book review – good omens

What better book to be reviewing right now than Good Omens – a collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman recounting the comedic events leading up to the End of the Times, and the efforts of the unlikely duo of demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale to stop it in it’s tracks. Indeed, I myself have felt like I could be living in this book during recent weeks; the chaotic events of the novel seem no more unlikely than the current global pandemic.

I first fell in love with this story and it’s characters after watching the Amazon Prime TV adaptation of the book. Normally, I would never dream of watching an adaptation before reading the novel itself, but in this case, the casting and portrayal of the characters in the TV show did complete justice to their literary counterparts. David Tennant as Crowley and Michael Sheen as Aziraphale made the perfect combination, and I couldn’t wait to read the book as soon as I’d finsihed the show.

I’ll be honest, it’s taken a couple of months for me to finish the book given the general turmoil of the world and my consequent lack of focus. However, I think this book will definitely be one I will lovingly return to time and time again. The standard of storytelling is excellent, and aside from the inventive and hilarious plot, the characters of the novel are incredibly well rounded. Not only Crowley and Aziraphale, but secondary characters and even those who are mentioned only once of twice, are described so well they seem as though they are real people who could jump out of the page at any moment. The plot, and numerous sub-plots, are expertly crafted and interlaced, and the end of the novel ties up any loose ends perfectly.

I’d highly recommend Good Omens the book to anyone who wants a good, lighthearted read, as well as the TV show which in my opinion perfectly replicates the novel.

My summer reading

I haven’t written a monthly reads post in ages, so I thought I’d update things by recapping what I’ve read over the summer so far:

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book had me hooked from the outset. The psychological thriller follows the narrator Louise, who, after receiving a friend request from a long-dead friend, begins to grow increasing paranoid. Gripping, and with a thrilling twist at the end, this book definitely deserves the 5 stars I have given it.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I love a good dystopian fiction, so I really enjoyed this thought-provoking book by the fantastic Ray Bradbury. Set in a future where the mere possession of a book can put a person in danger, I found the story really made me reflect on the importance of writing and reading to our society. What’s even more amazing is that Bradbury wrote the book in just 9 days!

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

⭐️⭐️⭐️

I found this book to be bizarre and strangely captivating, although I occasionally found my attention drifting as I lost the thread of the story. This is also set in a dystopian world, where genetic mutants are outlawed, and the main characters’ differences mean they are separated from their society. I think the idea of the novel is good, and it is well written. However, for me, it was not so much of a page turner as some of the other books I’ve read.

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Similarly to The Chrysalids, it took me some time to get through this novel, as I found it a bit slow-paced. However, I refused to abandon the book and I was gradually drawn into the life of the main character Shevek, as he travelled from his home world of Annares to the planet of Urras to pursue his work as a physicist. Le Guin’s work is well-crafted, and once I was immersed into the novel I quite enjoyed it.

Before I go to sleep by S.J.Watson

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I picked up this psychological thriller in a second hand book store, and had finished it within a few days! It follows Christine – who has a rare form of amnesia which means she forgets everything about her identity when she falls asleep – as she attempts to record her past in the form of a diary, discovering that the truths she has been being fed do not entirely add up. I was hooked on the book, and found myself empathising with Catherine, desperate to find out the truth about her situation. I would highly recommend this book, and as it is the same genre as the novel I myself am writing, I found it very inspirational!

March reads

I’ve only managed to read one book this month, so I’m a little disappointed in myself. I need to try and read more! However, I give high praise to the book I have read:

Chocolat

Joanne Harris

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really enjoyed this book, deciding to reading it after watching the film a while ago. It’s not my typical sort of thing, but I actually really liked it. There are some subtle differences between the book and the film, but I have to say I enjoyed both.

The story follows chocolatier Vienne Rocher and her daughter Anouk, who open a chocolate shop in the French village of Lansquenet at the start of Lent, much to the dislike of priest Reynaud. Tension rises in the village as Vianne’s beliefs and plans for a chocolate festival begin to conflict with the traditions of both the church and the villagers. Reynaud takes on the personal challenge of opposing the chocolatier, while many of the villagers form friendships with the mysterious woman.

The novel is very well written and constructed. On the surface, it is an enjoyable and engaging story, but I loved the deeper themes of the novel. It is not just a conflict between good and evil or Catholics and Protestants, but has a deeper meaning about making the most of life while you can. I would highly recommend!

