Book Review:Atonement-Ian McEwan

AtonementLiterary prose gently refined yet sharply detailed encompasses  Ian McEwan’s writing in his novel Atonement. The reader is pulled in by McEwan’s precise account of fact vs. fiction, truth vs. fabrication. In a story where love is skewed and twisted from the perspective of a thirteen-year old girl, McEwan brings to attention the dangers of imagination when moral exactness is attenuated by perception. McEwan’s writing feels nothing short but traditional, yet he definitely brings his own unique style to create a literary piece that could be viewed as a stand alone.

Setting the scene in World War II England, Briony Tallis often runs wild with her imagination as she does her writing and stories. At the the young age of thirteen years old, Briony often thought of herself as much older then her “audience.” McEwan makes her as meticulous as himself-pays close to detail and exact in their work. It is the moral compass that Briony follows that causes her to fall short.

There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive. It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding, above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have.

Briony’s downfall in being principled begins when she sees her sister Cecilia and the gardener Robbie Turner indulge in sexual play which misconstrues in Briony’s mind as something much more vulgar. Further in the day, their cousin Lola is raped by a man unseen to her eyes, which leads Briony to make a conclusion as to who the culprit is. This  assumption criminalizes Robbie to a life of war and separates the two budding lovers indefinitely. Briony/McEwan mesh as one writer in the novel both with a moral agenda. McEwan explores the consequences when childhood vision meets adulthood. Briony’s idea of love and what it means to be an adult deteriorates before her eyes as she realizes based on her moral standard, they do not align. Briony struggles with the world and the constant need to be coddled-seeking affirmation from all those around her. Her attempt to be mature is overshadowed by her sophomore behavior.The novel, broken into four parts, take us through the mental journey and discovery of Robbie, Cecilia, and Briony.  McEwan creates a beautiful work of literature that explores the depths of solitude,  adulthood, love, and war.

I had initially watched this film many years ago and fell in love with the acting itself. Atonement was well casted and the story pulled me in. Switching to the novel, I was able to recount scenes from the movie and visually translate them to the novel version. At first, the novel was a bit dull with all the constant description and fine details. It wasn’t until later I realized this was McEwan’s very point. Precision meets its match when character is flawed. Atonement  is very literary and should be appreciated as fine work of writing. Although the first half of the book can thought to be monotonous, I did enjoy the second half of the novel and I was quickly pulled in with the riveting plot. However, outside of Briony, the characters didn’t have much depth and I only felt connected to the protagonist. At times I did feel that the author filled in the novel with too much rhythmic detail that I often found myself skimming the pages just to get to the main plot. Drudging through all of the descriptions is only thing that made the book unenjoyable for me. I would recommended this book to those whom are interested in fine literature (perhaps a comparison to Woolf or Austen can be drawn) or simply like historical fiction. Although it did take me a while to finish this novel, I am glad I can say I have read this one.

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Feminism, Friendship, and the Importance of Bonding.

Think back to a time when you discovered your first friend. I remember mine like it was yesterday. We spent everyday together playing outside, riding bikes, and coming up with puerile story lines for our dolls. Everything was easy back then and we didn’t have to worry about politics, sexism, racial sensitivity, or fighting for a cause. Simply playing and having fun was the core of our friendship. Now as an adult, I realize of course how much goes into an friendship and how similar values matter within that friendship. Even as a child, we look for friends that have similar interests. Do you like being outside? How many Barbie dolls do you have? What do you watch on Saturday mornings? Can you recite the opening song of Clarissa Explains It All ? When we become older, the questions become more complex and imperative. We weed out those that don’t align with our same values, and keep those that do. It’s important to us adults that we surround ourselves with those that are like-minded, right?

As women, there is a distinctive line that draws us apart. Feminists vs. Non Feminists. Even within those two divides, women are continually split into subgroups.  We battle with intersectional feminism and the importance of inclusion. The very people we call “sisters” seem to turn their back when we need them the most. We go back to those presiding questions about friendship and weigh them heavily:  How can I be friends with someone when we don’t have the same views? You don’t have to. You are allowed to be picky with whom you allow in your circle. Not everyone is meant to be your cheerleader and not everyone is your worst enemy either. The tired rhetoric of kumbaya or “let’s all get along” is just not realistic. Respect those with varying and different opinions, but know when to surround yourself with people with similar values. Friendship is much stronger when it’s authentic and true. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for deleting a person or “friend” that doesn’t fit your standards. I’m not going to play sisterhood with everyone, and neither should you. I’m okay with having different opinions than you, and I respect you, but I don’t have to be your BFF.

