War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy

So, I did it.

I read War & Peace.

My copy is as battered as my soul after this marathon of names I didn’t even try pronouncing out loud and war strategies which I’m still a little befuddled over.

Apart from that, and I never thought I’d be saying this about a 1253 page book, I would read it all over again. This is the book I take on a desert island. Long enough that you’d only have read it three times over before you’re rescued. If anyone wanted to read a big book ever in their life, this is the one. War & Peace is by far one of my favourite ( if not the best ever) books I’ve read this year. There’s just so much I want to talk about!

Let’s start with Tolstoy.

I went into W&P with a sense that Tolstoy was the Russian equivalent of Dickens and so, as you can imagine, I had a sense of weariness about me before I even began. But I was pleasantly surprised as I got about 50 pages in and his style was fluent and easy to follow (something I can’t say about Dickens-sorry Charlie!). I’m not sure whether this was down to my copy’s translation or Tolstoy himself, either way, kudos to them. I was just completely absorbed the entire book! I couldn’t have read it fast enough! It took me a good 25 days to push through and I don’t think I’ll ever regret my decision to start reading it.

Having never read any Russian literature and as someone who knows practically nothing about Russia nor its population apart from their preference for vodka and short sentences, its safe to say this book was an enlightening experience. It seems with W&P there is a before and an after. Before I was very acceptant of the stereotype we give Russia especially in the age of Putin. After, I’m open to ideas. I can’t get over the atmosphere this novel created of Russia and its vastness and how different everything is. I think with stereotypes we dehumanize people so that we can have a better idea of their identity. In reality, I’ve come to realize stereotypes are more damaging than helpful.

Russia has been transformed for me. I have this interest to just know more about this country and read books cataloguing its history and I want to visit St Petersburg in winter and immerse myself in a place so vast. I’ve got a crush on Russia and it’s all Tolstoy’s fault.

War & Peace is full of such poignant characters. In all the books I’ve read I’ve never come across a more human author and characters to fill his books. This book isn’t just a work of fiction, it’s a guidebook to morality and finding your identity and accepting your faults and weaknesses and being human. Pierre has become my favorite character for character development. That’s the beauty of all these characters, they develop as humans would and its beautiful to witness.

I loved, hated, forgave, cried, wished, dreamt and laughed with, over and for Natasha Rostov. Tolstoy never labelled his characters, he merely stated their feelings and their own analysis and left the rest to the reader who in turn looked at themselves. There is just so much you can learn from War & Peace and so much from it to live by.

I want to talk about the tragedy of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Damn. I really connected with this man. I just wanted to hug him and bring him back from his own thoughts into happiness. There’s a part in the book which I don’t think I’ll ever forget and its remained on the surface of my mind since I read it.

And a tormenting fear seizes him. And this fear is the fear of death: it is standing behind the door. But as he is crawling strengthlessly and awkwardly towards the door, this terrible something is already pushing against it from the other side, forcing it. Something inhuman- death- is forcing the door, and he has to hold it shut. He lays hold of the door, strains in a last effort- to lock it is already impossible- just to hold it shut; but his attempts are weak, clumsy, and, pushed by the terrible thing, the door keeps opening and shutting again.

Once more it pushes from the other side. His last supernatural efforts are in vain, and the two halves open noiselessly. It comes in, and it is death. And Prince Andrei died.

But in the same instant that he died, Prince Andrei remembered that he was asleep, and in the same instant that he died, he made an effort with himself and woke up.

“Yes, that was death. I died- I woke up. Yes, death is an awakening.” Clarity suddenly came to his soul, and the curtain that until then had concealed the unknown was raised before his inner gaze. He felt the release of a force that perviously had been as if bound in him and that strange lightness which from then on did not leave him.

Maybe its just me and my morbid soul but this, this gives me a sense of peace. Because don’t we all wonder whats on the other side of that door and isn’t it just a terrible fear of the unknown. Reading this, truly eased my heart and I know its “fiction” but just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean its not real. At the end of the day we’re all going to be stood against that door on our last days waiting for it to open and just the notion of possible peace on the other side, well, it makes life easier to live rather than circling yourself with ideas of purgatory and hell and nothingness. Death is an awakening.

