Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare

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This is definitely one of my favourites of Shakespeare’s plays, second only to Hamlet. It funny, magical and I love the cast of characters. It’s a short play, one of the shortest I’ve read for sure, but it packs so much in and moves very quickly.

I don’t really know how to put my feelings about this play into words. This time reading it was my second time, for uni, though my first was simply because I felt like it. Unlike the other plays I’ve read for uni, it didn’t drag because it was a set text; I genuinely wanted to read it and enjoy it again.

The characters, as in all plays, are what makes this great. A fair amount does happen throughout the play to keep you interested, but the variety of different characters in this are what capture your attention and imagination. As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, there are a lot of characters, far more than you’d perhaps see in a contemporary play. But I found this one so much easier to follow than in the others. They are in distinguished groups, have their own way of addressing each other and it makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

I love this play a lot, and will definitely be rereading it at some point in the future. It’s witty, amusing, and just great entertainment. It’s nowhere near as gritty as some of Shakespeare’s other plays, but in a way, that makes it better, because you can read it whatever mood you’re in (Hamlet is absolutely wonderful and I could rave on and on about it, but even so, it’s not an uplifting, lighthearted read). I highly recommend it, especially as a route into Shakespeare – it’s quick, easy to follow, and fun.

Rating: 5 / 5 🌟

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Weekend Reading TBR

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So I have decided to challenge myself this weekend to read as much as possible. I love the idea of the 24 in 48 readathon, though realistically I will not be able to read that much as I have other things that I need to do – go to the gym, cook, some uni work etc.

However, I’m aiming for roughly 8 hours a day of reading, and I have created a short (ish) TBR to work through:

  • The Quickening Maze – Adam Foulds
  • Goodbye, Perfect – Sara Barnard
  • Things a Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nicholls
  • Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse – Rick Riordan
  • A Skinful of Shadows – Francis Hardinge

Though I have already started some of them, I don’t think that I’ll have time to make it through all of these, but they are the ones at the top of my list – I will be seeing Sally Nicholls and Francis Hardinge the following Tuesday and I would love to have read at least one of the books in time!

 

Review: Harvest – Jim Crace

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Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction, historical

Publication date: 14th February 2013 by Picador

Format: Paperback copy I purchased used.

As late summer steals in and the final pearls of barley are gleaned, a village comes under threat. A trio of outsiders – two men and a dangerously magnetic woman – arrives on the woodland borders and puts up a make-shift camp. That same night, the local manor house is set on fire.

Over the course of seven days, Walter Thirsk sees his hamlet unmade: the harvest blackened by smoke and fear, the new arrivals cruelly punished, and his neighbours held captive on suspicion of witchcraft. But something even darker is at the heart of his story, and he will be the only man left to tell it…

(from goodreads.com)


I really can’t make my mind up about this book, there were aspects that I absolutely loved, and others that just pulled it down for me.

The writing is wonderful in this book, it is lyrical, poetic, and sounds iambic throughout much of the novel. It rolls off the tongue if read aloud, and flows so beautifully when read silently. It alone makes me want to read more by Jim Crace.

However, the plot was a bit anti-climatic and – dare I say it – dull, for my liking. It’s not that things don’t happen, because they do, but there was so little drama where it felt as though there should have been, and unnecessary drama elsewhere. It’s incredibly violent in places, which does make sense and helps to build up an idea of the community and the mentality that the people had toward anyone who may interfere with their way of living, but at times I felt it a bit much and not really necessary.

The ending too, was fairly predictable, though it is likely that it was a definite choice made by the author. I had hoped for something a bit more though.

