Sunday, 3 March 2019

Book review: Winter

For most of the time I was reading Winter it was twenty degrees outside, so that didn't really match up.


I read the first book in Ali Smith's seasonal quartet last autumn (the book is also called Autumn) and absolutely loved it. The way she writes is so easy to read, very colloquial and generally just like someone is telling you the story without trying to make it sound super intellectual or 'fancy'. I don't know why it took me so long to get round to reading the next book, Winter, but nonetheless, it was another great feat by Smith.

The novel is set primarily over the Christmas period of a recent year (I would guess around 2016), and follows the events at a fifteen-bedroom house in Cornwall. There are four central figures in the novel, Sophia, an ageing businesswoman; Iris, her sister and humanitarian; Arthur, Sophia's son; and Lux, who Arthur is paying to pretend to be his, now ex-girlfriend, Charlotte.

The main bulk of the story is set on Christmas day, with a few segments jumping back in time to past events. Christmas seems very significant in the novel, as it provides a time of togetherness for the family who have spent a large portion of their lives apart. It's equally a time for reflection, as the individuals gaze back on past events, and begin to understand more about one and other.

There is, though subtly done, a big focus on current affairs within this book, but the way Smith presents these to her readers is not particularly bold or argumentative. There is a conversation going on throughout the book about the refugee crisis, brexit, workers' rights, and even the Cold War, which is perhaps the best depicted of all of these. Iris was a major protester throughout the Cold War and believed strongly against nuclear armament. Her sister, Sophia, thinks she is foolish for this, and finds her prioritisation of actual people over the country's readiness to fight back quite absurd.

The dynamic between the two sisters is highly reflective of the leave and remain campaigns for the EU referendum. In fact, the referendum is even sited as a difference between the two, with Iris challenging Sophia claiming to know exactly how she would have voted. There is a distinct 'us vs them' argument throughout, which is where the character of Lux comes in.

Lux is originally from Croatia, though spent a portion of her childhood also living in Canada. Having therefore been born in a country bereft by war, she creates a thought-provoking question regarding both the Syrian refugee crisis and another regarding the future of EU citizens in the UK. Lux works in a warehouse, where she also sleeps, and, despite being highly intelligent, had to drop out of university in the UK because it was too expensive. Her character, though sided clearly with Iris, provides something none of the others can, which is an EU nationality-based insight into living in a place that has become hostile to 'outsiders'. And yet, despite this struggle, she is the kindest, smartest character of all. Her story is very sad, but one that is, unfortunately, highly recognisable right now.

Arthur's main contribution to the novel involves both the online voice: how we portray our lives online. He has a blog, called 'Art in Nature', where he depicts fond, colourful imagery of nature and how it brings beauty and art into our lives. However, as he admits in the novel, basically all of his posts are based on research and his imagination, as opposed to anything he has actually seen, therefore portraying his life as colourful and beautiful when it is really just spent researching what these things would be like, online. It's interesting to consider how many of the things we see or read about online are embellished or entirely untrue. And with social media at the height of its time, this contribution to the novel struck a chord.

It reminded me that most of what I see when I scroll through Instagram is set up and not natural, and actually probably didn't bring the person posting the image the kind of joy, or sense of experience, that it would have done if they'd been thinking about anything besides getting a great picture. It seems that when Arthur turns off his phone - his ex-girlfriend is posting all sorts of madness on his accounts, which she has access to - he finally begins to see, or recognise, beautiful images. When Lux describes a print left by a pressed flower in a Shakespeare book, her description of it blows him away, and he seems to realise that perhaps it would be nicer to really see things, instead of creating an image he thinks that other people want to see.

Overall, I loved this book. Ali Smith is such a delight to read, her style so accessible and readable that I feel able to recommend her to everyone I know. The book deals with so many different themes and topics of interests - and relevant, current issues, that everyone should take more time to consider. I think the characters she has created and the way that they affected one another was truly remarkable. A joy to read.

Until next time.

Social media/contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: abbielour

Friday, 8 February 2019

Currently Coveting: ASOS S/S

Over recent years, I've definitely moved from being an A/W clothing girl, to a S/S sun worshipper. Never thought I'd say that, but here we are. The cold is not ideal.

Loads of brands are starting to release their S/S collections, and even though there's still some snow on the ground whilst I'm writing this, I'm here for it. I feel like I mention my undying love for spring every year, so this year will be no different. It's the season that takes an age to arrive and then is usually gone in a flash. But it's my favourite time to try new clothing and usually has the nicest colour palette.

