Sunday, 30 November 2014

Weekly Overview

Star Wars: TarkinAnother weekend and I swear to God time keeps going faster. On the one hand I love it because Christmas is almost here, yet on the other hand this hardly leaves me with any time to bake my Christmas cookies! I guess I have to get my priorities straight, cookies or essays?


So, I'd say this has been a pretty successful week despite only getting two reviews up. I still haven't managed to post my review for Steinbeck's The Pearl, which is a real shame because it is an amazing great story.

How was your week? Leave a link to your round-up post or your favourite post of the week!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

2007 'Persuasion' and the Romantic Psychological Unravelling

Here's a bit of a rambling post with some of the thoughts I had after watching Persuasion (2007) by Adrian Shergold again this week. It's one of my favourite Jane Austen adaptations and I think it does quite some interesting work in how it films the story which is, essentially, romantic, in a way that creates suspense.

Jane Austen's books are often considered, usually by people who haven't read them, to be over the top romances and "all about love". This translates itself into the film adaptations as well, where everything is soft, brightly coloured and beautiful. Persuasion is at its simplest level about two lovers finding each other again and realizing they never stopped loving each other. I doubt there is a more romantic scenario out there and nothing was stopping Adrian Shergold in 2007 from drawing the narrative in pretty colours, sweeping camera pans and most of all the existence of the fourth wall. I am convinced that in most romantic films the distance between the screen and the audience is crucial, because these films are meant as escapism and diverting attention from the audience's own life. Although we imagine ourselves into romantic films, we do so because their world is closed, there is no outside influence from the audience into the romantic film. You don't see any of the actors addressing the camera in Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral or The Other Woman. Now, how did the 2007 Persuasion differ?

During the editing process, a decision must have been made to select a very cool (in the sense of temperature), almost blue overlay to the whole film. It creates a detachment between the audience and the film, which is much more reminiscent of psychological thrillers and suspense films, which consciously ramp up the almost clinical aspect of the laying bare of their main protagonists.
From the beginning of the film Anne is the only thing the audience can focus on. Although we are used to a single character as our protagonist and therefore the person we root for, the insistence with which Shergold focuses on Sally Hawkins creates a more intense focus. We start with a close-up of her face, with Hawkins' eyes flicking to things we can't see. Her still stature makes her resemble one of the many still objects in the room which belong to the house. The camera then continues to swirl around her and follow her as she walks through her house and taking the inventory. For Anne Elliot, Kellynch Hall is the only stable aspect of her life. It is where her life is rooted. It is an interesting choice then when Shergold doesn't show the audience any of it in favour of following Anne and moving around her. Maybe he is suggesting that Anne is part of this house and that by showing her in it, he is showing it.

The camera seems inextricably tied to Anne throughout the whole film, only occasionally abandoning her in favour of scenes with other characters, so she is often the cause for the audience being introduced to new settings. How are these settings, and Anne within them, framed, then, in a way that is not "romantic"? With Anne as our focus point, it is important to look at how she is presented. Her clothes are a lot plainer than those of most around her and always in deep yet calm colours. There is no vibrant red but rather a dark maroon, for example. She is sedate and calm and perfectly fits into the background of the screen. Her clothes seem to emphasize how she is seen by most people around her, as part of the furniture. This works in two ways: for some, especially her father and older sister, she is just something to be used at their leisure, whereas for others such as Mary and her husband's family, Anne is a welcome addition to their lives especially because she is as reliable as their furniture. Anne, then, seems to be something stable within herself, something established and settled. Remember the opening scene and the sense that Anne is as much part of the house as the covered up mirrors.

