The River Between

The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

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“Christian missionaries attempt to outlaw the female circumcision ritual and in the process create a terrible rift between the two Kikuyu communities on either side of the river”.

The River Between is the story of the division of two cultures in a community after the white man has introduced Christianity to Africa. It has a socio-cultural angle and it is interesting to see an insight of the history of Africa – before with the traditional structure of the tribes and after Christianity’s invasion in the country. It shows a classic culture clash between myths, traditions and pride vs. Christianity and the white man’s footsteps that sound so violently on the ground. The story shows the confusion and all of the changes that has created a division between two groups. An ethical dilemma concerning a girl’s circumcision starts an avalanche of problems and self-reflecting thoughts. It emphasizes the struggle between two communities, rather than the problem of colonization.
Things such as family relation, tradition, pride and the strong African culture divide the Christian Kenyans from the traditional ones.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o does an excellent job describing this confusion and ruin of the society. Through the entire novel, the title “The River Between” perfectly symbolizes the ridge between the two communities and the things that keep tearing them apart. Another thing is the moon; symbolizing the white man and colonization that keep on creating a wider ridge between the people.

“The moon was also awake. Her glare was hard and looked brittle. The whole ridge and everything wore a brilliant white”.

I have always been a fan of symbolism and there is a lot of it in this novel, so it was a pleasure reading it. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a talented author and writer – he tells the story so vividly; describing sounds, colours, smells and natural surroundings, so it’s as if you were there yourself.

“’It is bad. It is bad,’ Kinuthia. ‘I say the white man should go, go back to wherever he came from and leave us till our in peace’. The rest was drowned by the falling rain”.

Last of all, I like the idea of star-crossed lovers (the classical Romeo & Juliet-situation), where two people from two different cultures or communities try to pursue their happiness – together. In my mind, you could Wayaki and Nyambura “soldiers of love”.

“Something passed between them as two human beings, untainted with religion, social conventions or any tradition”

I was so happy that I had to read this book for a university course! Now I only want to read more of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’os literary works. It was interesting, extremely well-written and had beautiful characterizations of the characters of the story. It shows a socio-cultural insight of a historical time in Africa with colonization and which impact it had.
I was very moved while reading this novel. It is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. Afterwards, I felt that something left me and it left me with a simple and heartbreaking feeling of goodbye.

The Enchanted Castle

The Enchanted Castle by edith nesbit

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3 stars

“Jerry, Jimmy, and Cathy stumble upon a mysterious castle with a beautiful princess asleep in the garden. The princess is really Mabel, the housekeeper’s niece, who is only pretending to be royalty. But when she shows them a secret room filled with treasure where they discover a magical ring, enchantment becomes a reality”.

 

Edith Nesbit wrote “The Enchanted Castle” in 1907 and introduced the readers of the early 1900s to an enchanting and creative universe. There are so many great elements in this book. It is the story of four children (Gerald, Jimmy, Cathy and Mabel) and their fairy tale which becomes a quest for discovery and a meeting with unfamiliar and magical features and creatures. The reader is presented to this unique world and is allowed to join the four children on their journey. Edith Nesby has a beautiful and imaginary language and it is so easy to close your eyes and imagine yourself right in the middle of the magical world. It is a world filled with magic, dragons and stone figures which come alive during the night. As a reader you never know what happens next. You can easily let your imagination run wild – again, it’s about what you want and what you want to believe.

“When you are young so many things are difficult to believe, and yet the dullest people will tell you that they are true–such things, for instance, as that the earth goes round the sun, and that it is not flat but round. But the things that seem really likely, like fairy-tales and magic, are, so say the grown-ups, not true at all. Yet they are so easy to believe, especially when you see them happening. And, as I am always telling you, the most wonderful things happen to all sorts of people, only you never hear about them because the people think that no one will believe their stories, and so they don’t tell them to anyone except me. And they tell me, because they know that I can believe anything.”