Today I'm going to share some of my favourite S/S pieces on ASOS right now, items that I'll definitely start ordering as soon as we get above 10 degrees and spring is truly on its way. I've got quite a few trips planned throughout the spring and summer so I'd love a few new pieces for those. We're mostly looking at short European city breaks with a sunny holiday in June, and I think a lot of these items would serve me well for those trips as well as the everyday UK sun (if we're lucky enough to see it this year).







Until next time.

Social media/contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: abbielour

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Book review: The Mars Room


I thought this year I would try writing lengthier, more in-depth book reviews, focusing on just one book at a time. As much as I find it's nice to compile a few short musings on a long list of books, the tradition single book review is easier to read through without losing track of which book was about what.

I'm starting with The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018. Though being on a shortlist for a prize isn't necessarily a symbol of an amazing book, I tend to find at least a few books on the list that might not have caught my interest without the publicity (essentially what the Man Booker is there to offer: exposure).

The novel is set in California, primarily between San Fransisco, LA and Stanville, and jumps back and forth through time to reach these destinations. The main time period in which the book unfolds is the 00s, when Romy Hall has been convicted of murder and is sentenced to life in prison, at Stanville. The reader is not clearly informed of Romy's crime until the end of the novel, and even then, the crime is depicted from another person's point of view, not necessarily giving the clearest indication of the actuality of the situation.

Whilst in prison, Romy's mother dies, her mother who was now the guardian of her young son, Jackson. It seems that Jackson is the one person that Romy truly cares about, and the one person who she's desperate to find and check up on but equally knows has a better chance of a life without her. The desperation expressed by Romy at the loss of her son effectively shows the humanity of a woman who is being dehumanised as a prisoner. The way that her need to check on her son spurs on the rest of the plot portrays the agony of a woman who only ever wanted to protect her son, even if it meant murdering someone.

Prior to prison, Romy worked as a striper at The Mars Room, where she met the man who would lead to her prison sentence. Kurt Kennedy became obsessed with her, tracking her down and following her every move outside of work, to the point that she felt the need to abandon San Fransisco and move herself and her son to LA. There's a kind of mental violence going on here, where even though Kennedy hasn't touched Romy outside of The Mars Room, his presence and appearances have caused her great enough concern that she feels she must move away. Despite the expectation, he never threatens her physically throughout the book, but rather simply keeps appearing and watching her, showing the mental damage stalking can cause for a vulnerable woman.

I found the present-time discourse in the prison the most interesting, portraying the dynamic of a women's prison and how people with certain crimes are shunned or attacked. The friendships within Stanville initially seem somewhat performative, as though you work out what people are like and adapt as necessary, but show slightly more depth further on in the novel, with friendships and enemies forming. There is some discussion of how transgender people are positioned in prison and the lack of concern for their welfare based on the grounds of their physical sex. This is an interesting topic to have raised, especially in a novel set during the earlier 00s when these issues weren't so heard of, but seemed underdeveloped, like more needed to be said. The transgender conversation is essentially used as a plot device to contribute to Romy's eventual escape, rather than a focused discussion of this issue itself.

There is a strong sense throughout the book that Romy would not have been in prison if it weren't for the poor legal representation she was offered. There are vague references to class and privilege, more so the lack that lessens Romy's chances, throughout the novel, but there's no majorly focused discussion of this or the poverty she's been living in in the book. It's made apparent that Romy's lawyer basically hands her over to receive whatever sentence she gets without even trying to reduce her prison time. But this is presented more as a fact and not something to really reject and feel outraged by. The lack of sympathy in the tone throughout the novel adds to the unsettling feeling that the character we've been saddled with really has committed an inexcusable crime, but perhaps this is just the voice of a middle classed world who doesn't care about any lower class.

The ending of the book confused me. We finally find out how Romy ended up in jail, but the perspective is off. Did she brutally kill an infatuated man, unprovoked? Or did she murder someone she felt was a truly threatening stalker, to try to protect herself and her son? It's not made particularly clear, but the murder was frantic and yet quick and to the point, almost like it was premeditated. Is this a book about violence against women and, more specifically, the mental fear of violence, or is it about the violence of fearful women? Because in the way the book is left, it feels like it can't really be about both.

