Classics Club Review #4: Testament of Youth

As I’ve mentioned once or twice on here, I’m currently writing a novel set during the First World War (although the phrase ‘currently writing’ is probably stretching the truth…) It’s really important to me that the novel is historically accurate, so over the past year I’ve been reading histories and memoirs focusing on the period. And the one I was most excited to read is Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth.

I watched the film a couple of years ago, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s beautifully made, although I’m such a fan of Alicia Vikander and female-focused histories that my love of it was fairly predictable. The book, however, is quite a different entity: much more nuanced and impressively analytical, Testament of Youth is much more than a heart-rending romance (although it is that, too).

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Classics Club Review #3: Shirley

I’ve never been a particularly big fan of the Brontës. I really like Jane Eyre and love Anne Brontë’s books and think she deserves more recognition, but apart from that, I’m not that fussed. Villette was fairly forgettable, I honestly can’t remember the plot of The Professor and I think Wuthering Heights is probably one of the most overrated books in literature. I’m still very glad that my parents purchased me the collected works when I was fourteen, but for whatever reason, Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley wasn’t included in the compendium so I’m only just getting around to reading it ten years later.

And… I didn’t miss much. Shirley ostensibly follows a web of tangled relationships set against the backdrop of early Victorian industrial unrest. At least, that’s what it says in the blurb. I’m not entirely convinced that Charlotte Brontë accomplishes this. Caroline Helstone is in love with her cousin, struggling mill-owner Robert Moore, and the titular character Shirley – who doesn’t appear until p.187 (yes, I counted) – is an independent, wealthy young woman with a stubborn streak. Caroline is likeable, Shirley is a bit annoying, and the supposed misunderstandings and miscommunications seem fairly stupid, considering the forthrightness of the characters (even supposedly reticent Caroline, who only develops these ‘shy’ tendencies part way through the novel.)

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2018 Wrap-Up

Hello, everyone! Life has been a bit hectic and demanding these past few months, so posting on this blog has sadly fallen by the wayside. But, before I outline my reading resolutions for 2019 and catch up on my Classics Club reviews, I thought I would write a quick wrap-up of what 2018 has looked like for me.

There’s been a lot of rejection and disappointment (trying to get a job in publishing is difficult!) and a lot of feeling like a bit of a failure compared to people I know. I don’t want to dwell on that, because this blog is not an outlet for my feelings – it’s a place where I want to share my travels and the brilliant (and not-so-brilliant) books I’ve read. But transparency on social media is paramount, and I know that reading about other people’s frustrations and rejections has really helped me become more positive and realistic about my successes in 2018, so I didn’t want to gloss over the low points and only focus on the good bits – because that is, after all, more than a tad disingenuous.

Here are some of my highlights from the year:

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Randomly stumbling upon turtles in Central Park was definitely one of the highlights…

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Travel Tuesdays: Day Trips from London

Hello! As I’m sure you’ve probably gathered if you’ve spend more than a minute on my blog, I love London. But – because of the beautiful landscapes, cultural heritage, and gorgeous old buildings – I am also a huge fan of Southern England. There is a ridiculous amount of places that I want to travel to in the south of England, but usually when I visit London, my priority is to see as much of the city as I can. When I was staying there, however, I tried to make the most of being in the south of England, and to go on as many day trips as I could. Unfortunately, I only managed two due to a combination of bad weather and a nasty stomach bug – but in this blog, I’ve written about three day trips that I’ve really enjoyed in the past, and three day trips that I’d love to do in the future.

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Classics Club Review #2: New Grub Street

Check out my Classics Club list here.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed George Gissing’s New Grub Street. I absolutely love reading classics – I love the language, the glimpse into history, the writing style, the combination of romance and social commentary – but there’s a reason why I now get most of the classics I read out of the library and don’t commit to buying them, and that reason is that there are a lot of so-called classics which just don’t seem to resonate with present-day mindsets. Obviously I don’t expect to see my own attitudes and feminism reflected back in the 19th century books I read, but there are some classics that I simply can’t stomach because they’re just too alienating.

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