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The Havisham Blog

Reviews and opinions on literature past and present

Book Club: Black-Eyed Susans

It’s been a while since last book club! I suppose our lives get in the way of us a little bit but as George R.R. Martin says:

“Sleep is good, he said, and books are better.”

The book follows Tessa, a survivor of a grim kidnapping where she was buried in a grave full of bones of girls who are other victims of her ‘monster’. The story flips between Tessa in the present day; fighting to help release the man she put on Death Row for the murders and young Tessa [Tessie] who was weeks before her trial and getting help from her doctor for the voices in her head (the Susans). 

I think we were all really impressed with this novel. I love a good crime thriller and this book definitely keeps you guessing. Some of the group thought it was slow starting and most of us felt there were a lot of characters to contend with, lots of doctors etc. However, the plot does get very fast paced and none of us guessed who Tessa’s ‘monster’ was in the end. We discussed how if this book would have been written at a different time, for example at a time where black and white people were still segregated and black people had no rights. It was decided that if this was the case, Terrell  (the black man on Death Row) wouldn’t have even been fought for, he would have been guilty with no appeals. We also talked about our own feelings towards Death Row. Some of us felt it was wrong but most of us were conflicted; what if the person turned out to be innocent? 

I also brought up the many literary references in the book to mystery writer Edgar Allan Poe and also Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. One of Tessa’s doctors states that his daughter Rebecca went missing years ago. We later find out that the name Rebecca was from Du Maurier’s fictional character. Although this could be a link to the doctor’s missing daughter, I saw it as a link to Tessa’s elusive friend Lydia. Throughout the book we never see Lydia, we only ever hear about her through Tessa’s thoughts or ‘Tessie’s’ flashbacks. She’s this sinister omnipresent character that influences Tessa’s whole life and future. I feel like this reflects well with Rebecca who is this character that we always know about through the new Mrs De Winter’s thoughts but we never see her. Her presence is everywhere in Manderley, in the rooms…even in the plants…but she is the to titular character and she is the main character.

These were monsters, rearing to the sky, massed like a battalion, too beautiful I thought, too powerful; they were not like plants at all. 

About rhododendrons in Rebecca 

 

About Black-eyed Susans in Black-Eyed Susans

Although the book is not named  Lydia (lol) it is called Black-Eyed Susans which I think when you read it you’ll realise how it doesn’t just apply to the bodies buried underground with Tessa covered in wild flowers…

Definitely a good read and an easy read. We found it very gripping and was a great source of discussion with many themes and unexpected characterisation. 
Of course we decided who would play the characters if we made a movie (I think they are making a movie of it…). Here we go:
Tessa – Jessica Chastain 

Lydia – Christina Ricci

Tessie – Jane Levy

Charlie – Ellie Bamber 

Doctor – Ralph Fiennes 

Bill – Chris Pratt (with much debate)

Lucas – Channing Tatum  (with little debate)

Terrell – Michael Clarke Duncan 

Jo – Kim Dickens 

Next time it’s Alex’s pick and she has gone for Lolita. Don’t know how we’re all going to cope with this one but I’m intrigued…

Book Club: Rebuilding Coventry 

I can’t believe we’ve made it to our 6th book club! It was my turn again and I chose Rebuilding Coventry by Sue Townsend. After having so many books about murder and dying I felt it was important to try and lighten the mood of the book club. I think we were probably one dramatic death away from tipping over the edge. Having not remembered what it was like to read a happy book, I asked a friend for advice on funny authors and she told me about Sue Townsend. Rebuilding Coventry was a short but witty novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I laughed out loud several times because the characters were so ridiculously hysterical. I felt like I knew them.
Ironically, Rebuilding Coventry follows the life of the unfortunately named housewife Coventry Dakin (it’s not about rebuilding Coventry after the war) after she murders her neighbour Gerald Fox. After she commits her crime, she heads to London in order to start a new life for herself only to be made homeless and sleep in “Cardboard City” as well as having sex with strangers for a Kit Kat. The story flips back and forth between Coventry and the drama she created back at home with the murder. She leaves her boring, tortoise loving husband and her two teenage children wondering what has happened to their very shy and very obedient mother.

Although some of the comments in book club were mixed, I feel like the book was so easy to read. In comparison to other authors we’ve read at book club, the plot rolled out as it should — getting to the point quickly but descriptively showing that in literature quality not quantity can be an important factor. Although I crammed the last few chapters of this in one night, it reminded me how much I love reading. I love being transported somewhere else for a bit, chuckling to myself about cows looking camp with OTT eyelashes and an elderly woman who never puts clothes on when she’s home. I would definitely recommend it and I can’t wait to read something by Sue Townsend again, we could all do with a few laughs ūüėä.