Romy briefly escapes from prison at the end of the book, whilst a riot is taking place over the outrage vs acceptance of a transgender women in the prison. Romy escapes and evades capture for some days, before being found. In this time before her capture, it seems she realises the uselessness of what she's trying to do. She's driven by the need to find her son and check up on him, but on her way to trying to get to him, she realises that despite her love, he's better off without her now. Her reason her killing Kurt Kennedy is positioned as protecting her son, but now that she's a murderer she poses as much of a threat to him and his future as Kennedy had.

As much as the book flowed nicely and moved through time effectively and interestingly, ultimately I didn't like it very much. I felt the ideas were underdeveloped and confused amongst each other, making it hard to gain a coherent understanding of anything going on. Perhaps this is an accurate representation of a women's prison and that was Kushner's intention, but overall it just lacked something. There were sad depictions of the reality of inequality in US prisons, but this wasn't made the focus of the novel as much as trying to find out what really went on with Romy and why she committed the murder.

Good intentions and an interesting culmination of ideas, but not put forward in a very effective manner.

Until next time.

Social media/contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: abbielour

Friday, 18 January 2019

A year of calm

With the new year well upon us, I thought I'd share my plans for a year of all-encompassing calmness.

For me, this is a year where I just want to relax and see where things take me. I have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on myself and fail to celebrate the small victories in life. So this year, I'm operating on a no pressure basis, in aim of achieving a feeling of calm that I've never truly had.

My main focuses for achieving this are my body, my mind, and my desire to travel.

I feel like a large part of the things we go through in life are related to how we treat our bodies. Your body is the thing that makes you a physical entity; it, literally holds you up. And I think it's important to take this into account when considering the way we treat our bodies. In the past I've been unhappy with mine, because of it's size, shape and physical ability (those darned knees). But, since going to the gym regularly for the past year and a half, I've realised just how wonderful and powerful and strong my body is, and how much I have to thank it for. Now, I love my body, irrespective of the size of my thighs or how my arms jiggle a little. None of that matters because I've finally realised that I have a strong, dependable body that's unlikely to give way under pressure or fail to lift a box.

So this year I'm definitely planning on keeping up with my fitness routine, continuing to go to the gym and get stronger, hopefully only making my body feel better. And when my body is feeling good and well, my mind usually follows suit.

As much as I wouldn't class myself as having any serious mental health problems, I do still struggle sometimes, as do we all. As mentioned, I have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on myself to make lots of progress and be busy achieving, and honestly, I've realised how pointless that pressure is. I've decided to just slow down, for the sake of my mind, and to focus on making things easier for myself by just going with the flow. It is absolutely not necessary to constantly be working on big goals and so many different commitments that you can't keep up with them, so this year I'm focusing on winding down a little and making more down time for my brain to feel calmer. Exercise, like with the body, also does wonders for my mind. It's a time where I can focus entirely on what I'm doing, just for me. Going on a walk or going to the gym just puts me in a really calm mindset that completely separates me from anything else going on in my life. I love my national trust walks, exploring nature and putting myself in a different environment. Which moves me on to my final focus for this year.

During my lifetime I've not had the luxury to travel very much. It wasn't something that was ever in the budget for my family, making it even more special for me now. I'm at a point in my life now where I can afford to go on trips, big or small, where I can disappear and explore something completely new and different to what I'm used to. In the past two years I've been lucky enough to go to New York and Barcelona, and those trips definitely got the wanderlust in me fired up. This year I'm planning to bounce around Europe a little, somewhere I've barely explored at all. My friends and I have some long weekend breaks coming up in Spring and a big group holiday in the summer; I can barely wait to get out of the country for a while and experience new places.

So far, so good. I'm feeling pretty calm despite some big things going on, I'm making time for the gym and moving my body, planning travel and taking time out to relax when I need it.

I'm hoping this truly will be a year of calm.

Until next time.

Social media/email:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: abbielour

Sunday, 11 November 2018

September & October Books

A little late getting this one to you I'm afraid, but nonetheless I do, of course, have a lot of thoughts on the books I've been reading over the last two months. I've been rather busy recently, so reading has been the perfect way to end the day and unwind before going to sleep. Writing about what I've read, however, has just been something I've put of again and again. Anyway, no more rambling, here are my thoughts on my recent reads.

