[REVIEW] The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker @PenguinRHUK

What attracted me to this book was the plot – Trojan War, Achilles! – but most of all the promise of it being told from the point of women and being centered around them. I also have to say that the cover is so beautiful and it just suits the book so well.

‘I was immediately aware of a new desire, to be part of it, to dissolve into it: the sea that feels nothing and can never be hurt.’

The book begins with Briseis, who upon taking shelter as the war rages on in her city decides to check on her mother-in-law because she’s sick. Making sure her mother-in-law got what she needed she returns back to the place where women and children hide and await their doom. When the Greeks enter Lyrnessus, Briseis is standing on the roof of a building of the shelter and what she witnesses is very horrific – Achilles killing her brothers and husband – but if that’s not enough to cause chills down her spine, Achilles looks up and stares at her and then continues his quest in conquering the city. What she feared happens and once fighting’s over the men turn their attention to women and children. Most of the women become imprisoned as slaves to certain kings. Briseis becomes awarded to Achilles who happens to have killed every person she loved. She’s put in this horrifying situation where she has to be brave in order to survive and although she hates Achilles and all the men who destroyed her city – she must not show it. From this point on our story begins and what we as readers witness is the ugliness of war.

The way Pat Barker told this story brought shivers down my spine at times because I felt like I was witnessing the horrors the women in it went through – from being raped to preparing men’s bodies for cremation. Barker is a fantastic writer and her skills to make you feel like you were there are something to admire. Briseis was such a fascinating character and I loved her strength. Barker showed that it’s not just the men who fight in the war that have strength but the women whose roles are so important. The ‘godlike’ Achilles was wonderfully written as well as Patroclus who I loved throughout the novel as well as the portrayal of their ‘friendship’. What I found annoying was the use of certain words that made me cringe e.g. ‘mate’ because they didn’t fit this story. I mean it is a retelling of an important event in Greek mythology so that’s why I found it cringey. I loved how women were portrayed in this novel because of their strength but not so much when it came to the raping and using of the women – the author including the brutality of it made the story richer in a way because that’s how women were treated. I liked that the author didn’t shy away from gory scenes and described certain scenes in detail. The Silence of the Girls came at a perfect time in my life because I spent many hours lost in it.

The Silence of the Girls is a fascinating look into the Trojan War from the perspective of a queen turned Achilles’ slave, Briseis. Inside this book you’ll find the brutality of war and pain women had to endure in order to secure their survival. More often in these tales women are cast aside but their roles are much greater whenever a war rages.

I would like to thank the publisher Penguin Random House UK (Hamish Hamilton) for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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Pat Barker was born in Yorkshire and began her literary career in her forties, when she took a short writing course taught by Angela Carter. Encouraged by Carter to continue writing and exploring the lives of working class women, she sent her fiction out to publishers. Thirty-five years later, she has published fifteen novels, including her masterful Regeneration Trilogy, been made a CBE for services to literature, and won awards including the Guardian Fiction Prize and the UK’s highest literary honour, the Booker Prize. She lives in Durham and her new novel, The Silence of the Girls, will be published by Hamish Hamilton in August 2018.

Find her on: Goodreads

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[REVIEW] The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman @EccoBooks @sarahw

Prior to reading The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman I was familiar with Nabokov’s Lolita but haven’t read it so keep in mind that these thoughts come form someone who hasn’t read Lolita. What initially drew me to The Real Lolita was the true-crime aspect of it and the parallel between the Sally Horner case and Lolita was a big plus as well.

The Real Lolita is a true-crime book focused on the kidnapping of an eleven year old girl named Sally Horner in 1948 by a man who posed as an FBI agent in order to deceive Sally into going with him. The happenings in Lolita as well as the kidnapping are connected and Weinman [the author] within this book explains the connection between the two. From the first few chapters we are introduced to the story of Sally’s kidnapping which is quite chilling and disturbing. It reads like fiction and it’s hard to believe it’s not. When you pass one hundred pages you will notice that a lot of research went into this book and I really appreciated that while reading. The book feels like an essay or a thesis defending the subject matter at hand since we do not have actual proof [in verbal form or written] that the Sally Horner case inspired Lolita. I have seen some reviews complaining that the book mainly focuses on Nabokov and his life but I would disagree and say that fair amount of chapters discuss both subjects presented to the reader. As the book title clearly says ‘The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World’ you should expect Nabokov’s origin story and analysis of early influences prior to the writing of Lolita. Weinman discusses many things and focuses on certain characters whose stories I found unnecessary although some were interesting. I want to go back to the book ‘feeling like a thesis’, Weinman discusses and shows [in a form of a handwritten note] that Nabokov knew about the Sally Horner case before the publication of Lolita but there is mystery around what exactly inspired his master novel Lolita. I would also like to discuss the cover of the book which is absolutely brilliant and showcases the book in the most perfect way. The picture is of Sally Horner on the phone with her family after being rescued – you can see the excitement in her eyes because after twenty-one months of being apart from her family she’s talking to them – and the butterflies which are a connection to Nabokov who had a passion for butterflies. In the book, Weinman points that she’s not the first person to discover the connection between Sally and Lolita because before her we had Peter Welding who wrote an article about it in a paper called Nuggets and we have a Nabokovian scholar called Alexander Dolinin who discussed the parallel between the two as well. Weinman also points out where both went wrong and corrects their mistakes by shining light on Sally Horner who, first, was a victim of a lunatic called Frank La Salle and then an inspiration for the well-known novel by Vladimir Nabokov. What particularly fascinated me was the fact that after several decades people didn’t realise that the character Dolores Haze aka Lolita is a victim of abuse and not someone to be blamed for it. I honestly wish I read Lolita before reading this book because I might’ve seen it as something that it’s not. Now, there are many things I didn’t discuss that are in this book because this review would’ve been very long but I tried my best to share key points.