Next book club is…Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. Looking forward to it!

Book Club: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter¬†

It’s been a while since I posted a blog about book club. It took us a while to get through The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. My dad’s passing happened the day of book club and the girls kindly pushed the date so that I could join in. The subject matter (although not entirely relatable) made this one a tough read in light of everything that had been happening in my life. There is a strong theme of loss and it’s interesting how people deal with it. It was difficult to want to pick up this to continue with after dad died, I feel like I could sympathise more with Norah’s erratic behaviour (not her infidelity!) after thinking her daughter Phoebe had died. I could also sympathise with the wall that her husband David had put up after he actually gave their daughter away because she was born with Down’s Syndrome. Everyone in the book was affected by loss in some way and Phoebe, who was still alive and living happily with Caroline and Al, felt no loss at all and was happy with the life she had. Sometimes, I guess it’s nice to explore the simplicity of life. Of course we all suffer from loss but it’s how we deal with it as human beings. 

It’s been 1 month since my daddy died and I’ve had a million and one emotions but at the same time have felt incredibly numb. I feel like I’m in a state of denial, not believing that he’s gone but also I feel so accepting that he is finally at peace. I miss everything about him but also feel like I’m already grasping at the memories I have of him even though they consume every corner of my brain. I don’t really understand loss. I haven’t lost him and yet I don’t know what else you could describe it as, looking for someone or something and them not being where you left them. I wish he was here to help me understand and I wish there was some way for me to get everything out. I don’t think I have any tears left and if I do they won’t fall. I feel like something unexplainable has happened and maybe that is loss. I don’t like it and I wish I didn’t feel it but at least he is no longer tired and that he is home. 
Acceptance is important in this book. Norah is able to forgive David through accepting what he did. I think you can begin to heal from losing someone when you accept what has happened. I think in this book that Norah possibly can’t begin to accept the loss of her daughter because she’s still alive through David’s secret. 

And I’m babbling!

Overall, we all found this book difficult to get through as it was full of purple prose and superfluous text but the concept of the story was great. 
Next on the agenda is Rebuilding Coventry by Sue Townsend.

Quick News!

I’m volunteering again (and blogging again, it’s like I’ve gone back in time)! I’m volunteering for The Windows Project who are a local charity who encourage creativity through writing.

Writing is a way of seeing – the ordinary and the extraordinary, from your own street to the landscape of your dreams.”

I attended an event for families at The Academy of St Francis Assisi on Saturday and The Windows Project ‘Amazing Push Poem Machine’ was a hit with the children and many adults.

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The person/people playing have to throw a ball into a hole which has a letter under it. When they have their letter they then have to think of a word that will add onto an already existing poem or it will be used to start a new one.

I loved that a the beginning of the day we started with: “Love Everyone On Earth Forever Because It’s Excellent” (very apt with our current Brexit situation #rage). But by the end of the day we had “The People Irritate Me”.

My personal favourite was:

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Our final poem of the day was :

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Again, very apt for the day. It was all very inspiring and creative and reminded me why I was volunteering in the first place!

http://www.windowsproject.co.uk

Book Club: The Five People You Meet In Heaven

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Finally got round to finishing this…it’s nearly time for the next book club!

It’s so rare that you get to read something about what happens to people when they die. A very in depth talk about the afterlife and all that it involves. One of the only books I can think of that I have read that is written beyond the grave is The Lovely Bones. In¬†The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold’s Heaven is a very personal place. It transforms for the dead and becomes an open world where the trapped soul¬†of Susie Salmon can peak into life on Earth and see the developments and lives of the people she left behind.¬†I think that Mitch Albom’s Heaven¬†is another example of the portrayal of a personal Heaven, a Heaven that teaches us about our life and the people in it. Albom’s Heaven includes five people from our lives that who may have known well or not at all. These people wait for you until you die and manifest in your Heaven and give you lessons to take with you.

At our book club, one sunny May day, Kate said that five people weren’t enough people to meet in Heaven, that she would want ten because she wouldn’t be able to choose who she would want to see. Thinking about this now, I don’t think it’s a matter of choice. I’m sure Eddie the¬†maintenance man for Ruby Pier would have wanted the choice to speak to his ¬†father in Heaven. I think that in some cases, it can just be too late to mend¬†some bridges and that the lessons that we learn from this is what counts. Meeting ten people in Heaven wouldn’t necessarily teach us the main lessons we need to know to truly be at peace, just five important lessons could be enough.