EN EE WAY.

I just loved War & Peace and there’s so much to talk about and I don’t think I’ll ever have enough time to pick apart every single part I loved, hated and adored. But I cried at least 3 times throughout this one. And laughed even more.

As I make my way through the classics, I do want to share my favourites and this is definitely one of them.

Just going to leave some of my favorite quotes and passages from this book down here to entice any of you who haven’t read it. Really read it. Clear your calendars and wrap yourself in a duvet and maybe get a pillow for your arm when you’re holding the book.

It’s so worth it.

“Love? What is love?” he thought. “Love hinders death. Love is life. Everything, everything I understand, I understand only because I love.”

“You see, friend,” he said “we’re asleep until we love. We’re children of dust… but fall in love- and you’re God, you’re pure as on the first day of creation…”

Science, that is, an imaginary knowledge of the perfect truth.

An Englishman is self-assured on the grounds that he is a citizen of the best organized state in the world, and therefore, as an Englishman, he always knows what he must do, and knows that everything he does as an Englishman is unquestionably good.

“If I were not I, but the handsomest, brightest, and best man in the world, and I was free, I would go on my hands and knees this minute and ask for your hand and for your love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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I’ve had this book for a few years now and it’s been sitting quite patiently in my TBR pile waiting for me to pick it up, muttering “to hell with it”, and get on reading. The fact that I’ve got books dating back to Christmas 2013 in the TBR pile is a fact I haven’t really accepted as wrong yet. I’ve got this theory that some books you’re just not ready for. Canterbury Tales? Not there yet. War & Peace? My stamina is not yet that advanced. Count of Monte Cristo? Auntie DeeDee: I will read it.

I’ll get there; I am still a young Padawan.

Anywhoo.

So Eleanor & Park has been quite patient with me and I final read it. My reluctance came from trying to juggle my study schedule, and then going through a phase of feeling I was too grown and stuck up to read such mere teen novels, then my best friend read it and hated it and so its been neglected. Apologies Rainbow. Also I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which everyone seemed to love and constantly rave about, but I just didn’t think it was all that, so I worried that Eleanor & Park, which is always raved about, wouldn’t live up to its ravings. Add some more reluctance into the equation.

BUT I READ IT.

It was so so good.

After reading Gulliver’s Travels, this was a breath of fresh air to relax the mind and just get lost in a swirly curly romance. Now I know I’m only 18 and probably haven’t got a clue what I’m saying most of the time but this one reminded me what is was like to be young and in luuuuurve. (I can hear you adults yelling from the distance “You are still young!” Away wit ye; I am being an angsty teen.) But the simple bursting with excitement because ohmygod-he’s-holding-my-hand, and the absolute amazement of how such a simple gesture could be transformed into something magical by that special person was just fantastic to remember. It was so innocent and new and nostalgic back to the love-of-my-teen-life and it was gooey and fluttery and something to relax the mind.

“I just want to break that song into pieces, and love them all to death.”

It also brought to light all the social issues we realize as teens from our body image to racism to tackling stereotypes and abuse. I’m thanking Rowell for this little gem where I felt she was actually writing about real people, not superficial characters which happen just by chance to be petite and perfectly built. It was nice for a curvy girl who doesn’t fit in and a boy who wears makeup to be our protagonists and for both of them to not pretend they’re normal. They aren’t; they’re cool with it and so is the reader.

There is so much discovery explored in this book, which essentially defines our actions as teenagers finding out who we are and want to be.

“She never looked nice, she looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”

Rowell, I’ll give you this one.

“…and his eyes were so green they could turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.”

I have no idea why I love this quote!

Me Before You & After You by Jojo Moyes: This Ain’t A Love Song

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Since these books have been in the spotlight for the last few months, what with the motion picture for Me Before You releasing in June; I wanted to talk about this book for a little bit; everyone else seems to be.

My interest in Me Before You started off through the film when I was scrolling through YouTube one night and had somehow ventured over to the trailers of films yet to be released. As a Khaleesi and Finnick fan (if you know, you know), I couldn’t resist peeking at the trailer. I was in tears at around:

“You can’t change who people are.”

