Ramblings, Uncategorized

Henry Tilney – An Underrated Hero

So my Jane Austen journey is nearly over. As you may have guessed from the title, I have just completed Northanger Abbey which leaves only Mansfield Park left to read. As you may have also guessed from the title, I rather enjoyed this book’s male protagonist.

From what I can gather, Henry Tilney is not a favourite among Austen fans, or at least is considered no match for the likes of Mr Darcy or Captain Wentworth. This is a notion that completely dumbfounds me as I found him to be utterly charming from his very first exchange with Catherine Morland.

The Mr Darcys and Captain Wentworths of the world are fine, noble men, but spend far too much time brooding and acting coldly towards their prospective love interests, whereas Mr Tilney shows warmth and humour from the very start. I understand that Northanger Abbey is Austen’s first novel, but it seems interesting to me that the characteristics she bestows upon her first ‘hero’ are the same ones that belong to the rogues in later novels such as Sense and Sensibility’s Mr Willoughby, Persuasion’s Mr Elliott and, not forgetting, the wretched Mr Wickham. In reading the novels out of order, I was pleasantly surprised when the charming, open gentleman that Catherine first takes a liking to doesn’t turn out to be a scoundrel.

I think it likely that Austen’s depictions of silent, brooding men have been partly responsible for their over-representation in romantic stories today when, although we all feel as though we’d love a handsome and reserved Mr Darcy, would probably, in reality, much prefer conversing and joking with someone as quick-witted and amiable as Mr Tilney. Perhaps Jane Austen thought that her own voice was expressed too strongly via Mr Tilney, particularly his commentaries on reading and his playful joking about the nature of women, but I find it difficult to understand how her other male protagonists are so different to this initial hero (except, of course, in their propriety).

I only hope that as Catherine matures she can grow to appreciate and enjoy her husband’s wit as I’m sure so many of Northanger Abbey’s readers do.

Favourite quotes:

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

“It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of a man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire… Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it. Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter.” 

“I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.”

“… her heart was affectionate, her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind – her manners just removed from the awkwardness and shyness of a girl; her person pleasing, and, when in good looks, pretty – and her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is.”

The wit of Henry Tilney:

“Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.” Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh. “I see what you think of me,” said he gravely — “I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow.”

“My journal!”

“Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings — plain black shoes — appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.”

“Indeed I shall say no such thing.”

“Shall I tell you what you ought to say?”

“If you please.”

“I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him — seems a most extraordinary genius — hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say.”

“And now, Henry,” said Miss Tilney, “that you have made us understand each other, you may as well make Miss Morland understand yourself—unless you mean to have her think you intolerably rude to your sister, and a great brute in your opinion of women in general. Miss Morland is not used to your odd ways.”

“I shall be most happy to make her better acquainted with them.”

“No doubt; but that is no explanation of the present.”

“What am I to do?”

“You know what you ought to do. Clear your character handsomely before her. Tell her that you think very highly of the understanding of women.”

“Miss Morland, I think very highly of the understanding of all the women in the world—especially of those—whoever they may be—with whom I happen to be in company.”

“That is not enough. Be more serious.”

“Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.”

Advertisements
Ramblings

A life in books…

We all have those books that create lasting impressions. Whether they inspired a love of a particular author or genre, or simply came at an important time in your life, there will always be some tomes that hold a special place in your heart. I thought I would list some of mine:

Alices’ Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll
Plot: Alice falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world filled with fascinating creatures.
Why it’s important to me: The first ‘big girl’ book I read when I was 7. At school you were allowed to read certain books when you reached a certain reading level and this was the first book I read when I reached the top reading level, I just remember being fully immersed in this foreign magical world.

A Candle in the Dark – Adele Geras
The plot: Two Jewish children are sent to the England by their parents to escape Nazi Germany and they wonder if they will ever see their parents again.
Why it’s important to me: One of the first fiction books I read about WWII at a young age and it really helped me understand just how terrible things were for Jewish people during the Nazi regime. I read this when I was about 8 or 9 years old and just remember feeling so scared for the children in the book.

Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
Plot (fairly obvious): On his 11th birthday Harry Potter discovers he is a wizard and starts a life filled with adventure after he is enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Why it’s important to me: No list is complete for any twenty-something book lover without the Harry Potter Series. People who didn’t read the books can easily dismiss it as hype, but like all Harry Potter lovers know, J.K. Rowling didn’t just create some fun adventure stories, but lessons in how important love is and creating a wonderful, rich world which, on each re-read, feels a little bit like home.