February Reads

I’ve had a busy month of exams, so I haven’t had a lot of spare time for reading. However, the one book I have read turned out to be one of the best I’ve read in a while…

The Fault In Our Stars

John Green

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book broke my heart (in a good way, if that’s possible!). It’s been a few years since the book came out, and I never really caught up on the hype, so I thought it was about time I gave the book a try. It’s not a literary classic, but in my opinion it needs to become one in the future.

It’s rare that a book captures my attention so much as this amazing piece of fiction by John Green did. It’s also rare that a book makes me cry. Somehow, without really realising what was happening, I became so invested in the characters of Hazel and Augustus and their story, that their emotions, their happiness, their pain and losses became my own. I quote Hazel in my reaction to this book:

‘I fell in love the way you fall asleep. Slowly, and then all at once…’

Without giving away too many spoilers, the book follows the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a terminal cancer patient whose survival has been temporarily prolonged by the latest miracles in medicine. Her life seems pretty dull and uninteresting to her. That is, until she meets cancer survivor Augustus Waters, with whom she falls in love, and experiences, as she terms ‘our little infinity.’

With this book, John Green made me more appreciative of life, with the realisation that, although nothing lasts forever, there can be an infinity in everything. I believe his characters will stay with me forever.

One of the things I love about this book is that, throughout, John Green address illness in a way that normalises it. The characters joke about their illness in a way that makes the subject of cancer seem less taboo. Even so, Green does not shy away from the harsh truths of illness, and of grief. Even if, as a reader, you have not directly experienced illness such as cancer, you know what it is to be human, to feel grief, and to hurt. Suffering in some form or another is part of our experience in this world, and comes hand in hand with happiness.We surely all have an Augustus Waters in our life, in one shape or another, and are all, in some ways Hazels – trying to make the most out of the short time we have on this earth.

I highly recommend this book to anyone, as a reflection on what it means to love and lose, and to experience infinity in the space of a few pages…

Great Expectations – Book Review

Where do I begin to review a work of literature that is already know to be one of Dickens’ best? 

Serialised in 1860-61, Great Expectations was the 13th novel (penultimate completed novel) written by Charles Dickens. He is widely known as the greatest writer of the Victorian Era. Simply to read the book’s title gives a supposition of the greatness of this novel.

Characters

Dickens, as I’m sure many will agree, is superb at characterisation. From relatable, likeable characters, to threatening, amusing, or totally eccentric ones, the variety of people throughout his work is amazing. In Great Expectations, it is impossible not to warm to the character of Pip. Somehow even the words in the first paragraph of the novel ‘I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip’ make the protagonist likeable, and we want to find out more about him.

Throughout the book, Pip goes through a great change both in age, character, and circumstances. The reader is allowed to share in that journey and therefore grow closer to Pip. He is in no way a perfect character – he himself regrets his mistakes and flaws, such as his being ‘ashamed of home’. However, this makes Pip human, and we identify more with him.

The most unusual and eccentric character, without a doubt, is Miss Havisham. The image of her sat in the lonely rooms of Satis House in her wedding dress, with all of the clocks stopped, is a tragic and haunting one, and the reader can’t help but get wrapped up in Pip’s captivation with the woman.

I think the rest of the characters – Estella, Magwitch, Joe Gargery, Mr Jaggers, Pumblechook and Wemmick, to name a few – are also very individual and well described.

Plot

Dickens keeps us guessing in his plot. Seemingly unrelated threads of story join up at the end, and I found myself wanting to read more and more to find out how things were connected. I found certain parts a little far fetched. For example, the interconnecting relationships between Estella, Magwitch, Miss Havisham and Compeyson seemed an amazing coincidence.

Nevertheless, I found Great Expectations easier to follow and read that some of Dickens’ works. I found myself engrossed in the story, rather than feeling I was reading for the sake of it. The ending was as satisfying as you could wish it to be after all Pip goes through.

Favourite book quote

My favourite quote from Great Expecatations is this one:

‘It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade’

I think this sums up the atmosphere of change that runs through the novel. It also adds relatability – a March day in Victorian England sounds the same as a March day in modern times.

Conclusion

Overall, I think Great Expectations is an excellent example of the passage of life and its up and downs. We all have to face things like family embarrassment, unrequited love, and obnoxious people like Pumblechook. Pip’s sudden change of expectations really brings into reality the possibility that a life can change (for better or for worse) in the blink of an eye. There is so much more I could say about this book, as I loved it so much, but I think as far as my review is concerned it will suffice to say that, out of all of Dickens’ novels I have read, this is certainly one of my favourites.