Archive for Literature

Laura Whitcomb’s “A Certain Slant of Light”

Posted in Books, Laura Whitcomb with tags , , , , , , , , , on 5 July, 2009 by Nicola

I was having a slow day at work, and when I was sorting out reservations for books, I found A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.  It was reserved by a work collegue, and since she generally has good taste in everything, I read the blurb, was intensely intrigued and left a post-it on the book saying ‘Let me know what this book is like once you have finished’.  That she did, telling me that she blubbed like a baby at the end of the story.

Encouraged, I took the book up myself.  The first quarter of the book is the strongest, with the protagonist’s love interest echoing the same air of mystery and puzzlement as the hero of the Twilight series.  It all starts in a classroom in high school; the boy gives her particular attention that she does not understand, and she is uncontrollably drawn to him.  She abandons the only existence as a ghost and drastically changes into a living form to be with her new infatuation.

So far.  So Twilight.  But where as Twilight goes on to become a ridiculous fan-fictitious farce, this novel remains more grounded and though it never verges on the ridiculous, it does seem to lose track and the impulse to keep turning pages slackens towards the end.  Continue reading

Wilkie Collins’s “Basil”

Posted in Books, Wilkie Collins with tags , , , , , , , , on 10 December, 2008 by Nicola

Basil, being one of Wilkie Collins‘s earlier works, was never going to be as exciting or thrilling as his later novels The Woman in White and The Moonstone. I ventured to expect this when I picked this book up to see the roots of the later masterpieces.

Basil is the beginning of the mystery thriller that Collins would adopt later on, and the inferiority of his treatment of this genre is easy to see. Whereas in The Moonstone things were difficult to predict, and unable to see where things are going, the signs in Basil are not discreet enough, there are no red herrings, what you read are the glaringly obvious hints that lead the story on and lead you to guess the subsequent events. This makes reading Basil a lot less thrilling to read, and will pale in comparison to what you may have read in The Woman in White and The Moonstone. Continue reading

Gender Roles in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”

Posted in Books, Dan Brown, Essay, Personal Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 8 December, 2008 by Nicola

Can writers write of traditional gender roles, or does recent political correctness render this impossible?  This article studies Dan Brown‘s attempt at defying gender roles, but falling into the same old traps.

Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle give a typical literary gender representation in their analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (1892).  They write that ‘the man is active, “practical”, dominant, unemotional… the woman, appears to be passive, non-practical, subordinate, emotional.  The opposition between the man and the woman is underscored by the insistent stress on the man’s actions, qualities and characteristics and the corresponding absence of information regarding the woman.’   This is written about a short story written over a century ago, but this representation is present in literary works from every literary period and continues to this day in many forms, such as the male and female representation in romance novels, in action films, in pop music, etc.  In Victorian times, it was controversial to represent women as independent and active, such as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre; in contemporary culture, due to feminist movements, it is now the opposite.  In Literature, if it is not controversial to adhere to conventional gender stereotypes, especially regarding women, it is at least frowned upon.  Critics expect deeper characterisation as opposed to plot, although mainstream audiences are less concerned with such issues.  Continue reading

J. K. Rowling’s “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”

Posted in Books, J. K. Rowling with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5 December, 2008 by Nicola

This book is yet another testament to J. K. Rowling‘s astounding imagination. There are five tales altogether and after each one, Dumbledore writes his own analysis of the tale, and his personal experience of it (The Fountain of Fair Fortune has the funniest commentary). An introduction is penned by Rowling, and the original story is translated by Hermione Granger from the ancient runes they were originally written in (she is given credit, but she does not appear anywhere in the book writing as herself). At the end of the book are a few pages from the charity representative, explaining what the charity does. Continue reading

Joe Wright’s “Atonement”

Posted in Atonement, Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2 December, 2008 by Nicola

Strangely enough, I feel exactly the same way about this film as I do about the source material. Like the book, this film is aesthetically pleasing. It is poetically shot, the performances from the cast are astonishing, especially the three Briony’s. There is a sense of foreboding as the film starts in a everyday home, as the haunting score by award winning Dario Marianelli sweeps in. The costumes are beautiful, and the image of Keira Knightley in her stunning green gown will probably never leave me.

There is a lot to see here, but the film’s short-comings are through no fault of the film makers who have created probably the perfect adaptation, but the source material. Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name is a beautifully written book, full of Latinate language and lush imagery. McEwan’s failure is to come up with not only an engaging story, but to flesh out the characters that could make the plot work. He failed on both counts. And so, ever so loyally, the novel is adapted to screen, and the exact same problems are translated there. There was not one unconvincing performance in the entire film; Keira Knightley and James McAvoy did all that they can, which was more than enough (and definitely Keira’s best performance since Pride & Prejudice) but the characters are somewhat mechanical. Characterisation is neglected; motivations are one dimensional; emotional engagement with the protagonists is a real effort. Continue reading

Nicola’s Top Ten Writers “Hall of Fame”

Posted in Anne McCaffrey, Bill Bryson, Books, Charlotte Bronte, J. K. Rowling, James Clemens, Jane Austen, Lists, Margaret Atwood, Personal Musings, Sarah Waters, Trudi Canavan, Wilkie Collins with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 1 December, 2008 by Nicola

I am an English Literature Graduate, I work in a library, and I am always reading a book.  There would obviously come a time when I realised that I loved some writers more than others.  Not that my opinion counts for anything, but I am going to throw it out there anyway.  Perhaps someone agrees with me, perhaps my opinion will englighten someone.  You never know, it might happen.  So here are my top ten writers, counting down from number 10.

10. Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters. Let’s see.  Ah, yes.  She is British.  Wilkie Collins is her favourite writer.  She is a feminist.  She sets her novels in the Victorian era.  I think she’s also a lesbian, but that’s neither here or there.  What’s not to like?  Waters tends to write Historical novels set in the Victorian era (notably a time of extreme sexual oppression) with a feminist slant but without sounding preachy.  She creates genuine atmosphere and really knows how to build suspense.  Her work is well researched, and she writes convincingly within the context’s style whilst not alienating her audience.  Her most well known novels are Fingersmith (2002) and Tipping the Velvet (1998), but my personal favourite is Affinity (1999).

Continue reading

Ian McEwan’s “Atonement”

Posted in Books, Ian McEwan with tags , , , , , , on 1 December, 2008 by Nicola

With all the hype surrounding this novel, especially after Joe Wright’s stunning outing with its film adaptation, it could hardly go ignored for too long.  Like many hyped up events in whatever category of the entertainment media, either heightened disappointment follows upon finishing it, or you join the crowd of enthusiasts as you cut down any person that dares to suggest that it does not live up to its name.   In my case, I belong to both outcomes.  If you were to ask me of McEwan’s writing prowess, you’ll catch me dancing with the other sheeps, insisting that the novel is a work of a genius.  If you were to ask what I thought of the story, or of the characters, you’ll see me dancing around the book’s bonfire instead. Continue reading