Anne's stability, then, is shaken up by the arrival of Captain Wentworth. In the stable, cool environment of Anne's world, where she operates in the background and has accepted her position, Wentworth's presence cracks her walls. It is after knowing that the Crofts will move into Kellynch with her only half a mile away, then, that Sally Hawkins first breaks the fourth wall. This is, of course, not a coincidence. Wentworth's potential presence unravels her control of herself and she shares her thoughts with the audience and gives them a sideway glance. As the audience we are almost in her confidence then. We are present at a deeply personal moment, Anne writing in her diary, but she doesn't want to confront us, the audience and reality, straight on. Now that we are in her confidence the camera occasionally moves away from her, but only to tell us more about her history.

The first time Sally Hawkins looks at the camera head-on is when she is offers to stay with the young child and miss out on the chance to attend a dinner and see Captain Wentworth again for the first time. Straight after we see her writing in her diary and this time the camera is extremely close to her crying face. From there on, the glances are frequent and always during moments that are emotionally intense. The audience is now inextricably tied to Anne and her emotions.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Friday Memes and Shakespeare

Alison Can Read Feature & FollowIt's time for some meme fun. I personally couldn't be happier the weekend has finally come around because serious work needs to be done without the interruptions of daily life. But to be honest, I can't complain because university is amazing! Enough of the bla bla and more of the meme fun!

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. This week's question was suggested by Eternity Through Pages (which is a great blog name):

Describe your favourite book character death scene. Why is it your favourite? Was it a villain or a hero? What made it so good?

What kind of an impossibly good question is this? Death scenes are usually both my least and my favourite part of a book because you never really want a character to die but they are great moments for authors to show off their writing skills! So I'm in two minds about the whole death-thing. It's quite hard to answer this question without spoiling a book since death is usually a pretty big plot twist. So I'm going to stick with the classic and well-known examples!

The last Harry Potter book was just one big sob-fest, let's face it. Starting with Hedwig, continuing with Mad Eye Moody and Dobby and eventually ending up with the emotional disaster that is the Battle of Hogwarts, there is practically no way you can make it through this book without tears. J.K. Rowling writes amazing characters and therefore it is always sad to see one of them go, and because the final book was going to be a goodbye of some sorts you're already anticipating the pain. The deaths are then just a shock that makes you break down and cry, at times hysterically.

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Billy over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. This week's question was suggested by Elizabeth over at Silver's Reviews:

Do you visit the same blogs each week or do you branch out and try to find new blogs?

I do like visiting the same blogs each week because by now I feel like I "know" you guys and I genuinely wonder what you're reading and what your answer is to the questions etc. However, I do try to branch out because it's fun to find new blogs and to explore a bit!

I am currently prepping to write an essay on two Shakespeare films, Ran and Throne of Blood which are Japanese adaptations of King Lear and Macbeth by director Akira Kurosawa. The films are absolutely stunning and I definitely recommend them if you've got two or three hours free! This Tuesday I shared parts of King Lear and today it's Macbeth's turn. Book Beginnings and Friday 56 are hosted by Gilion over at Rose City Reader and Freda at Freda's Voice respectively.

'Act I, SCENE I. A desert place.
Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches.
First WitchWhen shall we three meet againIn thunder, lightning, or in rain? 
Second WitchWhen the hurlyburly's done,When the battle's lost and won. 
Third WitchThat will be ere the set of sun.'
Come on, you can't get more epic than this beginning! I can't help reading it and picture how I would film it if I were to make one. 

'Lady Macbeth:What, quite unmann'd in folly? 
Macbeth:If I stand here, I saw him.'
This moment comes straight after Banqo's ghost appears to Macbeth and I just love Lady Macbeth's response to him. And it's also interesting how this is mirrored in Throne of Blood, but that is for me and my essay to figure out.

So, those were my memes and the text I'm reading! What is your favourite death and do you tend to revisit the same blogs each week?

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week - the HP Cast

It's Thursday and it's been a busy week and a busy day so far! And somehow the weekends never offer me enough time to actually relax while making sure I prepare for the coming week. What's up with that? Thankfully I've managed to pick all my essay questions and I'm really excited about all of them, so that spells good things for the next month and a half! Now, enough personal life and more Harry Potter! Harry Potter Moment of the Week is hosted by Leah over at Uncorked Thoughts and I love this week's question:

How do you feel about the HP film cast? Any that don't fit with the image you had?