“Then what can you do?”

“You love them.”

I bought the book off Amazon not long after.

But I’m not writing this post to gush about how hard it made me cry and how I fell in love with the characters (I did cry absolutely disgustingly, though) as there’s more to this story than what meets the mainstream media eye, so I wanted to share my take on what these books were trying to say and what the film didn’t.

Louisa Clark is portrayed to be quite the nobody, this is the role we as the reader are encouraged to see her. She gets a job (because she just needs the money; not in a selfish way, but because her family is dependent on her) working as a carer and companion for Will Traynor, a 30-something gorgeous lad who was tragically hit by a motorcycle and left a quadriplegic. Before his accident, Will was an adrenaline junkie; the type of guy who jumped off cliffs and all sorts. As the story comes along we learn that Will is a bit of an arse, quite snobbish and angry, and Lou is the one to bring him down off his high horse, with what can only be judged as her “commonness” and simplistic ideals. Will is astounded that she has never watched a film with subtitles and starts on the road to making her more cultured, in his words; “You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”

In the midst of all that; Louisa is trying to make his life a bit happier as we discover he is depressed and has attempted to commit suicide in the past. Will is trying to teach this girl about all the living she could do. We find out that Will has been in contact with Dignitas, the assisted suicide establishment in Switzerland, and that he wants to end his own life. Full stop. From here, Louisa sets into action a plan to show him all the best parts of living and fun things to do, to change his mind.

Now, in the film, that is essential the plot of the story and the heartbreaking event is that they fall in love along the way. But the book, I feel, tells an entirely different story. Whilst I was reading I was overwhelmed by the idea that, contrary to popular belief; this was not a love story. Films and books nowadays have the very untidy habit of categorizing too easily as either Romance or Not Romance, as if thats all the matters in the world and there are no other important story arcs to be explored.

I feel this book tells a story of awareness more than it does of romance.

Whilst on her mission, Louisa takes them horse-racing through which they struggle to find parking; and when they do there is little access, not a place to eat almost privately as Will can not feed himself, as well as the general treatment of the disabled.

When it comes to the British, we seem to find it difficult to get over our bewildered embarrassment of not knowing how to act, what to talk about and how to conduct oneself around disability not to mention how to deal with the challenges that the disabled community are faced with. In Me Before You, we are enlightened on the struggles of everyday life; wheelchair access being an everyday task; the lack of support through activities and social life, leading to a very lonely existence; like Will. I’m not saying this is the case for every member of the disabled community, but simply that it does happen and surely we’re a bunch of clever enough people to do something about it, right?

For myself, that increasing awareness has opened my mind that little bit more to a society within our own,  pushed into the corner of the room like a broken toy we don’t know how to fix and so is forgotten.

I feel that this message was lost in the film portrayal; the idea of fluffy romance masking a much more thoughtful perspective. However, the case of disability awareness was not the only lost cause in the film and frankly. I feel this one was blocked out intentionally. Putting it lightly, I’m not a happy bunny at all (pokes tongue out with a frown).

Probably the most heart wrenching part in Me Before You is when we find out, on one of their adventures that takes them to the maze by the castle nearby, that a younger, live-life-to-the-full Louisa was raped by a boy. This traumatic experience made Louisa lose confidence in herself; she no longer wants to go off into the world, but would rather stay at home to what she knows. Our initial interpretation of Louisa being a simple girl: obliterated. No woman who has been violated to that extent could be thought as straightforward.

Simple. As. That.

I think that really hits home with the whole life lesson of:”don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” In this case, a woman.

Now in the film; not a blip of this was mentioned. This made me quite annoyed at how we as the audience were now being suggested to view the duo. Tragic Will, who lived so much, explored and conquered the world; never again. Sweet, simple Louisa, who liked crazy clothes and makes a banging cup of tea, enchanted by our much lived and cultured Will. Nothing about how Louisa had all means of exploring the world, nor how safety and security was taken away from her in her own skin. Why wasn’t this message screamed loud and clear?

