Where the Mountains Follow You and the People Don’t Cry. Napoli, Italy.

Another month, another city. I have been truly blessed to be able to travel so much already within the first half of the year, which reminds me, it’s already the end of June?!

I travelled to Naples, a southern city by the bays of Italy, with a group of my friends at the end of May, so this post is overdue now. I have to admit, considering my lack of knowledge and expectations on my previous travels, it should come as no surprise that I had no clue where Naples was and what kind of city it was. Between deadlines and exams I had only seen one picture of the place and it set me up for a completely unexpected holiday. What I had imagined was, sandy beaches with traditional, Greek type multi-coloured houses on hilltops and generally the laid back, do-nothing type retreat.

It came through with its aesthetics because the google images were true to their photography. The houses looked magnificent, and the bay meant the apartments all had ocean view bedrooms. It was very scenic. But I realised when I arrived that Naples did not lend itself to the retreat type.

Instead, Naples was a humble old city filled with the natural, historic beauty of Italy. It stood stuck in a time where people closed their small simple shops early in the afternoon to spend time with friends, where people walked along the streets and or sat outside their houses to talk about everything and nothing. I noticed that the Napolion’s were always happy, friendly and welcoming wherever we went. I don’t exaggerate when I say I didn’t see a single unhappy face when I was there, the people really don’t cry (excluding when they are offended but that’s another story).

So although on the whole, Naples is peaceful, nonchalant and calm, it is the perfect location for travel between other towns and famous locations, most notably Pompeii. The coast allowed for oversea travels to smaller surrounding islands like Capri and even when remaining in Naples, the city hosts ancient castles, cathedrals and the city tour bus drives to the top of the mountain for quite literally, stunning views. It is no wonder that Naples and its people are proud and joyful.

I will go on to share a few of the pictures I captured while I was there but before that I wanted to share some of my experiences that will hopefully encourage travel to Naples but also prove as helpful tips.

  1. Prices

In case not already obvious, the currency used in Naples is Euros which means that the prices there are relatively expensive, unless you know where to look (a bit like any place really). To find cheap food or cheap anything really it is advisable to look in a few places first before buying and always always ask the price of anything before touching it, (especially in shops that don’t have price tags located visibly on any of the items) incase they decide to rip you off or scam you by telling you it’s already been bought so you have to pay. The more touristy you look, the likelier it is they’ll rip you off. It sounds obvious but I say this because my friends and I dress in cultural attire and first and foremost this attracted a lot of attention but more importantly this meant, they thought we didn’t know how pricing worked.

2. Food

Naples is often described as the birthplace of modern Pizza, so it’s inevitable that mostly all and any restaurant in Naples will be a Pizzeria if not a Pasta house. That being said, as it is also by the bay, you’ll find seafood, seafood and more seafood. My friends and I stayed in Naples for five days and our diet was simply pizza and on the odd occasion pasta. What was most interesting is that Pizza was both a cheap meal in some places but equally an expensive dinner in other places. Suffice to say both and either pizza tasted mouthwateringly delicious. The right amount of melted cheese, a perfect quantity of tomato sauce, topped with the all natural, organic and wholesome Italian dressings and ingredients. As Naples isn’t a popular tourist destination and because they are so proud of their food (as they should be) there isn’t a largely diverse selection of restaurants around so if you do fancy something different you’ll be looking for ages before you can find something. Equally, if you’re vegetarian or like us, only eat halal meat, you’ll be finding it difficult to find a variety of foods you can eat.  I assume that most of the time the locals cook their own meals (like normal people) and if they do want a nice meal out (pizza obviously) they leave it to the professionals.

3. Travelling around and about

To go Naples requires a lot more planning than what we had done. There are so many places you can go to but you need to be prepared and organised about timings as well as well transport. For the most part, the taxis and the metros can take you everywhere. A single ticket from Naples to Pompeii cost us roughly £1.50 pp which is very good in comparison to UK travel prices. The entrance to the ruins are varied depending on ages and discounts applicable but once you’re in, you can spend as long as you’d like and this can take up a lot of time too (as there’s quite literally so much ground to cover). Mount Vesuvius is seen in the distance from the coast of Naples wherever you are. It seems to follow you around, so we felt that it is a must to visit if you ever do go Naples. In general though, Italy is just… Picture, instagram and snapchat perfect. Perfect for making people jealous.

