Review

Book Review: The Violinist of Auschwitz by Ellie Midwood

Hi everyone, I hope you’ve been having a lovely time this chilly (and incredibly pandemic…) October! I am back with another review! The Violinist of Auschwitz is a book I picked randomly. Well, not totally randomly, because I really like WW2 stories and Holocaust literature, but I had simply no idea what to expect from this one. Holocaust literature has become quite popular recently, there is a big variety of titles to pick from and sometimes it can be a hit or a miss. So… what did I think of The Violinist of Auschwitz?

Night. Tears, tears from every bunk around her, hushed prayers, names of the loved ones repeated for hours on end – in endless Kaddish she could no longer bear to hear.

Ellie Midwood, The Violinist of Auschwitz

The book tells a story of Alma Rosé, an Austrain violinist of Jewish descent, who in 1943 was deported to the most infamous concentration camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau. As a professional musician, she created and directed a camp orchestra that consisted only of female prisoners who, unlike Alma, weren’t sometimes trained professionals. Their concerts were attended by SS men, Kapos, and such personalities as for example Dr. Mengele himself.

I am very happy that I found out about Alma’s story. I’ve never heard of her before, even though I’ve always been quite interested in WW2 and Holocaust topics, so I am very grateful that there is now a fiction book about her. The author, Ellie Midwood, mentioned that she gathered information about Alma Rosé from other nonfiction books and historical sources, and since historical fiction is usually a more beloved genre than historical nonfiction, it’s a fantastic way for Alma’s story to be heard! Her life is truly a moving example of human decency, and her sacrifices for the girls from her orchestra and her love should definitely be widely spoken about.

Unfortunately, this is the only positive side of the book.

I think it’s Ellie Midwood’s writing that I couldn’t really connect with. As much as I liked Alma’s story, I think the execution wasn’t really good. The narrative was very fast, way too fast for such a story to be told well, and the story sounded quite plain and shallow at times. What is more, I think some events and the way characters responded to them were way too colourful and exaggerated. This is a very subjective opinion, but the book felt sometimes a bit “too happy” for me, and I couldn’t really imagine those awful, gruesome and harsh conditions of Auschwitz that everyone is so familiar with.

The introduction of characters and the characters’ development was also a big question for me. There were many characters in the book, and it confused me a lot. Most of them were also, and unfortunately, very poorly introduced, skipped over, only quickly mentioned or neglected at all, and it really bothered me. I guess that was due to the fast-paced narrative and the author simply didn’t have much time to introduce the characters properly. Even Alma herself seemed very superficial to me, as though her character lacked depth, more developed personality and thoughts. The only character that had actually some more characteristics was Dr. Mengele, who was indeed an important character, but not as important as Alma, her lover Mikóls Steinberg or at least any of the girls from the orchestra.

It was simply a very fast read and I wished it lasted longer. Some things could have been explored in more depth and a lot of things could have been avoided. I liked Alma’s story, the theme of music in Auschwitz conditions and a general image of the Music Block in the concentration camp, but I really wished this story had focused more on the characters and their stories rather than simple and superficial descriptions.

Any music was produced out of love, never out of hatred or cruelty. That’s why there was no new culture born out of Hitler’s new Germany.

Ellie Midwood, The Violinist of Auschwitz

The Violinist of Auschwitz is definitely worth reading, simply because Alma Rosé’s story is beautiful and moving. I am glad I have read it, but I guess Ellie Midwood’s style is not for me. I am very curious to hear other people’s opinions about this book and I hope I haven’t totally discouraged you to read it! It may be a wonderful choice for some people, I guess it just wasn’t for me.

Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I have been given a copy of this book via NetGalley. My review is honest and unbiased and all opinions here are my own.

The Classics Club

The Classics Club: 1984 by George Orwell

My first book from the Classics Club challenge has been finished! I decided to start with 1984 by George Orwell as it has been something I’ve wanted to read for a very very long time. Classic science-fiction and dystopian novel, Orwell’s 1984 has become a sort of a cult political manifesto with a lot of up-to-date information about the past and, surprisingly, modern world. I am very happy I have started my challenge with this book, and very happy that I can share my views with you!

