In Which Sophie Reads.

I’ve been thinking about starting a little series on here for a while now, although I know my blog is mostly a lifestyle blog about my weekly goings on, health and food, one of my main passions in life is literature (I am doing a degree on it after all) and I want to feature it more on here. I didn’t want to write great long reviews in which I dissected texts until you don’t even feel you need to read the books because I’ve already completely explained them, I just want to inspire people to read more and enjoy books even just have as much as I do.

You don’t have to be doing a degree in literature in order to love reading, I have been captivated by books since I was about 8 years old and have been devouring them ever since. Although I have to read dozens of books a year for my course, when I can manage to find the time I read plenty of other novels (and sometimes short stories or even poems) in between.

With the start of the new year still being part of my holidays I made the most of having so much free time and read three really enjoyable books and I thought now would be the perfect time to start a mini review series!

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Artful by Ali Smith

I went to see Ali Smith give a talk about this book at a literary festival in November, despite having not read a single one of her books, as I’d already heard her speak at a talk about Angela Carter which was brilliant. Hearing her read extracts from Artful I couldn’t resist and immediately blathered on to my boyfriend about how amazing it was and Tom, being such a lovely person, bought it for me for Christmas.

The book is comprised of four lectures that Smith wrote and gave at Oxford University, each centred around a theme – ‘On Time’, ‘On Form’, ‘On Edge’ and ‘On Offer and On Reflection’. The narrator of the story is haunted by the ghost of her former lover,  a university professor. After a year of mourning for him (or her – the book remains unclear on this), she walks into the study they shared and picks up her old copy of Oliver Twist which she begins to read, it is then that the ghost arrives. The professor had been in the process of writing a series of lectures on art and literature, the lectures written by the dead fictional character and those you are reading written by Smith blur which I suspect is what she intended.

What I love about this book is that it is both at once easy to read and incredibly complex. The writing style is uncomplicated and flows easily and yet the text is absolutely rammed full of allusions throughout. The professor’s lectures are filled with literary quotations and the narrator also adds her own. I felt like I was reading more than one text and whilst some might find that slightly difficult to swallow, I loved it.

Definitely a book for those with a love of literature as an entire subject.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 

Few people have not heard of this book and yet I had never read it before recently, despite it being on my wishlist for years. The novel was published in 1963 and set ten years previously, opening in New York. The protagonist, Esther Greenwood, won an internship at a New York fashion magazine along with a group of other young girls. The novel starts with her thrilled with the opportunity as she hopes it will help her realise her dreams to be a writer but as it progresses Esther slips into a depression as her life appears to spiral beyond her control. She struggles with the idea of a future as a woman in a society which does not take women seriously or give them the opportunities she longs for. The book is filled with her journey throughout difficult relationships, failures and losses, and her emotional development as a young woman coming into her own and learning to see the world through her own mind.

I more or less read it in the three hours I spent travelling to and from London a couple of weekends ago which is the fastest I’ve read a book in a long time – just shows how much I was captivated by both the story and the narrator. It’s a heartwarming but equally heartbreaking story and I couldn’t recommend it enough.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 

Another book I had been meaning to read for a while, it has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years, no doubt helped along by the film made in 2012. It’s an epistolary novel, the narrator, Charlie, writes a series of letters to an anonymous person and it is through these letters that we learn about his life. The story is one of the trials of adolescence, the difficulty of growing up. The letters span almost exactly a year in Charlie’s life – August 1991 to August 1992. He writes about high school, about his friends, about his family, and about his English teacher who gives him extra books to read and essays to write. As the letters progress it becomes clear that Charlie does not have an easy life and has his own issues to deal with, it is not always a comfortable story but it never ceases to be a touching one.

I know it may seem overly talked about but I really enjoyed it, and although it may sound like a typical story of adolescence it is so much more than that, it goes so much deeper. It has been a while since I’ve felt so strongly in support of a novel’s protagonist, Charlie may not be an easy character but he is definitely easy to love.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this and that you might be inspired to go read one of these books. Let me know what you think of my writing reviews!

Sophie x

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17 comments

  1. I love that you are going to incorporate little book reviews into your blog 🙂 I’ve read both The Bell Jar and Perks and really enjoyed them both. Both stories were really well written and, I too, read them both fairly quickly. I actually may read The Bell Jar again (it was just that good!) 🙂

  2. I like the idea of this post series! I love posts about what people have been reading.

    I’ve only read one novel by Ali Smith – The Accidental – and it was one of those rare books that I enjoyed much, much more after writing an essay on it during my degree. At first it was just a bit confusing but after I analysed it a bit more it was so interesting.

    I read The Bell Jar once in my early teens, and loved it because I was young and maudlin, and then read it again when I was 20 and found myself enjoying it just as much but in a completely different way. It’s strange how that happens with books!

    I’ve never read Perks of Being a Wallflower but it’s somewhere on my huge mental ‘to read’ list.

    1. Glad you like it, I feel like if you enjoy my reviews I must be doing okay!

      I want to read more by Ali Smith so maybe I’ll try The Accidental. I just really enjoy the way she doesn’t stick to the conventions of novel writing.

      1. Yeah, The Accidental definitely plays around with the concept of the novel. I wrote an essay on it about self-conscious storytelling in contemporary fiction, and it was really interesting to research it.

  3. I love book reviews and you read such a great breadth of books that I am always interested in what you have to say. Also, you write such insightful reviews without ruining plot. 🙂

    Looking forward to the next installment! Artful sounds like one I’d enjoy.

  4. Thanks for these awesome book reviews! I love to read, and am always looking for suggestions for books. I’ve already read “The Bell Jar” (and loved it), but I haven’t read the other two, so I’ll be sure to add them to my reading list!

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