Although I was familiar with Lolita and what it dealt with [a relationship between an older man and an underage girl] I did get spoiled when it came to certain happenings in the book so if you are someone who doesn’t like to get spoiled I suggest you pick up a copy of Lolita and then get The Real Lolita so you can compare both.

I would like to thank the publisher Ecco Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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Sarah Weinman is the editor of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s(Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives (Penguin). She covers book publishing for Publishers Marketplace, and has written for the New York Timesthe Washington Postthe New Republicthe Guardian, and Buzzfeed, among other outlets. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Find her on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[REVIEW] The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon @ViragoBooks

What caught my attention to The Incendiaries was the hype around it which was huge and everyone seemed to be talking about it. I wanted to check what all the hype was about, of course.

The Incendiaries is told from three voices although it mainly focuses on Will Kendall, who is a scholarship student who juggles both work and studying and whose life is quite hectic. Our second ‘narrator’ is Phoebe Lin, who we get to meet but no in the same amount as Will. Third person is the cult leader called John Leal whose craziness we get to read in half-page chapters. The story revolves around Will and Phoebe and their relationship which begins like any other but it changes when she becomes acquainted with John Leal. Phoebe has a tragic past which she’s secretive about even to her boyfriend Will, but as she joins the enigmatic John Leal she begins to open up  – not to Will – but to Leal and other cult members. Will begins to see changes in Phoebe and decides to find out what is making Phoebe distracted and distanced from him. When bombings of several abortion clinics happen and Phoebe vanishes he refuses to believe that she’s the one responsible.

I have to say that I enjoyed Kwon’s writing in this novel the most. I just liked the way she crafted sentences because they felt magical at times. Now, since this novel is about two-hundred and ten pages long I have to say that I felt some of the characters weren’t developed fully and I would’ve liked to see their POV deepend – e.g. Leal and Phoebe. The characters weren’t likable to me at all but I did feel for Will towards the end of the novel. The beginning of the book confused me because the author shifted from first person to third person but once I got used to it I didn’t mind it much. Onto what I liked in The Incendiaries – the way Kwon described Leal and his manipulation effects on Phoebe is something I liked because you can see how easily a wounded and broken person can fall under someone else’s power.  The psychology behind that was point on because it often happens that way – lost souls are always in need of guidance and light. There wasn’t an appeal to Phoebe’s character for me nor did I feel sympathy for her because of the way she was crafted although I wish we got to see more from her POV in the book –  that would’ve given her more dimension [if that makes sense] and depth. I liked Will’s willingness to save Phoebe from the dangerous world she was entering because that shows how far a person will go to save someone he/she loves.

I found The Incendiaries to be a well written debut novel with quite an interesting story but it did fail when it comes to other characters in it – whether it was intentional or not I found it to be something missing. I would recommend reading this book because it will make you think as well as get you out of a reading slump if you’re in one because of the great writing.

I would like to thank the publisher Virago Press for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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R.O. Kwon’s first novel, The Incendiaries, is published by Riverhead (U.S.) and forthcoming from Virago (U.K.) in September 2018. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. She has received awards and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she’s mostly lived in the United States.

Find her on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[BLOG TOUR + GIVEAWAY] #RandomThingsTours Ladders to Heaven by Mike Shanahan @unbounders @annecater

Today is my stop on the Ladders to Heaven blog tour hosted by the amazing Anne Cater. Since today is the paperback publication day for LTD I am hosting a giveaway on Twitter and will also share it on Instagram so more people can enter. How to enter? Click on the link below About the Book.

ABOUT THE BOOK

They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Ladders to Heaven tells their amazing story.

Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilisation. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence – fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since.

These trees intrigued Aristotle and amazed Alexander the Great. They were instrumental in Kenya’s struggle for independence and helped restore life after Krakatoa’s catastrophic eruption. Egypt’s Pharaohs hoped to meet fig trees in the afterlife and Queen Elizabeth II was asleep in one when she ascended the throne.
And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees, making them vital to rainforests. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope.

Ultimately, it’s a story about humanity’s relationship with nature. The story of the fig trees stretches back tens of millions of years, but it is as relevant to our future as it is to our past.

GIVEAWAY [CLOSED]:

The publisher has been kind enough to allow me to host a giveaway for a paperback copy of Ladders to Heaven. It will be UK only and you can enter by RT-ing this tweet.

Add ‘Ladders to Heaven‘ to your TBR:  

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Mike Shanahan is a freelance writer with a doctorate in rainforest ecology. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms, produced award-winning journalism and spent several weeks of his life at the annual United Nations climate change negotiations. He is interested in what people think about nature and our place in it. His writing includes work published by The Economist, Nature, The Ecologist and Ensia, and chapters of Dry: Life without Water (Harvard University Press); Climate Change and the Media (Peter Lang Publishing) and Culture and Climate Change: Narratives (Shed). He is the illustrator of Extraordinary Animals (Greenwood Publishing Group) and maintains a blog called Under the Banyan.

Find him on: BlogFacebook, Twitter and Goodreads.