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

George Orwell, 1984

The quote above is one of the most famous opening lines in the history of literature. It sets the mood, creates the first vision of the 1984 world, and then helps introducing the character, Winston Smith. Winston is a humble, ordinary man working for the Ministry of Truth, one of the ministries of the Party. Through his eyes we see the lives of people in totalitarian Oceania and we get to know his thoughts about the goverment’s strategy of propaganda, censorship, constant surveillance and war.

My first thought is that the book is insanely accurate. Not only does it relate to the past cases of totalitarianism in the history of the world, but it also shows how our lives might look like in the future if we allow for such power to overwhelm us. In times of hidden cameras and microphones everywhere, when all of your friends can easily be spying against you, when the states have been at war against each other for as long as one can remember, when the posters of Big Brother are lurking at you from very corner, and when freedom of speech, expression and even thought is basically non-existent, it can be pretty difficult to navigate the life and to distinguish what is real and what is not, and who’s in power and who is not.

I found it particularly interesting how Orwell presented the freedom of expression. Newspeak, fictional language created in order to replace English, uses a reduced amount of words and phrases, just to limit the ability of expression. The limited grammar and vocabulary are supposed to fight thoughtcrime, one’s ability to have personal thoughts and ideas. This is also one of the Party’s strategies to control and eventually stop the freedom of thought, so that the citizens are unable to think on their own, and hence, unable to rebel. I think the creation of this fictional language is a really interesting concept, and I, as a big fan of language and linguistics myself, can totally agree that language controls the mind! So big kudos from me to George Orwell for such an intriguing idea.

Characters are not the best-developed characters; they are rather there to present different views and show how the world operates. They are quite blunt when it comes to a deeper understanding, but that nevertheless works for the novel that doesn’t focus on character description. Winston is the main character thorugh whom we learn in-depth characterstics of the Oceania, Julia is represented as the rebelious young woman who doesn’t adhere to the rules set by the Party, Syme is the “too intelligent” guy working for the Party, and Parsons is, on the other hand, a completely loyal guy working for the Party.

Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

George Orwell, 1984

There was just on thing that I wasn’t really fond of. Because I see 1984 as more of a political manifesto (in a form of a novel), I guess I found it a bit boring at times. The long passages of the Goldstein’s book really took some time to read and you had to focus greatly on what you are actually reading. Not that I have short attention span, but you get me! The book is a fantastic dystopian description of the future, but in moments of such serious political talk, I usually found myself drifting away.

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.

George Orwell, 1984

1984 gave me the creeps a lot. This feeling of uneasiness accompanies you throughtout the whole book and I couldn’t stop thinking about the living standards in such reality. I loved the world created by Orwell (if I can use the word “love” here…) and I found it incredibly interesting to explore the themes in the book. It is indeed one of the greatest dystopian novels of all times, even if it makes you put it away for a while and take a deep breath after the political monologue!

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Book Tag

Finally Fall Book Tag

Can you smell October in the air? Because I can (it smells like cinnamon coffee my brother makes everyday, quince juice, rainy and windy weather, and pumpkin patch Yankee candle)! It’s also a lovely time for me to do my first book tag! 🙂

I’ve been tagged by wonderful Cherelle @ cherelle the bibliophile in this amazing, Finally Fall Book Tag. I am very thankful and excited as this is the first tag I’ve ever been tagged in since opening my blog and I absolutely love this set of prompts, so I couldn’t be more happy!

So, without further ado, let us dive into the Finally Fall Book Tag prompts! Here they are:

In fall, the air is crisp and clear: Name a book with a vivid setting.

Beauty Is a Wound

It’s a fantastic and complex novel by an Indonesian author that I finished in just a couple of days, even though it’s around 500 pages long. I still have those pictures in my head from when I was reading it and it’s so vivid in my memory that I can genuinely remember every single place, house, forest and city described on its pages!