I’m not usually a historical fiction kind of person, but I did enjoy this more than I expected. It wasn’t a favourite by any means, but I think the fact that it is set in history but is not in a specific time (in just occurs in the period of enclosure – which happened over a few hundred years) made it easier to get into and read – there are no set characters from history that I had to puzzle over and admit I’d never heard of. It’s highly relevant to the present, and is, in fact, more about the present than the past in many ways. The same things that occur in the book are happening in other countries across the globe, and many of the sentiments expressed are heard commonly in conversations every day. Whilst this was written before Brexit really became a ‘thing’, it resonates a lot with what is happening in the UK at this moment in time, which definitely made it more readable for me.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, though it’s not a favourite. There are interesting images throughout, and I loved how they were subtly included – the story of Cain and Abel was so interesting as it was so easy to miss but it was still there (I have no interest in the Bible itself, but the way Jim Crace included it was extremely clever). If you like poetic writing, this is definitely a good choice, and it is worth a read, though I’d say the description given by Goodreads (above – it is also what is on the back cover of my copy) is overdramatic – it’s nowhere near as dramatic as it is made out to sound!

Rating: 3.5 / 5 🌟

Review: Evening Primrose – Kopano Matlwa

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Genre: Contemporary, fiction

Publication date: 27th July 2017 by Sceptre

Format: Hardcover copy sent to me for review from Sceptre via Bookbridgr

Told in the form of a one-sided conversation with God, Evening Primrose is the story of Masechaba, a young woman who achieves her childhood dream of becoming a doctor, yet soon faces the stark reality of South Africa’s healthcare system.

As she leaves her deeply religious mother and makes friends with the politically-minded Nyasha, Masechaba’s eyes are opened to rising xenophobic tension in the shadow of the apartheid.

Battling her own personal demons, she must decide if she should make a stand to help her friend, even if it comes at a high personal cost.

(from goodreads.com)


This book may be only 160 pages, but it packs one hell of a punch. It is raw, emotional, honest, and utterly brilliant.

I have never read a book set in South Africa before, and I know (sadly) very little about the history of the country and its people. This book has prompted me to look up more detail, as there is so much happening that I had no idea about and feel as though I should learn about. This book taught me a lot in such a small space, but it only scratched the surface and there is so much left for me to research.

Masechaba is a wonderful character, and her story is both wonderful and heartbreaking. Normally I find happy / bittersweet / positive endings in books lovely but a bit boring, but this warmed me through and through (which was kind of necessary after the previous events). So much happens in this book, I found myself sucked into the story and Masechaba’s thoughts.

The plot is fast – a huge amount happens – but fairly easy to follow. By no means is it an easy read, and there are some places where I struggled to get through (I feel here is a good place to mention trigger warnings for suicide, mental illness, and sexual assault / rape, there is also a huge amount of xenophobia – it is the main theme that the book explores). There is so much discussion about menstruation as well, which was incredible to see. I don’t think any other book I have ever read has talked about it so explicitly and so much. So good to see, honestly. Masechaba has problems with her periods and they are discussed and this is exactly what literature needs.

The narrative is fairly fragmented, as it is written in the form of diary entries. The entries are addressed to God, which I admittedly kept forgetting until I was reminded through the use of ‘you’ and ‘Jesus’ in the same sentence in a few cases. I feel that this form opened the story up to the reader though, it meant I got a better insight into Masechaba’s emotional state, her thoughts, feelings, and the pacing was a lot quicker too.

Overall, I loved this book. It wasn’t an easy read at times, purely because of the subject matter, but I equally didn’t want to put it down. It is a wonderful piece of work, full of complexities and raw moments, and I would highly recommend it.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

Review: Hawthorn and Child – Keith Ridgway

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Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction, mystery, crime

Publication date: 4th April 2013 by Granta Books

Format: Paperback I purchased used.

Hawthorn and his partner, Child, are called to the scene of a mysterious shooting in North London. The only witness is unreliable, the clues are scarce, and the victim, a young man who lives nearby, swears he was shot by a ghost car. While Hawthorn battles with fatigue and strange dreams, the crime and the narrative slip from his grasp and the stories of other Londoners take over: a young pickpocket on the run from his boss; an editor in possession of a disturbing manuscript; a teenage girl who spends her days at the Tate Modern; and a madman who has been infected by former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Haunting these disparate lives is the shadowy figure of Mishazzo, an elusive crime magnate who may be running the city, or may not exist at all.

