To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
For once, I’m not going to sit here and do a review as quite frankly, we all know To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best books of the twentieth century. I read it way back when I was fifteen or sixteen and it was around that time when reading for pleasure wasn’t deemed to be ‘cool’ in my group of friends. I remember buying the book from my local WH Smith and hoping no-one saw me purchase it. I did enjoy it however I don’t think I appreciated the significance of the plot and the impact it had.
It wasn’t until last year when my mum was looking to read To Kill a Mockingbird that I realised my copy was up in the loft, dusty and turning yellow. She fell in love with the book and I found myself wanting to re-read it again as I had somehow forgotten the story.
It’s a novel which is timeless but not all for the right reasons. Race is unfortunately going to be a problem for the foreseeable future and in this day and age why should it be? I’m not going to sit here and preach but the outcome of the novel really does make you question race and wonder how far we have progressed.
On a lighter note, I’ve always had a fascination with the Deep South in the US, from their drawly old accents, to their communities and houses. I’m not sure where my interest has stemmed from but visiting the area is definitely on my bucket list!
I cannot finish mentioning this blog post without mentioning the formidable and determined Jean Louise! One of the most wonderful characters created. I’m sure I will be re-reading this one in another five or six years.
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
I bought Me Before You by Jojo Moyes on the spur of the moment – rather unusual for me as I love to browse a book shop for ten million hours before I make my decision. I had picked up and put down this novel so many times in shops asking myself if it would lack substance and if I should be reading something slightly more ‘highbrow’? I loved her novel The One Plus One which I read at the beginning of the year, so I finally gave in and thought I would give this one a go.
Louisa, is a twenty-something year old, still living with her parents, has a boyfriend who is non-committal and she’s just been made redundant from her job as a waitress at The Buttered Bun. Her sister Treena is the apple of her parent’s eyes and can do no wrong. Faced with the prospect of being unemployed Louisa heads off to the Job Centre where she is given the option of being a lap dancer or a carer. Obviously she goes for the latter. Enter Will Traynor – a former city man, who liked to work hard and play hard but sadly he has lost the use of his lower body due to an accident and requires round the clock care. Louisa is employed by his mother in the hope she can turn his life around.
A few days in and Louisa doesn’t even know if she can stick the job out, rude and obnoxious Will is the definition of a difficult person. But she learns something that will change her job and ultimately her life. She overhears a conversion detailing that Will has tried to commit suicide and wishes to travel to Switzerland to take his own life. Louisa sets about giving Will a reason to live by taking him horse racing, to the opera, a wedding and even to Mauritius. The pair warm to each other and Louisa begins to fall in love with him but can she change his mind?
A spoiler alert here – it doesn’t have a happy ending. I was initially gutted that it wasn’t the ending I imagined but it was also a refreshing change to read a book which didn’t tie everything up and offer a happy solution. My worries about the book lacking substance were quickly blown away as it deals with the right to die and whether this is right or wrong. Moyes puts forward both cases brilliantly and neither sways one way or the other.
Moyes creates wonderful characters; Louisa and Will’s relationship simmers away and develops into love and respect for one another. The two protagonists are quite similar to Ed and Jess in The One Plus One, both women are kind hearted souls who are down on the luck while the men are both high flyers who have suffered setbacks. I have thoroughly enjoyed both of her books and I will definitely be delving further into her back catalogue.
Dark Aemilia by Sally O’Reilly
A week without work is the perfect time for me to catch up on some reading. The lovely people at Myriad sent me a copy of Dark Aemilia by Sally O’Reilly and I couldn’t wait to start it. Set during my favourite periods in history (Tudor/Elizabethan) along with my favourite chap – William Shakespeare, I had high hopes.
Aemilia Lanyer grows up in the court of Elizabeth I and becomes a firm favourite with the Queen and the majority of the men! She has been the mistress of Lord Hunsdon for years but when she meets William Shakespeare they begin a steamy and sensational affair.When Aemilia learns she is pregnant she is immediately ousted from the court and married off to the rather useless Alfonso Layner.
Throughout the novel Aemilia and Will have a volatile relationship. Their conversations tend to be full of wit and tension after he catches her in a compromising position with another man, yet underneath their war of words both have such a strong yearning to be together.
The novel has a number of themes including religion, class and gender. The theme of witchcraft is introduced to the reader when Aemilia’s son Henry contracts The Plague. Aemilia dances with the devil and uses witchcraft to insure Henry’s survival but this has repercussions throughout the novel including the deaths of her maid and her friend’s son. Feminism is another topic which is woven into the novel. Aemilia is a poet and struggles to get her work published because she is a woman. She endures blackmail and dishonesty on her quest to become an established author.
I’m a big fan of historical novels and love books which combine fiction and non-fiction like Dark Aemilia. I am one of those people who have to uncover the truth in a novel like this. O’Reilly actually provides notes at the back of the book on the characters and which aspects of the novel are true.
I loved this novel so much! I’m rather fond of Shakespeare, I’m a student of English after all, so any book concerning him I am eager to read! O’Reilly has created a wonderful character in Aemilia, she manages to evoke so much emotion through her feisty nature and self-assurance as she battles for power and recognition. Utterly compelling, this is a must read.