The story’s plot revolves around a magic ring that makes you wish for what you want the most, and it doesn’t always end as expected, so Nesbit presents the message of: “being careful for what you wish for”, so there is a sense of morality hidden between the many magical elements of the story.

It is written in a classic language so the reader gets an image of the language of the early 1900s. The story is told with small episodic glimpses of the different experiences of the main characters, as well as it changes point of view, so all of the children are allowed to explore the magic of the ring.

Edith Nesbit has written a wonderful story for children as well as adults. It is a fine story with magic, comic relief and educational elements, such as the hidden morality (“be careful what you wish for”). We learn of Greek mythology and realize that there are changes while growing up. It is the story of accepting how you are, what others are and that in the end, things are not always what we think they are.

The story sets the mind going; What is real? What is imagination? Edith Nesbit draws an invisible line between the two. Is the magical fairytale really taking its place, is it happening in the children’s own imagination or are we all really a part of something bigger and undefined?

It is easy to become enchanted yourself while reading this story!

“In a place of the light there was darkness; in a place of the sounds there was silence

Persuasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen

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“Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work”.

Unlike the others in the novel, Anne enjoys life in the countryside and does not long for the leisure town, Bath. The countryside reminds her of old memories from when her mother was still alive and when she was not alone. Anne’s “reactions are expressed more through descriptive details than through exposition. The tone of the landscape controls the passage”.

“The sweet scenes of autumn were for a while put by, unless some tender sonnet, fraught with the apt analogy of the declining year, with declining happiness, and the images of youth, and hope, and spring, all gone together, blessed her memory”.

(Here, it is clearly seen that Jane Austen was inspired by the Romantic poetry of the early nineteenth century, e.g. Byron).

Anne’s dislike for Bath is presented several times in the story: “first from the circumstance of having been three years at school there, after her mother’s death; and secondly, from her happening to be not in perfectly good spirits the only winter which she had afterwards spent there with herself” (‘Persuasion’). At times, the story of Anne becomes almost autobiographical by Jane Austen e.g. that Jane Austen did not like to live in Bath, she believes in true love but is also aware of the importance of tradition and social status like Anne.
Jane Austen described Anne’s character in a letter to Fanny Knight: “pictures of perfection as you know make me sick and wicked […] you may perhaps like the Heroine, as she is almost too good for me” (‘Letter to Fanny Knight ‘).
Furthermore, biographer Claire Tomalin characterizes ‘Persuasion’ as Austen’s “present to herself, to Miss Sharp, to Cassandra, to Martha Lloyd . . . to all women who had lost their chance in life and would never enjoy a second spring” (Tomalin, Claire: ‘Jane Austen – A Life’) due to the fact that Jane Austen never married during her life. She was a strong and unique character herself; She accepted a proposal but changed her mind after 12 hours because she did not truly love him.
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.
After saying no to Frederick Wentworth’s proposal, Anne begins to regret the decision and the unhappiness that follows with it eventually affects her so much that she loses the bloom of her youth, expressed by Jane Austen in a letter to her sister, Fanny Knight. With her heart broken, it takes longer than expected to recover from the relationship she had with Frederick

“[…] but not with a few months ended Anne’s share of suffering from it. Her attachment and regrets had, for a long time, clouded every enjoyment of youth, and an early loss of bloom and spirits had been their lasting effect”.

Anne challenges society’s norms and expectations of the 19th Century’s ideal vision of a woman. The fact that they mostly think and act with their hearts creates a portrayal in literature which is considered very modern compared to society of the time.

“…when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure.” 

Unlike Jane Austen’s other stories (“Pride and Prejudice”, “Emma”, “Mansfield Park”, and so on), it is very different and does not compare itself easily, due to Anne’s age (27) which is quite old, so she has more experience and more of her own voice than the other female characters that we know of.
But Anne is indeed a true heroine. The story touched me deeply and every time I think of my time in Bath, I smile.
As a reader you experience all of Anne’s thoughts vividly, you feel her pain and sorrow, and you feel the hope that she keeps on clinging to.
A beautiful and spell-bound story!

