Genre: Short Stories (single author)

Essays by George Orwell

Posted August 15, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Essays by George OrwellGeorge Orwell: Essays (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell
Published by Penguin on January 2nd 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Non-Fiction, Political, Short Stories (single author), Social History
Pages: 466
Format: Paperback
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This outstanding collection brings together Orwell’s longer, major essays and a fine selection of shorter pieces that includes My Country Right or Left, Decline of the English Murder, Shooting an Elephant and A Hanging.
With great originality and wit Orwell unfolds his views on subjects ranging from the moral enormity of Jonathan Swift’s strange genius and a revaluation of Charles Dickens to the nature of Socialism, a comic yet profound discussion of naughty sea-side picture postcards and a spirited defence of English cooking. Displaying an almost unrivalled mastery of English plain prose style, Orwell’s essays challenge, move and entertain.

I have always enjoyed Orwell’s writing. Like many people, Nineteen Eighty Four is one of my favourite books. But I had never read any of his essays before now. I chose this book specifically for Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge and I wasn’t disappointed.

This is a real mix bag of stories. From the short to the long; from diatribes on Charles Dickens to essays on “Bookshop Memories”; this book has it all. Although many of the essays are now 80 or more years old, they still hold a remarkable amount of relevance.

A lot of the writing is founded upon Orwell’s socialist leanings, and many essays cover uncomfortable topics such as war and death. The writing certainly isn’t what you would call “politically correct” in today’s terms, with numerous references to the N-word, C-word and F-word, among others. These are all in context – especially when viewed against the backdrop of the time – however if you’re likely to be offended by such language, then give this book a miss.

It would be a shame to miss out though, as this is a superb collection of essays, which are incredibly readable and still very relevant today.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Posted January 7, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins GilmanThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on 1892
Genres: Fiction, General, Short Stories (single author)
Pages: 28
Format: Kindle
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First published in 1892, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. In the involuntary confinement of her bedroom, the hero creates a reality of her own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper--a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, "The Yellow Wallpaper" stands out not only for the imaginative authenticity with which it depicts one woman’s descent into insanity, but also for the power of its testimony to the importance of freedom and self-empowerment for women.

I chose this as my short read for the Book Riot 2016 Read Harder Challenge after reading positive reviews about the story. It certainly is a short read at only 28 pages which meant it was an easy read while waiting for an appointment. It’s written in the form of a diary of a woman who is described as “descending into madness”. However reading it now it seems clear that she had severe PND. Her doctor husband prescribes complete rest, not even wanting her to write her diary, but as she lays bedridden in their rented house, she becomes obsessed with the wallpaper in the bedroom, convinced there is another woman in the wallpaper trying to get out. As her “descent” continues the spirals out of control until the dark ending is revealed.

The book is a powerful read, and certainly conveys the depths of darkness and despair associated with mental illness. This is a testament to the writing as there isn’t much space in which to convey the complexity of such disorders. I also see it’s been used as a set text for many English classes, although I have never come across it before. I can see how some, more adept at recognising underlying themes in a text, could read more into the text than just the simple story (I have never been very good at that!).

Overall a good, quick read (and one which is free on the Kindle).

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

Posted November 6, 2015 in Book Review / 0 Comments

The Grownup by Gillian FlynnThe Grownup by Gillian Flynn
Published by Hachette UK on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Short Stories (single author)
Pages: 64
Format: Paperback
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A young woman is making a living faking it as a cut-price psychic (with some illegal soft-core sex work on the side). She makes a decent wage mostly by telling people what they want to hear. But then she meets Susan Burke.
Susan moved to the city one year ago with her husband and 15-year-old stepson Miles. They live in a Victorian house called Carterhook Manor. Susan has become convinced that some malevolent spirit is inhabiting their home. The young woman doesn't believe in exorcism or the supernatural. However when she enters the house for the first time, she begins to feel it too, as if the very house is watching her, waiting, biding its time . . .
The Grownup, which originally appeared as 'What Do You Do?' in George R. R. Martin's Rogues anthology, proves once again that Gillian Flynn is one of the world's most original and skilled voices in fiction.

This is a very quick read – only stretching to 67 large-print pages. But as with most of Flynn’s work, it’s intriguing and mysterious, with interesting characters.

Despite its brevity, the story still manages to pack a superb psychological punch, and the ending leaves you wanting more. My only criticism is that it reads like a prologue to a longer novel, and it seemed to end too abruptly. While I can see this fitting in well in an anthology of short stories (as it was originally published) as a stand alone novel it feels a little too exposed and unfinished.

But still a good, quick, spooky, read.