I encourage all of you to cherish those adult friendships you have now, and to keep fighting for what you believe in. I’m so proud of the women out there fighting for our rights, and those that participated in the Women’s March all across the U.S., let’s keep up the good work. womens-march

As for books, I compiled a list of reading books that are all about friendship and feminism. Keep the love circulating and let’s continue supporting one another.

  1. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color- Cherríe L. Moraga Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Toni Cade Bambara

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  2. Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism- Daisy Hernandez Bushra Rehman , Cherríe L. Moraga

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  3. The Color Purple-Alice Walker

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4. The Help-Kathryn Stockett

5.Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging- Rabab Abdulhadi , Evelyn Alsultany , Nadine Naber

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6. Fangirl-Rainbow Rowell

8.Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America’s Second Wave-Benita Roth

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Book Review: A Torch Against the Night-Sabaa Tahir

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Running  through the desert, trying to save not only themselves but a mass of Scholars from a giant Empire purge, Laia and Elias are now fugitives clinging to the hope of life. The sequel to An Ember in the Ashes comes back and is full of more adventure and tricky plot. Sabaa Tahir  has solidified her place as a top Y.A. novelist and specialist in all things adventure. I was happy to pick up A Torch Against the Night, and divulge in the mass fandom. It’s no secret why this novel is beloved among many; it’s simply a gripping story with characters to hate and love, and unforeseen heroes.

After the fourth trials and the beginning of the reigning era of Marcus, Elias and Laia flee the city of Serra and are headed to Kauf prison to help free Laia’s brother Darin. Favor does not come to their side as they battle death, spirits, the Empire, and friends turned enemies. Familiar characters return and if you loathed Marcus and the Commandant before, the hatred will only grow deeper. There is a mass revolt by the Scholars, and bloodthirsty Marcus and the chilling Commandant waste no time killing anyone in their way. As Helene is the new Blood Shrike she is bound to Marcus’ will and must face killing hunting and killing her best friend Elias. The constant struggle between powers, families, and friends are weighted differently for each character. The internal and external battles create tension that make the characters choose: life of death?

This book was e v e r y t h i n g. It includes all of the Y.A. novel staples plus so much more. I am always impressed with Sabaa Tahir’s writing. This novel definitely explores the characters more psychologically, which I thought was well played by Tahir. However some may think the plot is slightly slower. Because this is a typical Y.A. novel, it wouldn’t be complete without a love triangle. However Tahir really makes it interesting with unexpected plot twists. Helene’s character is explored more in this novel and Tahir makes her complex yet strong and resilient. I applaud how the writer crafts the women in the novel; all of the women are these strong fighters with byzantine backgrounds. The novel is broken into three POVs: Elias, Laia, and Helene.Every character plays an integral role in shaping the story and gives the reader a different experience with their point of view. Tahir leaves you dangling on each word as the characters simultaneously cling to their life. Everything is left bare for the reader to truly discover all the evilness, desperation, and emptiness. Hats off to you Sabaa Tahir, I’ll be waiting for the next installation.

Book Review: Underground Airlines-Ben H. Winters

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Take a moment and imagine an alternate reality where slavery still exists in modern America. Perhaps, to some, it may seem as if we are already living that reality on a smaller scale. Ben H. Winters’ new novel titled Underground Airlines creates an alternate history where the Civil War never happened, Abraham was assassinated before he took oath to be president and slavery still presides in the  four southern states  appropriately called the “Hard Four.” Modern references to pop culture make the tale hauntingly eerie as the nature of the book seems quite real. The United States often looked at as a beacon of hope, is now a country with a deviating moral compass. Winters makes America a social outsider, one that relies on foreign aid.