Lady Windermere’s fan

Lady Windermere’s fan by Oscar Wilde

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3 stars

“Beautiful, aristocratic, an adored wife and young mother, Lady Windermere is ‘a fascinating puritan’ whose severe moral code leads her to the brink of social suicide. The only one who can save her is the mysterious Mrs Erlynne whose scandalous relationship with Lord Windermere has prompted her fatal impulse. And Mrs Erlynne has a secret – a secret Lady Windermere must never know if she is to retain her peace of mind”.

I have always been drawn towards British literature and especially the 19th Century. Of course, it is mandatory when you’re studying English language and literature, but it is not until this year that I have read any of the literary works by Oscar Wilde. BUT he is indeed a fascinating author and excellent in playwrights!
Whenever I discover and get to know a new author, I always combine it with cultural places that I have visited. The connection with Oscar Wilde happened when I visited his grave in Paris. There are still marks of lipstick everywhere.
“Lady Windermere’s fan” is the story of Lady and Lord Windermere and the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne who somehow becomes a certain obstacle on their way – both good and bad.

Oscar Wilde shows in his writing style, he has a perfect image of how the different social classes of the 19th Century behaved. He has many clever and sharp remarks that not only criticize the elite, but they are also satirical.

“Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.” 

The playwright “Lady Windermere’s fan” is about the British upper-middle classes and how they act and socialize. The parties and balls which they attend revolve around gossip, scandals and intrigue – which in fact is very entertaining to read. Of course, it is written as a play and there are often many characters to keep in mind, but the plot is interesting and sharp, so it’s easy to keep track off.

Oscar Wilde shows the reader an image of the past – and of the upper-class in Britain’s 19th Century with satirical comments, detailed descriptions about the many intrigues and allows the reader to have the gossip and the inside knowledge of the unique characters of the play.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” 

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

foto (13)4 stars

“After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages”.

A family is brutally murdered in a small town in England (it sounds familiar, but it doesn’t make it more boring for that reason!) Nobody Owens (Bod) grows up in the graveyard with old tombs, stories and the myths of former ancestors. He exists on the verge of life and death, all mixed up in one sweet mystery. “Regular” people as you and I don’t see him in the crowd; he will always only occur as a shadow. As he grows up, he knows that he eventually need to meet the man who killed his family, when he once was a baby. This is the element of uncertainty that always lures in the background through the entire story – as if you could feel it luring behind the old tombs in the graveyard.

“But Silas said nothing, and the question hung in the air as the man and the youth walked out of the bright pizza restaurant into the waiting darkness; and soon enough they were swallowed by the night”.
The writing style of Neil Gaiman’s literary universe is always unique, and this is very obvious in the story of Bod and his life in the Graveyard. This story is filled with contrasts; black and white, darkness and light, and most of all; evil and good – and the situations where it is difficult to tell the difference.
Bod will always be safe in the graveyard, but while he grows older, he is drawn to the unknown world outside of it. He feels the need of exploring it, even though he knows it isn’t safe there.
“The child stepped out of the house a little hesitantly. The fog wreathed around him like a long-lost friend”
It is easy for the reader to identify with Bod and his wish for life, and the fact that he longs for it so much – as if it wasn’t enough to be acknowledged of the fact but rather as if he needed to be physically able to grasp it within his hand.

“Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.”

My opinion on the book:
I found it different and therefore, very fascinating. I have always preferred to read children’s books that are not meant for children. Even though, the story is simple, there is so much more to it. Bod undergoes a series of dangers while growing up and he has to make sacrifices and let go of loved-ones. This book is very psychological and shows his quest for self-discovery.
Again, Neil Gaiman amazes me with his strange and beautiful stories – and especially the note about Tori Amos made me smile even more.
“The Graveyard Book” symbolize the belief of hope and that something uncertain awaits you.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

SDC13508five stars

“Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Laneis told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark”.

