explain how the story was coming to be told. The main events of the novel are undeniably dramatic, covering everything from cross-generational child abuse, violence, romantic betrayal, impossible desires and insanity. For whatever reason, though, the full force of these never really connected with me. Maybe that’s because I’ve read books that cover similar topics that are far more extreme, or maybe I just never invested in the characters beyond a basic moral judgement.
Following the transition from Heathcliff being welcomed as an orphan into the Earnshaw’s home, to his suffering under Hindley due to jealousy that his late father came to prefer an orphan over him, to his running away after Catherine’s engagement definitely makes for an interesting but tragic character development. I definitely liked the fact that Bronte avoided creating a stereotypical villain who is evil for no reason, but rather explained a history of abuse and betrayal that corrupted him. I think what was missing for me from the characters of Wuthering Heights was a slither more of humanity and warmth. I know the focus on abuse and violence means that this coldness was appropriate, but I felt like there was a lack of a spectrum. Catherine was forced to make choices that went against her feelings, but she also felt unnecessarily cruel and cold throughout the novel. Her relationship with Heathcliff had far less high stakes because the passion they had for each other felt unrealistic considering their wider characters. That is probably just down to a personal preference, and I do think that after studying the book more I could change my perspective on this.
I did quite like how Linton and Young Catherine’s relationship mirrored their parents, but how the situation was reversed: whilst Catherine felt forced not to marry Heathcliff, Young Catherine is trapped and forced to marry Linton. I think this is one of my favourite aspects of the novel because of the clever aligning and reversing of each generation’s fates. Whilst Catherine was forced to leave Wuthering Heights, Young Catherine is forced to stay there with Heathcliff. In this sense, not only does Catherine haunt the space in which he lives in his mind and spectral visits, but also physical in Young Catherine’s DNA.
For me, Heathcliff’s decline into insanity and his death on the moors wasn’t the best end to the novel. I felt like Bronte didn’t want to full commit to a supernatural element to her story, and this ambiguity really diffused the tension that had been created. For such a prominent and emotional character, I would have expected a few more dramatics. I did like the way he died though, as it did reinforce their relationship for me.
Concluding Thoughts and Rating
Overall, I think this just wasn’t the book for me. It is partially my fault, because I went in with certain expectations that left me disappointed. I do think this is a great classic for people to read, especially if you enjoy Gothic-style narratives or if you want something that’s a bit more accessible in terms of writing style and language.
If anyone loves this book and has anything that might make me understand or connect with this book more, please do let me know in the comments! I really want to be proved wrong on this one.
I’m rating Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte as 3 stars.