A ticket to Capri on the ferry cost us roughly £20 pp which is again, very good. The prices aren’t too much of an issue so it’s more about planning where you want to go and how long you want to go there for. When travelling to Capri, you might want to take into account visits to the caves which may require at least an extra hour or two. The local bus here also takes you up to the top of the mountain and to the other side of the island, so, if you have the time it’s well worth the journey for more stunning views, making new friends and experiencing the simple life of a traditional Italian.

4. Misconceptions

Some misconceptions people have about Italians is that they always talk angrily. Do they talk loudly? Yes. Angrily? No. They are the most happy and laid back people I’ve ever come across, they all walk slow, the queues are slow, they eat slow and serve slow. They are so chill. They are not only chill but they are so welcoming to strangers too. They like to take pictures, they might even photobomb, but they love to say hello and make a new friend. Having said that, this doesn’t mean they are naive in any sense, they know what they’re doing and interestingly they can get easily offended if you walk into their stores and then walk out without purchasing something, or… Walk in, take a long look around and then say no, wasting their time. That’s something to be wary of.

Another one, is that, Italians are lazy. Noooo. Again this goes back to their laid back character but they are by no means lazy, when they work, they work hard and if you take a look around you’ll always see people exercising or out for a run, or on a walk. I don’t think they’re being lazy they’re just enjoying life… And why not right? They live in such a beautiful city.

 

 

 

 

What Do You Know About the ‘Most Beautiful City in the World?’ Paris vs. London

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been somewhere new, and found that it wasn’t what they were expecting at all?

I didn’t have many expectations to be fair when visiting Paris, only the one – that it would be different to home – because that usually is the case with travelling. And in many senses, most of the points I discuss in this post prove that yes, Paris is different to London. The main difference is it’s architecture. Which is probably what gave Paris its title of ‘the most beautiful city in the world.’ The preservation of the 17th century buildings, is almost like going back in time. I say almost because, it’s not like going back in time, not really. It’s the capital city, just like London, it has the metro, London has TFL. The streets are small and always busy. There are the same grumpy faces and the same dreary weather. (That last bit is partially true because I was lucky enough to get the hot sun and high temperatures while I was there – I can thank/blame global warming for that.)

So really apart from pretty buildings and a cleaner river what is different about Paris? What is it that people are not telling you? What do you actually know about Paris other than its beauty?

  1. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.

London’s transport is well known for it’s annoyingly hypnotic sort of repetitive voice on the underground. No matter how deep your thoughts are there’s no escaping the inevitable moment that the voice in your head says those lines in absolute sync with the voice on speaker. Well, Paris doesn’t have that. If you’re lost in thought, well sorry, you’ve missed your stop. With their incredible  sense of preservation, many of the trains still use the train handles which you open yourself when you want to get off (quite unnecessary if you ask me. I mean it looks all fancy but what if you have a thousand bags to pick up, then what?) Call it a first world problem or what you will but, if this is not already stressful enough, the doors stay open for a mere 20 seconds, maybe even shorter, before they close. I suppose the extreme blaring horn sound that warns you that the doors are closing serve their purpose here. Even if they scare the life out of you and make you feel like you’ve been caught stealing from a bank.

2. Please keep your belongings close to you at all times.

It is not news, wherever you are in the world, that when you go abroad you must have a heightened sense of protection over your items, because pickpockets are everywhere. Always have been, always will. Paris has never struck me as the type of city where pickpockets come in abundance, yet it is the case. It’s easy to see why with overcrowded tourist attractions, but it has never been highlighted about how common it is in Paris. I didn’t think it would have needed to be either, despite how busy London is, theft is not on the list of ‘what should I be most concerned about?’ It was only when I caught a thugs hand in my backpack did I actually realise that they really are everywhere and no matter how safely you think you have kept your belongings, there’s always a safer way. The best of the theives come in disguises, you can be fooled by an old man with a newspaper and a decent outfit. For all you know the homeless boy on the street is probably more honest than him. (That being said there were homeless boys on the street who would place their cups of change in the middle of the walkway so that in groups of people someone was bound to knock it over and eventually stop.)