We live in a generation where we are standing up as individuals for our voices to be heard and because we believe that it will make a difference. We’ve seen it happen; gay marriage being legalized in the United States, and we’re seeing it now through #BlackLivesMatter which is taking social media by storm.

I just felt like we were being coaxed into this adoration of Will and that Lou, and whichever achievements she conquered herself, could never compare to Will, that this idea of worship and oggling of him is encouraged.

A slap in the face for equality. *Bravo*

Rant over.

 

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

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“I’m starting to think you like prisons,” he says, idling knocking his knuckles against the wall. “And that you have the worst taste in men.”

I’ve been really excited about talking about this one!

SPOILERS AHEAD.

Back in June, I read the first installation to this series Red Queen, following my intense AS level exams which I proceeded to fail. Nevertheless, really enjoyed this book and said I would definitely be reading the second installment, also stating I was poor and couldn’t afford to buy books.

Well, I bought the book and still poor.

And Glass Sword… woah.

Prior to reading this I skimmed through some goodreads reviews and upon meeting numerous negative takes, was preparing for an O K A Y read.

Well, I loved it.

It was different and everything I wanted from the series (if not enough when it came to the finale WHAT THE HELL GUYS HOW COULD YOU DO THAT VICKY?), was fluffy and nerve wracking and overtime they went into a city my fingers were gripping the pages praying that nobody died.

Mare’s character has really come along way since when we met her at the beginning of Red Queen, a focus which grows through the book as we watch Mare, frankly get darker and darker until we don’t trust her.

I don’t trust her.

I was a tad disappointed with the simple lack of attention to poor Kilorn and I’m sure he feels the same.

The “romance” if you can even call it that, between Cal and Mare was frustrating. Mostly because its difficult to see a future for them where they are set on equal ground. I love Cal, probably my favorite character of the whole series and I just felt so so so sorry for him this entire book.

Damn, if Mare doesn’t want him; I’ll happily relieve that burden from her shoulders.

Hated Maven, but that’s standard.

CAN NOT BELIEVE SHE KILLED SHADE.

HOW DARE SHE.

MY JAW HIT THE BLOODY BASEMENT FLOOR. (not that I have a basement)

And Farley is defo preggo right guys?

Need the next book now.

No joke.

I am going to end up homeless on the street living in a book igloo.

“Every single thing I did, you stood behind me,” I say. “If I’m turning into a monster, then so are you.”
“Love blinds.”

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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“Ah! this morning! You have lived since then.”

First of all, loving the cover of this one!

I really did enjoy reading this book; some extremely heavy moral lessons to be taught as well as interesting symbols which hit hard.

But honestly; #UnpopularOpinion : I really simply do not like Oscar Wilde.

All of these characters; I hated.

I hated quotes such as this

“My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.”

Yeah, Lord Henry Wotton can go do one.

I hated the whole idea, vanity and selfishness and heartlessness and ugh.

I simply wanted to punch Dorian Gray in the face, Hermione-style.

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I think because I just hated everything about this book made me really love it. Its intense; its not pretty, Wilde had the ability to project his thoughts so beautifully and poetically, a story was being shared so visually.

But c’mon guys, why were you surprised he turned out to be gay?

–Love?
-An Illusion.
–Religion?
-The fashionable substitute for Belief.
–You are a sceptic.
-Never! Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.
–What are you?
-To define is to limit.”

I enjoyed it but I enjoyed disliking every character strongly.

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie: Going back to Neverland

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“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!”

I read this little gem a few weeks back on my way to Brighton for the day, if you’re Instagrammers you would have seen a few posts of the last sunny day in Britain to be fair.

Would like to say, this was my first time ever reading Peter Pan.

Now that I’m saying it, although I’m typing, out loud it really does sound like the title Bookworm doesn’t even belong to me.

I’ll try and justify myself then.

“She asked where he lived.

Second to the right,’ said Peter, ‘and then straight on till morning.”

When I was little I was a huge fan of the Disney movie of course, because what 5 year old wasn’t? Also, I grew up with Hook starring the late great Robin Williams on V I D E O, as well as having a crush on the new (?) adaptation of Peter Pan, Jeremy Sumpter back in 2003. Yeah. That was 13 years ago.

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I’ll let that sink in.