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

After reading the other His Dark Materials books, I found that this one lost a little something when it moved from a fantasy/adventure book to more of a young adult romance. The Subtle Knife was definitely my favourite book in the series so I didn't expect that this one would top it to be honest, and I did find it rather anti climatic overall. I find Lyra really lost her character in this book, which, I can clarify, is not what usually happens when a girl grows closer to adulthood and definitely should not have been what happened to this particular girl. I get that she would grow more self-aware and self-conscience, but becoming completely submissive to some boy who's the same age as her (and therefore lacking the maturity she's gaining, as boys, of course, take a while longer) was utterly disappointing and quite disturbing. Offering us a character that can make her own decisions and fight for what she wants and then literally giving up her whole identity for a boy is the most appalling of choices Pullman could have made for this book, both for its target audience - kids the same age as its characters - and for anyone who enjoyed the essence of the previous books. I was disappointed, to say the least. I get that it is what it is, and I can't deny that I found the discussions of the power of religion intriguing, but it just didn't work this time.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

I think Modernism just really isn't for me. Something just makes novels of the era far too difficult for me to follow and stay interested in. The concepts are all very interesting, but there's something in the way language is used that just makes it seem so utterly dull to me. The way that Orlando changes as he moves through distinctly different time periods seems like the kind of thing I'd love to read, exploring the experience of being a woman with the knowledge of how it feels to be the a man and to be treated as a man. But I truly found it painful to read due to the style. I'm sure it's just me and me distaste for the style, but if you also dislike the tropes of modernism and struggle to see the story beyond them, I'd recommend giving this one a miss.

The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is such a brilliant author, is the sense that she draws you in and completely absorbs you into the story, making it feel like you're almost there, watching the events unfold. The Heart of a Woman is the fourth book in her series of autobiographies, and focuses largely on her part in the civil rights movement from the late-50s to early-60s. This is actual the first of her books that I've read, as the subject matter is something I found noteworthy, but it certainly won't be the last. I was truly captivated by both Angelou's story and her style of writing. Reading a black female writer's account of this period in time and how she felt throughout it was truly fascinating, thought provoking, and rather heartbreaking. It felt a lot like reading a diary, somewhere in which its author could actually be honest about how they were feeling about all the things that they had to face each day, whether that be events specific to the civil rights movement, or to being a mother, or a woman, or all of these things at once. It was compelling in a way that I rarely find, where the author doesn't wish to overwhelm the reader or make their writing exciting on purpose, but where the book ignites something in you through its simple honesty. Wholeheartedly recommend.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

This book was so odd in so many ways. It follows a teenage girl known as Linda as she tries to make friends and feel apart of something, but ends up befriending a woman and her child who live in the same area as her. The family she befriends appear very strange and isolated, indicating that they've got something to hide: their religion and its ultimate implications. Stylistically, it was very easy to read, which sometimes convinces me that I must be enjoying something, but honestly, I really did not enjoy this book. Whilst reading it I was obviously aware that there was something very off about the whole thing - this strange family befriending a random girl - and so it was bound to end in some disaster or another. The book kind of explores having someone else's religion or belief system, as such, thrust upon you in a way you're slightly unaware of and therefore less resistant to. Linda is effectively groomed, in an apparently paedophilic way, into a religion. And I just hated the idea. I hated the idea and I hated how it was done in the book. I found myself just getting more and more wound up by this stupid girl who seems to just want to make friends, but ultimately she actually just wanted to play some grand part in other people's lives, even when she knew what must have been going on because it was impossible to miss, especially when you're being fed into it. It was just bad.

It by Stephen King

I might have mentioned in one of my previous book posts that one of my colleagues is a die-hard Stephen King fan. Therefore I've been told constantly that I need to read one of his most famous books, It. I thought I'd save it for October, since it's certainly a Halloween read should we start confining books to seasons or holidays. This one's pretty crazy, although I'm sure anyone who's seen the film would know this by the general gist. The main characters are all very likeable, making the situation they're thrown into entirely unsettling and, at times, upsetting. It is, of course, a sizeable book, meaning that there were times when I was completely confused about where it was going or would end up; sometimes this was frustrating but more often than not, I really liked the suspense. I have to admit though, I don't know what could have been cut out of the book to perhaps make it more concise. It's very much a complete work that you need to read in its entirety to appreciate and understand what's going on throughout. The way the book shifts in time is done rather ingeniously, mapping out everything that happened when the group were younger as the characters go through the motions to remember and understand what should be done as adults. The only real disappointment for me was the ending. No one wants a happy or an easy ending to a book like this. And as much as I know that there were dramatic deaths and trauma to get to the end, it just felt like a bit of a cop out to be honest. Overall, one I'd definitely recommend reading just to find out where King's going with it.

