Is it Just Me? – Miranda Hart
I had high hopes for Miranda Hart’s book. I wanted something light hearted and funny to read on my daily commute to my work experience placement (this blog post is rather delayed, soz). I am happy to report that I was not disappointed.
Speaking just how she acts in her television programme, Miranda covers subjects such as diets, men and work with zest. Now, I’m never one to express a hearty laugh on my lonesome but I struggled to contain chuckling at Hart’s book whilst reading it on the tube (probably the only place in the world where is it illegal to even attempt a smile.)
It is hard to believe that one human being can be so socially inept. However as I read on I realised that Miranda is just thinking and saying what we are all often too scared to admit. I mean yes I always used to think when I was little that water would seep into my belly button and I would drown – who hasn’t thought that? (I am still worried this may happen).
I also found that I had ticked off a lot of things on the check lists she had included at the end of each chapter; Yep, I have spun childishly in a swivel chair and yes I have managed not to punch a family member in the face whilst playing Trivial Pursuit. However I can’t say I have made David Hasselhoff out of chocolate buttons.
It was refreshing to read a celebrity title which was not intended to be taken seriously. I feel, the world of autobiographies has been saturated with sob stories and pointless drivel – yep I’m looking at you Katie Price and your 49469401 autobiographies. Miranda and Hodder have found the perfect balance between describing life anecdotes and imparting ‘wisdom’; the latter of which she does to her mortified teenage self throughout the book with hilarity.
If anyone is having a down day I encourage you to read Is it Just Me? It will quickly put a smile back on your face.
Penelope – Rebecca Harrington
I write this in a state of work experience withdrawal. I already miss reading submissions and being swept along in the rush hour stampede. Instead I’m having to deal with customers who believe the Cornish should stay in Cornwall and rather than being shoved up against a stranger on the tube I am finding myself wrestling with tractors down country lanes.
During my work experience with the fabulous Little, Brown I got to read so many books from all areas of literature. After spending hours reading in the office I would go home and carry on reading – a sign of a true lover of books perhaps? Anyhow, one of the books I read on my daily commute was Penelope by Rebecca Harrington, coincidently at the time of buying it I did not realise Virago (an imprint of Little, Brown) had published this superb debut.
Penelope is the first cover in a while that I have strongly admired, it feels rather Mary Poppins-like from the ‘real’ human figure and the animated world surrounding her. A very apt cover for the subject matter.
The book follows Penelope on her journey through her first year at Harvard and the characters she meets. What is so amazing about the novel is every reader will know the people our heroine encounters; there’s Emma, the really annoying social butterfly who attends every party, ‘like, eeeeeverrrrr,’ becomes best friends with all humans she comes into contact with and thinks everything is ‘just totally awesome’. There’s Lan the stereotypical recluse who contradicts all Penelope says, decides to buy a cat called Raymond whom she toilet trains and favours ironic slogan t-shirts. Then there is dreamboat Gustav, the posh boy who calls everyone ‘darling’, has more money than sense and sounds like he could be related to Made in Chelsea’s Mark-Francis. There is Catherine the classic all American chick who babies her boyfriend Ted who in all honesty would not be out of place as a character in The Bang Bang Theory. There is the token weirdo; the guy who is affectionately known as ‘Glasses’ and lets face it we’ve all had a nickname for someone that’s stuck so badly we have no idea what their real name is. And what story would be complete without the pushy mother, who urges Penelope to join every club Harvard has to offer and has banned her from playing Tetris, much to the heroine’s horror.
From the off Harringon’s book had me in stitches and reminiscing about my uni life, I do not think I have read such a funny book in years. It really is a must for any undergraduate or graduate as she writes of every university cliché known to man. Her style and tone pokes fun at teen shows and films like American Pie and Mean Girls, and instead of using sarcasm; humour and wit is at the forefront of her writing. If you do anything this week, buy this book.
The Long Song – Andrea Levy
After devouring Andrea’s Levy’s masterpiece Small Island years ago (and by this I mean about three years yonder), I had high hopes for The Long Song. I was expecting another harrowing account of black oppression tinged with her lively writing style and Caribbean humour which won her the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread Novel Award
I was captivated by the first chapter as we learn of the birth of the heroine July to a plantation slave mother. The bildungsroman novel follows July as she is taken from her mother at the age of eight when Caroline Mortimer – the sister of the plantation owner – takes a fancy to the cute child, renames her and adopts her as her own personal slave. This very notion is harrowing yet Levy fails to use any emotive langauge when conveying this act, she openly acknowledges in her notes about the novel that she never intended it to be a sob story about slavery and racism. Yet because we are used to emotional roller-coasters of black submission by the white man, as demonstrated in The Help – amongst thousands of others in this genre – we almost expect stories such as this to have us crying for hours, which is why I found the way the novel deals with this tricky subject matter – in an almost trivial manner – hard to comprehend.
Don’t get me wrong July does endure many hardships; she gives birth to a son who she gives away to the reverend and his wife to look after, she watches as her own mother saves her from potential deathly beating from her father, only for her mother to be killed in the fall out. To add to this, July naively falls in love with the all-round ‘good’ white fella Robert Goodwin and gives birth to his child whilst he is married to her mistress, all for him to go a bit mad and steal his daughter from July and run off to England with Caroline. However Levy doesn’t dwell on any of this and just rushes onto the next part of the story, yet the novel still feels never ending and at time monotonous.
Suprisingly what I did like was the postmodern aspect of the tale. The son who July gave up actually writes the story for his mother whilst she dictates what is essentially her autobiography to him, meaning the majority of the novel is written in standard English and is supplemented with Caribbean dialogue throughout. She occasionally cusses her son for encouraging her to add particular bits to the tale as though he is her editor (which essentially he is).
What we can agree is on the wonderful strength July still possess at the end of her story as the black population triumphs over the Caucasian race. Maybe her dismissive attitude over her trials and tribulations is a sign of her power and boldness. But overall, let’s face it; The Long Song is no Small Island.