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The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory January 11, 2010

Posted by KJ theBookGirl in review.
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The Other Boleyn Girl follows the story of Mary Boleyn as she faces the trials of life in Henry VIII’s court. Falling in love with the King, and having to resign this to your deadliest rival, at the order of family definitely gives a good plot, but further twists and turns with the demands of the court and of others promising you that to fly away with your dreams can be done…well, only Philippa Gregory is capable of such a masterpiece of a novel.

Watch my video blog below to see my thoughts on the outstanding novel:

A Room With a View by E. M. Forster January 1, 2010

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The cover of "A Room with a View" by E. M. Forster

Miss Lucy Honeychurch is a girl inexperienced in the world of love; but she’s soon to learn much more through an enchanting trip to Italy, where her journey is not only physical, but emotionally challenging too.

The plot of one of  E.M.Forster’s most famous novels follows young Lucy as she travels to Italy with her overbearing cousin, and discovers not only the world of renaissance art, living outside the rule book, and experiencing real life, but also the mysterious, working class George Emerson, and his father.

The book explores how Lucy, a very impressionalble girl with no opinions of her own, but a promising spirit develops as a character, growing a backbone, as well as a taste for real, hard, living love – and in this grows to love life. She explores a world of confusion and choices, where a whole cast of characters attempt to influence her in every decision she must make.

The style of the novel is also notable; in the way it voices the thoughts of many of the characters, but is always in third person and narrated by Forster. This brilliant subtlety allows the reader to know what the characters are thinking, and their motives, without their voicing obvious intentions or ideas which would be otherwise unrealistic.

Lucy’s character is well considered and her development is carefully tracked. Her flaw – of being without opinions and often without thought – is used to show her as real, but also to demonstrate it’s healing as she develops as a character.

Other characters are equally well written, from Mr Beebe, a hypocritical priest who, I feel, plays his role like a puppet master with Lucy on the strings, to George Emerson, the true love interest, written with no specific merit, other than his ability to love completely and passionately, and ask questions other men are too scared or ignorant to voice.

The novel seems to be tellinga story of romance, but with the message that one must live for the present, fully and passionately, and follow one’s heart to answer life’s questions, rather than simply following mindlessly, without independence, in the way previous generations had done.

The greatest flaw of the novel is the unnecessary length as Lucy takes an extremely long time to grow as a character and do something about her feelings once she has developed them. This leaves the reader growing irritated, as they know how the book will end in a fairy-tale classic way, but Forster’s style prevents the reader throwing the book down in exasperation.

The love story is not unique, but the journey Lucy follows is an almost unique representation of the awareness humans realise of living for the moment, and not simply for society.

In conclusion, this story is a reasonable love story, but with much more social commentary swirling in the undertones. It is definitely worth a read, but it’s dragging pace may lose the more demanding reader.

KJ
theBookGirl

The Road by Cormac McCarthy December 29, 2009

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s The Road is brilliant. Simply brilliant. The plot follows a man and his son as they travel along a road south after what seems to be an apocalyptic event. It ventures to question the fundamental survival instincts of human nature, wondering how far we would go to keep ours and our own alive.

The style of this novel is truly original. With no punctuation other than the trusty full stop, and no elaborate descriptions or unnecessary words, the story is kept to basics, conveying a true raw power of the message and plot of this story.

McCarthy is surely one of the greatest writers of our time, for the strength and force of his tale are beyond most literature of our century.

The story unfolds as the man and his son discover awful things that other humans have done; see scarring sights that no one should have to see. Their journey, of hardship, of poverty, of hunger; shows the relationship between a man and a boy who have absolutely nothing but one another.

This shows the pure reliance each have on the other, the dependence for encouragement when there is no hope, the dependence for love when there is nothing else.

McCarthy explores how lives could change in such a cataclysmic event that no one can be trusted to be a “good guy”…but also how a leap of faith to that trust could be worth it if only it was tried. The risks are numerous and so the man and his son must struggle to survive alone in this powerful, man eat man world where nature has taken it’s revenge.

The emotional journey the characters go on shows the hardship of a hopeless eternity, and the contrast between the young and the old, the trusting and the suspicious, the want to help and the action of help.