Eddie is the maintenance man at a popular amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, Eddie risks his life to save a young girl from a crashing ride. When he dies,¬†he feels two small hands in his own before he floats to Heaven¬†where he meets five people who tell him about his life and what he can learn from it. The first person Eddie meets in Heaven is The Blue Man who worked at Ruby Pier’s sideshow. Eddie is unintentionally the reason that The Blue Man died and Eddie, immediately filled with guilt is told by The Blue Man that everyone’s lives are connected in some way and that life and that nothing just happens at random. A quote I really liked from this part of the book is:

“fairness does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young‚ÄĚ.

I think we liked how this book dealt with death and the idea of Heaven. If you’ve ever seen the movie¬†Corrina, Corrina, you’ll remember the scene where Molly’s dad says that Heaven doesn’t exist and that it’s just something that people make up to feel better about death. If so, then Albom’s Heaven would make us feel hopeful that not only is there something after death but that we will significantly know more about ourselves after life. If knowing and understanding the meaning of your life in Heaven is something to look forward to, then I wouldn’t see any harm in people believing that there’s somewhere for us to go after we die.

The second person that Eddie meets in Heaven is his Captain from when he was in the army. From the Captain, Eddie learns that it was because of the Captain that Eddie had a bad leg. When Eddie and the other soldiers escaped from¬†being captured in the Philippines,¬†the tent where they were held¬†set on fire. For a while Eddie thought he could see someone in the flames¬†and therefore was stood stunned in front of the place wanting to go in and save them. In order to save his life, the Captain¬†shot Eddie in the leg (unbeknownst to Eddie until after he dies)¬†and carried him a long to¬†flee being recaptured. Eddie¬†also learned that by stepping on a landmine as they were getting away,¬†the Captain sacrificed himself for the rest of his men. There are sacrifices that are big and small and this is what Eddie learns from him. We didn’t have much to say about the Captain in the book club. I don’t know whether we liked him or not but I know that we liked his lesson :).

The third person that Eddie meets is Ruby and she is also Ruby Pier’s namesake. She teaches Eddie¬†to let go of his anger and to forgive his father for the damage he caused in his life. We learn a lot about Eddie’s father in this chapter and find out¬†why he was the way he was with Eddie. Although Ruby wasn’t directly in Eddie’s life, the lesson she teaches him is forgiveness and helps him let go of the anger he has for his father. His father died calling his family members names into the night. It shows he still cared and the he wanted to be forgiven.

Eddie’s fourth person to meet in Heaven is his wife. She was the love of his life. In the flashbacks of Eddie’s birthdays throughout the book we see the development of their relationship and how from the beginning he knew he wanted to marry her. I see their love story as like an old Hollywood movie. We all really liked her character. She was so motherly and loving and everything that Eddie deserved. Marguerite teaches Eddie about the power of love and its endurance and that love is not lost with death.

The final person Eddie meets in Heaven is surprising. Her name is Tala and she was a young girl that burned to death in the fire in the Philippines. I don’t think any of us thought that would be the last person. The small hands he felt in his own and he drifted up to Heaven were not the little girl’s whose life he had saved, but Tala’s as she brought him to her. At this news, Eddie weeps and cries. Tala is very mature for her age. She isn’t angry and Eddie or sad for dying, she comes across very “matter of fact” when she speaks to him about what happened. Upon reflection, I would say she is my favourite character. Tala asks¬†Eddie¬†why he¬†was so sad on Earth. Eddie tells her it was because he accomplished nothing, but this response confuses Tala. She tells Eddie¬†that he accomplished¬†a lot as¬†he kept¬†children safe at Ruby Pier and made them happy. Ruby¬†Pier was ‚Äúwhere [he was]¬†supposed to be”. I think it’s so easy to think that we have this huge purpose in life and it’s our mission to find out what it is. I think the final lesson allows us to think about our general existence and that our purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be extravagant or other-worldly. We are all significant in different ways, just like Eddie ūüôā xx

Like last time, we figured out if we had an absurd amount of money who would we put in our movie version of The Five People You Meet In Heaven

Eddie – Tommy Lee Jones

Young Eddie – Josh Hartnett

The Blue Man – Paul Giamatti

The Captain – Josh Brolin

Ruby – Maggie Smith

Marguerite – Marian Cotillard

Tala – Aubrey Anderson-Emmons

Eddie’s Dad – Jon Voight

 

The next book is To Kill A Mockingbird (can you believe none of us have ever read it :o)

Book Club: ‘The Cradle Will Fall’

I think for your first ever book club, it’s a great idea to choose a crime thriller. Do you know why? The suspense, the suspense will drive even the most unwilling of readers (for the most part) and well, everyone likes to try and solve a good mystery.