I absolutely adore the cast! I can't even really remember what image I had of the characters before the films because they seemed to come out almost simultaneously. I didn't start reading the series until shortly before the first film came out in 2001, so except for the first book, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were their characters. I did think that the previous Dumbledore, Richard Harris, was as "gritty" as he should be, but that is largely based on hindsight having read the later books. Michael Gambon was great for the role, in my opinion. Despite the unfortunate shouting in Goblet of Fire. Aside from that, brilliant.

Similarly most of the supporting cast was amazing in my opinion! For me Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and Imelda Staunton are definite high-lights though! Also, gratuitous picture of my favourite film poster!

So, how about you? Any role in the films you would've preferred a different actor for?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Review: 'Tarkin: Star Wars' by James Luceno

Star Wars: TarkinI am a self-confessed and sometimes loud Star Wars fan. I am already arranging my schedule around the release of the next film which doesn't come out for another year and I know way too much trivia. I am therefore probably the target audience for this book and I can say that it definitely didn't disappoint.
He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly . . . and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.
Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation . . . or annihilation.
Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy . . . and its enemies’ extinction.
Grand Moff Tarkin was one of the major villains of the first Star Wars film. Although Darth Vader was the one with the awesome entrance, Tarkin had the control (and the British accent) that any self-respecting villain needs. He was not just in control of the Death Star, but Darth Vader also seemed to defer to him. Now that takes a character! So how did he become this way and what are we supposed to think of him? The recently ended Clone Wars series didn't do much to endear his character to viewers despite him starting off on the "right side". Luceno goes above and beyond to make a fully formed character of Tarkin who, let's face it, doesn't get a lot of exposition time in the film. This is one of the admirable things of the Star Wars Universe, every character has the possibility of a back story and is only waiting for someone to fill it in. Of course this book works best for Star Wars fans. I know what a Tie-Fighter is, how important a functioning hyper-drive is to any spaceship and that Star Destroyers mean trouble. Luceno drops hints here and there which show how closely these independent authors work together with the people at Lucasfilm. There were a few moments where I had to put the book down and message my father to share the newest bit of information I had discovered. Despite this, the book can be enjoyed by people new to the Star Wars universe.

The reader largely sticks with Tarkin for most of the novel, joining him after the third film, and learns more about him partly through flashbacks and simply through the narrative. As such, he almost becomes the hero of the book and this in itself is very interesting. When he is faced with an insurgence he becomes the character the reader is almost made to root for, despite knowing what he is like. The occasional chapters from Lord Sidious' perspective aid this by giving the reader a "real bad guy" against whom Tarkin seems mild in comparison. Even Darth Vader does. However, Luceno eventually also gives some chapters to the rebels themselves, which bring the reader back to the reality of the issue. Suddenly all the things they aren't told by Tarkin are revealed and he is cast in a whole new light. Luceno was incredibly clever in doing this because it showcases his awareness of the importance of point-of-view. In a saga that puts as much importance on everyone being a shade of gray rather than black or white as Star Wars, Luceno shows the reader how difficult it can be to choose sides when you only get half the narrative. In a world with media as subjective as our own, this is a really interesting point which deserves to be picked up on. It is no wonder that it is a sci-fi novel which does so.

Luceno's writing is very immersive, whether he is describing battle scenes or Tarkin's thoughts. The former, which could easily be chaotic or off-putting, are both important to the story and, simply, well-written. There is technical talk but not too much, there is bravery, destruction and it reads like a film. The pacing of Tarkin is great, which is partly due to the detective/mystery-format that Luceno has given to this book. The reader is as desperate to find out what happens as Tarkin himself is and is therefore constantly propelled (at light speed) from one twist to the next. Next to all this, Luceno manages to truly create Tarkin anew in a way that completely fits with the films. Not only his character seems to seamlessly move from one to the other, but the other characters such as Darth Vader and Lord Sidious are also developed in a way that fits with canon.

