Book Love: Classics Club Book 1 – Rebecca

You’ll all be thrilled to know, I’m sure, that I did in fact begin my Classics Club challenge last month as planned, but have just now got around to reviewing my first book – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  I picked this up from the Oxfam shop and devoured it in under a week (I was working full days at the same time, so that’s more impressive for me than it sounds!).

I adored this book and genuinely couldn’t put it down – it caused a few late nights of midnight reading, which doesn’t often happen for me with grown-up books.  If you want to read a serious book, but aren’t a fan of Dickens-esqe classics, I would completely recommend Rebecca.  It comes across at first a bit of predictable chick-lit but really is anything but.  There are so many themes and literary references underlying the story and I thought the characters were fantastic.

I didn’t know anything about the story before reading it, and I’m really glad of this so don’t want to give anything away.  I’ll just say that I didn’t find the story totally ridiculous, but it definitely didn’t turn out as I expected and for me it was a total page turner.  On a similar note, I read the Virago edition with the same cover as this picture, but Sally Beauman wrote the introduction in my copy.  If you haven’t read Rebecca before, definitely don’t read the introduction first.  I found it really interesting for adding a bit of literary analysis, but it does give a lot of the story away too.

I’m so glad I bought a copy of this book, because it’s definitely going on my re-reads pile.  Even though I know the story now, I still reckon I’ll get a lot out of the second reading, and I’ll probably pick up on loads that I missed before.  There are a lot of layers to this book, but it’s totally possible to enjoy it without delving into all the detail.

A wonderful start to my Classics Club reading, and I’m definitely off to track down some more Du Maurier books now.  Any recommendations?  I’m totally at a loss for where to go next, so any advice in the comments would be much appreciated!

Book Love: Welcome to The Classics Club!

I am now, rather excitingly, a member of The Classics Club.  This is a group of bloggers who all want to read (and of course blog about) more classic literature, and who sign up to read at least 5o classics in a maximum of five years.

Now, an absolutely huge part of my to-read list is made up of classics, so I’m mega-excited to get involved.  I already have a few books on my list ready and waiting for me on my bedside table – just need to finish what I’m reading at the moment first!  I’ve put my start date down as next Friday, which means that my challenge is to have finished 50 books by January 25th 2018.

This might not sound too much, but we have to bear in mind that I’m a pretty slow reader, very easily distracted, with a LOT of contemporary books that I’m desperate to read.  Though for now, at least, 2018 sounds like some kind of weird sci-fi date that I’m not convinced will ever actually arrive!  So the whole challenge isn’t too intimidating so far…

If you fancy a look at my list of planned classics, you can find it here.  This list is of course totally subject to change, so we’ll see how it goes.  I’m genuinely excited to see it start going down, and hopefully learning a lot from it!  Some of my favourite books are classics (To Kill A Mockingbird, Wuthering Heights, Atonement – I reckon that should count as a classic by now), but my general knowledge of them is woeful.  Time to remedy that!

So, wish me luck, and you can get yourself involved here, if that sounds like your cup of tea.  Let me know if you decide to go for it, that way I can keep up with what you’re doing too.  Or if you’re already a classics connaisseur, feel free to pass on any of your recommendations – or books to avoid, for that matter!

Book Love: Noughts and Crosses, the re-read

Has everyone read Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman?  If you’re in your early twenties and the answer is no, what on earth were you reading instead during your teenage years?

Noughts and Crosses was my absolute favourite book when I was in high school (though it probably did share that spot with Harry Potter) and I’m currently rereading the trilogy.  It is as wonderful as when I first read it.  At least five times as a teenager I finished reading this book in bed in the small hours of the morning, crying under my duvet.

Now, believe it or not, I’m 21 and nothing has changed.  At 1am last week, there I was with tears in my eyes.  And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

If you’ve never read Noughts and Crosses, especially if you have even the slightest interest in Young Adult fiction, I urge you to go and find a copy immediately.  If you have read it, go and dig it out again – I promise it has aged well.

In case you don’t know, the book is set in an alternate world where black people (Crosses) are in charge and whites (noughts) are, as their name suggests, considered worthless.  It tells the story of Callum and Sephy, a nought and a Cross, who are best friends discovering the difficulties of living in such a divided world and dealing with other people’s prejudices.

I cannot do this book justice with a summary.  It is heartbreaking, emotional, a brilliantly constructed world that can’t fail to draw you in and leave you amazed at the unfairness of it all.  And the scariest part lies in the parallels drawn between that world and ours.

Yes, the situation of black people in the western world has improved tremendously over the last 50 years, but it’s still nowhere near perfect and 1963 really isn’t that long ago.  And deep-seated prejudices are still evident everywhere – they may not be related to race, but the principle is the same.  In my opinion, this book should be compulsory reading for everyone as a teenager, when they’re starting to secure their world view and figure out what they believe.

I’m now halfway through the second book in the series, still as gripped as I was aged 13.  I can’t recommend Noughts and Crosses strongly enough.  Malorie Blackman has done amazing work.  Thank you to her.

Travel Love: The Joy of Book Swaps

This summer I’ve been travelling around Central America with a friend.  While I have A LOT to say about this experience, I want to limit myself to books for this post.

Travelling has given me the most wonderful opportunity to read again.  While I’m at uni, my reading time is sadly far too limited, and I constantly feel guilty if I’m not reading something course related.  But while travelling, I’ve had so much time to just sit around and simply be in a place.  While reading.  Bliss.

And the fuel to my reading fire has been hostel book swaps.  I find hostels superior to hotels in so many ways – the sociable atmosphere, guest kitchens, (generally) friendly staff etc etc – but the book swap is very possibly my favourite aspect.  I simply cannot get over how marvellous it is that I can come away for 3 months with one book, and keep reading the whole time.  There is such a range of genres and different tastes, and on occasion I’ve been forced into choosing books I normally wouldn’t even look at (this is how I found Still Alice, one of my new favourite books).

I’ve heard other travellers complain that book swaps are only ever full of terrible beach reads – I am here to tell you this is a lie.  On this trip, my goodies have included The Help, Slaughterhouse Five, A Visit From the Goon Squad, and I am just embarking on The Kite Runner, probably my final read of the trip.

As I get closer and closer to going home, I’ve been lamenting the soon-to-be loss of the book swap in my life.  What will I do back in England without a place to pick up free books, then be able to get rid of them when I’m done and save my space? It’s such a useful resource!  We should adopt this idea in everyday life at home!

Then I realised quite how much of an idiot I had been.  What are libraries if not a place to temporarily acquire new (to me) books?  I am a useless library user – I’m not even a member of the public library in Bath, where I’ve been at uni for two whole years.  So my new academic year’s resolution is to join this library and start making use of one of our most fabulous resources.  It’s no wonder David Cameron and his government are doing their best to wipe out libraries, when even active readers forget to use them!

Is anyone else a lapsing library member?  Do you agree with me that it’s a great way to make a dent in the to-read list, or do you prefer the thrill of buying books for yourself?