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.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway - Book Review 17, Sep
‘This is a story of death rather than defeat. The certainty of death is examined’

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a brilliant story inspired from true events during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Of the guerrilla warfare between the fascist leader Franco and the Republican resistance. A story that bluntly accepts the horrors of life and one that sheds light on the sheer obstacles that people can overcome with purpose. It is a book that not only delivers a thrilling read, but also has an intense moral code that one can aspire to follow.

“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”

As the quote above expresses, For Whom the Bells Tolls maintains a tone that delivers simultaneously an inevitability of death, but also hope in the acts of kindness and humanity that is shown throughout.

Told in the wonderfully slick prose that employs both a refreshing authenticity in dialogue and also a realistic depiction of the human mind. Unlike so many other books I have read, For Whom the Bell Tolls projects the actual human beings caught in conflict. The characters face significant challenges and are faced with tribulations I can hardly imagine, yet the daily struggles and moments of joy and laughter are shown as well. It was this incorporation of even the most trivial of things that brought the story to life for me, and somehow made the story more tragic, depicting the continuity and normalisation of living always with the possibility of death lurking beyond.

The range of characters that Hemingway created was incredible. With many authors, you find that they have a specific type of character who stands above anyone else. Silk in The Belgariad, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, and so on. But in this, Robert Jordon is the typical driven military man who won't allow himself to feel emotion, then encounters love. But the exploration of his mental tenacity take this common archetype, and makes him a brilliant protagonist. His willingness to sacrifice anything for what he believes to be a great cause is presented in such a humble manner that is just incredible. He is a character that will go down in my list of favourites perspectives ever. Alongside this, you have Pilar, the ageing woman, wise and fiery, brutal and loving. I expected the female characters to fit into stereotypes because of the context this was written and the little I know about Hemingway himself, but it was radical in that Pilar is one of the strongest female characters I have encountered in fiction in any genre. Again, her motivations and limitations were constructed so realistically, and that is what sets them apart from most other novels. I could go through a long list of the unique characters, but my point is that if you read this, you will come away feeling an intense connection with each and every person. That is Hemingway's quality as a writer.

“For what are we born if not to aid one another?”

Alongside the wonderful prose and characterisation, the plot was also brilliant. A series of twists and turns, of big and small events that expertly drove the pace forward at what I felt to be almost perfection. There were scenes that slow the pace down and really make you think as a reader, and then heart pounding moments that immersed me into the chaos taking place on page, from the skirmishes to moments of clarity and the times when all seems to have descended into failure.

Overall, I think you can tell, I loved this book. As with so much I have been reading recently, it is a completely new style and subject to what I am comfortable with. Yet it was easy to adapt to and something I will searching for far more of in the future. Hemingway presents ideas of love, anger, hatred, discrimination and determination in such nuanced ways that was genuinely moving. It inspired both heartwarming moments and those of anger from myself. As a reader, there isn't much more you can ask for.

“How little we know of what there is to know. I wish that I were going to live a long time instead of going to die today because I have learned much about life in these four days; more, I think than in all other time. I'd like to be an old man to really know. I wonder if you keep on learning or if there is only a certain amount each man can understand. I thought I knew so many things that I know nothing of. I wish there was more time.”

5/5 STARS

 

The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) by Philip Pullman 31, Aug

The Secret Commonwealth jumps about two decades from the ending of its predecessor. I said with La Belle Sauvage that you did not have to read His Dark Materials, but that is not the case with The Secret Commonwealth.

 

I was really excited for this, especially after really enjoying the first of this series. Bu other than the prose, each element of this story was weaker and less intriguing. But it is still a book that fans of this world will enjoy.

 

The main protagonist is Lyra once again, now a few years older. A major theme of the novel is her arguing with her daemon, which was heartbreaking, but jarred horribly with their personalties. It seemed forced and only to drive the plot further, making no real sense.

 

“You're in a world full of colour and you want to see it in black and white.”

 

The main character of the former book, Malcolm, is also in this, now a professor. I loved his naive determination and moral code in the first book, but was put-off in this one. He makes a few….questionable decisions that really distanced me from the character and took me out of the story. I’m sure those who have read The Secret Commonwealth will know what I am referring to.

 

A disheartening aspect to this book is that the events of the previous series appear to have been for nothing. The world and its evils have not been suppressed or altered in any way, making His Dark Materials basically useless.

 

Of course Pullman’s prose will never be a weakness. It is lyrical as always and immersive. Narrated by the wonderful Michael Sheen, the style convinced me to plough on through this massive book! My two favourite aspects of the experience.

 

“You won’t understand anything about the imagination until you realise that it’s not about making things up, it’s about perception.”

 

 

Overall, The Secret Commonwealth was a disappointment on all levels, with the exception of prose. And also the narration on Audible was brilliant, which is not down to Phillip Pullman himself. Characters developed in unnatural ways, plot seemed forced, and it was very different from the usual experiences I have had regarding Pullman’s works.

 

3/5 STARS

Regeneration (Regeneration #1) by Pat Barker - Book Review 18, Aug

“Fear, tenderness - these emotions were so despised that they could be admitted into consciousness only at the cost of redefining what it meant to be a man.”

 

Regeneration is a story inspired by true events of World War One. Centres around the now famous war poet, Siegfried Sassoon, and his inspiring of Wilfred Owen, the story takes place in a hospital called Craiglockhart, for those suffering shell shock, PTSD.

 

It is a story of intricate characterisation, the horrific consequences of war, and the internal conflict each character faces. Everyone faces different tribulations and struggles that appear impossible to overcome, yet they can unite over their experiences, and it is what forges them into brothers.

 

“You know you're walking around with a mask on, and you desperately want to take it off and you can't because everybody else thinks it's your face.”

 

Sassoon is the central character. He wrote The Declaration, which criticised and discredited those causing the war, proclaiming that it could have been ended, and was not fuelled by incessant greed. Yet, he faces the trial of facing heavy opposition who can send him far away, and the guilt of leaving his men on the front line.

 

It Is a story of moral dilemmas that plagues all, especially that of William Rivers, the doctor, who wishes to ‘regenerate’ those in his care, but only to send them back to the front line, to almost certain death. This was emphasised by the subtle and smooth prose that allowed ideas, themes and undertones to evolve and naturally present themselves to the reader, depicting realistic and believable mentalities to the characters.

 

“A society that devours its own young deserves no automatic or unquestioning allegiance.”

 

Regeneration was a haunting yet revealing story that was brilliant in presenting both the horrors of the war, but the reasons of why people fought, and how it formed bonds and inspiration. Focusing on Sassoon, it was amazing to find out how and why he used poetry in the way he did to portray such powerful visions of the reality of war.

 

 

4.5/5