I give this book...

4 Universes.

James Luceno's Tarkin is massively enjoyable. Is is typical Star Wars, full of interesting characters from all over the galaxy and amazing action sequences. Luceno is never afraid to delve deeply into complex characters and with Tarkin he picked one who was simply waiting for his moment in the spotlight. Whether you're already a committed Star Wars fan or not, as a sci-fi fan this book is definitely worth picking up!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tuesday Intros and Teaser Tuesday - 'King Lear' style

King Lear
I've finally chosen two movies to analyse for one of my essays this term and those are Ran and Kumonosu-jo (Throne of Blood) by Akira Kurosowa. They are Japanese adaptations of King Lear and Macbeth respectively. His cinematography is stunning and he was a major inspiration for George Lucas, which is always a plus in my book. Anything Lucas-related is! So I have decided it is time to reread these plays so I know exactly how these films adapt the plays. Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading.
I have started with King Lear.
One of Shakespeare's finest tragedies, the work displays a pessimism and nihilism that make it a 20th-century favorite. The aging King Lear decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, allotting each a portion in proportion to the eloquence of her declaration of love. The hypocritical Goneril and Regan make grand pronouncements and are rewarded; Cordelia, the youngest daughter, who truly loves Lear, refuses to make an insincere speech to prove her love and is disinherited. The two older sisters mock Lear and renege on their promise to support him. Cast out, the king slips into madness and wanders about accompanied by his faithful Fool. He is aided by the Earl of Kent, who, though banished from the kingdom for having supported Cordelia, has remained in Britain disguised as a peasant.

'Kent: I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall. 
Gloucester: It did always seem so to us, but now in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values most, for equalities are so weighed that curiosity in neither can make choice of either’s moiety. 
Kent: Is not this your son, my lord? 
Gloucester: His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am brazed to ’t.' l.1-11
The play starts straight off with a reference to sons and kingship and the division of the kingdom. In Ran they have replaced the daughters with sons, so it's quite interesting that the play starts with men as well.

TeaserTuesdays2014e'Regan: Our troops set forth tomorrow. Stay with us. The ways are dangerous. 
Oswald: I may not, madam. My lady charged my duty in this business. 
Regan: Why should she write to Edmund? Might not you Transport her purposes by word? Belike, Some things—I know not what. I’ll love thee much— Let me unseal the letter. 
Oswald: Madam, I had rather— 
Regan: I know your lady does not love her husband;I am sure of that; and at her late being here,She gave strange eliads and most speaking looksTo noble Edmund. I know you are of her bosom.' 4.v.l. 18-30
My essay is focusing on the female characters in the film, especially since Lear's daughters are replaced by sons, so I really enjoyed this moment because it shows Regan's control and power.

So, what are you reading at the moment? Tease me!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Review: 'Alias Hook' by Lisa Jensen

Alias HookFairy tale adaptations are always hit and miss for me. How much can authors retain of the atmosphere of a fairy tale while reinventing it? I started Alias Hook hoping it would live up to my reputation and I definitely wasn't disappointed.

"Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It's my fate to be trapped here forever, in a nightmare of childhood fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy."
Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain. 
With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale.
Let me start by saying I greatly enjoyed reading a romance that had genuine adults in it. The recent tradition of having 16-year olds find love in high-school that lasts for all eternity is one that is severly jarring. Not only does it feel incredibly fake, it also doesn't allow for a lot of development since most teenagers are pretty self-absorbed. The idea of an adult sacrificing themselves for another is much more believable than two children doing so. Jensen manages to create two characters who have depth separately. What I mean by that is that both Hook and Stella are interesting and complex, with their own background stories and emotions. Both hold the readers' attention and affection and together they work even better. You cannot help but genuinely care for their relationship, which means that the reader inevitably finds himself on Hook's side. Although this is, of course, Jensen's plan, it does occasionally happen in fairy tale adaptations that the twist never quite works. Thankfully the adaptation works beautifully in Alias Hook. Also very refreshing is the male narrator, because there is only so much similarity in books that I can take.