Nature is beautiful… but also dying: Name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic like loss or grief.

The Sense of an Ending

I think Julian Barnes has a thing to write beautiful stories about the most ordinary things. Some people don’t like his style of writing, but I personally think there is something magical about how he tells a story of a middle-aged man reminiscing on his chidlhood and teenage life, and then dealing with the difficult outcomes of his and his friends’ life choices.

Fall is back to school season: Share a non-fiction book that taught you something new.

Have You Eaten Grandma?

I got it as a birthday gift from one of my friends (most of my friends know I’m a language and linguistics freak!), and it was honestly such a fun and interesting nonfiction book to read! It explains how important it is to use punctuation, how and when to use different punctuation marks, and why English language is so tricky sometimes.

In order to keep warm, it’s good to spend some time with the people we love: Name a fictional family/household/friend-group that you’d like to be part of.

Harry, Ron and Hermione from the Harry Potter series

I know it’s a very basic answer but how can you not want to be a part of their group?! Hogwarts is actually a dangerous place, but whenever I listen to ambient music from Hogwarts and remember all those fantastic feasts with friends, Christmas meals, wizarding chess games, arguments with Hermione over whose homework is worse, I realise that it is really a fantastic friendship they have there.

The colourful leaves are piling up on the ground: Show us a pile of fall coloured spines!

I did my best! I don’t own a lot of fall coloured books so I tried compiling a pile that looks even a little bit autumn-y 😉

Fall is the perfect time for some storytelling by the fireside: Share a book wherein someone is telling a story.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is a book where everyone is telling a story constantly. I guess it’s Adam Ewing’s chapters that are the most important as his parts start off and finish off with the book and it nicely encapsulates a story within a story. But then, there is a book within a book as well, and plenty of other mini-stories too. Cloud Atlas is one of my favourite books, and even though you have to have a lot of time, patience and perseverance to read it, it’s definitely worth it!

The nights are getting darker: Share a dark, creepy read.

Annihilation

I read it just before the film was released on Netflix, and I picked it out of pure curiosity. I was scared to death. There wasn’t anything particularly scary in it, but the mood set in the book was extremely dark, unsettling, ambiguous and creepy. I must admit I was a bit confused after I finihsed it, I simlpy couldn’t gather my thoughts, but I remember very well the feeling of uneasiness throughout the whole book. I still want to read the next parts though!

The days are getting colder: Name a short, heartwarming read that could warm up somebody’s cold and rainy day.

The Little Prince

I don’t know if I have expressed my love for The Little Prince enough. It’s the most heartwarming, beautifully-written and thought-provoking book I have ever read. It’s a perfect read for a cold and rainy day in October when we can easily forget about all those beautiful things waiting for us in the world. I have it in 3 different editions and read it whenever I feel down myself and need a little cheering up! It’s also the best source of life philosophy, even though it’s a children’s book!

Fall returns every year: Name an old favourite that you’d like to return to soon.

The Catcher in the Rye

It’s one of my all-time favourites that I used to read a lot as a teenager. It was one of those books that I really cherished as a young adult because I always saw myself in Holden’s character and related to him sooooooo much. I used to read it every Easter when I had some more free time and I always couldn’t wait for Easter holidays to start! I hope that the nearest future may be a perfect time to go back to it and bring back those memories when Holden played a really important role in my life!

Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading nights: Share your favourite cozy reading “accessories”!

Bookmarks! I honestly can’t have enough of them. I like those leather-like, vintage bookmarks that I usually buy as a souvenir from my trips, and I have also plenty of other cute and bookish ones that remind me of how much I love reading 🙂

And there you have it! I hope you liked my answers, I had really a lot of fun doing this tag. I don’t want to nominate anyone by name, but if you see this post, you think you want to do it and you like the autumn vibe of the tag, then feel very welcome to join in!