McCarthy’s only downfall is, perhaps, the length of the novel. It is not particularly long or short for a novel, but it seems the events can get a little repetitive in that nothing changes. Perhaps this is the point – the characters have nothing and never will have anything, with every day for eternity a struggle to survive. But sometimes it seems that a different or speedier occurrence would be welcome.

In conclusion, this excellent novel of McCarthy’s seems destined to be an eternal classic of our time. It is a must read for it’s messages and ideas are so deep, that even if not fully understood, they should be attempted and savoured, for it is full of lessons for humankind to learn.

KJ
theBookGirl

The Trial Scene in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee August 24, 2009

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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

The trial scene is the first climax of the novel, and this means it has much depth and meaning. This article is going to look at analysing this scene, but it’s going to be broken down into various sections.

Main Events

  • Mr Heck Tate gives his account of what happened
  • He describes the injuries
  • Bob Ewell gives his account of what happened
  • Ewell agrees with the description of the injuries Tate gave
  • Atticus asks Ewell if he can read and write, showing Ewell is ambidextrous.
  • Scout says “I thought Jem was counting his chickens” showing she is wiser in this case
  • Mayella Ewell gives his account of what happened
  • Atticus asks Mayella questions about herself, building up a picture of her neglect. He shows that Mayella doesn’t understand what love means, and it is implied Ewell has beaten her before.
  • Tom Robinson gives his account
  • Link Deas, Robinson’s employer, interrupts to back up Robinson
  • Atticus makes a final speech in Robinson’s defence

Characters’ Positions in Trial

Mr Heck Tate
Tate is neutral – he doesn’t say whether he thinks Robinson  is guilt or not, but simply tells what happened from his point of view. However, his language is very racist, and he easily believed Mayella’s word over Robinson’s. He also didn’t call for a doctor despite Mayella being so injured as he just was considering the evidence. It didn’t occur to him that Mayella may be in need of medical attention, or that a doctor would be called on to witness.

Tate’s account is that Bob Ewell ran to him and told him that Mayella was raped by Robinson, so he got in his car and went to the Ewell’s house, where he found Mayella lying on the floor. He helped her up and asked who had hurt her, and she claimed it was Tom Robinson. At this point Tate went to Robinson’s house and brought him back and arrested him. He didn’t call a doctor.

Bob Ewell
Ewell is clearly very against Robinson, but also seems against the world as a whole. Ewell is informal, bordering on obscene despite the Judge’s request, such as his description that “Mayella was screaming like a stuck hog”. He also says, very forcibly, “I seen that n***** yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!” his language showing a disrespect for the court and taking credit away from his accusation. Ewell also didn’t bother to get a doctor, again showing a lack of care for the well being of his daughter.

Ewell’s account is that he was returning from chopping wood when he heard Mayella screaming. He dropped the wood and ran to Mayella but crashed into the fence and got caught in it. He then untangled himselfand went to the window to find Robinson raping Mayella. The room had clear evidence of a fight from the disruption to the furniture. Ewell ran into the house, but Robinson left. At this point Ewell went to Mayella rather than chasing Robinson. He then went for Tate.

Mayella Ewell
Mayella claims Robinson is guilty at first, but is reduced to tears after cross examination. Mayella is very scared of everything in the court, especially Atticus, which amuses Mr Gilmer. Jem believes Mayella is trying to make Judge Taylor feel sorry for her when she begins to cry, but Scout thinks she is just stupid.

Mayella is described as having a “stealthy” and “cat like” confidence making her seem sneaky and untrustworthy.

Mayella’s account is that she was on the front porch, doing nothing, when Robinson came along and she asked him to chop up a chiffarobe into kindling, because Bob Ewell asked her to do it, but she wasn’t strong enough (even this account shows neglect and bad parenting). She then went to get him a nickel to pay for the work, but when her back was turned he threw himself on her. He got her “round the neck, cussin’ me and sayin’ dirt – I fought ‘n’ hollered, but he had me round the neck. He hit me agin and agin-”

She screamed and fought back but she couldn’t remember much more, apart from her father coming in just before she fainted. She then remembered being helped up by Tate.

