I picked up this book to read because it was a short novel – I’ve been wanting to read more short novels recently. (Not only is it a resolution to myself, but it also makes me feel better about the number of books I’ve read, and helps with my ambitious Goodreads reading challenge!) I’m not completely naive though; I had looked up which short novels are recommended, and this one particularly caught my eye. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, it depicts the life of Florence Green who lives in her small East Anglian town, and decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop. For me, anything about working in a bookshop or with books will always persuade me to want to give it a chance and read it, and this novel was no exception.
This wasn’t a bad book – certainly there was nothing specific that made me react negatively to it. Yet, when I was asked how I felt about this book, all I could think of was “pleasant”. It’s an easy read for sure: the writing is good, and there’s no denying her ability to create interesting and realistic characters – which is so central to this novel. Her writing captures a sense of place to the story, specifically the close community that is so opposed to the establishing of a bookshop, against the stubbornness and strong-will of the protagonist, Florence.
Maddaddam is the final novel in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian trilogy of the same name. Having enjoyed the first two novels – Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood – I was looking forward to starting the final novel, particularly to see how it would all end, and like the previous novels, I wasn’t at all disappointed.
Whereas the trilogy’s two previous novels’ plots run within the same period of time, along parallel timelines, Maddaddam continues on from their endings, providing a completely new and unknown plot. This was great for establishing the novel as both a continuation of the story, and its inevitable conclusion too, while also bringing something different from the rest of the trilogy.
Last week I travelled up to Edinburgh in Scotland, to the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I’ve wanted to go for a few years now, and finally I got around to it! (Well, it was my birthday present to my boyfriend, who wanted to go too, so I thought that was as good an excuse as any!).
During my time at the Fringe I kept being taken aback my just how it completely takes over the entire city: it’s not just a few places all in one small area, as I had expected, but venues spread across the city centre – all of which were remarkably well signposted. The venues themselves were all made to accommodate the various types of performances at the Fringe, both big and small. Not only was it well-organised, including the many bars and food stalls, but the number of posters covering the city was astonishing – on the sides of buses, on lamp-posts, and on the walls of buildings all the way into Leith (where we stayed), in addition to all the flyers that were being constantly handed out. Given that this year marked the 70th anniversary of the Fringe I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised at the level of organisation, but I really was impressed.
I first found this novel in a bookshop about a month or so ago, just days before it won the ‘Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction‘. Following this it seemed to be advertised in every bookstore I went into; it had suddenly become a hugely important novel in the literary community. And thus, when I finally bought myself a copy, I was really looking forward to reading it!
The story really caught my attention from the moment I started reading – hence why I finished it in three days while on holiday! However, I guess it’s not surprising that I enjoyed it, with my love for the dystopian and the obvious feminist aspect to the story’s premise: a world where teenage girls develop an immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death, with electricity that now flows through their bodies.
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.
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 visited 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 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!
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!
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.