Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Review of 'Bridget Jones' Diary' by Helen Fielding

Review of 'Bridget Jones' Diary' by Helen Fielding.

Okay okay I'll admit it: I've never read Bridget Jones' Diary. The film is something that seems to come on every Christmas, and I usually watch snippets of it each year, if not the whole thing. So, I was completely and utterly unprepared for how different the book was. And I have to say i was a little concerned with it. 

Whereas the film merely mentions Bridget's diet, the book goes into immense detail over it. It lists Bridget's weight on a daily basis, her calorie intake, and how many calories were considered little enough to make a 'good day'. I honestly found this more than a little disturbing. I even found myself looking at the calories and her weigh ins and thinking well, hey, maybe I should only have X number of calories to lose weight. This is not a healthy mindset to be in, weighing yourself every day and hoping that the number drops down in order to improve a man you want to sleep with. 

Aside from this, I loved the format of the book. It was a little hard to adjust to, as it was written as though Bridget was jotting notes down in the evening, rather than as though it was a formal text. So, we lost a lot of 'the's and 'and's, etc. 

There were moments when I wanted to scream at Bridget, and laugh at her and cry with her. If a book can make me feel like that, despite all the little setbacks, you know it's a winner.

Have you read it? Did you enjoy it?

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Review of 'Can't Buy Me Love'* by Jane Lovering

Review of 'Can't Buy Me Love' by Jane Lovering

I think I may have lost count of the number of times that I've woken up, head pounding, thinking this of a morning. For Willow however, there are more than her fair share of emotional traumas going on in the novel. You see, Willow's beloved grandfather has passed away, and what did he leave her? A nose. His nose. In a snuff box. Yep. 

He'd always called it his lucky nose, and rubbed it if he needed a little boost, but Willow is still disappointed that he neglected to leave her anything else in his will. However, upon further inspection she finds a note in the snuff box, which leads her to discover that one of his many inventions wasn't so crackpot after all, and she ends up with £50 000. 

As if that wasn't lucky enough, the man that she obsessed over endlessly during university has come to town, and told her that he was in love with her at the time, but just too shy to do anything about it. It seems like a dream come true. Willow is quick to help Luke in whatever way she can, so that he can pursue his dreams and they can be happy together, but her friends are concerned over the convenience of him turning up just as she gains her inheritance.

Putting it all down to jealousy, Willow ignores their pleas and happily continues her perfect love story with Luke, spending money with glee along the way. At the same time, she makes a new friend: Cal, her gay brother's lover. He actually listens to her, and she isn't as nervous around him as she is around other men, even though he's incredibly attractive, because him and her brother used to be more than friends. 

But, what if everyone's suspicions were right? And what if Willow has been busy making assumptions of her own? Is there hope for love out there for Willow?

I absolutely adored this book, and was hooked from the very first line (which revealed the nose in a snuff box inheritance). The exploration of Willow's anxiety was particularly interesting to me, as I'm keen to see mental health issues exposed and examined more frequently in novels. Willow has wound herself up into such a state of self hatred and anxiety that even just talking to an attractive man, who might possibly like her, forces her to physically be sick. She is endlessly trying to control this intense physical reaction to attraction, but time and time again, we see her struggle with it. 

If you're interested in seeing a 'not so nice' guy (to say the least) have the ultimate revenge cast upon him as well, then this is definitely one for you. I totally got caught up in the plotting and planning of his demise, and couldn't wait to see what happened!

Have you read it? What did you think?

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Review of 'The Human Stain' by Philip Roth

Review of 'The Human Stain' by Philip Roth

This book has been glaring at me from my book shelf (or random pile of books, depending on which student house I was living in) since, well, since 2013. My bad. Anyway, this is another one that I've struck off of the seemingly never ending list of 'books I should have read as an undergraduate but didn't'.

I'm a complete sucker for judging books by their cover, and the dull black one with the spine of a torn book on its front just had me turned off from the very start. I know, I know, it's basically a crime to ignore a book because the cover looks boring but I still do it. 

As I'm moving house in just under a month (I am nowhere near ready for this, but let's pretend I've got everything organised), I'm even more keen to whizz through as many of my unread course books as I can so that I can put them up on my depop - @steph_hartley if you're curious - and lighten the massive load that we've got to take to our new home.

So, all in all I basically forced myself to pick up The Human Stain, but by page 20 I was utterly hooked. I mean staying up until 2am and reading by torchlight so that I don't wake my partner up hooked. It has been months since I read a book that I was so prejudiced against and ended up loving it so much. 

The Human Stain is all about a man called Coleman Silk, a Jewish Classics professor who gets suspended because of alleged racism to a student. Although we at first believe the accusation to be ludicrous, eventually we learn that Coleman may actually have racist tendencies, even though he is not intentionally portraying them at this point.

From almost the very offset of the novel we learn one thing: within four months of the novel's timeline, Coleman Silk will be dead. We learn that after the sudden death of his wife, Coleman, a man in his seventies, has taken up with a 34 year old woman. Protecting themselves from any scandal (not only is she young, but an illiterate janitor too), the pair keep their love-making a secret from the world. But Coleman has a bigger secret, and it's one that takes us right back to his childhood to unfold.

You see, Coleman Silk isn't white. At least not fully. But his heritage is disguised by his skin. He looks white, and after realising how hard it was to be deemed anything other than white, he commenced a lifetime of pretense.

The most interesting aspect of this book however, is not this story of race, love, sex and tragedy, but the storytelling itself. For we are reading a book within a book. Of sorts. The writer of the book is not Philip Roth, but a man who plays a part in the story. Nathan Zuckerman becomes incredibly interested in Coleman's story, and decides to write about his life. Only when we reach the end of the novel do we realise that it is part 'fact' and part fabrication on Zuckerman's part. Some of the aspects of the novel are true, and he knows it, but many of the details, and the parts written from the perspective of other characters are from this character's imagination. This is possibly the most complex and well-written meta-narrative I have ever come across for this reason, and I would definitely recommend giving it a go!

Have you read it? What did you think?