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
Plot: When the Orient Express gets stuck in a snowdrift and a passenger with a shady past is discovered murdered in his cabin, Poirot must discover which of his fellow travellers is responsible.
Why it’s important to me: My first Agatha Christie which spawned a life-long love of Poirot and his little grey cells. Easily one of my favourite (if not my favourite) authors, I have read every one of Christie’s books and I will always remember my first foray into her work.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Plot: A lawyer attempts to ensure his black client has a fair trial during the racial tensions of 1930s USA as seen through the eyes of his daughter.
Why it’s important to me: One of the first books to inspire strong emotions in me. I found myself feeling so frustrated and angry at the injustice faced by the black community in the book.

Private Peaceful – Michael Morpurgo
Plot: Two brothers fall in love with the same girl whilst also facing the horrors of the trenches during World War I.
Why it’s important to me: I read this book in one day whilst sitting on a beach in Spain. Having recently completed a school project on ‘Shot at Dawn’, it was the perfect accompaniment to highlight the hardships and injustice that these young men faced and the ‘crimes’ they were wrongly executed for, and I felt ashamed at how much of this part of history and the treatment of these men is brushed under the carpet.

Malvolio’s Revenge – Sophie Masson
Plot: A troupe of English actors travel around rural Louisiana performing a sequel to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. When they meet the beautiful and mysterious heiress of Illyria, their lives become intertwined with the magic and mystery of 1900s New Orleans. 
Why it’s important to me:
I received a proof copy of this book from my cousin after she found it discarded in the bookshop she worked in, and it quickly became one of my favourite books. I have yet to find someone else who has read it, but I cannot help but recommend this charming and sometimes spooky tale which blends Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with a bright and colourful New Orleans; it inspired a life-long ambition to travel to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Plot: In 1950s Barcelona young Daniel picks up a copy of The Shadow of the Wind after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The dark past of the book’s author and a mysterious figure burning copies of his books begins to affect Daniel’s own life.
Why it’s important to me: This was the first book I read of Zafon’s and I fell completely in love with his knack for storytelling. The mystical setting of Barcelona’s streets and the love of literature expressed in the book, quickly made this one of my favourite reads. It was a huge factor behind my decision to live and study in Barcelona, and the sequels continue to be just as captivating and magical. I also continue to be thoroughly impressed with Lucia Graves’ translations of his work which read just like original texts.

The Return – Victoria Hislop
Plot: On a visit to Spain, a young British woman discovers the story of an Andalucian family torn apart by the Spanish Civil War.
Why it’s important to me: I was always ashamed that I learned so little about the Spanish Civil War during my history education. I understand that growing up in the UK, most of our history lessons are focused on the British involvement in the World Wars, nevertheless, I always felt lacking in knowledge of my father’s country’s history. At Sixth Form and university I studied the war, but I have to say that The Return perfectly captures the way in which families were completely torn apart by the horrific conflict. I cried many times reading this book and I challenge anyone not to feel incredibly moved by the Ramirez family’s plight which was all too real for so many families and communities at the time.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Plot: Set in London in 2540 AD, reproduction is now carried out by artificial means and citizens are placed into predetermined classes. Advanced technology and entertainment feature heavily in people’s lives, however Bernard Marx feels like something isn’t quite right and his travels to the preserved ‘savage’ existence of the ancient world opens his eyes (it’s pretty hard to condense the plot into a couple of lines!)
Why it’s important to me: I love both A Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, but as I see our growing reliance on technology and social media and need to seek validation through these means, I can’t help but feel that perhaps Huxley’s bleak view of the future is closer to reality. His ideas that that the way to control the masses isn’t through censorship and oppression, but via never-ending streams of information and propaganda aimed at confusing and overwhelming us, delivered by those material items we value most, seems all too familiar.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss
Plot: A poem on what awaits you when you embark on adulthood.
Why it’s important to me: I think everyone should read this book on becoming an adult. Whether it’s when graduating university or leaving school to start work, this poem perfectly sums up what to expect in life; the highs, the lows and the loneliness, and the consequences of your decisions.

I am disappointed by how many of these deal with depressing or difficult subjects, but I feel often these themes tend to leave deeper impressions.

Which books have greatly affected you?

Ramblings, Uncategorized

Rediscovering my love of the library

I have always depended on libraries. The  library in my home town is an impressive sandstone building which stands proudly at the crux of our town’s main roads and from the moment I was old enough to own my own library card I remember going there  on fortnightly visits to the with my mum, always excited to find a new book, cd or film to rent.

As we weren’t terribly well off, the library was my main source for reading materials and, on entering my late teens with little to no internet access at home, it became my weekly stop for internet use (even as late as 2008 I made the weekly trip to the library to do my weekend studying and university applications).  I loved the fact that after my studies, I could go for a wander along the bookshelves and pick up something new.

At university, like many, the library became one of the few quiet places where I could get essays and work done, I am sure I am not alone in pulling all-nighters sequestered among the bookshelves.

