Thursday 29 May 2014

BLAST FROM THE PAST: A Room with a View

Originally published in 1908 by Edward Arnold

My edition: the gorgeous 2012 Penguin English Library edition (above); I want them ALL.

What’s it about?
A sunny tale of love and liberation, A Room with a View is the story of Lucy, on holiday in Italy with her conservative cousin when she meets George Emerson, an unusual young man not of her class. Although drawn to him, on her return home she becomes engaged instead to Cecil, a comically dull gentleman from her own background.

Sundrenched and optimistic, and including many issues which trouble the Edwardian public – radical thinking, women’s suffrage, the constrictions of English social rules – this is a brilliantly witty love story.

Why now?
I’ve always wanted to read this; it was one my mum loved. It was a rather vague want until I caught sight of this edition during a regular Amazon scour and I fell in love. I had to have it.

The verdict:

I’ve wanted to read EM Forster’s most famous novel for a very long time. I envisioned sun-drenched rolling hills, the cultural delights of Italy being scrutinised by the rigid English and florid declarations of love. And that’s exactly what I got!

Initially, I struggled to get into A Room with a View. I think this may have been partially the fault of my unfamiliarity with the time period – I don’t think I’ve ever read an Edwardian novel before. It wasn’t the strong, lovable, satire of Regency or the stolid, dense prose of Victoriana or the sparseness of Modernism – it was a wonderful blend of all of them, and the cast of characters reflected that amalgamation. Lucy is the young girl finding her voice and fighting against the values of the older generations; Miss Bartlett is the older thorn in Lucy’s side, who maybe understands a little more than first realised; Miss Lavish is the crazy maiden with big ideas and the ultimate freedom and then we have the Emersons. The Emersons are a lower class than the rest of the characters and their outlook on life is startlingly different to every other character in the novel.

One of the things that most set George Emerson and his father apart is their support of feminism. They feel that a woman should be a man’s partner, with their own thoughts, opinions and feelings, and Lucy experiences that when she is with them. They challenge everything she has been taught by her mother and Miss Bartlett about how to conduct herself to ensnare a husband and run a successful home.

George himself is such an unlikely hero. He’s not a hero: he’s shy, has a tendency towards emotional darkness, he panics and he feels. He’s the opposite of the dreadful Cecil. I hated the way that the man that Lucy had agreed to marry was so eager to improve her, to replace her words and ideas with what he thought they should be, to increase her knowledge of history and literature. And yet the story wasn’t a struggle in choosing between George and Cecil; A Room with a View is about Lucy’s struggle to decide who she is and what she be defined by.

I ended up being completely swept along with Lucy’s story and the charming cast of characters. This is the perfect read for a miserable, rainy Sunday when all you want is shorts, sun and an ice cream.

Still not convinced?
- It was listed as one of Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels
- This quote: ‘It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.’
- The feminism! From a book published in 1908! By a man!

Do you think Forster was ahead of his time? Is Cecil a bad person, or just the product of his upbringing and society? Are Lucy and George examples of the ‘new woman’ and the ‘new man’, or are they just anomalies?


Monday 26 May 2014

The Worst Girlfriend in the World, Sarra Manning

Pages: 344
Publisher: Atom
Release Date: 1st May 2014
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Guitar Girl; Diary of a Crush: French Kiss, Kiss and Make Up, Sealed With a Kiss; Let’s Get Lost; Pretty Things; Fashionistas: Laura, Hadley, Irina, Candy; Nobody’s Girl; Unsticky; You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me; Top Ten Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend; Adorkable; It Felt Like a Kiss

Girls rule, boys drool...

Franny Barker’s best friend, Alice, is the worst girlfriend in the world according to the many boys of Merrycliffe-on-Sea. She toys with them, and dumps them. But she’ll never dump fashion obsessed Franny. Nothing and no one can come between them.

Not even wannabe rock god and sultry-eyed manchild, Louis Allen, who Franny’s been crushing on hard. Until Alice, bored with immature boys and jealous of Franny’s new college friends, sets her sights on Louis. Suddenly, BFF are bitter rivals.

Is winning Louis’s heart worth more than their friendship? There’s only one way for Franny to find out.

I nearly had a happiness heart attack when a proof of The Worst Girlfriend in the World was waiting for me at home one evening, but for some reason, I put it off. For at least a month and a half and I have no idea why. It was awesome.

Sarra Manning recently wrote an article for The Guardian about her love of stroppy, difficult girls that my entire Twitter feed fell in love with, and The Worst Girlfriend in the World is definitely proof of that. I have to admit that I sometimes struggle with difficult protagonists - I have to have a point of connection – but I immediately fell for Alice and Franny.

Franny is the kind of girl I’d like to be – she has a clear talent that she works incredibly hard at and her passion for it spills off of every single page. Her love of fashion and design and the statement that clothing makes is a huge part of her life, and I really wish I had that focus when it comes to clothes! But Franny also makes an important point – you don’t have to be academic to be intelligent, witty, worthy and talented. That’s just not the way it works. I hope that lots of girls with talents outside of academia pick up this book and realise that that’s okay; they don’t need a string of A*’s to be happy and successful and clever.

Then there’s Alice. As we get into the novel, there are plenty of reasons to dislike and berate her: she seemingly goes out of her way to hurt Franny, her anti-girl words and actions, her need to compete with everyone. But she’s actually just a scared, insecure and lonely sixteen-year-old girl reacting in the only way she knows how; in the only way in which she feels she can control the situation. She’s sixteen and she’s having a lot of feelings and that how’s dealing with them, in the same way that Franny deals with hers by making impossible leather dresses and obsessing over Edie Sedgwick, albeit a little more constructively...

