WWW Wednesday – 29th June 2016

I know, it’s a Thursday, but I wrote my WWW yesterday and didn’t get a chance to post it! Please, please forgive my lateness and accept my WWW a day behind. WWW is hosted by Taking On A World of Words (https://samannelizabeth.wordpress.com/) and all you have to do is answer the three W’s:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

With that done, leave your post as a comment on the host’s page and join the discussion! So without any further ado…

What are you currently reading?

I am currently 225 pages into ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara. This novel haA Little life.jpgs been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, and I can see why. I bought it from Waterstones as part of a three for two dealafter I finished my exams, and this is the last one I’ve read of those three to purely because it is so long! 720 pages of novel. However, this is in no way a negative aspect. I absolutely love the 200 pages I have read so far and can’t wait to continue and write my review! I can tell you now I’ll be raving about the characters and the plot revelations. I think I’ll have to start another, shorter book on my list before I get to the end of this one though, otherwise you won’t be hearing anything from me for a while!

 

What did you recently finish reading?The Illusionists

I recently finished reading ‘The Illusionists’ by Rosie Thomas and it was one of the best novels I’ve read. I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in historical fiction and even to some people that don’t – I
have seen a few negative comments about this book but you can see my reasoning for that in my recently posted review: https://booklighting.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/an-apology-and-a-book-review-the-illusionists-by-rosie-thomas-2014/

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’ve recently been sent a .pdf of Robert Eggleton’s ‘Rarity from the Hollow’ – an adult literary science fiction novel combatting child abuse. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like this before and I am really excited to give my thoughts. Rarity from the Hollow proceeds are donated to prevent child abuse, so I would encourage you all to head over to Robert’s twitter account and keep up with the progress! (https://twitter.com/roberteggleton1)

Rarity from the Hollow

 

What do you guys think of my current list? Have you read any of these titles? Let me know in the comments!

 

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An apology and a book review: ‘The Illusionists’ by Rosie Thomas [2014]

First off, I have to apologise profusely for my lack of activity both here and on twitter: in my last few weeks of University (EVER) I have been focusing on making the most of it before I move back home and five hours away from all my best friends! It’s been absolutely hectic finding out the results of my degree (2:1 in English Literature with Creative Writing), taking a two day trip to Dublin with my best friends, going to loads of parties and trying to complete some job applications. In between all that I have found time to read but unfortunately not to review! After my 21st Birthday on the 10th July and graduation on the 12th I’ll hopefully be around a lot more and able to get this blog going.

With that out of the way – I have a book to review! I have been reading ‘The Illusionists’ by Rosie Thomas and there are so many things I want to say about it, but I’ll try to keep it short.

The Illusionists

BLURB: As a turbulent and change-filled century draws to a close, there has never been a better time to alter your fortune. But for a beautiful young woman of limited means, Eliza’s choices appear to lie between the stifling domesticity of marriage or a downwards spiral to the streets – no matter how determined she is to forge her own path.

One night at a run-down theatre, she meets the charismatic Devil Wix – showman, master of illusion, fickle friend. Drawn into his circle, Eliza becomes the catalyst of change for his colleagues – a dwarf, an eccentric engineer and an artist – as well as Devil himself. And as Eliza embarks on a dangerous adventure, she must decide which path to choose, and how far she should go when she holds all their lives in her hands.

I found this book to be gripping and exciting; I sped through it in a matter of days. It almost feels like a secret glimpse into the underworld of London – you drink it all in and try to imagine every detail for yourself.

The principal strength of this novel, in my opinion, is the characterisation. These characters are real, tangible protagonists who make you laugh and make you cry. I could feel all their emotions, drives and motives as I was reading. Carlo is so brutal and raw that you almost feel uncomfortable when you get a glimpse into his mind, like you’re reading someone’s diary, something that I think any author would aspire to. Devil, our anti-hero, is particularly problematic. Reading along I found myself inexplicably attracted to him but I hated many of the decisions he made. I disliked him, but I loved to read him. Heinrich by contrast is incredibly, beautifully creepy in his sinister workshop.