(from goodreads.com)


I actually upped my rating on Goodreads from three (and a half) to four stars after my seminar on this book last Wednesday. I wasn’t sure what rating to give it once I’d finished it anyway, and after discussing it today I realise how interesting it is.

There is no actual plot to this book, and it is split into several short stories / chapters. They do interlink in a few cases, through minor connections, but without the characters of Hawthorn and Child there would be very little to link them at all (and even Hawthorn and Child feel like they aren’t really present in places). However, each chapter is intriguing, and though slightly odd and at times, brutal, it captured my attention and kept it throughout.

There are a lot of trigger warnings that I would have to offer with this book; suicide (very graphic), death (by various means, including the death of a baby), violence, mental illness (unspecified), homophobia, bodily fluids (of all types), and explicit sexual scenes, to name as many as I can think of at the moment (there are probably more). This book is strange, crude and doesn’t hold back. And whilst it is not pleasant to read at times (most of the time), it is incredibly interesting to analyse. Also, the way that it is written is very blunt and matter of fact, and they don’t feel particularly targeted. I’ve probably not worded / explained that very well, but what I mean is that there is absolutely no feeling that the author agrees with what is being said and that comes across very strongly. For example, the subtly homophobic comments come across as detached, and we are led to understand how these comments make Hawthorn (who is gay), feel and the impact that they can have on someone. Everything that is said in this novel (a lot is left unsaid), is said subtly, and the challenging of these terrible viewpoints (homophobic, anti-Semitic (there is a reference to ‘Jew-jokes’, but no such “jokes” are included thankfully – none that I noticed anyway, but it was getting late as I read that part so it may not have clicked)) is definitely there, just not explicitly mentioned. There is the distinct impression that the author doesn’t approve of these comments, though why, I cannot really explain, the way they are written come across as extremely disapproving (thankfully).

However, if you struggle with any of the above-mentioned triggers, this is certainly not the book for you as it is graphic and there are almost definitely books out there that directly challenge these things, or avoid them completely.

I must say that if I read this book for pleasure and in my own, free time, I doubt I would appreciate it as much as I do. There is a huge amount to say about this book when analysed, and what Ridgway is seeking to do is complex and fascinating. It is by no means an easy or ‘fun’ read, as you have probably guessed from the above paragraph.

The form is an interesting choice. It is fragmented, bitty and few questions are answered. It even states in the text that not knowing all of the answers sustains us as humans, and the text itself offers subtle explanations of Ridgway’s choices. Only after looking into it in such detail, scouring every page for recurrent themes and messages, I have begun to understand it – slightly. It is a confusing book. There is no end to be truthful, no resolution. But this book is centred around the idea of the unsaid and the unresolved, and though it feels as though it is lacking, it equally feels as though it is not. It’s very odd, but good. I do feel very conflicted about this novel, and coming back to this review to edit it before I post it, I feel different to how I did before. But the reasons why are almost unexplainable, except that my feelings about this book are as fragmented and disjointed as the book itself.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

February TBR 2018

Who knows how many I will get to this month, I’m just hoping I can stay on track with uni reading if I’m honest! I also need to catch up on Rick Riordan’s books for the read-along I am participating in.

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Uni books:

  • Harvest – Jim Crace
  • The Quickening Maze – Adam Foulds
  • N-W – Zadie Smith
  • Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Shakespeare
  • Twelfth Night – Shakespeare
  • The Winter’s Tale – Shakespeare
  • Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction – Peter Boxall

Epic Riordan Readalong: 

  • Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse
  • Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth
  • Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian
  • Heroes of Olympus – The Lost Hero
  • Heroes of Olympus – The Son of Neptune
  • Heroes of Olympus – The Mark of Athena
  • Heroes of Olympus – The House of Hades

It’s after typing this list out that I realise how far behind I am…

This is a long shot, but any extras I may manage to fit in:

  • Call Me By Your Name – André Aciman
  • Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli
  • Goodbye, Perfect – Sara Barnard
  • Things a Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nicholls