Then I started full time work in London and somehow just stopped visiting the library. I still read, but mainly picked up my books in second-hand book markets, or charity shops or (when feeling particularly wealthy in gifted book vouchers) treated myself to a brand new tome from a bookshop. In London I am spoiled, Foyles, Daunt Books, Hachetts and Waterstones offer fantastic selections in numerous languages, and the second-hand bookshops offer a wide variety of recent releases and classics (my favourites include the Oxfam bookshop in Hampstead and Bookmongers in Brixton). However, I noticed that I was buying books that I didn’t necessarily want to read, and then disappointed in having spent the money on them.

So, earlier this year, I decided to check out my local library and have been reminded of what I have been missing. Firstly, since my days of frequenting the library, eBooks and Audiobooks have improved enormously. Whilst I steadfastly refuse to use eBooks (I look at screens all day at work and am terrible at charging my devices) I have found joy in listening to audiobooks on my walks to and from work, and my library allows 15 free audiobook downloads. I have also recently joined a book club, so the library is a fantastic way of accessing the books I need to read, without risking spending the full amount on a book I may not enjoy. I also forgot how great it is just to wander and pick up any book in genres I don’t typically read, or on subjects I know little about, to see whether I might discover a new interest.

Therefore it saddens me to see libraries being used less and less. I came across a Guardian article (published in 2016) on a report regarding the significant decline library usage in the UK over the past decade, and it was interesting to note that poorer areas, like the town I grew up in, have been least affected. I know it is easier with eBooks and online shopping to pick up books with a click of a button, but I still feel like in wandering through libraries (and even bookshops) you always come across interesting books that catch your eye that you may never have heard of or searched for.

It is with this reacquired enjoyment for libraries that I hope to be using mine much more frequently in the next few years.

Ramblings

Getting back into it….again

Yet again I find myself realising how much I suck at keeping any form of record or journal, which frustrates me as I find it a great way to focus and to express myself outside of work.

My pile of books to read has grown ever higher and so I aim to read at least 50 books by October  – hopefully this blog will keep me on track and ready to read.

I fully expect there to be a couple of re-reads (always the best way to get out of a slump) although I will really be focusing on new books and want to aim to get some new releases in there too.

Completed in 2017 :

  • Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell
  • Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi (2017 UK release)
  • Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (re-read of one of my favourite books of all time)
  • The Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (re-read)
  • The Prisoner of Heaven – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (re-read)
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Sad Cypress – Agatha Christie
  • The Murder at the Vicarage – Agatha Christie
  • The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
  • The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon -David Grann
  • Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie (re-read)
  • Third Girl – Agatha Christie
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray  – Oscar Wilde
  • Autumn  – Ali Smith
  • Nomad  – James Swallow (audiobook)
  • Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  • Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
  • The Athenian Murders – Jose Carlos Somoza
  • Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
  • Nutshell – Ian McEwan
  • The Club Dumas – Arturo Perez – Reverte
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer
Ramblings

Feliç dia de Sant Jordi!

st jordi

Happy St George’s Day!

St George’s Day celebrations are taking place in countries all around the world today. Saint George himself is a prominent figure in the Christian (primarily Catholic) church and the legend of St George and the Dragon is a story so many of us grew up with. Although he is the patron saint of many communities, he is perhaps most commonly identified as the patron saint of England, a country which bears the St George’s Cross on its national flag.

Being English myself, I know the history behind England and our patron saint, but am always disappointed by the lack of celebration for the day itself. Unlike St Patrick’s Day, which is a huge social event in the UK (and many other countries who celebrate it with a a tipple, or two, or four, or ten…), St George’s Day is, for the most part, overlooked. In fact, whilst Scotland hosts many events to celebrate St Andrew’s, and the Welsh population takes pride in St David’s, poor old St George seems to be forgotten about. There are some efforts to celebrate  (Morris dancing always seems to be more popular on St George’s), but on a national scale, celebrations are few and far between.

Therefore, I’m going to share my favourite St George’s Day celebration elsewhere in the world: Sant Jordi, celebrated in the Spanish region of Catalunya, and which also happens to be the perfect celebration for book-lovers worldwide!

La diada de Sant Jordi, or ‘the day of books and roses’ as it is sometimes known, is the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day, and is very much a celebration of love and literature. The red rose has often been associated with St George, with many cultures bearing a rose on their clothing in recognition of the day. The exchanging of books, however, wasn’t introduced until 1923. Traditionally, lovers would exchange gifts. Men presented a single rose to their sweetheart and received a book in return. Nowadays, it is much more common to see books presented by both parties with the rose as an added extra (you know, since equality took off and everyone realised that women liked reading too, not to mention that books are way more expensive than flowers and last a helluva lot longer too!) and some of the bigger companies give free roses away with book purchases.