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Title: “The ocean at the End of the Lane” – author: Neil Gaiman – pages: 181 – published: 2013

Growing up creates many feelings inside of you. It is a whirlwind – an ocean so huge that you cannot control it.

I bought ”The Ocean at the end of the Lane” when I was traveling around England last year in the summer of 2014. I browsed through a charity shop and saw the cover, and I just knew that I had to read it – and I’m glad that I did!
This is not a children’s-book, but it is description of childhood – the good and the bad. It is the story of a man, who travels back to his childhood home, lets himself remember and open up to memories he thought he had forgotten. It is a strange mix of fantasy and realism, and it is written beautifully! I have never read any book like this, so it stays unique in its own way.

“The Ocean at the end of the Lane” truly haunted me. I read it over three days and when I wasn’t awake, I was dreaming about it. Everything about this story intrigued and scared me at the same time. Neil Gaiman has the ability of describing childhood from its best and worst points – the story is honest and frightening, just as it was to grow up and not feel as safe as other children did.

“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.”

It’s a story about childhood, growing up and suddenly rediscovering memories you thought you had left behind. This book makes you feel extremely alive and make you face the dark sides inside of you – even though, you don’t want to.

“Nothing’s ever the same,” she said. “Be it a second later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and roiling. And people change as much as oceans.”

After finishing this book, I felt oddly relieved because I had the feeling that Neil Gaiman had peeked inside of my head, watched my childhood memories in a long line of strings and then decided to write a book about it. At the same time, I felt sad about letting a part of myself go – but still happy, and most of all, nostalgic. It’s truly a matter of looking back and finding the memories that you treasured, and especially accept the memories that made you lose your breath.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues”.

“Pride and Prejudice” is a wonderful story about the 19th Century that focuses on social class status and the moral of marrying for economic reasons, and not only for love. I have always been very interested and impressed by Jane Austen’s unique writing style and after visiting Bath last summer (2014), everything changed for me. I visited the home of Jane Austen, walked in her footsteps, down the small brick lanes and through the beautiful park covered with flowers and nature in blossom.

Jane Austen brings idealistic elements within the character of Elizabeth Bennet, and sympathizes on human values and interpersonal problems. The things that make Elizabeth a truly interesting character is 1) she is never fully formed on page and 2) is considered as a Protean and plays many different kind of roles, and hereby, it emphasizes on the idealistic question that human deals with, which is manifested in the character of Elizabeth. She develops throughout the novel, stands by her own opinion and later rises above it, which makes her see the potential and charming elements of Mr. Darcy. This moral change visible in Elizabeth as a character is often seen in the characters of Austen’s novels: ”Moral autonomy is a striking feature of Jane Austen’s heroines […] her heroines are always required to make sounder judgements than those around them […] or […] to correct their errors through their own experience and not through submission to the advice of others” (‘The Pelican Guide to English Literature’). The protagonists reflect, evolve and suddenly see themselves from another perspective.

“Till this moment I never knew myself.”

Jane Austen’s literary universe conveys many existential questions with it, e.g. gender roles, limitations, possibilities and how the historical aspect influences certain matters, such as marriage and love. As an author, Jane Austen is ahead of her time because of her focus on mostly women and their place in society.

Even almost two hundred years after her first publications, Jane Austen is relevant in a modern aspect and there has been an increasing interest with modern films, TV-series and books, e.g. ‘Longbourn’  (2013) which tells the story of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ from the servants’ point of view. One might wonder what the reason is for this Jane Austen revival and why it is still relevant.

Ever since I started reading Jane Austen’s literary works, I feel I have been blessed with beautiful and descriptive stories of the 19th Century in Britain. There is so much I love about this world that I don’t even know what to write, so I’ll say this;

Jane Austen claims herself that she writes with “a little bit of ivory, two inches wide, on which I work with a brush so fine as to produce little effect after much labour” – and for that, I admire her!