3. HI HO It’s off to work we go.

I always hear from people who visit Britain and in particular London that, British people are so grumpy. I feel that way sometimes too and i’m British so I can’t defend this statement because it’s most likely true. You walk the streets and people mind their own business (so really that’s a good thing…) People just don’t seem to be smiling or really aware of their surroundings because they’re so caught up in their hectic lives. Although having experienced walking around Paris a whole lot I feel like we (the British) are far politer – as we are proud to be – than Parisians. They probably don’t really care whether they’re seen as polite or not because they have art and art is humanity but, if someone pushes past you, it’s safe to say that they may not apologise and you shouldn’t feel offended because it’s not you, it’s just them. That’s the busy, grumpy life they lead – just a tad grumpier than the British.

4. Before you leave, please clean up.

As strange as it may sound, I think i’ll have to mark this is as the highlight of my trip to Paris purely because it’s so underrated and under appreciated in my opinion. Everyone and anyone who has travelled to London before knows that it’s not always the cleanest city. I’ve never been proud of this fact because no matter how many cleaners you see around there always seems to be a mess regardless. Paris is satisfyingly clean. The effort they put into keeping it that way can make a bad day good. The public toilets even have a self cleansing system after each person has used it – what could be better than that, honestly? The world needs self cleaning public toilets and it would be a much happier place.

5. …But we’re still waiting in the queue.

Maybe it’s a European thing… standing in queues. It’s definitely not just a British thing. The French queues go on for miles. The longest that we had waited in a queue on our trip was probably one and a half hours. This was just one queue, after that there were several more throughout the day. For such a fast paced city, there is an incredible amount of waiting. The Eiffel Tower for example has a queue for security, tickets, security, entrance, lifts up and down – in that order. Neither of those queues are short during term time so one can only imagine the length of them when it’s peak season. I can’t remember the last time I stood in a queue in London for that long. Usually they move pretty fast but I could be wrong. The British are not the only queue lovers though, let’s get the word around. And as is customary in queues, there will always be salesmen who wish to get a quick quid off you – you’ll always find differing prices but the funniest part is that they all sell the exact same things so you’ll get really bored of seeing them around when you’re standing in the scorching heat for hours. No doubt.

It’s not that I prefer one over the other, as they are two very similar cities. I was more amazed that I wasn’t ever told how similar the two are and that the differences are almost mediocre – except for the self cleaning toilets. As a landscape, Paris seems to provide better opportunities for viewing the city. Sacre Coeur allows you to see the cityscape from high up for free (excluding transport) as opposed to paying to go up the Shard or the London Eye. It’s important to know that not every trip will change your life in some way. Still, it’s worth travelling anyway and discovering for yourself what a place has to offer or not offer.

Trip Details:

Period of stay: 5 nights, 6 days

Place of stay: Paris, Colonel Fabien

Places visited:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Musée du Louvre
  • Musée d’Orsay
  • Versailles Palace
  • Pantheon
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • La Sacre Coeur
  • Rue du Bac

Reciprocated

When does anyone ever really know when they’re staring into thin air? Usually it’s not so obvious, the mind glides swiftly from one subject to another, it’s always somewhere else and your body just exists not really having any purpose. Until your mind returns to a thought that pulls you back to existence.

When I felt his eyes staring at me I realised for the first time that I was deeply staring into thin air. Instinct, I suppose, pulled me back to existence. My thoughts were disrupted, I was suddenly very aware that I had been gone for some time. Although no one else seemed to have noticed, he did. At first I didn’t know where the feeling of such a strong gaze was coming from but after scanning the crowd it was quite obvious. He seemed to have been watching me for some time, his eyes were fixed on me and they didn’t shove when finally they met mine. Naturally I smiled, he smiled back. Or was it the other way around? There was a very short moment, so short it’s sometimes hard to believe it happened, when the world stood still. A thousand questions ran through my brain and I thought they may even be answered had the moment been longer. Then reality sat comfortably in between us again, pushing the moment down to the bottom of the pits of our stomachs, for another day and another time.

*****

The bottle spun fast on the wooden table. We all watched it, still laughing a little from the previous round. M____ nudged me.  I sat back against the sofa, she put her head on my shoulder and her arm linked around mine. The bottle still spun, we both watched it.

“What’s it going to be this time?”

“I say we just go with dare. We’ve got all the juice on everyone here anyway I bet.”