While growing up you think that Peter Pan is what every adult hopes for, the chance to remain young eternally. The older you get, however, the more you realize that it is a blessing to grow up and gain a heart and responsibilities. I really enjoyed the way Jensen dealt with that development really well and allowed the reader to make up his own mind while also stating some much-needed truths. What allows the book to not become too moralistic or too heavy is its beautiful writing. Jensen switches between the Hook of now and flashbacks to his past, which allows the reader to get to now Hook bit by bit, keeping the tension while also allowing for quite some spectacle along the way. Lisa Jensen re-imagines almost every single aspect of Barrie's original Neverland. Whereas Barrie set out to create the perfect childhood play-land, Jensen creates a land filled with things that aren't what they appear to be. Her writing is very descriptive and often I almost felt as if I was watching a movie. Jensen tries to capture the language of the Restoration period and at times almost overdoes it, but it's beautiful.

I majorly enjoyed Stella Parrish. She is what I would call an independent, 20th century woman and therefore a pleasure to read. She brings her 1940s attitude to a Restoration man who is very much stuck in his own time. Her straight-forwardness was really fun, as was the way she was a pro-active part of the narrative despite the story being Hook's. Partly because of her, the book manages to maintain a very fun and humorous aspect. You can't help but speed through this book and yet not want it to end. Not only do you want to know what happens to Hook and Stella, but you are almost more desperate to find out the secret behind Neverland.

I give this novel...

4 Universes.

I really enjoyed Alias Hook and didn't really want it to end. The writing is beautiful as is the scenery. The characters are interesting and the narrative is quite complex. It is a read you won't want to finish and I can definitely recommend it to people of fairy-tale adaptations. You're bound to have a good time with this book and probably fall in love with Captain Hook!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tuesday Intros and Teaser Tuesday - 100 Skills for the End of the World

It's Tuesday and I think I have a really funny book for you guys, which will hopefully give us some fun teasers! Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile at the Sea and Teaser Tuesday by MizB over at Should Be Reading. This week's books is: 100 Skills for the End of the World as We Know It by Ana Maria Spegna.

What skills will you need after a global catastrophe? Whether it’s the end of oil, an environmental disaster, or something entirely unforeseen, Ana Maria Spagna outlines 100 skills you’ll find indispensable for life after the apocalypse. Once the dust has settled, you’ll need to know how to barter, perform basic first aid, preserve food, cut your own hair, clean a chimney, navigate by the stars, stitch a wound, darn socks, and sharpen blades. You’ll also want to build a stable and safe community, so you’ll need to master the arts of conversation, child raising, listening, music making, and storytelling. This fascinating and entertaining book, full of quirky illustrations by artist Brian Cronin, will provoke surprise, debate, and laughter while it provides a road map to greater self-reliance and joy, whatever the future brings.
'Future Tense 
In my first class as a high school freshman, I entered the room to find every inch of every blackboard covered with numbers. Huh? The teacher, a biblical scholar, tried to get us to guess what the numbers were. Lottery numbers? Algebraic formulas? Secret codes?? No. They were dates, we could tell that much, but for what?
Eventually he explained that these were all dates on which someone, likely a propher, had predicted that the world would end. Since then, we've survived a predicted apocalypse a few times, from midnight 1999 to the 2012 Mayan calendar deadline, and so far we're safe. p.1
I initially only wanted to include the first paragraph but then thought that was a little bit too cruel. So far I really like the tone of it. It's both light, funny but hopefully it will also become informative. I mean, I have to survive the apocalypse somehow!

' Cloud Reading 
How to forecast weather withut satellites or radar? Watch the sky.p.49
There is, of course, a lot more to the chapter on Cloud Reading but I love the abruptness of it. This book, I feel, will be a lot of fun!

