A Room with a View by EM Forster

A Room with a View by EM Forster is an interesting classic. It combines comedy, satire, social commentary and good story all into one good book and is a worthwhile classic to read.

I had never read any of EM Forster's works and so I was very happy when a friend of mine gave me A Room with a View on audiobook to listen to when I was unable to read for any substantial periods of time earlier this year. I think that I enjoyed the story all the more for having listened to it. There was something very calming about lying on the lounge and being read to and it made me realise that it is something I should more often, regardless of what condition my eyes are in.

A Room with a View seems to widely be referred to as a social comedy and EM Forster used social stereotypes of the time to poke fun at Edwardian society. I listened as EM Forster poked fun at the ministry through the character of Mr Beebe, a minister with little real understanding of the true nature of relationships between people and not overtly religious outside of the pulpit. Miss Barlett was perfectly portrayed as the overbearing spinster chaperone, concerned about accepting a room with a view off two men to whom she and Lucy would then be in debt to. There was a hole host of such characters through which EM Forster seamlessly satirised the social conventions of the time.

I very much enjoyed the story of Lucy Honeychurch and her struggle with her own social conventions. She wanted so much to be a woman of the world and see and feel the beauty in the world around her, but she was stifled by her own internalisation of what was considered to be 'the right thing' for a lady of her age and situation.

It is through her fortunate meeting with the Emmerson family, and particularly the son George, that she learns that she can give in her to own passions and make decisions that arise from her own desires and sense of self rather than those rigid conventions that constrain social behaviour.

Having said all of that, A Room with a View is a very bright book. Although Forster is making comments about Edwardian society, he does so in a way that is light and funny. He focuses on the life of the individual rather than any bigger social issues. At no point did I feel particularly emotional about anything that occurred or any of the characters, which perhaps might explain why I didn't react to it as well as I might otherwise have. Whilst the characters are all very human, I didn't feel particularly close to them which I would have liked to, especially to Lucy. In the end, love conquered and I like a happy ending.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
A romance with a twist.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, but I wouldn't recommend that you prioritise it.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
I think borrowing it would be sufficient, but I also recommend that you listen to it as an audiobook, I really enjoyed that experience.



Star Rating

5.5 / 8


Enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it, but there is no need to prioritise it.


Did you feel like you connected to Lucy Honeychurch? I would love to know what you thought of the book if you have read it. What do you think of books that poke fun at social convention?

Cocaine Blues and Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood; fun Australian crime fiction at its best

Cocaine Blues and Flying Too High are both part of the Phryne Fisher series, penned by Australian author Kerry Greenwood. They are fun, sassy and scintillating and I can't get enough of it.

Some time ago I reviewed what was at the time the last book in this series, Murder on a Midsummer Night, and I was even lucky enough to interview the author Kerry Greenwood (read the interview here). I recommend you read the interview, because she is a fascinating lady.

These books are sort of an Australian version of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Very Agatha Christie-esque but a lot more fun and tongue in cheek.

There is a not more to say about the book other than what I have already said in my review of Murder on a Midsummer Night. The fabulous Phryne Fisher is a private investigator in Melbourne in the 1920's/1930's and boy is she flamboyant. These books are great for the mystery, the characters, the food and the outfits.

It was good to go back to the first two books in series and see how it was that Phryne came to be The Honourable Phryne Fisher, how she came to be a investigator and how it is she ended up in Melbourne.

It was also a good insight to see how she has collected her entourage of fabulous characters, such as taxi drivers Bert and Cec and personal assistant Dot. She has yet to collect some her other friends that I saw in the later book, but I can't wait to find out how she meets them.

All in all, fabulous books that I think almost everyone will enjoy.

Summary


What kind of read is this?
Quick, easy and fun.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes I do, I really enjoyed it and I think that a lot of other people would too, whether you a crime/mystery reader or not.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Yes, I think that this will be a fun one to re-read every now and again.



Star Rating

7 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put them down. Recommend that you buy them.


Have you read any of Kerry Greenwood's books? What do you think of them?


Does anyone read much non-fiction?

Literary Blog Hop
Does anyone read much non-fiction?

When I look over what I have read in the last year, only 3 books have been non-fiction:
I read Clandestine in Chile because it held some personal interest to me... and because I admire Gabriel Garcia Marquez for being a brilliant fiction author. It also appealed to me because Marquez wrote the story of Miguel Littin as if it were novel.

