I always tend to start monthly wrap-ups by commenting on the fleeting nature of time, and this one is no different. Where has October gone? How does time pass so quickly?
Despite time slipping from me so swiftly, I’ve read quite a few books this month. I managed to finish reading all the books for two of my modules, and I finally finished a humongous biography I started back in September. So, it’s been a pretty good month for me.
Here’s what I read:
Decline and Fall:
October didn’t start out well for me. First up was Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall. It was a strange one. It was easy to understand and I could follow the plot quite easily, but I don’t actually know what happened and for what reason. One minute our protagonist is a teacher, the next he’s trafficking prostitutes?
Every single character was dull despite their eccentric lives and personalities, especially our protagonist, Peter. There was hardly any female characters, and the ones that were present were pushed to the side-lines, never speaking and being used as narrative catalysts. The plot was boring; it was meant to be a comedy, but I never laughed or smiled once. Definitely not my favourite.
Another slow and boring read for me. As stated through the title, GB84 centred on Great Britain during 1984, the year of the miners’ strike. There were multiple narratives from the likes of government officials, to the Lefties, to people who are actively involved in the strike. Initially, I was intrigued by this. The miners’ strike and the closure of the mines has always interested me, but this fell short.
I didn’t care for the political side of the strike, which this book focused on. I wanted to read about the working-class people, those who lost their jobs, faced the brutality of the police and their batons, and so on. I also really disliked Peace’s writing style; every sentence was a short one, making it effort to read. It felt like a chore.
‘The Old Nurse’s Story’:
For my Autumn TBR, I wanted to pick up Elizabeth Gaskell’s Gothic Tales. But seen as that costs an arm and a leg in my poor student eyes, I settled for this Penguin Little Black Classic edition which is home to two of her Gothic stories.
I really enjoyed the first story: ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’. It had an enchanting atmosphere; the large house with its closed off quarters, the snowy Fells, the miserable weather, and an eerie child roaming the Northumberland moors. It worked well as a Gothic tale, but I’m rating it down for its somewhat confusing and ambiguous ending.
The final story, ‘Curious, if True’, wasn’t my favourite. It was very strange and confusing. After wandering through France, our protagonist finds himself in a fairytale-esque party. It was an enchanting and whimsical read, and the different storybook characters really made up for the lack of plot.
Goodbye to Berlin:
This is a series of short semi-autobiographical stories set in 1930s Berlin. They explore pre-Nazi Germany, the rise of the communist party as well as Hilter, and the decadent yet glamorous Berlin society.
The first two stories sucked me in straight away; they were elegant, different and had those Great Gatsby vibes. The characters and settings were wonderful, and so unusual. However, the last three stories fell short for me. They were often boring, uninteresting, and unsettling. The treatment of the Jews by the Nazi soldiers was brutal and real, which was the only element I could praise from these last three stories, but other than that they held no weight.
It was an interesting read, but didn’t hold up to the expectations I had for it.
I started Juliet Barker’s 1000 page biography on the Brontës at the start of September. The reason it took me so long was because I didn’t solely dedicate myself to it; I wanted to soaked everything up slowly, in addition to my ever-present uni reading inevitably pushing it to the side. Fast-forward to end of October and I finally reached the end. Reading this was an adventure. Through such extensive research (11 years to be exact), I was transported into each life of the family – from Maria to Patrick, from Branwell to Charlotte, from Emily to Anne, I learnt everything there is to know.
The main concern with this biography is to destroy the ever-looming “Brontë myth” that was created by the likes of Gaskell, but has been perpetuated ever since. Barker successfully managed to do this through offering alternative, more accurate and truthful explanations, whether this concerned the ‘uncivilised’ Haworth or the image of three isolated sisters only find comfort in themselves. Due to the amount of detail in this, I’ve come away feeling like I know each member individually, as fully as I can, as if I know them personally. It’s a rather pleasant feeling.
I’d definitely and wholeheartedly recommend this to any fan of the family. It’s worth the read, even if it does take months. You’ll never find yourself bored or uninterested, despite the mundane lives of the family.
Coming Up for Air:
Written by George Orwell and published just before the outbreak of the Second World War, this is centred around George’s Bowling’s fear of modernity. He foresees “food queues, soldiers, secret police and tyranny”. He escapes to his idyllic hometown where his childhood memories are still ripe and vivid. However, the effects of war haunt this place, illuminating how the England was broken after such a tumultuous time.
I love reading Orwell, so I expected to really enjoy this one. I thought it would explore the effects war had on such a small, provincial village, but unfortunately it did not meet my expectations. Bowling was so dull and boring. All he spoke about was being a fat, forty-five year old misogynist who only finds enjoyment in fishing. Also, I felt like war took a backside in this. If it was at the forefront of the narrative, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Not my favourite, unfortunately!
I’m pretty pleased with the amount I’ve read this month considering I started writing some of my uni assignments. My favourite was definitely Barker’s biography, so I’d recommend it to those of you who are fellow Brontë fans!
Thanks for reading, Lauren Xx