Tom Robinson
Robinson obviously knows he’s innocent, but he hides nothing from the court and tells them all relevant information. He knows he is a dead man walking but doesn’t let that intimidate him as he gives his evidence, and as he trusts Atticus.

Robinsons account is that Mayella has often asked him to do odd jobs for her, and he does this free of charge because he feels sorry for her. This causes the white society to be shocked and discriminate against him, because they feel it is impertinent for a black person to pity a white person. He went into her house, on the night in question, when she asked him to chop up a chiffarobe. He did as she asked, but she grabbed his legs when he was standing on a chair. This shocked him and caused the chair to fall over. She then tried to hug him and kissed him.

“She says she never kissed a grown man before…She says what her papa do to her don’t count. She says: “Kiss me back, n*****.””

He ran from the room, and then saw Bob Ewell in the window, who shouted,

“You god-damn whore, I’ll kill ya.”

He then just ran away, and he admits he was scared.

Evidence of Robinson’s Innocence

– Robinson cannot use his left hand, so wouldn’t be able to injure Mayella dominantly on her right side, but that is where she is injured.

– His account had alibis and corresponds with his general character

– Mayella had bribed her siblings to go away as she was expecting Robinson, and she was lonely. She wanted love.

– Mayella admits she was kissed and implies more, by her father, in Robinson’s account

– Link Deas, his employer, backs him up

Evidence of Bob Ewell’s Guilt

– Bob Ewell is ambidextrous, and he was the only person present with a strong enough use of a left hand to inflict the injuries Mayella suffered, or to strangle so strongly with both hands.

– Mayella can’t fully admit it was Robinson, and hesitates and hides information, implying Bob Ewell has beaten her.

The Black Community in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee August 24, 2009

Posted by KJ theBookGirl in To Kill a Mockingbird.
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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

The black community are a major part of the novel, although only on the surface a small part of Scout’s world.

We are primarily introduced to the black community through Cal, who is a servant as most of the black community within the white society are in To Kill a Mockingbird. This sets up an image of servitude and inferiority, which Atticus fights hard against, in order for Jem and Scout to see that no matter what skin colour, all humans are equal. Of course, Atticus is successful in this, even if he does have to teach Scout why certain phrases are offensive – she doesn’t realise they are due to the general discrimination the white society has against the black society without a second thought.

The other major character we wee which represents the black community is Tom Robinson. He is a clearly innocent family man, accused of the rape of a “white trash” girl, and thus found guilty.

From the novel almost every member of the black community is admirable in their personalities and innocent in their nature, and this generalisation makes the crimes against the black community all the worse.

Chapter 12 gives the reader the widest view of the black community as it is based their church. This is where the reader realises just how badly the community is treated. The church is used as a location for gambling by white men, which is clearly disrespectful. Only four of the congregation can read. Lula is very offensive to the children, as a defence of the way the black people are treated by white.

These are all examples of how the black community is affected by the white community.

The black community as a whole is a very close congregation, as it has to be to survive the harsh treatment by the white community. The church means that the people are protected – for example the way Zeebo, the minister, forces the people to give donations to Tom Robinson’s wife in order to allow her to survive whilst Tom is in jail.

The community is also very religious, the church being the only one with a steeple in Maycomb. All the members of the community dress smartly and attend church and this thickens the support group.

Together they can silently fight the discrimination with each other’s support and the understanding of people like Atticus.

As a whole the black community are a mockingbird within the story – they are innocent and law abiding, helping the white community, yet the white community “shoot” them by treating them so badly.

This means the people who respect the black community, earn much respect in return, such as Atticus, who the black community stand for in gratitude for defending Tom and honour for being such a great man.

KJ
theBookGirl

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling August 23, 2009

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HArry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

HArry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is another excellent novel in the Harry Potter series. It is the only novel almost totally unrelated to Lord Voldermort and this makes it interesting it’s role of development in the series, as well as an unusual addition to the enjoyment of the reading as a whole.

Harry Potter, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermione, is about to start his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry can’t wait to go back to school after the summer holidays. (Who wouldn’t if they lived with the horrible Dursleys?) But when Harry gets to Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There’s an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called to guard the school…

A fantastic new story featuring Harry and his friends from the spellbinding J.K. Rowling.”