So, what are you teasing with? And do you think you could survive an apocalypse?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Review: 'The Awakening of Miss Prim' by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, translated by Sonia Soto

The Awakening of Miss Prim: A NovelI requested this novel on Netgalley after there seemed to be some major buzz about it and it sounded like the kind of novel that would be perfect for me. And it really was.

When Miss Prim, an independent, accomplished young woman, reads an ad in the newspaper seeking a feminine spirit to work as a librarian in the lush countryside of France, she finds herself compelled to apply. Little does she know what kind of world she is about to step into.Miss Prim dutifully accepts the job and begins organizing her employer's vast library. A knowledgeable, mysterious gentleman with very specific opinions about life, he challenges Miss Prim's seemingly unshakeable disposition. And as she becomes familiar with the other townspeople, she begins to realize that the surprising lifestyle of the town awakens amazement, perplexity, and even disdain in her. For in this tiny corner of the world, a flourishing colony of exiles have settled into a simple, rural existence, living around great literature, intellectual discussions, family, and sweet indulgences. Their peculiar and unconventional ways slowly test Miss Prim's most intimate ideas and fears as well as her most profound convictions. She quickly comes to realize that her advanced degrees did little to prepare her for the lessons she's being taught the least of which is a lesson in love.
Set against a backdrop of steaming cups of tea, freshly baked cakes, warm fires, and lovely company, The Awakening of Miss Prim is a delightful, thought-provoking, and sensitive novel that gives rise to theories about love and companionship, education, and the beauty of every passing moment.
The idea behind this book was pretty brilliant in being both attractive and averse. When you think about retreating into the countryside with a group of similar minded people to create a village in which the old times are still adhered to. I really enjoyed how the reader was introduced to this village together with Miss Prim because the outsider-view is always more interesting. Added to that is the fact that Miss Prim isn't always a like-able figure, which means that the reader is, in some ways, stuck between two alternatives, almost two extremes. This leads to a lot of really interesting discussion within the novel and for the readers themselves. In some ways I myself would love to go back to what feels like a "more civilised time" in which everyone has their own occupation and is kind to each other. On the other hand, the constant presence of tea, hot chocolate and pastries feels almost too oppressive and the small-town atmosphere really started to weigh on me, since I'm used to and in love with big cities.The constant shifting between wanting to live there and wanting to return to "the real word" was very interesting.

I have already mentioned that Miss Prim isn't always likeable. This is a very good thing, I believe. You encounter this village and these people with her and as the reader them self awakens and starts to form his own thoughts on what is being taught and what is seen by her. I really liked the kind of realism Fenollera put into Miss Prim. She is very much a woman of this time, I think. She is educated, ambitious and constantly driven towards perfection and beauty. In some ways she is constantly trying to prove herself, not only to others but especially to herself. I could identify with Miss Prim in a lot of different ways and I think most women nowadays can as well. And because she is so like ourselves we are infuriated by some of her actions and thoughts. Everyone needs to be awakened and educated , especially about themselves, and here one of the real strengths of the novel lay. Although I think Fenollera skipped over some really interesting developments towards the end of the book, she generally allows the reader to be part of every of Miss Prim's thoughts.

Fenollera's writing style was great. I loved the way she mixed different influences, from English literature, to Augustine's theology, to philosophy, together in a way that seemed all hers. Although I definitely noticed the influences, such as Jane Austen who's wit I felt majorly influenced the novel, Fenollera made them her own and mixed them together in a way that worked. She makes the novel seem highly intellectual, which it definitely is to a certain extent, but in a way that is very accessible since the novel is an 'awakening' for Miss Prim. I am a major fan of intertextuality because I think it enriches everything. And spotting the references is a lot of fun. Sonia Soto does a great job in translating this novel from the original Spanish, which must have been quite a challenge. Her prose flows easily and creates some stunning pictures.

I give this novel...