A lot of talk about feminism and slut-shaming comes into this novel with Alice’s reputation. I love that recently I seem to be reading so many books that promote feminism as a vital thing that isn’t embarrassing or shameful – it’s necessary and so important for teenagers, especially girls, to know that and believe it. It’s with stories like The Worst Girlfriend in the World that I think could start to make that difference, or at least plant the seed.

The Worst Girlfriend in the World is an endearing, funny and touching novel about friendship, terrible rock bands and how, at the end of the day, it really is chicks before dicks.


Sunday 25 May 2014

Letterbox Love #48

Letterbox Love all of the lovely, lovely books I’ve gotten in the post, bought and everything else. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated. Hosted by Narratively Speaking.

I only got a few books this week, but boy are they good'uns! I can't wait to get stuck into all of them.

For review:

The Secret Diary of Lizze Bennet, Bernie Su and Kate Rodrick (e-proof)

A modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice based on the Emmy Award-winning phenomenon, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

There is a great deal that goes into making a video blog. Lizzie Bennett should know, having become a YouTube sensation over the course of her year-long video diary project. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries chronicled Lizzie’s life as a twenty-four-year-old grad student, struggling under a mountain of student loans and living at home with her two sisters – beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. What may have started as her grad student thesis grew into so much more, as the videos came to inform and reflect her life and that of her sisters. When rich, handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck-up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets – and for Lizzie’s viewers. Suddenly Lizzie – who always considered herself a fairly normal young woman – was a public figure. But not everything happened on-screen. Luckily for us, Lizzie kept a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet provides more character introspection as only a book can, with revelatory details about the Bennet household, including Lizzie’s special friendship with her father, untold stories from Netherfield, Lizzie’s thoughts and fears about life after grad school and becoming an instant web celebrity.

I’m so excited to get stuck into this as I love The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Thanks NetGalley and Touchstone!

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (proof)

Darcy writes the words.
Lizzie lives them.

Landing a major publishing deal, teenager Darcy finds herself in New York City, and suddenly surrounded by the cream of YA authors. At the same timr, Afterworlds, Darcy’s gripping thriller, begins to unfold. A novel within a novel...

This sounds amazing. I’m a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld so I may have squeaked (a lot) and hugged the book when it arrived. Thanks S&S!

Winger, Andrew Smith (paperback)

Ryan Dead West’s life is complicated.

He’s a student at Pine Mountain, a boarding school for rich kids. He’s sharing a room with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s totally in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little kid.

With the help of his mates and his talent for doodling comics, Ryan Dean is trying his best to get a handle on school life and rugby. But when the unthinkable happens he ahs to find a way to hold on to the important things – no matter what.

Hilarious and heartbreaking, Winger is a coming-of-age story for the twenty-first century.

Yay! So looking forward to this – I love Grasshopper Jungle. Thanks Puffin!


Everything Leads to You, Nina Lacour (hardcover)

“I want you to do something with the place. Something epic.”

After being entrusted with her brother’s Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation gift, Emi Price isn’t sure how to fulfil his one condition: that something great take place there while he’s gone. Emi may be a talented young production designer, already beginning to thrive in the competitive film industry, but she still feels like an average teen, floundering when it comes to romance.

But when she and her best friend, Charlotte, discover a mysterious letter at the estate sale of a Hollywood film legend, Emi must move beyond the walls of her carefully crafted world to chase her down the loose ends of a movie’s icon’s hidden life, leading her to uncover a deacdes’ old secret and the potential for something truly epic: love.

I’m so excited for this! And it looks absolutely stunning – I can;t stop staring at it.

We Were Liars, E Lockhart (paperback)

We are liars

We are beautiful and privileged

We are cracked and broken

A tale of love and romance

A tale of tragedy

Which are lies?

Which is truth?

You decide

FINALLY. I’ve read it already and can report that it’s brilliant. Review posted yesterday.


Saturday 24 May 2014

We Were Liars, E Lockhart

Pages: 225
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: 15th May 2014
Edition: UK paperback, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys, Real Life Boyfriends, Fly on the Wall, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, How to Be Bad

We are liars

We are beautiful and privileged

We are cracked and broken

A tale of love and romance

A tale of tragedy

Which are lies?

Which is truth?

You decide


Everyone in the book world has been talking about We Were Liars for months. My pre-order finally arrived earlier this week and I settled down on my day off to discover all of its secret. And boy they were good.

Within a page of starting We Were Liars I was in love with the prose of the novel. It is so stunning, so mind-blowing that I can’t even settle on a word that encapsulates how I feel about E Lockhart’s writing in this novel. It’s just wow. The way that Cady’s emotions are described is so physical, visceral and violent that you can’t help but know exactly how and what she’s feeling. I’ve never read emotion in that way before and I think it’ll be difficult to go back to reading it the regular way.

There was a sense of poetry in the telling of the Liars’ story in the structure and individual style. The staggering of the lines, the choppiness and the repetition reminded me a little of EE Cummings, actually. There’s so much to say about the writing of this novel – there’s something spectacular on every page – that I really should stop...

So. Cady’s life as a privileged Sinclair is certainly interesting. I love stories of the high and mighty, the luxurious lifestyles and the incredible lengths that people will go to for money. And that was a huge part of We Were Liars. The entitlement, the dependence, the prejudice. It was a fascinating look at the world of America’s elite. I mean, they own a private island off the coast of Massachusetts, come on.

I’m going to stop there because I don’t want to give away a single thing about this novel. It’s completely woah and I know understand the hype. Run to your nearest bookshop, people. RUN.