This story follows the plot as Harry finds out that the escaped murderer is connected to him in ways he is horrified to imagine, and now putting him in intense danger. Harry has to struggle with this issue of extra but unwanted protection, as he also battles his way through the problems of school bullies (in the form of Draco Malfoy), the pressure of doing well (especially in Quidditch), a little hint at girls (watch out for Cho Chang), and, of course, the worry about comforting and helping your half-giant friend as he tries to protect a hippogriff.

There are many layers and depths to this story, especially as it goes on to deal with friendships and priorities. This story leaves the child-like qualities behind as the reader slowly sinks into the world of Hogwarts, fully and totally, and realises that no matter what the style is: this story can be related to on many a level.

The characters, of course, are well written, as Harry and his friends grow up to act a little older, a little more responsible, and a little more careless as they settle well and truly into the spirit of Hogwarts.

The new characters add far more humour and quirks to the general plot, as does the new setting of Hogsmede – a wizarding town.

The magic of the wizarding world, unfathomably combines with the magic of the style, topic, characters and plot to create a truly unforgettable tales which will stop you forever from putting the book down.

KJ
theBookGirl

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding May 10, 2009

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Marley and Me by John Grogan April 21, 2009

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The cover of the bestselling book

The cover of the bestselling book

I recently read Marley and Me which is a fabulous book and definitely worth reading (http://www.johngroganbooks.com/marley/index.html). I hadn’t really heard about it until I saw the trailer for the new film (http://marleyandmemovie.com/) in the cinema, and my friend told me how amazing it was. As a total animal lover, I leapt at the chance when she offered to lend me the book. 
The blurb on the book reads:
“John and Jenny were just beginning their life together. They were young and in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they bought home Marley, a wiggly yellow fur ball of a puppy. Life would never be the same. Marley quickly grew into a barrelling, ninety-seven pound steamroller of a Labrador retriever, a dog like no other. He crashed through screen doors, gouged through drywall, flung drool on guests, stole women’s undergarments, and ate nearly everything he could get his mouth around, including couches and fine jewellery. Obedience school did no good – Marley was expelled. Neither did the tranquilisers the veterinarian prescribed for him with the admonishment, ‘Don’t hesitate to use these.’ And yet Marley’s heart was pure. Just as he joyfully refused any limits on his behaviour, his love and loyalty were boundless, too. Marley shared the couple’s joy at their first pregnancy, and their heartbreak over the miscarriage. He was there when babies finally arrived and when the screams of a seventeen-year-old stabbing victim pierced the night. Unconditional love, they would learn, comes in many forms. The heartwarming and unforgettable story of a family in the making and the wondrously neurotic dog who taught them what really matters in life. For lovers of Tuesdays with Morrie, The Year of Magical Thinking, and even, of course, dogs! “
This book instantly drew me in straight from the preface. It is brutally honest about every event which takes place…and the events and adventures this book travels through are just phenomenal. Any dog owner will have hundreds of funny stories to tell you about their naughty dog, but I think Grogan must take the medal for telling his stories in this funny, personal way.
The book is written on a very informal level and is filled with short factual references about dogs and other features of the story which were interesting (although they did interrupt the flow).
Grogan has written this very well, allowing the reader to enter into his world and family life, whilst keeping Marley as the focus point throughout the novel.
As it travels through the life of Marley, as the reader you become extremely attached to the crazy dog, and you feel a mixture of pity and jealousy for Grogan as the owner and responsibility for this dog.
This book, I can guarantee, will make you laugh until you cry, and cry yourself to sleep. It is truly an emotional rollercoaster, but is definitely worth the ride as it gives such a profound understanding of dog behaviour it is impossible not to fall in love with Marley.
The bad points, which I suppose I should include, may be that Grogan gives the reader just enough information about other things happening in the story (such as the birth of his children, and the natures of his work) to get you to want to know more but then returns to Marley without giving the informatio n you sought. THis isn’t necessarily a criticism, in fact it is rather clever, whilst allowing him to keep a distance from the reader, but it is frustrating when you are reading the book.
Overall, this is a beautifully written book full of charm and laugh out loud humour. It’s definitely worth a read, although I advise a box of tissues! 
KJ
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