Friday, 28 October 2016

The Book of Memory: review

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah is one of the texts on my Last Year's Novel module, and it's by far one of my favourites.

The book follows the story of Memory, who is in prison in Zimbabwe. She gives her own account of a number of events that have occurred in her life, from childhood to present, as well as giving an insight into her life in prison. From the beginning of the text it is made clear to us that Memory believes she was sold as a child, and as a result a large amount of the text circles around this idea. We see into her perceptions of her parents as well as the man who 'buys' her, who she believes, in the end, she actually quite liked.

I don't think I've ever read a text based specifically in Zimbabwe before, so that drew me into the book initially. There are fairly vague references made to the politics of the country, however the narrative is essentially made up, with an ending that has never taken place in Zimbabwe, but acts as more of an idealisation. There are also a number of instances where the characters are explicitly speaking in Shona, and as a result English speaking/reading readers are unable to know what is actually being said. I found this really interesting and I did wonder why Gappah decided to do this, as it's understood that whenever any of the characters are talking, for the most part it's in Shona, and yet for the most part their speech is still written in English within the novel.

I found it interesting that in the acknowledgements Gappah expresses that she was keen to actually visit the prison that she describes within the text, however was only to be allowed access if she would not write about what she saw there. As a result, the depiction of the prison is based purely on records and the author's imagination, but she paints a very bleak picture, which comes across as notably realistic. It also seems to go to show that the somewhat ideal ending of the book clearly hasn't occurred, as the government of the country wouldn't even allow the prison to be accurately depicted in a novel.

Memory as a character is one that I liked, for the most part. At times she seems perhaps more judgemental than necessary, and a bit snobbish, as Lloyd, the man she lived with, made sure she had an excellent education and even sent her to Cambridge. As a result, her writing and the way she sees things in Zimbabwe certainly seem to reflect that she's better educated than the people she's around, particularly in the prison. As a reader, I did have to question her reliability throughout, as in the majority of the text she is fixated on one particular aspect of her history that isn't even true. However, after finding out the actuality of her past, taking a second look at the book, everything she has previously described makes a lot more sense and there's a certain clarity that appears.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this text. I got through it very quickly and it was a complete page turner. Being able to piece together the truths of a story is something I revel in, and this is a great one for that. I would highly recommend this text.

Until next time.

Contacts/social media:
Twitter: @abbielour
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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Setting Goals: a coffee shop chat

I'm someone who's scared to set goals and aim for things due to a fear of disappointment or discontent.

And it probably sounds stupid.

I've thought about bucket lists so many times, but I can't write one out without tearing it up because I don't think I'll ever manage to do anything on it. And even though, in a lifetime, I'm sure the goals I'd write down would be realistic, I can't look at a list of things I hope for without feeling discontent and thinking about the inevitable disappointment it may cause me.

I don't know if I just think I don't deserve nice things, so thinking about nice things I'd like to do feels wrong to me, or quite what. Even if I tried writing out career goals, it would be impossible, because not only am I unaware as to what I wish to do with my life, even if I did have an idea, things would be unlikely to go to plan.

But at the same time, every single day I write myself a to-do list, and make sure that by the end of the day I have accomplished either all, or almost all, of those tasks. And it's made me think recently, am I too focused on the here and now to even attempt to plan for the future?

With to-do lists, I plan in both things I need to do and things I'd like to do, so it can't be just about not wanting nice things for myself. I think, ultimately, it must be down to the fact that I can't control my future situation, and because I don't know what situation that will be, I'm reluctant to think about anything I might be able to plan around it.

I think that's my really long winded way of saying that if I don't know where I'm going to be, what I'm going to be doing, and what my means will be, how can I try to plan things that I'll definitely be able to do?

Bucket lists certainly aren't about making your goals as realistic as possible, but there's something within me, that I'm trying to push out, that will only let me think realistically about my future as a whole.

Now, I think that, day by day, or week by week, I'm going to start trying to write a bucket list, of things that I'd like to do, without think about what position I'll be in when I might get round to doing them. Because if I'm not setting goals, and at least trying to plan things that make me excited to be alive, then what's the point?

The excitement for what may happen needs to be stronger than the fear of disappointment. And that's how I'm going to try to start living.

Until next time.

Contacts/social media:
Twitter: @abbielour
Instagram: abbielour

Friday, 14 October 2016

Current Music Favourites

Since I've been putting off doing a general favourites post for a few months now, I thought I'd update you on my music favourites (although I'll probably be doing a general post before the year's out). Music is certainty the thing that I'm always most interested in and actively look out for, so I thought it would be nice to just have a chat about it on its own.

Bon Iver

Generally speaking, I absolutely loved Bon Iver. Like Bear's Den, Bon Iver offers some really nice, though softer, uni work music, as well as beautiful, meaningful lyrics. In regards to the newest album, 22, A Million, I must say it took me a little while to really get into. He's tried out some new sounds, some of which were very likeable from the first listen, and others I found a bit more difficult to get into. But nonetheless, my favourites from this album are 8 (circle) and 00000 Million.


I've loved Blink for a long, long time, but their latest album, California, is just something else. I cannot get enough of it. They just have such a classic, timeless sound, and they manage to progress as a band without changing that sound so much that it's unrecognisable; one of my favourite bands to hear evolve. I love every song, but the stand out tracks for me are Bored To Death, Los Angeles, No Future, Home Is Such A Lonely Place and California.


I'm sure I've expressed my love for Parachute many, many a time in the past, and I'll probably continue to forevermore. There's something so feel good about so many of their songs and some of them certainty have really inspiring messages too. They also have the more melancholy, stunning ballads that I can't get enough of. It's the kind of music I like best to listen to when I'm on the way somewhere, usually on a train journey. My favourites include Without You, White Dress, She Is Love, and Getaway.

Ward Thomas

I have fallen in love with Ward Thomas' most recent album 'Cartwheels' since first hearing it at work when it was released. I love country as a genre, though still never actively listen to it, but since this album came out I've been listening pretty much every day and I don't think that will end soon. Upbeat singalong songs and heart wrenching ballads; I can't get enough. Favourites include Cartwheels, Material, and Proof.

Bear's Den

'Red Earth and Pouring Rain' came out at around the time I started my current job, and it's an album that's been on the playlist on and off for several months now. So I first heard it playing as background music essentially, and for me personally I find it works really well for that. I find the album very relaxing and not too distracting, which makes it pretty perfect for doing uni work, when you want to drown out the sounds of everyone around you but stay concentrated on what you're doing. It is an album that I'll put on just to listen to though, and some of my favourite tracks include Emeralds, Broken Parable, and Fortress.

The Shires

Another country duo, I remember hearing a few tracks by The Shires when their first album was released early last year, but only ever really listened to them when they were on the radio despite really liking their music. Again, I think this was just me not actively thinking to listen to country music, but oh how I love both of their albums. My favourites are Friday Night, State Lines, Tonight, and Drive.

What have you been listening to most recently?

Until next time.

Contacts/social media:
Twitter: @abbielour
Instagram: abbielour