Happy Autumn and Spooky Season to my readers! 🎃🍂💛

To-be-read

5 most anticipated thrillers on my TBR list

Spooky season has begun and I thought I’d make a post about the beloved type of books this time of the year! Even though thriller is not my favourite genre, I read it very occasionally as more of a guilty pleasure thing, simply due to the fact that I’m a big pacifist myself and don’r enjoy reading that much about mysteries, murders and psycho- and sociopaths! There are obviously a couple of big titles I enjoyed, and from time to time I like to pick a challenging and interesting thriller/mystery, just to occupy my mind with something more gruesome… Here is my list of 5 thrillers that I am actually dying to read and that I hope won’t make me

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I feel like everyone has read Gone Girl but me. It was such a big thing back in a day, both the book and the film, and I completely missed out on it. Typical marriage-mystery that tells a story of the wife’s disappearance, this book seems to me like a can’t-go-wrong thriller story. I’ve really been wanting to read it, and even though I’ve heard mixed reviews about it, I think it might be worth giving it a shot. I also think that Gone Girl has become so popular now that whatever your favourite genre is, you have either checked it out already, you want to check it out, or you will check it out in the future.

  • In The Woods by Tana French

I’ve come across this book thanks to one of the bloggers I follow! I read the blurb on Goodreads, and wow, I like it. It doesn’t sound like a cheap mystery story, which is already a promising thing, the psychological side of it seems to be very well-developed, and I also like the premise of a grown-up man facing his past. I know that there are plenty of books similar to this one, but In The Woods did really catch my eye, and since I have trust in my fellow book bloggers and Goodreads readers and believe in their reviews, I think it will be highly enjoyable.

  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

All the bookshops in the world recommended this one to me. I must admit it sounds incredibly interesting, and I love how hypnotising and eye-catching the cover is. The description looks quite gripping too – it’s about two sisters helping each other out when one of them commits murders… It’s also set in Nigeria and I absolutely books set not in an anglophone country (and I do believe this is quite rare among thrillers). People say it’s provocative and disturbing, but funny and light at the same time, so I’m simply very exicted to read My Sister, the Serial Killer!

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The most classic thriller of all times. Gothic, mysterious and considered the best psychological thriller of all, Rebecca tells a story of a young unnamed wife who is trying to find her place in Manderley, a mansion owned by Max de Winter, her new husband. The book is supposed to be incredibely suspenseful and intriguing, and the atmopshere of the gothic house seems just lovely to me… I bought this edition of the book in one of the charity shops, completely oblivious to what I was buying, and bam!, that’s how I found out about Rebecca. It also features on my Classics Club list, so if I do read it at some point in the future, I will kill two birds with one stone!

  • Misery by Stephen King

I’ve read a few Stephen King’s books but I still have a lot left on my to-be-read, one of them being Misery. I know it’s a very bloody story of a famous writer’s encounter with one of his most avid fans. It’s supposed to be horrifying, disturbing and violent, and people absolutely love it for this very reason! To be honest, Misery is more of a horror rather than a thriller, due to its… brutal content, but let’s forget about blood and and flesh for a second and focus on the suspense! I am not a massive Stephen King fan, but he does have some mad ideas sometimes. Misery is probably one of them.

Have you read any of those books? If yes, what did you think about them? Do you have any other favourite thrillers worth recommending? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

My thoughts on

My thoughts on: Instapoetry

Instapoetry is ubiquitous. It can be found on every social media platform and the books themselves are sold in millions of copies. I have also hopped on the bandwagon of Instapoetry some time ago when I discovered Rupi Kaur’s books and was very curious to know more of this modern type of poetry. I have been trying to untangle the secret of it ever since, and I definitely need to share my views with you, my fellow readers!

Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

What is Instapoetry?