The result is this:

parada

and this

sant-jordi-2

The streets are lined with stalls offering both new and previously owned books, and you can find a flower vendor on each street corner selling roses of every colour imaginable. I was fortunate enough to be living in Barcelona during the 2011 Sant Jordi celebrations, and the atmosphere is incredible. The Rambla is packed with people surrounding the books stalls which line the entire street, cafes and venues hold 24-hour reading marathons, and book signings are arranged all over the city, renowned for being Spain’s publishing capital. I cannot imagine a more perfect place for hopeless romantics than Barcelona on St George’s Day.

St Valentine’s Day  has become so overly commercialised (particularly in the UK and US) that it has a negative stigma attached to it, and although some companies do jump on Sant Jordi, there is something so simple and romantic about the exchange of books and flowers. The  popularity of the event in Catalunya has made such an impact that in 1995 UNESCO formally announced April 23rd as World Book and Copyright day.

Nevertheless, Catalan celebrations for Sant Jordi aren’t just limited to flowers and literature. Spain is infamous for its ability to throw a good fiesta, and Sant Jordi is no exception. Celebrations in Catalunya involve LOTS of dancing, and squares throughout the region become venues for the Sardana, a traditional Catalan dance that looks a little like this:

sardana-AB

As well as for the popular Castellers (towers of people) the region is known for :

224243_10150170446727411_6026092_n

The incredible sense of celebration and tradition that surrounds the day is an experience that needs to be seen and lived first-hand, and I recommend anyone thinking of visiting Barcelona to try and work their visit around Sant Jordi, especially book-lovers!

I hope you all have a lovely St George’s Day, wherever you are in the world, and however you choose to celebrate it!

Uncategorized

Inspiration from my bookshelf

pile books

I suck at keeping diaries.

It’s true! Again and again, all of the diaries, journals, and even previous blogs I’ve tried to keep over the years have all been abandoned, replaced with hobbies, studies, work, or just given up on due to a simple lack of inspiration

So what’s new?  
A: The need for some creativity in my life.

Since graduating last June I have been working as a freelance translator, and constantly translating, editing, and proof-reading the words of others has made me realise how much I miss expressing myself and using my own thoughts and feelings to produce my own original material. Sure, in translation I get to exercise my writing skills. I get to play with words and phrasing, exploring ways to make target texts as idiomatic as possible, and in this I get to play with different styles, journalistic when translating news articles, informative when detailing product descriptions, persuasive when working on non-profit pieces, but they are not my own creations. I never truly think of them as my work. So now I’ve started this blog as a way to produce my own material and write about what care about.

Why High Piled Books?

Aside from it being a reference to my second favourite Keats poem (my favourite being ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ for any Keats enthusiasts out there), it literally refers to this huge pile of books I have to get through (see above).

LOVE books. This love was the driving force behind my decision to study  languages, and the reason I hope to pursue a career in publishing in the future.

I read all the time and always have a book close at hand, I once even had one tucked in my bag in a night club (it is way less pathetic than it sounds when given the context of the situation), but unfortunately, with work and other things occupying my time, I haven’t been able to read as often as I’d like to recently, yet have continued to buy more, and more, and more books, resulting in this endless tower I now have to find a way to get through. It’s a mixture of books I thought looked interesting on the shelf, ones I’ve been meaning to read for years, and books I have already begun reading but have not yet managed to finish due to time constraints.

Despite having to put my favourite hobby on the back-burner, the plus side is that this Jenga tower of books did provide me with the inspiration for this blog.

I’ve no illusions that the ramblings of a 22-year-old may be of any interest whatsoever to the people of the internet. Hell, there are already so many blogs, vlogs, and twitter accounts that detail the daily lives of unknowns, that another is barely making waves.

Therefore I decided that I wanted to create something that might be of use to others in some way. After finishing a book I love discussing it, what I enjoyed, what I thought the writer did particularly well, how it compares to previous titles in the series/by the same author. I often note down in a journal those I’ve particularly enjoyed, my own kind of personal book review of sorts, and I figured I may as well publish them online where they can act as a reference for the poor soul that happens to stumble across this page and might be interested in reading them.

And so this is what to expect, a book-review blog…sort of.

I won’t be reviewing all the latest releases (as you might be able to make out from the photo, some of these have been out a pretty long time now, give or take 150 years), and they won’t be super-objective critical writings, just my own personal take on the book, what I enjoyed about it, or what I didn’t so much. It also won’t be purely book reviews, there’ll most likely be a mixture of any book-related news or random facts I find interesting that I hope you will too. I’m open to any suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed, although it may take me a wee while to get around to reading them!

Well, here goes.

Fingers crossed I keep it up! 

(the blog I mean, not the book pile, fingers crossed that goes down quickly to make room for more!)