William
William

William

William is from Sussex, UK.

He has a passion for literature and enjoys reading all sorts of books. His hobbies are numerous and consist of medieval/viking reenactment, writing, karate and of course reading.

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn - Book Review 24, Nov

Virginia Woolf said Oroonoko was the first novel. What makes the context of this story even more remarkable is that if we agree with this, then the first novelist was a woman, written in the late 17th century. 

“A poet is a painter in his way, he draws to the life, but in another kind; we draw the nobler part, the soul and the mind; the pictures of the pen shall outlast those of the pencil, and even worlds themselves.”

It is a story told in an almost biographical manner about Prince Oroonoko, who lived in the Caribbean Islands, and whom the author was in awe of. Behn forms his character with a sense of realism despite his idealised nature, with the real figure of Prince Oroonoko serving as the direct inspiration and supplier of plot. He is the symbol of honour and deserves respect of all. But unto this he is stripped of his rank and taken as a slave. Yet he maintains his integrity and the impression of his personality on all he meets. 

A particular favourite aspect of mine in this read was the romantic thread, which I do not often say. Unlike so many stories I have read, it appeared natural, despite also being idealised The way Behn implemented this into the story gave the story a humanity that was needed for a connection to be made with Oroonoko.

The prose of Behn does not focus on emotive language, but rather tells the story of what is happening in a factual, fluid and immersive manner, which cleverly presented the setting and culture and characters of all parties so effectively.

But, Oroonoko is a product of its time, especially with the topic of colonialism. Behn appears to show two opinions on slavery. By having slavery as the means in which Oroonoko is tragically stripped from his power, It is projected as barbarous and a tool of injustice, but paradoxically Behn shows support by depicting its importance in sustaining the British Empire that is heralded as a great ideal.

“Where there is no novelty, there can be no curiosity"

The fact that Oroonoko was inspired largely by true facts and then idealised and romanticised added an extra does of realism into this novel, but also made it even more interesting. In this multifaceted novel, we are introduced to an inspiring and evocative story, memorable characters of both a loveable and hatable disposition, and the fluid prose of Aphra Behn. A short, thought-provoking read.

4.5/5 STARS

Normal People by Sally Rooney - Book Review 16, Nov

I was given Normal People as a gift by my parents after they watched the adaptation of this story of Sally Rooney’s. I have never read anything like this, and was not sure what to expect. But I was intrigued, and so I started it. Never did I expect that I would finish it within 48 hours and love it!

Normal People really is true to the title. And that is why it is brilliant. It is a story of Normal People in realistic circumstances who have a relatable life. Marianne and Connell are the two central protagonists, from Ireland. The story begins with their college years, and then advances through their experiences throughout university. And the way their personalities develop and regress and change, making them grow apart and yet simultaneously together. It was an amazing story to read.

“Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn't know if she would ever find out where it was or become part of it.”

This may perhaps be the most well formed romance I have read in fiction. Many novels suffer from this being forced or rushed or unnatural, which is understandable given the limitations of time to grow a story in a matter of pages. But Normal People really delivered a warming and wrenching relationship that was believable and so realistic, with unexpected peaks and troughs, unique problems separating them and life presenting constant tribulations.

The prose was one of the strong points of this story. As soon as I was a few pages, I was sucked in. The natural energy of the prose was magnetic and allowed me to glide from one page to the next, living the journey with the characters. It really was so easy to read, with an incredible fluid nature, but at the same time made me consciously think about what was occurring. I thought the pacing was just perfect, allowing me to be swept along with the story, but allowing pauses exactly when needed to contemplate the events that had just unraveled. Just brilliant!

“It feels powerful to him to put an experience down in words, like he's trapping it in a jar and it can never fully leave him.”

The plot wasn’t grand or epic or crazy. It was real life. And that was perfect. With some shocking events that happen to only a few people, but also the norms. The occasions and trials so many people go through. It was the manner in which the plot was delivered that made it brilliant. It wasn’t romanticised or melodramatic. It was perfect for the type of story that it is.

Not only were attachments formed with the two central protagonists, but also with the supporting characters. Sally Rooney really masterfully established characters with such depth just within a manner of scenes that developed a number of layers, as every person really does. One example is Lorraine, who was one of my favourites. She has quite a small amount of time on the page, yet she is so memorable, and understandable, and loveable.

“Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything”

Overall, I cannot do this justice. I hope I have managed to project my love and respect for this story. Along with crafting such a brilliant journey, Rooney also forms one that will linger on the mind for weeks and months to come. Even now, months after finishing, I still think about specific scenes and characters and come to understand the story further. Normal People is essentially a beautifully told story about relationships with those around us.

Even if this is not the usual story you would choose to read, or you don’t feel intrigued by the blurb, please just read this. I felt the same. Do yourself a favour and read this. 

Now I have finished reading Normal People, I will go on to watch the BBC adaptation, which is apparently equally as brilliant.

I RECOMMEND THIS TO EVERYONE

5/5 STARS

Beowulf translation by Seamus Heaney - Book Review 12, Nov
“I’ve never known fear; as a youth I fought/ In endless battles. I am old, now,/ But I will fight again, seek fame still,/ If the dragon hiding in his tower dares/ To face me”

This is the first time that I read a translation of the original version of Beowulf. I am very familiar with the story, having read the brilliant children’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s, and also the animated 2007 movie with Ray Winstone (a great film). And this did nothing but strengthen my love for the story.

Beowulf, the epic poem, was an incredibly interesting and enjoyable read. The form as an epic and the prose immersed me into the Norse world and swept me along what is a riveting story infused with fascinating Norse culture and the fantastical idea of Monster VS Man. I know that this edition is not completely authentic to the original, as Heaney put his own poetic spin onto it. This makes Beowulf a more accessible read for any reader. I now loom forward to finding time to read perhaps Tolkien's translation of this epic poem.

“Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what's said and what's done.”

The manner in which fact and fiction, history and mythology, are mixed in this poem is fascinating. On the one side we have the classic gritty Scandinavian world of war and conflict between the clans of the Geats and Jutes and Danes and so on. And then we have monsters such as Grendel, which allow Beowulf to rise to the status of hero that has become so famous.

Beowulf himself as a character is interesting, as he is an incredible warrior who’s skills are exemplified through his bravery. But, despite this poem being written in a culture far different than ours, his honour, dedication to duty and courage are compelling traits that still make us route for his character as opposed to his enemies. 

“I shall gain glory or die.”

I love Norse Mythology and Scandinavian history, hence part of the reason I loved this tale. But that is not all. It is an accessible poem that contains themes of heroism, tragedy and everything in between within its prose, which in itself is smooth and stirring. Anyone who enjoys historical tales, mythology or anything linked to such things, I believe that you will love the epic story of Beowulf, which has resonated through the ages.

5/5 STARS