Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Wuthering Heights

Image sourced from here
Well. That's done. I've been meaning to read Wuthering Heights for years. It's a "Classic" (so along with that goes all the cultural references I have never really got). The Brontes are hailed in some circles as better than Austen. It's the most romantic story ever written.

Let me address those assertions. Bullshit.

Wuthering Heights is a book about the most stubborn, sullen, sulky, self-centred, selfish (I've unintentionally gone to alliteration and I have now run out of s words), prideful, petulant, bad tempered, greedy, hypocritical individuals I have ever had the displeasure of reading all shoved into one book.

I'm at a loss of why the book has been taught in high schools around the world for years. The story isn't particularly interesting or complex. The writing and language is easy to read and understand, which possibly makes it a more accessible option. Some people may have problems with the dialect parts, but to me that was just a Yorkshire accent. I actually stopped reading it as although I could understand it, it did take a bit of brain power to switch in and out of it and most of what Joseph said was rubbish anyway. Is it taught with the lesson "all these characters are who you should not grow up into"? Because that would make sense, a warning not to be like them.

This is a book of abuse. Really, that's what it comes down to. Severe manipulation of people, with liberal sprinklings of physical, emotional, psychological, and no doubt in my mind in the background, sexual abuse. Now I am far from being a prude or easily offended. I have read many a book that deal with these issues and themes. But in most other books there is a story that turns those situations into plot devices. Wuthering Heights doesn't have this. It is a chronicle of how people wish to control and/or destroy other people, mainly for the sake of it. It left me feeling a bit off in places.

And for the romance. There was hardly anything. There was fighting, sulking, screaming, name calling, shunning but not romance. I knew beforehand that Heathcliff and Cathy were supposed to love each other, but I would have found it hard to see if I didn't have that context. Life is too short to have a relationship like theirs, and it definitely is too short to read about it.

Positives? Well, as I said it was easy to read for a classic. That's good. I will now understand cultural references made about Wuthering Heights, so I can appear more intelligent in very certain conversations. And the moors. Can't go wrong with the moors. I can frolic over the moors myself and leave Cathy and Heathcliff behind.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Secret History

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What self-respecting book starts with the main character confessing a murder on the first page? I mean, that's not how books work. You may have a body in the first chapter or so, but you don't have a confession. That's crazy talk. How do you then draw the book out for 600pp?

This is where Donna Tartt turns into the amazing author I have heard about. She then works from what would usually be the climax of the book, and gradually builds the tension throughout the book. I felt like a tightly wound spring by the end. She piles on anxiety after anxiety with the characters and you don't really realise you have absorbed every single one until it releases. It's exceptionally clever writing.

That's one of my criticisms though. It knows it's clever. It oozes clever. It didn't bother me too much as I personally felt it backed most of it up (although crash courses in ancient Greek history kinda gets me going). But even I felt like it was self indulgent every now and then. I can see this would piss some people off.

Also. I found it incredibly unbelievable how incredibly "likeable" some of the characters were. I am sorry, but they weren't. They were dicks. And the fact you have to tell me over and over again how much people actually liked so and so, backs up my point more than yours. Don't tell me for a page how ridiculously sexist, racist, homophobic, leeching and parasitic someone is and then say "but everyone liked him" repeatedly. No. I bet a lot of people didn't like him. And I bet a lot of them were wondering like me why everyone was so worried and invested in him. Bah. Just wasn't overly believeable. Small part of the story, but enough to irk.

These things aside, I really enjoyed the read. I like books I can't predict. I like reasonably clever books (even when they slightly think they are cleverer than they are). If you haven't read Donna Tartt before, I would recommend her. I am keen to read her other books.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


Image sourced from here
I have found my catnip.

My nearest and dearest will remember when I dreamt of running off to Cambridge and doing the incredibly useless but oh so interesting Bachelor of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies. Imagine that, with a sprinkling of my Greek and Roman classics classes, a dash of my Religion and Ritual in India anthropology course, a liberal dose of my many years of bible studies, Christian and Catholic upbringings and education, and the first year Religion course in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Add on top of that a hot, Irish druid, a "talking" Irish wolfhound, a slightly sarcastic tone, and an inability to take itself seriously.

See. Catnip.

The book introduces us to Atticus O'Sullivan. He is a 2100 year old druid who is living in Phoenix, Arizona. He runs an occult bookshop and cafe, and likes fish and chips at the Irish pub down the road. He's hanging out there because after running around the world for many centuries, he's settled in the furthest place he can find from the Irish god he annoyed several centuries ago. But as all these things go, that doesn't last for long.

The book cannot be taken seriously. I've read complaints from people saying it was silly and they were disappointed at that fact. Why on earth would you get grumpy at that?  I can understand picking up a book about a druid who's lived for millennia and is hiding out in America, interacting with gods and goddesses and faey and witches and anything else that comes through his door, and thinking it was a serious piece of literature (actually, I can't in case you missed the sarcasm). But if you did, I am pretty sure you would notice early and could adjust your expectations to enjoy it.

It's fluff. It is incredibly enjoyable, laugh out loud funny, fluff. The mythology I know is pretty well researched though. Even the Slavic stuff (Zoryas this time, unfortunately no Rusalka). So you know, you could learn something in it as well. But if people want to waste their time getting grumpy, then far be it from me to stop them. However. I think you should read it and I think you should enjoy it for being silly. I know I am, I've already bought the next 4 in the series.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

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I just spent 20 mins trying to explain what happens in this book. I can't. It sounds wooden, repetitive. This happens, then this, then this. In fact, a lot happens in this book. So many things. Finding cats, soldier's stories of war in China, Mongolia and Siberia, marriage break ups, psychics and spiritual healers, wells, 16 year olds in bikinis, wind-up birds, wigs. This book is 600 pages of the inexplicable.

In fact, I found myself halfway through the book and having no clue of what was going on, and where we were going. But I didn't care. Murakami is such a beautiful and lyrical storyteller I was happy for him to keep on taking me. I wasn't worried if I found myself at the end of the book and had no understanding of what had occurred, as the journey you were taken on was enough.

Luckily for me, I felt things got wrapped up at the end. I felt, unlike a few other reviews I have read, that I understood what had happened and that all the loose threads had been gathered together in an ending. Which is great, because I didn't have high hopes for the ending. I had heard that Murakami is not known for great endings. So I was pleasantly surprised. The other thing I have heard again and again about him, is his not particularly great sex scenes. I am not sure if that is a problem of translation, or if they are known in the Japanese as being oddly written as well. I think I had read one of his in the past that had been nominated for the Bad Sex award which was particularly appalling. So again, I was prepared for the worst and it was just normal bad, not terribly bad. Sex scenes are just hard to write well I have decided.

But these small hesitations aside, and then after dealing with my realisation of been lost, albeit pleasantly lost, in the book, it was another wonderful Murakami experience. I am glad I enjoyed one of his more fantastical books as much as his more realistic Norwegian Wood (seeing I have another four of his books on my shelf). I can see him cementing himself on to my favourites list.