Just to quickly explain what Instapoetry is! According to Wikipedia (sorry for this very unreliable source of knowledge, but we all know it’s also pretty accurate source of knowledge!), Instapoetry is “a style of poetry that emerged as a result of social media. This type of poetry is written specifically for sharing, most commonly on Instagram, but also Twitter and Tumblr. The form usually consists of short direct lines in aesthetically pleasing fonts that are sometimes accompanied by an image or drawing, with or without a rhyme scheme.” In other words, it’s a short poem touching sensitive topics, such as love, abuse, body image or racism etc., presenting it in a aesthetic form, and usually including a hand-made drawing as well.

Instapoetry has caused some controversy among the readers, poetry readers and social media users; there are many who find it a liberating and personal form of art, and there are other who simply say that clicking ‘Enter’ doesn’t make it poetry.

My thoughts on Instapoetry

So far, I have read Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers, and just recently I’ve finished The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace.

To begin with, my general opinion is, I am somewhere in-between liking and disliking this type of poetry. I don’t hate it and I don’t love it, but I am still not sure whether I like it or dislike it. There are a couple of things I find difficult to understand and like, but there are a couple others that touch my soul and make me stop and think about the universe.

I do find Rupi Kaur’s poems slightly more interesting than Amanda Lovelace’s. I think Rupi Kaur’s poetry is more intentional, thought-through and bitter, whereas Amanda Lovelace’s poems seem to me like… she really did just press ‘Enter’. I hope it’s not because I read Kaur’s poetry first and got completely indulged in it, and then became a bit more critical of it, but simply because Lovelace’s book seemes very quick, easy, and not that thought-provoking.

Amanda Lovelace, The Princess Saves Herself in This One

Rupi Kaur focuses a lot on the topics of femininity, body image, love and relationships, and that really speaks to me. Her poems are of varied length, some are short and bitter and other are a bit longer and almost storyline-based. She never uses uppercase letters, and there is no punctuation. What I like the most about her poetry is that it’s simple, yet deals with heavy topics, thought-provoking and very personal. Some of the poems, when read at the right time, can also be very uplifting (I’m talking about us girls!). On the other hand, and that’s a general opinion about Instapoetry as well, a lot of her poems sound like empty words to me. Common knowledge included in three verses and provided with a drawing don’t really make up to poetry… Nevertheless, I liked her two books of poetry, and I am actually looking forward to her next one being released in 2020!

Amanda Lovelace’s poetry didn’t quite interest me. It was such a quick read that I didn’t have time to stop and think about what she’s trying to present. Her poems were much heavier than Kaur’s, dealing with such topics as abuse, death and regret, and yet I kind of skimmed through it without hesitation. What I disliked was also the use of & instead of an and – I know it’s a small thing, but I understood it as though the poetess didn’t have time to properly type ‘and’, and got lost in this whole quickiness of the poetry.

In spite of the controversy surrounding Instapoetry, I am intrigued by it and I know I want to read more of it! I think it can be a hit or a miss, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but if you find it interesting, liberating, and you want to support young poets with their personal stories, then why not! Obviously, not every Instapoet is a good Instapoet, and many of the poems do look like they’ve been scribbled during lunchtime, but if you’ve found good ones that unleash your deepest thoughts, then why not embrace them!

What do you think about Instapoetry? Do you like any of the poets? And can you recommend any other books? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Review

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Coraline was my first ever horror I watched as a child. I didn’t realise back then that it was based on a book, and that this book was written by quite a renowed author. I was probably 10 or 11 years old and I was wondering, “Who is this mad person that makes up such things?” Ten years onward, I finally got a grip on myself and found a Neil Gaiman book to read. I decided to start my Neil Gaiman adventure with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. And honestly, I am not sure about whether it was a good choice.

Long story short, a man returns to his childhood home to reminisce on his friendship with extraordinary Lettie Hempstock and her family living on a local farm at the end of the road. He goes back to his memories and recalls their adventures by the pond, that Lettie had named “the ocean”, and he also has to dwell with his past and childhood fears.

