Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

BWIF5951[1]A couple of weeks ago I read Madeline Miller’s debut novel, The Song of Achilles. The book had been on my TBR for a long time but as soon as her second novel , Circe, made the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, I was more inspired than ever to read her work. You can read my review for The Song of Achilles here, but suffice to say that the I thought the book was brilliant and thoroughly deserved the high praise it has received in the past. Fast forward to the present time, and I can now proudly say that I’ve read both of Madeline Miller’s novels after quickly sinking my teeth into the much anticipated Circe.

Circe, much like Miller’s first novel, is a historical fiction which is essentially the author retelling certain elements and stories within the Greek myths. Whilst her first novel focused upon the mighty and well famed Greek hero Achilles, this time we are given the lesser known tale of Circe, a goddess of magic, or, as she is more often referred to, a witch. Daughter to the powerful Titan and sun god Helios, Circe has always been a disappointment to her parents, with no apparent power of her own to follow in her father’s footsteps. After she is eventually exiled to the island of Aeaea, Circe is left to fend for herself, finding her own way to survive in a time where gods and monsters lay ready to both literally and metaphorically devour her at any given moment. But can a woman with no claims to the title goddess really survive what the fates have in store for her?

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Review: Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets (#2 Six Tudor Queen Series) by Alison Weir

UNUE1316[1]Back last year I read my first novel by Alison Weir, Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen. This was actually the third book in the Six Tudor Queen series that she’s written and it was a really fantastic read for a history lover like myself. When I was very kindly sent over the next book in the series, Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets, I was beyond thrilled and quite honestly I couldn’t wait to delve back into the Tudor period.

As you can imagine from the title, this next installment follows the life of Anna of Kleve who was King Henry VIII’s fourth wife, and the woman who actually outlived the rest of his other wives! From her childhood growing up in Germany, to the thrilling news of her potential marriage to the King of England and all that was to follow after this; the novel really has an impressive scope and timeline which enriches this aspect of history all the more.

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Review: Melmoth by Sarah Perry

CCPM9991[1]A fair while ago I read The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I can still vividly remember how much hype that book got across social media and booktube, and as a lover of historical fiction (especially Victorian) I had to agree with the masses. Perry’s writing was beautifully skilled with superb characterisation and interesting contextual themes which saw society questioning the likes of science versus religion (a massively controversial topic in its day). When I saw that she was bringing out another book and that it was called Melmoth I was fascinated to say the least. I knew that Melmoth The Wanderer was a classic book written by Charles Maturin and that it was extremely Gothic and terrifying in tone. If Sarah Perry was going to be writing a book influenced by this, I was one hundred percent on board, as were so many others.

The book follows Helen Franklin, a young British woman who has exiled herself to Prague after committing a deed twenty years ago that she cannot forgive herself for. Every day since has been spent trying to forget it whilst simultaneously punishing herself for it, denying herself even the luxury of flavoursome food. That is, until a strange manuscript falls into her hands from a shaken friend, a manuscript that is filled with testimonies from the darker aspects of history. A common theme recurs throughout them; the watching presence of a silent woman in black with bleeding feet.  This is Melmoth, the loneliest being in the world, outcast from society and condemned to walk the earth forever alone, reaching out to those who are guilty to lure them away for a lifetime spent wandering lonely at her side. The further Helen reads, the more she feels that something, someone is watching her, but can she ever escape her past?

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Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

AMCP6159[1]You see the word ‘Auschwitz’ and what does it do to you? Transport you to another place, another time? Take you right into the face of hell? Conjure images of death and despair, horror and hopelessness? By forming such a violent and incomprehensible part of our worlds history, our connotations of ‘Auschwitz’ are horrific, and rightly so. Yet as a history buff and a literature lover, I can’t help but be drawn to any books that mention the word, or indeed any books associated with World War Two and the holocaust.

The very idea that a recent poll showed that a shocking percentage of both children and adults didn’t even know what the Holocaust was terrified me beyond measure. Such a disturbing and violent part of our worlds history needs to be remembered and commemorated, for how else are we to honour the victims and stop ourselves from falling into the same territory as flawed human beings? That’s why when I saw Heather Morris’s book The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I found myself immediately drawn towards it.

What I liked about the book when I first read the blurb was that it promised to not only tell the story of real victims of the Holocaust, but that it also took quite an original idea in exploring what it was like to be the man who was forced to tattoo his fellow victims with their identification numbers.  This man is Lale Sokolov, who arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942. The book follows Lale’s story, detailing how he came to be given this job as well as how he met Gita, a young woman whom Lale is determined will survive alongside him.

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Review:Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

HVLJ2760[1]Having read three books recently that focused quite specifically on classic literature and the Victorian period, I decided to shake things up again and grab something much more contemporary for my next read. Options were aplenty, with multiple titles jumping out at me desperate to be read. In the end, however, I decided on an author that I had told myself I was going to go back to, but had never found the time until now; Louise O’Neill. Louise has made quite a name for herself in the both the YA and wider literary world. Her first novel, Only Every Yours, was a massive success, compared to the likes of Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  I for one really enjoyed it, so I approached her second novel Asking for It, with pretty high expectations, especially considering the praise it had already gotten from such a vast audience.

Asking for It is set in a small town in Ireland, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone and every event is something to be commented upon. Emma O’Donovan lives here, but she is different. She’s beautiful, special, loved by all the boys and envied by all of the girls. Her popularity gives her power and she’s determined to keep it that way. Yet even Emma is not immune from the consequences of what happens that night. Now she is nothing, reduced to meager body parts, her pictures spread everywhere, the word slut hounding her every day. Emma is beautiful, she loved to flirt, she thrived on tiny dresses and skirts – she was asking for it, wasn’t she?

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Review: Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes

DNVX0212[1]I’ve been on a bit of classics hype over the last few weeks, rediscovering some authors I’d previously had a bit of a rockier relationship with, and realising that I do actually enjoy some of their works. If you’ve seen either my Ethan Frome post or my Silas Mariner post then you’ll know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’ t, let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised! Delving back into, not only classics, but also the Victorian period (which is my favourite!) was completely refreshing, and having finished both of the above books I was craving something a bit more focused on the historical aspect. That’s where Kathryn Hughes’s Victorians Undone came into play.

Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum, is actually a non-fiction book, something I’m trying to make more of an effort to read. The premise is fairly straightforward and has an interesting concept; through five different Victorian body parts Kathryn attempts to not only look at what their owners lives were like, but also what it was like to be them, as well as calling into play the society they lived among. I was pretty instantly sold on the entire idea and loved the thought of discovering the Victorian in a slightly different way, so it was a fairly easy decision to pick this as my next read. Continue reading