I read 84 Charing Cross Road because it was a book about books and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is its sequel and the two novels came in one book. Truth be told, until I finished the books I didn't even realise they were non-fiction.

So when asked whether I think there is such a thing as literary non-fiction - I have to reply that I am absolutely not qualified to answer.

I don't know why it is that I don't real non-fiction. I do try to sometimes. Last year I read Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey by Farlay Mowat, but I didn't really enjoy it.

There is just something about non-fiction that doesn't capture my attention and I can't put my finger on what it is. I really like a good story - which you could get in some non-fiction. I really like complex characters - which I am sure you can find in some non-fiction. I admire good writing - which can definitely be found in non-fiction.

Perhaps it is the knowledge that what I am reading isn't true that sustains me. Perhaps reading fiction means so much to me because it isn't real, because it is an entirely different world to the one that I live in? It is a world created by the author for the characters that I can access through my own reading experience?

I don't know what it is, but it is an interesting question to ponder.

Shameless review plug - speaking of different worlds, have a look at my review of the science fiction classic The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, a really amazing book.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham; a science fiction classic


The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is a gripping science fiction classic that had me on the edge of my seat and the hair on the back of my neck prickling, the entire time I was reading it.

I love science fiction from the late 19th and early through to mid 20th century. War of the Worlds, Time Machine, The Invisible Man are some of my favourites, and this one is going straight to the favourites list as well.

The premise of the story is simple. Bill Masen wakes up one morning in hospital to discover that most of the world has gone blind. In the ensuing chaos of death and disease, the Triffids begin to attack the human population, causing havoc where ever they go. What are Triffids? Intelligent plants that have somehow become a part of nature. It is unclear what their origin is, but what is clear is that they are carnivorous and intelligent plant life that are able to walk of their own volition and will feed on human flesh when given the chance.

There are so many issues that Wyndham explores in this book; the notion of civilised society, how people respond to crisis situations, sex, gender relations and religion. It also deals with the issue of modern day warfare, of the biological kind. It asks how far will people go in the name of progress and explores the consequences of our collective actions. How much is the group responsible for the actions of some? How far should we go attempting to control nature and at what point will nature fight back?

Most importantly, The Day of the Triffids was scary. I felt nervous, tense and excited the entire time I was reading the book. A lot of the triffid attacks come out of nowhere because the triffids are so good at hiding. Wyndham has created this great sense of expectation because the triffids are so intelligent you never quite know what is going to happen.

As the book is written from the perspective of Bill Masen, Wyndham leaves a lot about these carnivorous plants to the readers imagination because Bill himself is only able to conjecture and hypothesise about them.

I was so engrossed by this book I read it in one sitting. I think this might be the best science fiction classic I have ever read and I can't wait to read more of Wyndham's works.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is easy to read, but displays great skill with language. It is scary and tense too, which I appreciate in science fiction.

Do I recommend this book?
Definitely. It's a great read.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Yes, this will make great re-reading.



Star Rating

7 / 8



Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Recommend that you buy it.


I would love to know what you thought of this book if you have read it. I am not a modern day science fiction fan, but I do love these science fiction classics of the late 19th and early 20th century. Does anyone else enjoy reading this books? What is it that you enjoy?

Billie's Kiss by Elizabeth Knox (a fabulous author)



In Billie's Kiss, author Elizabeth Knox beautifully captures the time and place of the story, but sadly the story itself fell short of my expectations.

I discovered Elizabeth Knox through her first novel The Vintner's Luck. Something about that novel absolutely captured my imagination and it now one of my favourite books. I reviewed it on Page Turners last year and gave it 8 stars out of 8 stars. So when I saw more of her books for sale at a local book fair I purchased as many as I could thinking that they would be just as amazing. Sadly, Billie's Kiss just didn't hit the mark in the same way that The Vintner's Luck did.

Billie's Kiss is set on a remote Scottish island in the very early 20th Century. It begins with tragedy, being the death of Billie's older and heavily pregnant sister when the ferry carrying them to the island explodes. Most of the other passengers are killed, and Billie's brother-in-law only just survives after a period of illness. Immediately before the boating accident, Billi jumped from the boat and so naturally suspicion falls upon her, especially on the part of Murdo Hesketh. Murdo Hesketh, the cousin of the island's 'owner' Lord Hollowhulme, was also on the boat and he begins his own personal investigation into how the explosion occurred.

