Croatia – from North to South, and some countries in between…

Over the summer my family and I went away for a couple of weeks to Croatia, where we travelled from the North to the South. I was so excited about this holiday: I had never been to Croatia before, and the idea of a road trip – stopping at some interesting places along the way – seemed a fun way to truly discover the country.

Istria

We started in an area near the North of Croatia, called Istria –  the largest peninsula in the Adriatic, it lies in three countries of Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. It was a lovely area, although seems to be traveled to less by British tourists, and instead lots of German travellers. (Whenever we were greeted by anyone who knew we weren’t Croatian, it was assumed that we spoke German!)

Pula
Pula is the largest city in Istrian Croatia, and is one of Croatia’s important historical cities. It has a rather impressive Roman amphitheatre (I’ve said before that we always have to find a theatre while on holiday!) which was very well intact, as well as other places of interest such as the Temple of Augustus and some fortress walls too. It was an great day out, although very hot and sunny!

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The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood

This book is the second book in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian ‘MaddAddam’ trilogy, which I started last summer. I really liked the first book (Oryx and Crake), so was looking forward to finding out what would happen next.

As in Oryx and Crake, the plot starts after the apocalyptic events and, from the character’s memories, looks back at what has happened in their lives to bring them up to the ‘present day’ of the story. Different from the first novel however, this sequel followed two characters’ journeys: two females who are part of a religious environmental cult, as they try to survive in their dying society. I really enjoyed how this allowed me to see certain characters and events that I had already read about in the first novel, but from different perspectives. Very clever!

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The Ferryman, Jez Butterworth

I was lucky enough to see Jez Butterworth’s new play The Ferryman last month at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It was a highly anticipated production, particularly due to the success of his previous writing, and the prowess of a performance at the Royal Court. Nevertheless, this play exceeded my expectations: I thought it was brilliant.

As I settled down in my seat before the performance started, I was worried the writing would be too profound or self-indulgent (I’m not sure why), but actually it wasn’t at all. Luckily I know a fair bit about the history of the Irish Troubles and the IRA, the context of the play, which I felt helped me get into the plot and characters quickly – although I think it still would have been understandable and easy to follow even without any knowledge. The history of Ireland is itself a fascinating topic, and was incorporated brilliantly into a plot that had me always wondering what would happen next. It was some of the best playwriting I’ve seen all year – yep, Butterworth yet again has written a great play!

The production itself was brilliant too, in which I was especially drawn to the gorgeous set! With the play all occurring in one setting (except the opening scene), a lot of time was put into the single set. It was the attention to small details that caught my eye most – such as the children’s drawings pinned to the walls of the stage – making it feel like a real family home. The stage was a big space, which was important for a play with such a large cast, which made it look smaller. Yet, the production made the most of its size  just by moving the furniture around, as well using the stairs for characters to enter and exit, and a space to stand when not directly involved with the action.

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‘Working’ at Southwark Playhouse

I recently saw a production of the musical ‘Working’ at Southwark Playhouse, south of the river in London. This was the European premier of the musical, following success across the USA, with writing by well-known theatre names including Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights [see my blog post here], and Hamilton). The whole story of the musical, particularly the characters and their dialogue, is based on the book of interviews by Studs Terkel: ‘Working: People Talk About How They Feel About What They Do’. (What a title!).

This musical performs a range of people from different jobs and backgrounds – a topic that is becoming an increasingly discussed with arguments surrounding jobs given to migrants, both in the UK and US. However, I agree with the idea around this musical, that it’s something that should be explored, and theatre is a perfect way to do just that! The cast was brilliant in this production, with a group of six older, experienced actors in contrast and six young performers, who had just graduated (and were all very good!) I really liked this contrast of experience and new. To me it really emphasised another overarching theme of the musical: passing on working knowledge from the old to the young.

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Derby Book Festival, 2017

This summer is the third year of the Derby Book Festival, and this year I have been lucky enough to both attend one of the events and work for the festival too, on a placement organised by my university to help organise one of the events.

Placement
I received my placement through the School of English at university, and it was a brilliant opportunity. When I got the news that I had received the position, after going through the application process at uni, I was so excited to start – particularly working at a book festival, which seems such a unique experience! I was partnered with a fellow English student, and we were given the task of creating the Children’s Book Trail along one of the streets in Derby centre. It felt like such a huge amount of responsibility (and still does): not only were we organising an entire event by ourselves, but it was also the first event of the festival!

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Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick

I really like Anna Kendrick – both her career as an actress and her personality, as a lovely human being (if you don’t follow her on twitter then you really should, she’s hilarious!). So when I found out she was putting her funny little quips into a book I just couldn’t resist picking up a copy. Well I wasn’t disappointed! I loved this book a lot; it had me chuckling with laughter to myself all the way through (and if that’s not a mark of a good book, then  don’t know what is!). I know it’s rather cliché, but it felt like she was in conversation with her readers, using a colloquial writing style that put me at ease and made her anecdotes stand out as even funnier.

I’ve read quite a few autobiographies, but never one by an actress, so I was really iterated in finding out more about that type of life – particularly Kendrick’s career on both stage and screen. The book follows her life and developing career from a child working on-stage on Broadway, all the way up to her recent cinematic appearances, such as Pitch Perfect, her time working with Zac Efron, and even working on the Twilight franchise.

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The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler

So if you can’t tell from previous posts on this blog, I love Jane Austen – and that was what made me initially attracted to reading this book. (I mean, her name is in the title!) However, it turned out to be not quite what I expected.

The premise of the book is that the lives of the characters of the bookclub start to resemble the books that they are reading. But to be honest, I didn’t really get it. I don’t know if it was just me and my forgetful nature about the details of the book (some of which I read quite a while ago), but I felt like it was just a gimmick to entice the readers by using Austen’s name, rather than a well-used device that improved the novel. Continue reading