Book Total: 3
Better late than never! Here’s my round up of everything I read in March. It was a very odd month for me, as I ‘m sure it was for everyone else. Adjusting to self-isolating and working from home affected my reading habits just as much as everything else!
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I’ve wanted to read Brave New World ever since it was on my reading list for A-Level English Lit, but I’m afraid I was a bad student and didn’t read it… I did however read the synopsis back in sixth form so I did have some idea of what to expect. You are immediately introduced to an alternative future where society manufactures humans to have different levels of intelligence and varying skillsets, clearly defining class levels through job titles and IQ. I really enjoyed how the dystopian world is explained to the reader by the prose rapidly switching from character to character answering the questions you haven’t asked yet. It makes for a very fast pace and removes the necessity for a long and drawn out introduction.
The book raises the question, if we had everything provided for us and we didn’t know what unhappiness was could we be truly happy? The main characters portray different answers to this question and help you to come to your own conclusion.
One element I found particularly interesting was the positivity that the governing body attributes to consumerism. As soon as anything is broken or damaged, rather than mending citizens are encouraged to throw away and buy anew. When the female main character encounters those that live in the reservation, she is revolted by the state of their attire, which is far from new and pristine. For me it was an instant reflection of today’s fast fashion culture – which I doubt was the intention of Huxley, but it’s interesting to see some of his ideas on advanced consumerism come to light.
Conclusion: I found Brave New World greatly compelling and marvelled at how Huxley managed to convey such a complex and well thought out story in a reasonably small number of pages. I think fans of 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale will enjoy this as another excellent addition to their dystopian collection.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
This was a really fun, enjoyable read! I watched the film a couple of years ago and found it absolutely hilarious, so when I spotted the book and it’s sequel in a charity shop I couldn’t resist buying them.
I found the best way to enjoy this book was to not take it too seriously – as long as you ignore the questionable morals of Allan Karlsson, a hundred-year-old man who has just escaped from his own birthday party, stealing a suitcase left with him by a very angry mob member, then the rest of the story is joyously funny. As the book develops you’ll find yourself becoming more and more relieved that Allan has escaped so many extraordinary encounters with so many historically important and dangers people from General Franco to Soong May-ling.
The way the story weaves itself in and out of modern history is wonderful. I constantly felt like I had some grasp of what was happening only to be hilariously delighted with some fictional and ridiculous scenario revolving around Allan. This is all intertwined with the tale of Allan’s escape from his care home and the police investigation into his “kidnap”. Despite the fact that you are always ahead of the detective in his investigations this switching of narratives does not feel laboured, but adds another level of richness to the novel alongside plenty more laughs.
Conclusion: This was a real feel good read because of how much it made me laugh. I had no difficulty in reading large chunks of it at a time. I often found myself recounting parts of the story to my boyfriend, who has seen the film, because I found them so amusing. Also because the story is set in a part of history that most people are at least loosely aware of it’s really easy to engage others with it. I would highly recommend to anyone that wants to swap the doom and gloom of their daily routine for some harmless and entertaining escapism.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, Illustrated by Jim Kay
It is no secret that I am a huge Harry Potter fan and one of the positives that I am taking from this self-isolation situation is that I have time to read these beautiful illustrated editions for the first time!
It’s been a fair few years since I reread the series, but last year I started listening to The Real Weird Sisters podcast (I highly recommend this podcast to HP fans) which is a chapter by chapter analysis of all of the Harry Potter books and ever since I’ve been itching to reread them. I love that every time I do a reread I find something different or understand a character or event more deeply. I think this time a felt a stronger connection to the events that preceded the beginning of the story and how, by the time Harry starts attending Hogwarts, society is still healing from a massive war. On previous reads I think I have always been more caught up in the excitement and joy of discovering magic, whereas this time I read it from a more adult perspective and saw scars the war left behind.
I’ve always treated the first four books as the introduction to the serious action that unfolds in the last three, possibly because the first four were already out when I started reading, meaning I read them the most, but now I see many more connections between all of the books.
Starting the series again allowed me to escape to somewhere I felt familiar with and has really helped with my mental health during my time at home. With the addition of the illustrations I felt I became even more deeply immersed in the story and they brought back some of that childhood joy I experienced when I first read the Philosopher’s Stone.
Conclusion: Reading Harry Potter will always be my safe place, however, this reread brought not only that, but also a deeper understanding of the history within the magical world and a new love for Jim Kay’s illustrations – my personal favourite being Diagon Alley. This edition is perfect for first time readers and for die hard Potter fans alike.
(Like I was going to score it any less!)