What follows is basically a slow moving exploration of both of these characters. We are given insight into their pasts by way of explanation for the people that they have become.

What Knox does well in Billie's Kiss is capture the essence of the island. The island is bleak and gloomy. The book has a very Gothic feel, you can sense the darkness in the characters and in the scenery.

And yet, the book moved as such a slow pace that it was difficult to keep reading at times. Nothing of any great significance occurred until the very end, when the conclusion to the mystery of the boat explosion is revealed in a sudden burst of activity that didn't at all match the rest of the book.

Although I did not respond well to Billie's Kiss, I still remain a big fan of Elizabeth Knox. I think that she has a very talented way of using language to create a sense of place and I hope that people are not put off reading her other works, particularly The Vintner's Luck.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
Slow and somewhat challenging.

Do I recommend this book?
I really recommend this author, but not this book so much.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
No. I recommend that you buy The Vintner's Luck, and if you love it and want to read her other books, then I recommend that you borrow this one from the library.



Star Rating

5 / 8


Worth reading if you have the opportunity and you are an Elizabeth Knox fan, but there's no need to prioritise it.


Have you read any of Elizabeth Knox's books? I would love to know what you think of her.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is an original, character driven book that was riveting, honest and above all, moving.

Haddon's narrator is 15 year old, Christopher Boone, a young man with Asperger's Disorder (an autism spectrum disorder), who lives with his single father following the death of his mother some years before (or is this true?). When Christopher discovers the murdered body of the dog from across the street, Wellington, he decides to investigate the murder. He tries to emulate the system employed by Sherlock Holmes, and upon his teacher Siobhan’s suggestion, he keep a written journal of his investigation.

Haddon used Christopher’s journey to explore the reality of living with a mental disorder. Christopher’s perception of the world is very different to that of a person without this condition. He perceives the world very literally – this means that he sometimes has difficulty understanding the world around him. He is not able to tell lies, for example, and is unable to understand metaphors.
"And when I try and make a picture of the phrase in my head it just confuses me because imagining an apple in someone’s eye doesn’t have anything to do with liking someone a lot and it makes you forget what the person was talking about."
His literal perception of the world affects his behaviour. He is unable to process complex emotion, and as result he doesn’t like new people or being touched.
"I rolled back onto the lawn and pressed my forehead to the ground again and made the noise that Father calls groaning. I make this noise when there is too much information coming into my head from the outside world."
Christopher processes the world around him by developing order and systems in order to assist him to function. Colours are associated with particular feelings; for example, anything brown is bad and four red cars in a row on the way to school means that he will have a good day. He likes lists because they suggest order, and he enjoys mathematical problems because, his teacher suggests, they always have logical answers. This is Christopher’s biggest problem – he cannot perceive the world as a logical place because he cannot be anything other than literal.

As he investigates Wellington’s death, Christopher makes a significant discovery about his own family that leads him away from that puzzle and onto a bigger journey of self-discovery.

On a more personal note, as someone who works a lot with people with a mental illnesses and disorders, I really appreciated the honest way in which Haddon dealt with this issue. Christopher was not portrayed as 'disabled' as such. He was not painted as some sort of 'idiot' or 'criminal' or 'social misfit' as such. Instead, he seemed an ordinary boy struggling with additional challenges that he faced. Similarly, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time also provided insight into the struggles of the families of people with mental disorders. Their difficulties and challenges were sensitively dealt with to reinforce the idea that assisting people with such problems is not an easy task, but it is one that you do your best at out of love.

By employing a unique writing style Haddon avoids stereotypes and sentimentality and provides the reader with an original and honest insight into mental disorder. This in turn compels the reader to contemplate our own perceptions of the social and physical world in which we exist. This book is compassionate, it is real and it is moving.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is an easy read, but with a unique writing style, unique content and a unique character.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, to everyone. I wish I had read it sooner than I did.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
I do recommend that you buy it if you are someone that likes to own books that they read and enjoy. Having said that, it is such a unique book that it isn't one that I would imagine you would re-read very frequently for fear of removing some of its impact. So the library is also a good option.



Star Rating

7 / 8 


Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Everyone should read it.


I would love to know what you thought of this book if you have read it. I am particularly curious to hear the perspective of someone who has read this book and who has personal experience with/knowledge of Asperger's Disorder?

What is your view on how mental illnesses or disorders are usually portrayed in fiction and why do you think this might be?