The protagonist Victor was once a former slave who escaped to the North. However he was caught by the Federal Government and forced to work undercover as an agent or “soul catcher”, collecting other runaway slaves and returning them back to the South as a  way to maintain his freedom. His recent case brings him to Indianapolis where Victor is looking for a runaway slave by the name of Jackdaw. Through his pursuit of Jackdaw, Victor becomes closer to the truth of slavery and the oppressive system happening in America.

Unfortunately, this book fell short for me in many ways. The concept was an interesting one to say  the least, however the delivery wasn’t quite there. The characters were wooden and stiff, and Victor’s character was written very shallow. I found that the story’s main point didn’t connect, and it read as a lumpy bit of text to me. Winters come up with a great concept for a novel, however he doesn’t make that idea extraordinary as the plot and characters fall flat.

Let’s Get Political: Books on Government and the Bloody World of U.S. Politics

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Let’s all take a deep breath for a moment as we let the current election sink in and realize that our future is looking like #Trump/Pence for the next four years. I’m not going to go on a political rant about the election or my dislike for Trump. We can’t change the  outcome, but we can change the future and  get educated on how our political parties run. I was surprised to find how many people really don’t know how U.S. politics work, which is understandable because it’s a difficult puddle to wade through. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work; let’s fix what we don’t like. Although I’m all for a good meaty discussion about politics with the opposing sides, I do know better than to argue not knowledgeable on a subject. It’s better to fight educated and informed than to enter the ring blind. For your reading pleasure, I’ve made a list of great books to read about U.S. politics. I encourage all of you to read up on the facts and learn more about American politics and the judicial system. Some of the material is daunting, but it’s well worth the read if you’re curious about what goes on in Capital Hill.

The Conscience of a Conservative-Barry Goldwater

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What’s the Matter with Kansas?-Thomas Frank

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The New Jim Crow-Michelle Alexander

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Our Revolution-Bernie Sanders

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Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama-Tim Wise

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The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege-Robert  Jensen

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The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America-George Packer

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While this list is small, the contents are magnanimous and will surely aid you in finding answers to how America is governed. I refuse to sit and be complacent with our impending future. It’s past the time to question, to reason, to evaluate. Our country can’t propel forward unless we do. I’ve been a little confounded in how accepting the media and news has been about Donald Trump’s presidency.  It’s like we are expected to just move past this terrible loss of humanity. There are many ways in which we can take an active participation in this new future; let’s work together to get educated. As an African American women I can already see blatant racism bubbling and bursting forth. Trump’s presidency will not stop me from driving forward and  creating ripples everywhere. If I have to live in this America where racism and sexism has the face of a president, then the entire four years you will hear my voice right along side of it, pushing against the force.

America, let’s do better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 1 & 2-J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany.

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After nearly a decade, Harry Potter  returns. This time as an adult, married to Ginny Weasley with three children of his own. The story was quite different as it is in play form, one that was opened in London July 30, 2016. J.K. Rowling presents a script form version of the story. Those who grew up with the Harry Potter series are able to revisit characters and be introduced to a new world, where the plot is intertwined with new and old. The story has something for everyone to enjoy, and with world wide popularity of the story it received much praise and criticism.

Harry, Ron, and Hermoine return to the wizarding world as adults, married, and with children. Harry is married to Ginny with two sons, James Sirius and Albus Severus, and a daughter named Lily Luna. Ron and Hermoine are married to each other with one daughter named Rose. Clouds loom overhead as a certain “darkness” tempts its’ return. There to witness this new found darkness is Harry’s son, Albus. Readers see Albus and Harry’s relationship pulse with tenseness as Albus deals with the weight of a famous father, and  not being a Gryffindor. Harry’s struggles with being  a father to a teenager is ultimately the catalyst that drills the events in the story. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is Albus’ venture into a different wizarding world, yet finds himself going back in time reliving the same world as his father. Beloved characters are reintroduced and new characters take the play into a direction that is somewhat predictable yet fresh, and fun to read. The play is much more introspective as the character development outweighs the action. Harry, Ron, Hermoine still are participatory in the plot, as they help contain and defeat the harrowing darkness. If approached right, readers can have an enjoyable experience with this newest addition to the series.