This wasn’t definitely a bad book. It gives a lot of time for contemplation and evaluation of the values in our lives, such as childhood innocence, universal wisdom, human relationships and fear. I loved how Gaiman created the world of a small boy and looked at it from the child’s perspective, even though the narrator was already a grown-up man. The narrator gave a recollection of his memories from childhood home and didn’t try to intervene with his adult opinion on the world, which is really a fantastic (and difficult!) thing to do. Speaking of the main character, his name hasn’t been mentioned throughout the whole story, which leaves room for speculation whether this is a universal metaphor of anonymity or this is just me overthinking…

The story itself is very intriguing, keeping the reader waiting and making him want to know more, but at the same time, this is where the problems started for me.

I really do like unfinished stories where you have to decide on your own what is real and what is not. This is the basis of every fairytale. But I really missed something in this book. I felt that those unexplained gaps left by the author didn’t help at all but made it even more difficult to distinguish what is true and what is not true. I was truly waiting most of the time for some explanation as to why and how Lettie knows everything, why the boy behaves so recklessly sometimes, or how the whole world really operates. And as much as I liked the narration, the main character sounded a bit… dull at times. Of course, this is a matter of a personal opinion, because as I mentioned before, the narrator was also responsible for the creation of the story. But sometimes, just sometimes, I thought he might be the one to blame as well.

“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.”

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The concept of people fearing “monsters” sounded already familiar to me. And yes, I remember a similar quote from one of my favourite fantasy books, first part of The Wicther series, The Last Wish. This time however, the fear of monsters was explained in a more detailed manner. And I know that I should never ever compare these two books, but this one time only I want to point out how similar, yet different the concept of “monsters” can be executed.

“People,” Geralt turned his head, “like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves. When they get blind-drunk, cheat, steal, beat their wives, starve an old woman, when they kill a trapped fox with an axe or riddle the last existing unicorn with arrows, they like to think that the Bane entering cottages at daybreak is more monstrous than they are. They feel better then. They find it easier to live.”

Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish

It was my first Neil Gaiman’s book and I am very happy to explore his works more. This was a very pleasant, short novel that will stay in my mind for some time. I just hope next time I will feel that the book has actually finished and the themes explored actually carry some meaning. Gaiman sounds like a right guy to write about weird stuff, so I forgive him for messing up with my mind and I can’t wait to read Coraline and his other messed-up stories.

Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This is my own book. My opinion given here is honest and unbiased.

The Classics Club

I joined The Classics Club, and what it excatly means

As you all know, I do like classic books quite a lot. Even though I haven’t read that many of them (I am still quite a beginner reader believe it or not!), I know I like them and enjoy reading them. When I first encountered The Classics Club blog, I was more than happy and excited to join in and start this briliant idea on my own blog.

The Classics Club’s aim is to “to inspire people to read and blog about classic books.” Before joining the club, you have to compile a list of 50 or more classic books of your choice that you intend to read, set a goal date up to five years in the future, then read those books, blog about them and talk about them! I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to challenge yourself and read all those rusty old volumes that you’ve always been planning to read, and, what’s more, you can give yourself a big pat on the back after you finish the list – it is indeed a big achievement!

What I also like about this idea is that the lists of each member are individual, subjective choices, and what one person finds interesting in terms of classic literature, the another person doesn’t. There is nothing better than a variety of interesting books and a variety of readers who read them! And please remember, classic literature doesn’t limit itself to only English literature. Of course, Jane Austen and Mark Twain are class and world-wide famous, but there is so much more to explore as well. Even though my list includes a lot of British and American writers, I tried to add some more cultural diversity and make sure that I’ll travel alongisde the characters to different setting on Earth.

You can check my list of my chosen classic books here. I will update the page with my reviews of the books and the finish dates, and I hope this amazing challenge will bring me and my readers a lot of joy 🙂

So I am very thrilled to announce that I’ve taken part in The Classics Club challenge and from the 1st October 2020, I’ll do my best and finish my list of 50 classic books over the next five years!

