As you can see from my review of Room – the first book review I ever published on this blog – I’m definitely a fan of Emma Donoghue’s writing. But, despite my love of the heartbreaking Room and my insatiable appetite for well-written historical fiction, the plot of Donoghue’s latest release, The Wonder, initially didn’t grab me. Set in mid-nineteenth century rural Ireland, the novel follows the unusual and gripping case of young Anna O’Donnell, a devout Catholic who claims to have survived without food for three months. But are her assertions factual? Is the entire situation a hoax, or a miracle of faith? With the highly religious community bent on establishing the truth of the matter, a Catholic nun and a Crimean War-trained nurse, Lib Wright, are recruited to guard Anna day and night, and discover if she really is the saintly marvel her family assumes she is. Protagonist Lib is refreshingly modern in her views – atheism included – and acts as a fitting guide to this archaic world of patriarchy and tradition.
As you’ll probably see quite a lot on this blog in the upcoming few months, I’m going interrailing around Europe this summer. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for the longest time, and the idea of seeing so many beautiful places in one longish trip is something that I’m incredibly excited about! It’s a really common holiday, especially for students, but it can be a difficult thing to plan. There’s flights, accommodation, European travel, budgeting and itineraries to think about – not to mention the fact that the trip is still supposed to be a holiday! – which can all prove surprisingly time-consuming and tiring. Although I haven’t quite jetted off yet, I have (finally) booked everything, so here’s my top tips on how to arrange your journey interrailing around Europe.
In my opinion, films are rarely better than books. I can think of a handful, and they’re usually due to lacklustre writing or limited character development. Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago has neither, yet in many ways it definitely fell flat of David Lean’s iconic film adaptation, released in 1965.
The novel follows doctor Yuri Zhivago in the years before and after the Russian Revolution; beginning with his mother’s death at the turn of the century and spanning Moscow, the Ural Mountains and vast swathes of the Russian countryside, it’s certainly an epic of impressive scope. Populated with a huge cast of characters – all of whom are referred to by different names at various points in the narrative, as is usual in the confusing Russian canon – it also draws upon the controversial view that the Russian Revolution wasn’t quite all that it was hyped up to be, an understandably divisive statement to make at the height of the Soviet Union’s Communist regime.
Crete: the largest of the stunning Greek islands, home to both fascinating ancient history and a massive array of holiday resorts. For a beachy, sun-soaked holiday, you really can’t do any better than this gorgeous island, combining both culture and traditional holidaymaker fun in one charming package.
Reading online that Stalis, our destination of choice, was described as a ‘village’ I was expecting a small resort with just enough places to explore, but I couldn’t have been more wrong: it was, in fact, a lively town packed with bars, restaurants and Greek tavernas lining the rugged beachfront. Endless golden stretches of sand dip around the coast to meet the surprisingly clear sea, and bars offer pleasingly cheap prices for sunbeds and a matchless view of the undulating hills silhouetted against the vividly blue cloudless skies. Everything is offered: from cheap cocktail deals to classy and stylish beach bars; from delicious pizza to conventional Greek fare. (I recommend feta cheese, and chicken souvlaki!) Freebies are offered with every meal – either fresh fruit, bread or a shot of your choice, the Greek staff members are always kind and willing to help in any way possible.
Although I am a city girl through-and-through, sometimes I can’t help but crave a country escape. There’s definitely something special about being in the presence of breathtaking natural landscapes and gorgeous views like the one above – the sort of beauty that the city just can’t offer! And as springtime beckons, I’m feeling in the mood to share some of my favourite day trips from Glasgow. Perfect for any city-dweller or overseas visitor alike, these are three stunning West Scottish locations that you should definitely visit at some point!
Sadie Jones’ The Uninvited Guests is part family saga, part ghostly wasteland, part – well, who really knows? The acclaimed writer, who is well-known for her historical set-pieces scarred by the ugliness of emotion and the unsightly depths that lurk beneath each of us, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction for her first novel The Outcast. It was a promising narrative that grew just a bit unbelievable towards the end – which is, rather unsurprisingly, my exact assessment of The Uninvited Guests.
Set over a 24 hour time span, the novel follows Emerald on her twentieth birthday; she’s just found out that her beloved family manor will probably have to be sold and she still has to plan for an impending birthday dinner. But then, just as the guests are arriving, news comes of a shocking railway disaster nearby – and with it, a flock of bedraggled survivors who have come to seek refuge…
Vienna is the loveliest city. It’s as simple as that: it is a city of palatial, immaculate townhouses; of sprawling grounds, elegant cafes and exquisite architecture. It is a fairytale city of astonishingly well-kept buildings and incredible, magnificent beauty. Vienna is famed for its culture and its history – an intellectual city in which the opulent legacy of the Hapsburgs competes with the enduring influence of some of the world’s greatest classical composers; a city boastful of its endless appreciation of opera and music.
I stayed in an amazingly convenient apartment just off the Ringstrasse – the famed ring of streets meticulously created in the mid-nineteenth century, encompassing the historical district and an impressive array of beautiful buildings. All the guidebooks recommend walking or getting the tram around the Ring, and it is a suggestion that I would definitely second. In a four-mile walk alone, you can take in the Parliament, with its sweeping drive; the Rathaus, the City Hall, neo-Gothic and exceptionally intricate; the Burgtheater, adorned with busts of Vienna’s favourite playwrights; the dazzlingly complex Hofburg Complex, home to the famous Spanish Riding School; and so much more.