Also, as a kid I think my mum got me the V I D E O of Finding Neverland with Johnny Depp, which admittedly I didn’t enjoy as much at the age of six and, to be fair mum; what were you thinking? Most depressing film in the world. For a six year old. Who thought she was about to watch Peter Pan; with an actual Peter Pan in it.

I digress.

As you may have been able to tell, my experience of Peter Pan up until now had been largely visual, so the point I’m trying to get at is that it was quite interesting reliving the story through the pages of a book this time. I loved reading the words and seeing the scene so clearly laid out behind my eyes. Also, very impressed with the screenwriters for the 2003 adaptation; parts and extracts from the book were so accurate; making it all the more enjoyable experience.

It was nice to go back to Neverland again with older eyes, as I’ve grown up, Peter would have hated it.

“To live will be an awfully big adventure.”

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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I have no idea how I came to acquire this book. I don’t remember buying it. I don’t remember receiving it. Within the pages is a receipt from 2012 at a bookshop in Egypt (not completely weird; used to live there) but I have no recollection of this book or how it came to be in my possession. Weird ha?

I really didn’t know what to think about this one after reading the blurb; the story claiming to be about a baby who grows up in a graveyard after its family is brutally murdered and is raised by the ghosts and spirits who reside in the graveyard accompanied by his guardian. And from there we watch Bod (short for Nobody Owens) grow up in the graveyard meeting the various spirits that live there. It was interesting!

I wish I had read this a couple of years ago when its writing style and story would have made much more of an impact but if I’m being completely honest, the cover put me off not to mention the frankly morbid title. But I enjoyed it, and from me reading it I’ve realized actually how popular this fanbase is.

I was gripped as much as you could be from a book that says on the back Ages 10 and above.

Well, it is above…

Thank you Mr Gaiman, who I’ve realized and wrote many other cool books, for reminding me of the most important rule of conduct for a booknerd:

NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.

I’ll leave this little note here.

“Face your life, it’s pain, it’s pleasure. Leave no path untaken.”

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

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This book is literally The Fault in Our Stars meets Looking For Alaska ALL OVER.

Reading this was like a blast from my very angsty past, with slamming doors after breakups and Facebook posts I would have fangirled over it in my early tweens.

For a young reader, full of angst (its okay!) this is your ticket out of here.

An easy read which I started and finished today, as a means of escape (ANGST), this book was great. The story was and interesting twist on two ideas merging together.

The plot, at times, felt patchy and the ending gave me the impression of trying to be like so many other teen novels… I was upset by the lack of closure; with little positivity and a bucket full of hormone filled, almost epiphany quotes to sum it up. I wanted to know how our characters ended up. Also, wanted to know more about their backstories with lead them to their fates.

An okay read.

Neh.

 

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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I have been dying to get my hands on some Hemingway; having already own 3 of his works I’ve been waiting for the right moment to be able to lose myself in a book and give it the attention it needs. So last night, after sitting in a reading slum for a few days, in an act of frustration I picked up this little one and began reading with quite a forceful huff.

I have been in love with the idea of Hemingway for a while now; guilty of being an avid Pinterest-er, Hemingway is in abundance for his quotes to wandering up my feed and for me to pin them to “Romance at that” board. After scrounging through “Books To Read Before You Die” blogs many times, The Old Man and the Sea has popped up there, so inevitably it made it onto my To Be Read list, graduated into my To Be Read pile and then contributed to my To Be Read bookcase.

Alas, no more! 

It has been read.

These few lines stood out at me;

‘The fish is my friend too,’ he said aloud. ‘I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars.’

Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. But imagine if a man each day should have to try to kill the sun? We were born lucky, he thought.

Hemingway is able to capture this impossibly complex thought, romanticizing the concept in the most Hemingway-way possible. Being the man he was, the almost patriarchal view on other living creatures is imminent, but what shines through all that is the respect and almost chivalry between man and fish on a worthy life, is worth some consideration into the many layers to a personality which may not only be realized through their actions.

I’ll continue to ponder over this one for a while…

Thanks Ern, for the beautiful first read!

 

I totally felt like Dumbledore when I said alas…

forgive me.