Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Classics I've Studied

How is everyone doing? We’re in lockdown now here in the UK. It’s a bit surreal.

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday is a genre freebie. At first I was going to do something fantasy-related but decided to do something a bit different. This summer it will be three years (three years!) since I graduated from university. I studied English Literature with Creative Writing and had a lot of reading to do over the years I was studying! So here are 10 of my favourite classics I studied during my degree (either they were required reading or additional reading as part of research for the creative writing modules).

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – The history around this book is so interesting. If you know nothing about it except what’s around in popular culture, I’d recommend reading about Mary Shelley (and reading the book of course). It also explores the theme of what it means to be human, which I found really interesting.

Dracula by Bram Stoker – Probably the most famous vampire book, ever. We read this for a Gothic fiction module and I loved it.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – How could I not include a Jane Austen on this list? This is another from the Gothic fiction module. It’s essentially a satire of Gothic novels and thoroughly entertaining.  

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – This wasn’t required reading, but one I read as part of research for a science fiction piece for one of the creative writing modules. It’s the book the film Blade Runner is based on.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – An interesting module we had was Detective Fiction! This book has a big twist. I won’t spoil it. You won’t see it coming!

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle – Another one from the Detective Fiction module. Got to love a bit of Sherlock Holmes! I do like a classic mystery.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys – I read this one as part of research for my creative writing dissertation. This book is thought-provoking and also heart-breaking. I felt a real connection to it when I read it.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – I’d read this before I went to uni and was happy to see it on the reading list. It’s quite a long book, but I remember really enjoying it. I must read it again sometime.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – I don’t very often read short stories, but I found this one really engaging. It explores attitudes towards women with mental health problems in the 19th Century. It’s incredibly vivid and I found it fascinating reading around the subject and analysing the text.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – For our Children’s Literature in final year we had the option to use books not from the module. The Hunger Games was on the reading list and I chose to compare the trilogy to Ender’s Game. That was a fun and interesting topic.

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Could Re-Read Forever

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Now this isn’t just a list of my favourite books. Some books you just can’t keep re-reading as it isn’t the same. I don’t often re-read books actually as there are so many new ones out there that I want to read! So here are some either I have re-read before or want to in future.

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Book Review: The Hollow by Agatha Christie

2da87b54f6f4af60e4d249408b40948d-agatha-christieThe Hollow by Agatha Christie

Genre: Detective Fiction

Publishing Info: from the Agatha Christie Collection, Planet Three Publishing (first published 1946)

Pages: 252

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

When socialite Lucy Angkatell organises a weekend’s entertainment at her English country house, The Hollow, it seems she has thought of everything: the capable butler, the requisite number of kitchen maids – in fact, the only thing she seems to have overlooked is the fact that most of her guests hate each other.

A far-from-warm welcome greets Hercule Poirot as he arrives for lunch. Instead, a man lies dying by the swimming pool, as a gun sinks slowly to the bottom..

Having only read one other Agatha Christie novel – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – I have little to compare The Hollow to. While The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was written in a first person unreliable narrator style with a focus on the solving of the crime, The Hollow has quite a different focus. The murder – and Poirot – do not appear until a third of the way through the book, with the earlier chapters exploring the characters who will fall under suspicion.

Set in a country house with a host of guests, I was expecting a formulaic mystery. What I got was an exploration into the impact of murder on a group of people. Poirot features very little in the book. The focus is very much on the guests of the weekend country get away, their relationships with each other, and their reactions to murder. Since Christie spent time letting the reader get to know the characters, I cared more about them when murder came into the equation. Having more understanding of the victim and suspects’ characters meant I felt more engaged with the story.

Despite the focus on character, rather than mystery solving, I was still glued to the pages, eager to reach the end and find the solution to the murder. Satisfyingly, it wasn’t a predictable ending, and I hadn’t worked out the ‘whodunit’.

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Accessible Classics

If you want to get into the classics but you go into a bookshop and are horrified by the thought of attempting to get into Dickens or War and Peace, these are some good books to start with. There are plenty of classics that aren’t too daunting, but here are a few suggestions from a mixture of time periods and genres.

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 ‘Older’ Classics:

Jane Austen – This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like a good period drama, it might be worth giving an Austen novel a go. Pride and Prejudice is probably the most famous, but there are also Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

Around the World in Eighty Days – Don’t go into it expecting it to be like the Jackie Chan film which, while keeping the basic plot, embellished it rather dramatically.

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Gothic Fiction:

Frankenstein – The ‘myth’ of Frankenstein’s monster has changed and developed so much over the years that most people don’t know the original story. It is a surprisingly easy read.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – I didn’t realise how short this is before I purchased it, at around 70 pages.

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20th Century Classics:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – You may have read this as a child, but if you haven’t it isn’t too late to delve into the imaginative and quirky world of Lewis Carrol.

The Bell Jar – Probably the most famous novel on depression and an incredibly important book in the history of mental illness in literature.

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Detective Fiction:

Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes is the most famous detective around. Doyle wrote four novels and many short stories centred on the famous detective. These books are very easy to read and the mystery keeps you hooked. The published order of his novels are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear.

Agatha Christie – Some of the best are considered The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and The ABC Murders, but there are plenty of them to choose from.

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Science Fiction:

Fahrenheit 451 – This novel imagines a world in which books are burnt and although not as well-known as 1984, is a captivating and thought-provoking read.

Animal Farm – A political and satirical novella, this is a must read if you are interested in the classic science fiction genre.

(other science-fiction choices: 1984, Brave New World, Flowers for Algernon)

Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Genre: Detective Fiction

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Not Avail (first published 1926)

Pages: 305

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected that she was being blackmailed. Then came the news that she had taken her own life. But, before he found all the clues, he was murdered.

This was my first time dipping into the world of Agatha Christie’s novels. The detective story can be rather formulaic but this one diverges from the formula in an interesting way which makes it stand out from the usual mould. I can’t disclose any more on that front without completely ruining the book. It’s the twist that really makes the story. Until I got to the twist it was a fairly standard affair.

Christie writes good stories, but her writing isn’t exactly inspiring. The writing is pretty basic but I guess that makes it an easy read that will suite some. That’s the thing about these kind of novels, they’re the sort you read casually on the train or on holiday.

The characters are your standard mix of suspects and investigators with nobody particularly different, unusual or interesting. The setting as well is the typical country town. But if this is the kind of read you’re looking for then this isn’t a problem, it’s what you’d expect from a Christie.

This is one of those books that now I know what happens and what the twist is I may reread it at some point because it would be completely different reading it a second time with that knowledge. Obviously I can’t compare it to other Christie novels as this is my first but I’d say it was a pretty good one. It’s all about the twist at the end though. I didn’t find the build up to it that exciting.