The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

I find sci-fi novels from the era in which The Body Snatchers was written very hit or miss. They are often fragmented in such as way that makes them barely readable. Luckily, however, this novel is written in a far easier style, but a basic structure following Miles Bennell in his attempts to understand and avoid the alien species invading the bodies of all those in Santa Mira. I really enjoyed reading this novel; it was a nice, easy read, but still kept me in the Halloween spirit after the dramatic and more complex It. The creatures that are formed in the novel, coming from seed pods and mimicking the appearance of a specific person, take over the actual body of the person they have evolved to look like. They are then unable to reproduce, meaning they are effectively taking over the human race in order to eventually wipe it out. The only reason they appear to do this is because they are parasites. The book has obvious nuances of political fiction, making the invasion a not so subtle comment on the anxieties of cold war and the nuclear arms race of the 1950s. All this makes the book very politically aware and shows the damages that could be done by nuclear war, with the potential to annihilate mankind, vocalising a major concern during this era. An easy read with a strong underlying message. Definitely one worth sparing a few hours for.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black definitely has a similar feel to it as Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, so I now completely understand the comparisons I read about before deciding to buy this book. The novel follows the eponymous character, Washington Black, as he escapes slavery by means of an unusual form of transportation: a 'cloud-cutter', or as we would perhaps recognise it, an airship. It's a book that mixes adventure with the horrifying facts of slavery, giving the means of escape through flight and then through further travel, but all this movement as a result of a constant fear of being caught and taken back to the life that was hardly a life at all. It's a really beautifully written novel, despite its powerful, haunting imagery. I did find that towards the end of the novel, when the characters start jumping from place to place almost pointlessly, it did lose something and felt rather unfocused, which I didn't enjoy so much. The book seems to offer a well-known message: knowledge is power. The more Washington continues to learn and better himself through gaining knowledge and putting it to practical use, the closer he comes to being his own, fully formed person. By the end of the novel he is a scientist, but sadly knows there's little chance he'll receive recognition due to the colour of his skin. The novel presents the period following the end of slavery very well, showing the turmoil ex-slaves face in trying to be a highly-functioning member of society. It's an honest, a sad, and yet somehow still triumphant book. I really enjoyed reading it.

Until next time.

Social media/email:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: abbielour

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Autumn, but sunny

Top: New Look
Jeans: Topshop
Shoes: Dr Martens (via ASOS)

On Sunday, my Mum and I went down to Windsor Castle. I got her a day trip there as her Christmas present last year, so we were rather late in going (the tickets were going to run out soon), but we picked a glorious sunny day to go.

I thought I'd share the outfit I wore, featuring my no. 1 favourite autumn piece right now: this jacket. Does anything say autumn like a bright rust orange jacket? I think not. I picked this up in Urban Outfitters a couple weeks ago when I was in Birmingham. It's the perfect jacket to through on with a neutral outfit to give the look some life. It's denim, so a texture that suits everything, and I got it a little oversized so it would be comfy with jumpers as the weather gets a bit crisper.

I paired the jacket with Topshop blue/black Jamie jeans - my go to skinny jeans - which I rolled up at the bottom for the look all the kids are going for these days (when I was young, having your jeans too short just meant they were too small (glad it's #fashion now so I don't have flashbacks)). Tucked into the jeans, I wore a thin roll neck top from New Look. Cream is one of my favourite colours to wear, as it compliments my skin tone so much better than white, and this top is the perfect thin layer for the current weather and will equally be a good layering piece come the winter.

On my feet I just slipped on my Dr Martens shoes. These are the Gibson Flat Shoes, which are ideal for pretty much any occasion. I've been wearing them nonstop since the weather cooled down, as I love to smarten up a more casual outfit like this one with a slicker shoe.

Until next time.

Social media/contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: abbielour

Sunday, 2 September 2018

August Books

August has been dominated entirely by fiction. I just needed to escape from real life for a while and is there really any better way than by book? Here's what I read this month.