I haven’t posted on my blog in a really long time. It’s not that I haven’t read any good books lately, it’s just that I guess I’ve been feeling a little lost and uninspired. I like reading because I can escape a little from what’s going on, it’s nice to go somewhere else for a few hours. I haven’t felt like writing much either so I may be a little rusty.

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My rather shabby first choice.

At my new job (I say new because it’s new since I did my last post which was 2 years ago) I’m really lucky to have made a group of friends that I know will be for life and it was in this group of friends that it was decided that we’d start a book club named SD Bookworms (SD is the abbreviation of our work place).¬†I decided that I would use this book club to start to feel inspired again and to start feeling like my ambitious and creative self of 2 years ago.

It was my turn to choose first and it’s actually quite difficult to choose something to kick the whole thing off. I did wonder whether The Cradle Will Fall¬†by Mary Higgins Clark¬†was a bit of a weird one. The subject matter is a bit unethical but it is an easy read once you get into it. I borrowed this book about six years ago from my friend when we were on holiday in Portugal and from the first extremely short chapter, I was hooked!

A minor road accident landed county prosecutor Katie DeMaio in Westlake Hospital. After taking some sleeping pills, Katie wanders to the window of her hospital room where she imagines that she sees someone putting a woman’s body into the¬†boot of a car.¬†The next day, Katie begins to investigate the suicide of Vangie Lewis, the pregnant wife of a pilot. Straight away, things don’t seem to add up and the unlikely idea of Vangie committing suicide slowly turns the idea of murder, with the finger pointed at her cheating husband Chris Lewis. However, medical examiner Richard Carroll has other ideas and begins to suspect Vangie’s obstetrician at Westlake,¬†Dr. Edgar Highley. Dr Highley has been curing infertile women for years and is somewhat of a miracle worker in the medical society. As the walls start closing in on him and his practice at Westlake, Dr Highley will stop at nothing to keep his medical genius a secret for now…

The title The Cradle Will Fall¬†is obviously based on the nursery rhyme ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Unfortunately for Dr Highley, there’s only a matter of time before the cradle will fall.

It was an interesting book to discuss and to start with in a book club. With short chapters and interchangeable characters in each chapter, it meant the book was fast paced and meant that you were more likely to want to read on and see what happened next.

SD BOOKWORMS DISCUSSION

*SPOILERS*

From discussing it with the girls, it helped knowing the killer from the beginning and Dr Highley makes a convincing murderer. He was in fact my favourite character, although others disagreed. I found it funny¬†that he liked to indulge in a good meal after he’s murdered someone and that his final thought before taking his own life was that he didn’t get to have his fondue.

“A burning smell was permeating the room. Regretfully he realized it was the fondue.”

We discussed many themes in the book like things that made us uncomfortable such as Katie’s haemorrhaging and of course Dr Highley’s experimental insemination. Dr Highley would¬†take¬†foetus’ from women ¬†and place the aborted foetus inside a woman who was known to be infertile. The women would not know that the child growing inside them was not their own flesh and blood and most of the women died as the child wasn’t compatible with their bodies.

We also made a fantasy draft of actors and actresses who would be in the movie of it if it was ever made in Hollywood (there is a movie version out there somewhere…)

Natalie Portman – Katie

Molly –¬†Drew Barrymore

Edna – Kathy Bates

Dr HIghley -Jude Law

Richard – Idris Elba

Vangie – Scarlett Johansson

Chris – Bradley Cooper

Dr Salem – Bill Murray

John – Eric Bana

…I think we did quite well

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One of the questions I asked was ‘If you could insert yourself as a character in the book, what role would you play?’ One of the best answers for me was from Alex (an SD bookworm :D) who said that she would create a character that would be in Vangie’s life as a friend, someone who could support her. I think that is such a charming¬†answer. Vangie was the victim and she was already a ticking time bomb, waddling through her life with an incompatible foetus. For the final months of her life she gained weight ¬†to the point she could only fit into caftans, lost her beauty and developed ‘cankles’ to which she squeezed shabby moccasins into on a daily basis. I guess it would have been nice for her to have a friend to turn to, someone who could have made her get a second opinion about her deteriorating pregnancy sooner.

To be honest, I could go on talking about this book for much longer. The plot is interesting and twisted that I could write pages and pages on it. We all would definitely recommend it. There’s a reason why Mary Higgins Clark is known as the queen of suspense which made this the perfect first book to our book club.