The second positive that I picked up from this book is how realistic it is. I’ve seen a lot of negative comments about Eliza potentially reneging on her views and morals in order to pursue Devil, but I think that it is important to remember the time-frame that this book spans: although she might read like a flake now, for the late 1800s Eliza is incredibly progressive. She makes compromises, certainly, and no one can credit this book with a sunshine, rainbows and unicorns happy ending, but all that says is that the novel is not idealistic. It acknowledges and addresses actual issues and events of the time. The ending is loaded with bittersweet success and regret. If it had gone another way I would have liked it, but I would have accepted it as a book with a happy ending rather than a book with a realistic ending, and I enjoyed the sense that this was a glimpse into potentially real situations.

Having said that, I did think there was a lot going on. Many different stories were all woven together, which can often be a success, but the entirety of this novel did feel a bit crammed in as we followed numerous different strands of thought. To cover this there was also several jumps through time, which seemed to skip some important events. The book could easily be split into two and I happily would have followed the characters through their journey at a slower pace. As it is, it becomes a little more difficult to understand the changes in the characters from the beginning to the end of the novel.

Overall I think this novel is a tremendous success, and I have the sequel ‘Daughter of the House’ on my list. The weight of the novel lies in its pivotal time frame and one can tell that it is pulling from several different monumental changes: technology, women’s rights and more. Although I had my gripes with them, the characters are sublimely written and I am still thinking about the charismatic, morally ambiguous Devil. The plot is fascinating and I didn’t want to stop reading at all. I wish there was more!

Book Review: Andrew Michael Hurley’s ‘The Loney’ [2014]

I cannot rave about this book enough. I am so glad I’ve read it now, at the beginning of my blogging journey, so that I can use it as the standard that I hold all the books I read to from now on! From the first page I was absolutely riveted and Hurley uses incredible language and skill to guide us through the complicated, captivating plot. The novel explores a range of different story-lines which weave together beautifully and are all connected through the affiliation with religion. Father Wilfred, Father Bernard, Mummer… They all have their own intriguing stories and these all come to a head at the Loney, their holiday destination. The main intention of the trip is to visit a holy shrine in the hope that it will cure the narrator’s brother, Hanny, who is a mute. Along this journey we encounter discussions of religion, faith, good, evil, and many other discourses. The religious aspects are frankly fascinating, almost cult-like. The novel flirts with the supernatural through subtle hints and occurrences, suspending the genre somewhere between horror and thriller.The Loney

Usually I like my books, films, everything to end wrapped up in a neat little bow, all questions answered and secrets revealed. This book was the completely opposite of that and I loved it. I would go so far as to say that The Loney raises more questions than it answers, but if you’re anything like me you shouldn’t let that put you off. It made me like the book even more and if there’s one thing I can guarantee it’s that you’ll be thinking about this book long after you finish it. The ending is moving and subtle, it took me a minute or two to figure it out but once I did I was struck by the raw emotion underlying the entire novel, an emotion that drives its conclusion.

It is at this point that we realise something: our narrator cannot be trusted and this, alongside the hints towards the supernatural, is the reason that the novel leaves us with questions. He reveals that he is writing his story both for his therapist and as a witness account in case the police come knocking at his door. On multiple occasions throughout the story he has admitted to lying to save his brother from getting into trouble… It all throws his credibility into disrepute. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel like this one before, where I have imagined the life, emotion, motivations of the protagonist so clearly, but it had a profound effect on the way I viewed the novel as a whole. It is a truly remarkable piece of work.

The one and only niggle that I picked up is in The Loney that this book is slightly wordy in places, with lots of purple prose – but I didn’t care. It was worth it for the stunning imagery that came as a result. In some cases this wordiness is almost certainly deliberate, with the long, winding sentences reflecting the traumatized mind-set of the narrator (See trauma theory & literature) and in others it creates the most beautiful images and landscapes in your mind’s eye.

Conclusively, I am really struggling to come up with any negatives on this novel. I have looked up a few other reviews and the main issue that seems to be flagged up in them is confusion over the ending. I admit it took me a few minutes of thinking to figure out the implications, but I enjoyed that and once I realised I was even more enthusiastic about the novel. The Loney is haunting and beautiful.

I’d love to discuss it with some of you lovely people and see if we came to the same conclusions! Let me know what you think in the comments.

The Loney 2