As expected, there were many who disliked “Harry Potter and Cursed Child” simply because it was play or because it read like fan fiction. Both are true, however I applaud Rowling for exploring a creative avenue that keeps her story of the “Boy Who Lived” alive. Her story will forever be in rotation on many platforms (novel, audio, merchandise, amusement parks, plays, film, etc.) and you have to respect her for keeping her brand prevalent.  Yes, this play read like fan fiction and I was hoping for a bit more. I went into it with low expectations, and it made my reading experience better because I wasn’t as crushed. The “adventure” part of the play is not as heavy as is the character development, especially between Harry and Albus. I actually really liked how real their relationship was. It showed the flawed  gritty bits of fatherhood to a teenager. The play isn’t very vast, and it isn’t going to give you everything you originally found in the novels. Instead, it gathered the main crowd pleasing parts of the series, and created a play. At times, the plot/play seem too contrived and generic and definitely read as fan fiction. It wasn’t the best work-but it did what it meant to do- entertain. Fans of the Harry Potter series were disappointed, and as a fellow Potter fan myself, I was little unsatisfied. If you approach it for what it is, and know that it WILL be different from the novels you’ve read, you’ll probably end up liking it more than if you read it with expectations for it to be like the previous novels. It’s worth a try, especially if you enjoy the characters and want a little nostalgia.

Have you any of read the play? Thoughts?

Book Review: Fingersmith-Sarah Waters

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Scandal wrapped in twisting lies, a hidden countryside manor, and a smoky London, make for a novel that is worth sifting through. Waters does it again with her Victorian setting, with of course two lovers at the center of the novel. Although the novel is a hefty 582 pages long, towards the end, you wont even realize how many pages you’ve sifted through as the mystery pulls you in. It’s no secret Sarah Waters  loves a good scandal and is particularly noted for the use of lesbian lovers during the Victorian age. I admire how Waters writes two female lovers during a time where that subject was quite taboo and frowned upon. Fingersmith has been adapted to  film one in English and recently a  South Korean rendition of the movie called 아가씨(Handmaiden). A beautiful novel that has many hidden untruths, Fingersmith is definitely a Waters novel that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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South Korean adaptation 아가씨
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BBC two part series Fingersmith

Susan Sue Trinder, an orphan, is raised in the mist of lower working class and grows up amongst thieves and traders and those whose work must be hid from the law. Her home includes interesting characters, and under the matriarchy of Mrs. Sucksby,  they live a simple yet duplicitous life. Sue’s life changes from one of plebian status to a being lady’s maid to a wealthy young women of an astute country side manor. The plan to change Sue’s life is conducted by a man, Richard Rivers (Gentleman as the London streets deem him) as he has the idea to take Sue to be the  of a woman and convince her to marry Mr.Rivers, thus swindling her of her inheritance. Sue agrees, and together both her and  Mr. Rivers set off to the country. It is here where we meet Maud, a simple woman living a recluse life with her uncle. Maud is made to accompany her uncle with writing certain “ribald” texts. When Maud and Sue and Mr. Rivers meet, the plan comes to fruition and the relationship between  the women grow deeper. The story of course becomes more contorted as the scheme to take Maud’s fortune goes awry. The novel is very reminiscent of all of Water’s writing with plot twists, loose characters, and a very befitting Victorian romance.

I’ve been a long time fan of Sarah Waters and I really admire her writing style. She sticks to what she knows and does a fantastic job at it. The novel is broken into thirds told from the different perspectives of the two women. Sue’s perspective was the most interesting in my opinion, and it offered more of the twisted plot. Water’s does well in setting the scene and the supposed disposition of the characters. Fingersmith has been referred to as Dickens-esque novel, and I would agree that Sarah Waters does a fine job in emulating yet creating a new Victorian London. This novel wasn’t my favorite of hers, but I did enjoy the mass of it. It takes a while to get through the first third, and it is quite slow. I had high expectations of the  novel after viewing the South Korean movie version 아가씨, but I was a little disappointed in the novel as it read dry and dull, leaving  me feeling lackluster at the end. Waters could have done more in this novel to make it more exciting, but it fell short with often boring repetition and characters who were less than fascinating. The character development doesn’t extend beneath surface level, and the “villainy” is scooped together and placed towards the end, making the reader dredge through the first half of the novel, being teased for what is to come. While I wouldn’t recommend to the general reader, I would suggest it to a person who like Victorian literature or is a Charles Dickens fan.