Book Review – A Room Of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

(My Rating 4/5)

My first Virginia Woolf! 

A Room Of One’s Own, which was published in 1929, is an extended essay by Woolf that reflects on the reasons behind the world’s dearth of published female poets and novelists.

Right at the start, she gives us her opinion that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”

She then goes on to explain the train of thought that led to this opinion. In the process she reveals her own in depth research into the matter, puts forth unique perspectives and imagines scenarios different from the ones we simply accept ed without questioning. 

For example, at one point, while talking about how women are represented in literature she observes: 

“But almost without exception they are shown in relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that;”

And a little later she imagines:

“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer!”  

As one begins to read her work, the feminist in Woolf quickly becomes apparent. But it is a feminism that is built around curiosity, a desire to understand, unwavering confidence, and making a solid point with grace and elegance. 

It is a far cry from what I call ‘latter day feminism’, which, in my (most probably insignificant) opinion, is sometimes crude and rabid, and in being so, ironically devalues the ideal in the process! Though technically not a part of the definition of feminism, I find it hard to imagine the concept being complete without it also embodying what it truly means to be feminine – the whole expanse of what it means to be feminine. But in Woolf’s writing I find strains of my ideal of feminism. 

On reading this book  (which I’m pretty sure I’m going to re-read at some point) I find that I really like Virginia Woolf, and want to read more of what she wrote. 

Is Virginia Woolf one of your favourite authors? Which of her books do you recommend I read next?

Book Review – The Mice Before Christmas by Anne L. Watson

An adorable companion to 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, The Mice Before Christmas tells the story of why exactly the mice were not stirring on the night before Christmas. (Mice, after all, are most active at night!)

Watson imagines and tells the sweetest story about these tiny creatures, and in the process gets us into the spirit of Christmas. The cheer and joy of the season, the seemingly endless preparations, the excitement and anticipation of children, the coming together of the entire family, old and young - she captures the essence of what makes Christmas so special through this poem, 

It is thus not only a poem that complements Clement Clarke Moore's classic, but is also able to stand its own ground and has all the makings of becoming a classic in its own right. 

Wendy Edelson's artwork throughout the book is reminiscent of a traditional Christmas from a bygone era - enchanting, cozy and just very, very sweet, with little mice featuring everywhere. Her attention to detail is simply marvellous!  Just going through the pictures is an entirely different way to enjoy the book, and would also make for a delightful Christmas experience to share with a child. 

For those of you who have a tradition of reading Christmas books every year, this one's likely to find a spot on your list.

Book Review – The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

(My Rating – 4/5)

I think this would make a great book club read, as I can just see how there could be so many perspectives on the characters’ decisions and actions. 

I related the most to Bea’s perspective – a mother whose young child’s life is danger in the City because of the toxic pollution that has taken over. She decides to move to the Wilderness State – a previously unexplored territory, as part of an experimental group. 

I think any mother who has ever been in the position of having to make a life changing decision that could either have a really positive or a really negative impact on their child’s future would relate well to Bea’s predicament. 

When Bea did some ‘questionable’ things, I found myself, surprisingly, not judging her, but imagining instead what might have driven her to do those things and the internal turmoil she must have gone through. I know many mothers out there would be horrified that I’m saying this. But I think you never really know what you’ll do till you’re faced with the reality of certain terrible situations.   

In the second part of the book, I liked how the author portrays the coming of age of Bea’s daughter Agnes and how she begins to become her own person. I also liked how first part was told from Bea’s perspective but then switches to Agnes’s with such ease.  The change in the tone of voice was effortless and effective, making it seem very real. With plenty of drama and food for thought about what drives our relationships with people and with our planet, The New Wilderness is dystopian literature done well.

Book Review – Indian Dust by Rumer and Jon Godden

(My Rating: 5/5)

With every Rumer Godden book I read I come to admire and love this writer a little bit more; and I haven’t even read her most famous book yet!

Published in 1966, Indian Dust is a compilation of short stories by Rumer and her sister Jon, all set in India. 

Most of what I have to say pertains to Rumer’s stories – I didn’t enjoy Jon’s work as much somehow. 

Rumer Godden writes about India as someone who truly ‘gets’ India, and not as a Westerner giving their ‘outsider’s’ point of view. She writes like someone who ‘belongs’. She also has the ability, through her vivid descriptions of the details that matter, to transport the reader right into the middle of the event she is talking about.

In each of the short stories and the couple of poems in this book, Godden puts the spotlight on the the essence of Indianness, bringing out what is unique about the country’s culture, while also capturing the nuances of some of the most poignant moments people face in their lives.

Here, in brief are what some of the stories are about:

In the heartbreaking Possession, Godden brings out the distinctive way Indian mothers think about and are with their sons. Sister Malone and the Obstinate Man takes us straight into the distressing reality of a hospital run by missionary nuns. Monkey is a humourous look at the absurdity that sometimes surrounds decision making, in this case what happens when the narrator gets bitten by a monkey that visits her house. In Oyster we witness the tug-o-war taking place in the mind of a young Indian visiting Paris – torn between the traditions and beliefs with which he has been brought up and the mind-expanding opportunities suddenly within his grasp. 

In the section of the book entitled Kashmir, I once again experienced the absolute enchantment with Kashmir that Rumer Godden clearly feels, like I did when I read her Kingfishers Catch Fire, a novel set in Kashmir. 

Any Rumer Godden fans out here?

Book Review – Sexing The Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

(My Rating: 4/5)

Reading this book (which has a misleading title, if you’re not in the know!) is like being inside a dream. Someone else’s dream; but in many ways, also your own. 

Motherhood, love, loss, paths not taken, societal conditioning, greed, cynicism, hope, wanting to right the wrong in the world….. there are a range of emotions and human experiences captured in this fairly short book. 

Jeanette Winterson’s writing is fearless. It feels like she isn’t scared to share her deepest, darkest thoughts with the world, and by doing so, helps you understand that you’re not alone. I think she must be a very brave woman, and that strength, when coupled with an exquisite writing skill that’s original, pure and honest, is such a pleasure to experience. 

There are many parts of the book/story I didn’t understand, but I didn’t really care. I was just happy to go along for the ride. And then there were profound moments and insights that really struck a chord. 

Truly a very skilled artist, I definitely plan to read more of Winterson’ work, and am happy I chanced upon this author some months ago thanks to following a fellow bookstagrammer’s account.

Book Review – The Sacrifice by Indrajit Garai

(My Rating: 3/5)

These 3 short stories by Indrajit Garai, set in France, have the theme of sacrifice running through them all. In each story the protagonists are so passionate about the responsibilities they have assumed that they are willing to sacrifice it all to achieve their goal, whether that be saving a forest or caring for a child.

Garai’s style of writing takes us to the very heart of the emotion of his characters.

The Move

Gulliame is a good man, trying to do the right thing for his son and for the legacy that has been left to him, and so it is difficult for him to sometimes see things from a different perspective.

The story is a reflection of what often happens in life – things have to sometimes reach the stage of a crisis before change can take place. Continue reading “Book Review – The Sacrifice by Indrajit Garai”

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