Review

Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

I read Normal People a while ago and I’ve been meaning to write a review ever since. The book has recieved quite mixed reviews from the readers, some saying that it’s extremely weird and chaotic, some other saying that it’s very much humane and beautiful. It’s definitely getting a lot of attention now and I knew I have to read it as soon as I got my hands on the paperback while browsing books in a shop. So…. was it worth my time?

“It’s funny the decisions you make because you like someone, he says, and then your whole life is different. I think we’re at that weird age where life can change a lot from small decisions.”

Sally Rooney, Normal People

Marianne and Connell, two teenagers from an Irish town leading completely different lives, become very close to each other during the last months of school. The special connection they have lasts through their school days and then university, and while they’re trying to navigate their journey through adulthood, they experience a vast set of feelings, relationships and life-changing moments.

It is absolutely not an easy book. It is not a light summer read, and it’s not a book which you can chill on the beach with or casually read before your bedtime. In fact, it is very depressing and quite frustrating, making you feel even more upset page after page, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. The story of Marianne and Connell is captivating, yet incredibly miserable. That’s why I think so many people hated it – this is not a typical romance story about teenagers falling in love and going on adventures together. It is a mature story about love, friendship, life choices and mistakes, and when real life hits you hard, you don’t have time to be a happy teenager anymore.

The book is simply a study on human relationships. It portrays the characters in the worst possible light and Rooney is not scared at all to show the brutality and sadness of the life. Marianne and Connel, as well as many of friends, people around them and families, are imperfect and flawed characters. They struggle with their past, present and future, they struggle with maintaining healthy relationships, they struggle with life choices. This is what also makes them real.

What also caused a lot of disagreements between people is Rooney’s style of writing. No quotation marks, no visible dialogue, and simply “raw text” throughout the novel make the story difficult to follow – for some people. I found it incrediby interesting and very natural, almost feeling at one with the characters. There is no time to stop and think about life in Rooney’s world; you live in Rooney’s world. Life is one flow of both expriences and thoughts, and there are no separate parts where you “think” things and where you “say” things.

“Life is the thing you bring with you inside your own head.”

Sally Rooney, Normal People

I think the beauty of Normal People lies in the fact that it’s extremely poignant. I also think that you might have to read it at a particular stage of your life in order to fully understand it. It is sad and mature and it may not affect some people in a way it affected me, and many others.

I loved this book. I’m not sure if I absolutely loved this book, because can you absolutely love something that makes you feel unsettled, frustrated and exhausted? I think it was one of my favourite reads in 2020 and what is more, it left me thinking, “Who are really those normal people?”

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is my own book. The review provided here is my honest and unbiased opinion.

To-be-read

5 classics I really want to read

I think everyone’s got a list of classics they’ve always wanted to read, but never actually got to read them. What is more important, we usually feel ashamed to mention that we haven’t read them, because they’re obviously classics and ‘How have you not read Pride and Prejudice?!?!’ (if you haven’t got a a friend, an uncle, a parent or any other person in your life who’s a know-it-all, read-it-all or seen-it-all, then you’re very lucky). There’s nothing to be ashamed of! We should normalise not having read all the classics in the world! I’ve got hundreds of books on my to-be-read shelf, including loads of classics that I’ve always wanted to read, and here is my humble list of those 5 that I particlarly dream of every night:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Imperial Russia, family affairs, two lovers; what is there not to love about Anna Karenina? Even though Russian literatue is not for everyone, and especially Leo Tolstoy and his style of writing, I think me and Anna Karenina will be a perfect match. I simply love Russian language, Russian atmosphere and Russian point of view on life. This almost 1000 pages read won’t be an easy one and I will have to devote a lot of time, but that’s what you get when you fancy good Russian story. As of now, Anna Karenina is patiently waiting on my ebook for better times to come!

  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

The most famous book of Holocaust literature, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank tells a story of a young girl escaping Nazis from then-occupied Netherlands. I am very surprised that this book has never landed in my hands as WW2 and the Holocaust are topics I am quite interested in (I decided to study German for this very reason!). I guess it’s because I’ve always focused on Polish literature about the Holocaust and never really had a chance to read perspectives of people from other countries. The Diary of a Young Girl is surely a thought-provoking and moving book and it’s definitely one of the most anticipated books on my to-read shelf.