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin

Honestly, not the best start. I can really appreciate what Le Guin was doing with this text, and parts of it I thought were brilliant, but sadly they were overshadowed by my general feeling of dislike for the novel. It felt too jumpy for such a short text; jumping around between characters and whatnot is normally fine for me but I just felt like I didn't really know what was actually going on with anyone because there weren't enough words to explain. I liked the premise: set on a different planet that has been colonised by earth, effectively portraying colonisation as it was during the British empire but on a bigger, more extreme scale, and reducing, as a result, a peaceful species to violence. I read somewhere that the novel was Le Guin's negative response to the Vietnam War, which makes perfect sense, and maybe explains better why the book feels so fragmented. I think if it were longer and the plot was bound together with more complex characters then I could've loved it. But sadly just didn't work for me.

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

If you liked the first book, you'll love the second. Still baffled by how I've never read the His Dark Materials trilogy. The plot development is so interesting, I can't remember the last time I was so intrigued by a set of books. I love that there are so many different ways I can imagine these texts going and yet they still seem to surprise me (and I'm someone who constantly spoils books for myself because I've thought of all the possibilities and have worked out what will happen, so this is pretty rare). I liked seeing a world more like the one I recognise, especially because the books are largely set in Oxford, which is where I live, so I'm constantly recognising the exact locations that are being presented, which is actually quite exciting. It makes the books seem more real because they're so close to home for me. Seeing Lyra's character develop in tangent to Will's is really compelling, and her adjustment to the different worlds they've discovered alongside her personal growth sit really nicely together. Pullman is a genius.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front is such a tragedy and yet such a triumph. I have never been so compelled by a war novel. And I had yet to read one written from a German perspective until now; it really struck a chord in me. The novel truly reminds us all that every man who fought in WW1 (or 2) was just an ordinary person, with no real anger toward anyone on the other side, but rather just doing a mandatory duty. The novel truly portrays the stolen youth of war. The main character and his friends had literally left school and joined up, and the text shows the inner turmoil that this has caused them. Paul has to endure the deaths of all his closest friends, even having to go to one of their mothers and explain to her that her son is dead, attempting to convince her he didn't suffer, lying outright so she wouldn't have to know the truth. The novel shows the personal devastation of war that its author experienced outright. Though the book is specified as a novel, it is certainly somewhat anecdotal, perhaps part of how the author accepted what really happened and coped with how difficult it all was. Definitely one I'd recommend.

The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans

Honestly, I thought this book would be so rubbish, but I liked the idea of the plot so I gave it a go anyway. It wasn't an intellectually challenging work of fiction, but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy the way the plot progressed. Essentially, it's a book about an elitist group - actually a family with three strands - who want to breed in a way that keeps their bloodline 'superior'. Naturally, this formula of rich people with an elitist regime means incest. I think you're not meant to work it out until the characters realise what's going on, but it's pretty obvious from the get go. It was a very easy read, so if you prefer a book that you can breeze through rather than having to think too much about it, then I'd recommend this for you. The characters are interesting and I thought the plot moved nicely, but overall a bit too basic for my typical liking.

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Having only ever read Beloved by Toni Morrison, I thought it was about time to get stuck into some of her other texts, starting with Jazz. Jazz is set in 1920s Harlem, and is essentially a historical novel depicting the black experience of the Jazz Age, a time typically looked at as joyous and prosperous. The structure of the novel works in a musical way, with different characters seemingly creating their own stories, which are then worked together to form one overall composition. A lot of these different section where we focus on different characters are still exploring the same events, just from different perspectives and at different times - before/during/after. I loved this novel. It felt so truthful throughout, despite the different voices and lack of one overall trustworthy narrative. I think the changing voices added to the honesty of experience, portraying the Jazz Age for what it really was for African Americans: not all it's cracked up to be. Morrison is such a talented author and I'm excited to continue reading her work.

Home by Salman Rushdie

Home by Salman Rushdie is a part of the Penguin Vintage minis series, featuring thirty different authors speaking on a subject they a specifically well written about. The texts draw from various different works of the writers', compiling what is fundamentally a basic guide to their work, giving you a little dip in to their writing so that you can decide on what further reading you'd be interesting doing on their topic/work. Rushdie's book is focused on the notion of 'home', what it is and how to deal with feeling at home somewhere you are not recognised as belonging. Rushdie discusses the struggle of being Indian but attending school and university in England, giving personal insight into issues of racism and his own sense of belonging - speaking perfect English and yet still being labelled 'other'. He also delves into his family living in both London and also their moving to Pakistan, somewhere he could not accept as a home. It was a great way to get into what Rushdie writes about in his fiction and I'd be interesting in reading Midnight's Children after reading this mini.

Until next time.

Social media/contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: abbielour