To celebrate my dissertation being handed in, I decided to treat myself to some books. Recently, all I’ve been buying is nineteenth century novels, and, although I love this period, I wanted some variety. These books, in particular, are modern novels that have been sat in my wish-list for an unworthy amount of time. Not only that, but a lot of these are second-hand. Since buying my third year university books second-hand, I’ve come to realise that used books are good. They’re cheap, they’re not always damaged, and they need a loving home. I, for one, can provide that home.
These are the books I’ve picked up (the first five are new, Cauldron’s Bubble was sent me to by the author for review, and the last four are second-hand, if you’re wondering):
I saw Katie talk about this in a video, and ordered it straight after. I love Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, so I can hope I’ll love this equally. This novel is a “wonderment of storytelling and an inspired accompaniment to Emily Bronte’s adored work. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save”.
It relies heavily on the reading that Nelly’s relationship with Hindley was a lot deeper than just servant and master’s son. Although I have never really picked up on this reading (I’ve always read their relationship as substitute mother/son), I’m intrigued to see how Alison Case depicts this relationship. I want to see if it is convincing, and if I potentially agree with her.
The Way of the Flesh:
This is the only Victorian novel in this haul (I couldn’t help myself, and it adds to my Penguin English Library collection – okay). This one enticed me for its discussion on the middle-class, which is my favourite thing about the Victorians. Class dictated everything, so for the protagonist to cast it aside to discover his true self really intrigued me.
It follows Ernest Pontifex, an awkward son of a tyrannical clergyman and a priggish mother. Despite being destined to follow his father’s footsteps, Ernest gleefully rejects his parents’ respectability and chooses instead to find his own way in the world. I’m really eager to get to this one; I’ve never heard anyone speak about Samuel Butler before, so I wonder if he’ll suit my tastes!
This novella follows Coraline, who’s recently moved homes to a place where something feels off. It’s not the ever-present mist, or the lurking cat, nor is it her weird neighbours who read tea leaves and keep a circus of rats. It’s the door; a portal to the Other House, where the Other Mother and Father live with black buttoned eyes and paper white skin. They wish to keep Coraline forever, and, if she doesn’t get to that door, she might not ever escape.
As soon as this came, I picked it up immediately. I absolutely love the film version, so I knew I’d love this. It turns out that I love it even more. A full review of this will be going live on my blog at some point, I just don’t know when. Considering this is children’s literature (which is a genre I don’t tend to reach for because, well, I hate it), I surprisingly enjoyed it. Although it read like a children’s story, it felt like an adult’s. I’d definitely recommend.
Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace has been on my mind ever since I watched the Netflix series last year. It was utterly brilliant, with an interesting array of characters and a complex narrative. I know it’s frowned on to buy the adaptation covers, but I much prefer this to Atwood’s original orange cover (so, please forgive me).
Set in 1843, the novel explores the life of one of the most notorious women of the century. “Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders. An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember”.
Recently, my interest in Norse mythology has peaked since watching Vikings. I decided to pick up Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Penguin Book of Norse Myths in February, but didn’t end up liking it. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Neil Gaiman’s re-tellings, so I ordered this as soon as the paperback was released (I actually ordered two of these, one was for my boyfriend – I’m trying to make him read more).
Gaiman has apparently stayed true to the Norse myths, including the stories of Odin, Thor and Loki. However, unlike Crossley-Holland, Gaiman has fashioned these “primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants”. I’m interested to see how this plays out, seen as my first experience felt a little disjointed.
This was kindly sent to me by Amber Elby for review. After reading the premise, I knew this would be a story I’d enjoy. It takes inspiration from the best three Shakespeare plays (Macbeth, The Tempest and Hamlet) to create a world full of witches and curse, pirates and princes, and the lost worlds of Shakespeare. Following the two protagonists, Alda and Dreng, the narrative questions whether they will escape with their lives, or just become lost and forgotten. I’m currently making my way through this, so a full review will be coming soon.
Call the Midwife:
The BBC television series is the highlight of my week, so it was about time I got round to reading the novels. Call the Midwife tells the experiences of a young trainee midwife in 1950s East End of London. It’s a graphic portrayal of the appalling conditions that the East Enders endured, whilst also detailing the beauty and hardship that birth can be.
I’m quite excited to get to this. I’ve only heard great things about it, and Jenny was my favourite character back in the day. It’ll be nice to return to her and the original midwives. This is quite out of my comfort zone, despite my enjoyment of the television series, so hopefully it’ll be a great read.
The Essex Serpent:
I’ve been meaning to get to this for a while now. It’s a neo-Victorian novel, which is the reason I’ve been putting it off for so long. The Victorian period is my favourite thing to read about, yet I feel like modern writers don’t always get it right. Although they can discuss the taboo topics of contemporary times, they don’t always feel completely authentic to me. So, when I found this for £3 on a website for a second-hand bookshop, I purchased it immediately.
It’s set in 1890s, and is “enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way”. I hope this lives up to the high praise and expectations!
The Diary of a Young Girl:
I’ve been wanting to read Anne Frank’s memoir for a while now, but I always put off buying it. As it was incredibly cheap for second-hand, I finally picked it up. Although it’s not the edition I thought would come (I wanted the new Penguin Modern Classics with the blue spine), I’m still excited to read it.
These are a series of diary entries and personal notes written by Frank, whilst hiding from the Germans in Holland, 1942. It details the “curiosity about her emerging sexuality, the conflicts with her mother, her passion for Peter, a boy whose family hid with hers, and her acute portraits of her fellow prisoners reveal Anne as more human, more vulnerable and more vital than ever”.
The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District:
I being dying to read James ReBanks’ autobiographic book since glancing at it in a Lake District bookshop last year. As spring is coming up, I thought it would be the ideal time to read it. The Lake District is a very special place to me; I live quite near it, and have been visiting it ever since I can remember. It was home to my favourite Romantic poet, one of my favourite childhood writers, and the scenery is just beautiful.
The chapters are framed per season, and follows the account of a shepherd whose family has lived and worked in and around the Lake District for generations. “Their way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand, and has been for hundreds of years”. I’ve been meaning to read more nature writing, so I thought this would be a lovely introduction.
In total, this only cost me £40, which is pretty remarkable considering how many I ended up buying. I’m definitely going to pick up more second-hand books from now on.
Have you read any of these?
Thanks for reading, Lauren X