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I haven’t read Little Women. This sounds a bit surprising as the book has been widely promoted due to the newest film about Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy. The description reminds me also of Anne of Green Gables for some reason (correct me if I’m wrong!) and I absolutely loved Anne of Green Gables when I was a kid. I do have a feeling that everyone around me has read Little Women, or at least watched a film, or at least heard of it and knows the whole plot. I, on the other hand, know only the four main female characters and I know the story is about them. Little Women sounds like a very light and pleasant book about girls’ struggles, so why not give it a chance.

  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

I got the most beautiful edition of Les Misérables as a Christmas present. It’s got golden pages and a lovely red cover, and it’s also a massive and a bit intimidating book. Nevertheless, the classic of French literature is a must-read for history and French revolution freaks. And also for those who want to expand their musical repertoire. This book might take even longer to read than Anna Karenina, mostly because I’ll be staring at the golden pages rather than the letters, and also because it’s 1264 pages long. Still, it’s one of the few books I am totally willing to devote my time for.

  • 1984 by George Orwell

I haven’t read 1984. I have nothing on my defense. I have just never read. At the same time, it’s one of those books that you don’t really have to read in order to know the whole plot. I know that there is a protagonist called Winston Smith, I know that there is Big Brother, and I even know the opening line of the book, all without reading it! But I really do want to read it, simply because of the fact that it’s 1984, a very classic of dystopian literature. This one is also patiently waiting on my ebook for better times to come, and hopefully these times will come soon as I can’t keep 1984 waiting!

Have you read any of those? If yes, what do you think about them? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Review

Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I’ve only read one book of Matt Haig before, very famous Notes on a Nervous Planet. I didn’t find it particularly interesting; yes, it was uplifting, full of everyday-life wisdom and it made me think about my life in much details. However, I felt like most of it were some empty words, like in most of self-help books. There was no one I could relate to, nothing I could really understand and everything just blended into one stream of thought after I finished the book.

In case of The Midnight Library, it was totally different.

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

Wow, what a read! The book is an astonishingly emotional story of 35 year old Nora Seed who regrets a lot – that she is stuck in her hometown, that she hasn’t found love, that she hadn’t taken different career paths; basically, that she hadn’t done a lot of things when the time was right. She finds herself in the Midnight Library, a place where she can look at her life from different perspectives, different places on Earth, while being among different people. What she learns in this magical place will change her attitude towards life and regrets forever.

I will begin very straightforwardly – I think The Midnight Library is my best book of 2020 so far (and hopefully it will stay this way till the end of the year). The book is incredibly touching, thought-provoking and beguiling in every possible way. You can see that Haig’s prose mixed with his talent to offer emotional and mental support creates and immensely interesting book about characters who, just like us, are ordinary people with ordinary problems and ordinary lives, and yet, they’re heroes fighting their own battles.

The thing that looks the most ordinary might end up being the thing that leads you to victory.

Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

The biggest advantage of the books is that you can truly connect with the characters. I do really like it when the characters are independent, very lively and intriguing people who can be easily related to. I saw my whole life flying past in front of my eyes alongside Nora’s experiences. But what is more important, the book is not only about Nora – is about every choice she’s made, every person she’s met, every place she’s visited, and every job she’s ever tried. The book is, in other words, about everyone and everything, just trying their best.

The whole premise of the Midnight Library is also amazingly created – a place between life and death where you can start your life all over again. The Library is a very compassionate and empathetic explanation of how your life can be whatever you want it to be an that the universe is never against you – it’s always next to you, offering you different paths and choices.

I can’t say one bad word about the book. It shocked me to my core and left me in big melancholy. A must read for everyone, especially those who ever wondered what our lives might have looked like or will look like in the future.

If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise.

Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is my own book. My review here is my honest and unbiased opinion.