 

 

I got angry with Fifty Shades Freed…

…this morning. I hadn’t read the last one yet and have been slowly trying to finish it because why leave a series unfinished (also applies to TV shows, Heroes.)? Anyway, I’m convinced the author (E.L. James) hates women. The character Bella Swan Anastasia Steele has now married Edward Cullen Christian Grey and she goes back to work (even though Christian said she doesn’t have to, she can stay home and be “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen”) and decides to go by her maiden name. She wants to do this so that she can have some space from him, seeing as he part owns the company that she is now suddenly Editor of (because Ana couldn’t have possibly worked her way to the top of her career by herself. She has made no decisions concerning the job she has acquired as a graduate).

He then comes into her office, says to her that he has come to check out his “assets” and make sure “wives are in their place”. (He also earlier said that he was surprised she actually was useful and wasn’t just “decorative”…). She then tells him why she wants to keep her name and he says, “I want your world to begin and end with me” and tough I’m going to buy the company, and call it Grey Publishing and give it to you “Ms Steele” (which he keeps calling her to annoy her). She then annoyingly just agrees to change her name after he keeps pestering her about it and offers her sex in her office. I don’t know how I even got this far. I’m done.

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Happy Valentine’s Day ūüôā ‚ô°

Very overdue blog post…

I’d be lying if I said I’ve been too busy to blog, because I really haven’t. The last 3 weeks have been spent crocheting a “scarf” for my boyfriend and watching Gossip Girl.

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(Crocheting)

My internship at The Reader Organisation ended in January and I had a great last couple of months there. Before Christmas I was given the opportunity to cover a reading group in Toxteth which was really fun. The people attending that group are great and I had a nice time covering the group and munching on mince pies. I’m trying to attend the group while I’m off but find it difficult because I seem to be forgetting what day it is these days. As you can see I also learnt how to crochet and attended Crochet Lunch every Thursday. I’m not very good at it but it’s so relaxing!

I was also invited to their staff Christmas party which was really good. There was lots of food, crackers and secret santa gifts. I got a Rubix cube which I’m going to pretend I’ve completed myself.

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Christmas at The Reader Organisation

After the new year it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have very long left at TRO at all. I spent my last few weeks making sure all loose ends were tied and that there was a handover document for the next Market Research Intern. I then had a leaving do at the¬†East Village Arts Club which was great. It felt so nice that people made an effort for that. It was great to work with such lovely and friendly people. I already miss them and learned so much from them.

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Gifts from TRO

What now? I keep trying not to answer this question. I’m still volunteering at News From Nowhere which I’m really happy about and helps me remember when it’s Friday. I had the chance to go to their Christmas party too which was at Brink on Parr Street. I’m also still working part time at Currys (their Christmas party was at Leo’s Casino…I had a very busy Christmas). I enjoyed working for an organisation so have been looking for jobs there in marketing and communication. The publishing dream is still there and is something I hope to take back up later on. But for now I’m going to keep crocheting and looking forward to the lovely and relaxing holiday I have planned in March. Bring on Gran Canaria!  XOXO

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The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck…

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While I’ve been at The Reader Organisation I’ve been trying my best to find that time to just sit and read. I’ve been finding it hard to get into some books I’ve picked up lately, abandoning them half way through or falling asleep.

While I was at their recruitment day last week, in a small group we read Jacqueline Wilson’s Double Act and I realised that I’d always found it so easy to get into books when I was younger. There was little else to worry about at that age I guess.

It was my birthday on Saturday (“I’m feeling 22!‚ô™”) and all the family were round and my 7 year old cousin, Ava, asked me if I had anymore books she could have (while clearing out my cupboards I gave lots of my children’s books to her). Happy to help, I ran upstairs and found my old copy of Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddle-Duck and passed it to Ava. She wasn’t too into it and decided to play ‘Minion Rush’ on my phone instead. While I was sat down, I had a flick through it; the story coming back to me. When I looked, I noticed a message had been written at the front of it from my Godmother Denise, nearly 20 years ago, Christmas 1993:

Dearest Shauna,

Very soon you will be able to read this book, and I hope the ‘Tales of Beatrix Potter’ will fill your life with happiness like they did myself and many other children.  Keep these books and maybe one day, you can pass them on to your own children!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May God bless you and keep you.

With love always,
Your Godmother, Denise xxx

When I read that I thought to myself it was no wonder I liked reading so much when I was younger. I’ve had such a good relationship with books since I was little. The tales of Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, Squirrel Nutkin and many more had inspired me and I’d enjoyed them so much.

Mum said that she and dad used to read them to me along with Aesops Fables (dad used to tell me the Tortoise and the Hare all the time, I can actually remember it) and Enid Blyton. I hope that my Godmother Denise is right in that I can pass these books down to my own kids one day. It was such a good gift from her; a love of literature that can be passed on. I hope one day I could do the same…

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