4 Universes.

I really enjoyed The Awakening of Miss Prim, to the extent that I didn't want it to end. This is partially why I wished Fenollera would have extended some of the parts of the book a bit more. However, overall it is an incredibly enjoyable novel which will take you away to some beautiful places. In the end you will be wiser and hopefully a little bit more awakened.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Weekly Overview

I haven't done a write-up like this in a very long time. But this week I've managed to get up some interesting posts so I thought it was time to get back on the proverbial horse!
The Children Act
So, this was my week. I managed to do quite a lot of reading so I've already got a couple of reviews lined up for next week, including The Awakening of Miss Prim and Steinbeck's The Pearl

How was your week? Leave a link below to your weekly overview, if you do one or otherwise to your favourite post from this week!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

An Evening with Aleksandar Gatalica and the Nottingham Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies

This week I sneaked my way into an evening organised by the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Nottingham, where the new novel by Serbian author Aleksandar Gatalica was discussed. This novel is The Great War, which narrates the First World War.

'The Great War' is a novel that comprehensively and passionately narrates a number of stories covering the duration of World War One, starting with the year 1914 - the year that truly marked the beginning of the twentieth century. Following the destinies of over seventy characters, on all warring sides, Gatalica depicts the experiences of winners and losers, generals and opera singers, soldiers and spies; managing to grasp the atmosphere of the entire epoch, not only of these crucial four and a half bloody years, but also in the innocent decades that preceded the war, and the poisoned ones that followed. The stories themselves are various but equally important: here we find joyful as well as tragic destinies, along with examples of exceptional heroism. Yet 'The Great War' never becomes a chronicle, nor a typical historical novel; above all it is a work of art that uses historic events as means to tell many fantastic stories, with unbelievable and unthinkable convolutions. It is commendable in its breadth, its vision and its relevance to modern history.
The evening started off with a reading from the novel, both in its original language, Serbian, and the translation into English which came out this week. Although I didn't understand a word of the Serbian reading I really enjoyed hearing the novel in its original. A novel always changes in translation and hearing the way it was "supposed" to sound was a real treat, especially since Gatalica himself did the Serbian reading. When the translation was read I got a real taste of the kind of writing I could find in The Great War. It was a beautiful excerpt which managed to capture both something of the reality of war while not losing itself in detailed descriptions of costumes, weapons etc. The approach Gatalica took to this novel was to not have it be another retelling of what happened during the First World War but to infuse it with a sense of magic, almost, and definitely humanity. By choosing to follow over 70 characters, he makes sure that every side gets to tell part of the story of the First World War.

The readings from The Great War were followed by some of the students of the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies reading their translations of Gatalica's short stories from Vek, or in English The Century: 101 Stories of a Century. Apart from the amazing work done by the students in translating these Serbian stories, which had never before been translated into English, it was great to see the different style Gatalica chose for these stories. Some of them have a slight Absurdist tone to them, whereas others seem to revel in the author's ironic tone. What was almost sad about this was the realization for me that due to language differences there are stories and books I will never be able to read, unless they are translated. This was one of my reasons for attending this evening, because I think it's important to spread your literary wings, so to say, and see what the world has to offer you.

The evening ended with a general Q&A, which was extremely interesting. One of the topics discussed was translation. Gatalica himself translates Ancient Greek plays into Serbian and is therefore highly aware of the process. Besides just translating, a translator also has to bring something to the novel in order to make it speak the way it does in its original language. This is why translators should get more credit than they do because it is an extremely difficult job. Also discussed was the position of writers within Serbia, where they are often asked to comment on the political and cultural climate. I thought the ensuing conversation was really interesting because it highlighted the role writers used to have as critics of government and society. That position has become a lot less serious these days, for a good reason most likely, but I enjoyed touching upon that point.

Overall, I had a great evening and I want to take the time here to thank the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies for letting me into their evening despite studying English and to Aleksandar Gatalica for taking the time out of his busy schedule. It definitely pays of to spend some time investigating the literary culture of other countries because there are some real gems to be found!