“I don’t think we do.” J___ said.

The bottle stopped. We all looked at A____ who hung his head and covered his face, an embarrassed smile grew on his face. J___ and C___ howled pushing him from either side.

“Alright, truth or dare?”

“We said dare didn’t we?”

“No, it’s A____. He always chooses dare. Let’s go with truth this time.”  We all argued about what would be better until A_____ said,

“Alright, alright, I’ll just choose truth. Go on.”

There was a wave of OKs and awws and then we fell silent as we thought of what could be asked.

“Tell us something we don’t know about you.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah come on, is that it? That’s nothing compared to what you guys asked me.”

“There’s nothing left to ask though!”

“OK well just answer that one, but it has to be something… You know, worth the bottle.”

We all laughed.

“Worth the bottle?”

“Yeah OK you know what I mean. OK come on, we’ll give you 10 seconds otherwise it’s the pool whether you like it or not.”

“Head first.”  We all agreed.

“And if we don’t think your answer is good enough either it’ll be the pool too.”

“OK, OK. Let me think.” We began to countdown, getting louder, the excitement rising – each of us hoping that he couldn’t answer. We reached 1 and there was an uproar as the boys reached for his legs.

“No. No wait! Give me a second! Just let me.. Wait!” They dropped him.

“Alright, another 5 seconds but that’s it.” He scratched his face, as if he knew what came next. Then, very suddenly he looked at me. It wasn’t a glance, he actually looked at me but then looked away. I was reminded of that moment two years ago. Flustered, I looked away too and M____ unwrapped her arm from mine. She leaned closer to him, everyone demanded an answer from him. I looked at him again, scared my feelings showed on my face. I felt my cheeks getting hotter so I coughed and used this chance to get some water.

“Alright, alright! Chill. So. Something you don’t know about me.” He paused for what seemed like forever before he finally said,

“I like S____.” I froze. The room fell silent.

“What?” C____ said. “You’re…. Are you joking?” He asked calmly.

“No.” 

I turn around to face him. He didn’t look at me straight away. I walked back to my spot next to M___ and sat down. Everyone looked at me, waiting for me to respond.

“What…. All this time…?” I ask.

“You mean…You knew?”

“No, I didn’t… I mean… I thought I was over thinking…”

“Wait… So you’re not angry?” Everyone watched us intently.

I got up, grabbing A___’s arm and took him to the patio, shutting the doors behind me.

“Why didn’t you tell me before?” I ask.

“I still want to be friends, even if you don’t like me like that.”

“I do like you. I’ve liked you for almost two years.”

“What?”

“Yeah.”

“No way.”

“What?”

“This is actually really funny.”

“I guess?”

“You could’ve told me too.”

“No, I thought I was reading your signs all wrong.”

“And I thought you just didn’t like me.”

I shook my head but I couldn’t hide my smile. Everyone’s attention was still on us.

“Let’s go in for now.”

“Yeah.”

He smiled proudly and putting his arm around my shoulders like he always did, we walked back in.

Lessons from an Unprepared Traveller – My Trip to Oslo

It’s only a short trip. My mum writes.

The voice inside my head says ‘ugh’ and my thumbs type furiously in response.

It’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one lugging around 10KG unexpectedly.

I look down at my suitcase and close my eyes. ‘The journey sometimes, is more memorable than the trip itself’ I think, reassuring myself as I sit alone on the early morning train, disappointed and significantly tired already. With stupid decisions come their respective consequences.

There were a lot of things I expected, visiting my friend in Oslo, cold temperatures with heavy snow and sleeping on the floor of her student rental room. What I didn’t expect was that getting there would require most, if not all, of my physical strength and then some.

“Come visit me in Norway guys! Please? It’s super cheap and you didn’t come see me in Paris.” Sky says. Samina and I exchange devious looks. The feeling of spontaneity runs through our veins.

“Let’s do it.” We say to each other and within the week we book the cheapest tickets we can find.

We’re coming to Norway Sky! I message the group chat. We change the group name to include the Norwegian flag and have a momentary celebration through emoticons.

We were mostly excited because we managed to get such cheap flights but obviously cheap flights required sacrifices – like a flight with absolutely no on board entertainment and no complimentary food!

So, we’re booked for the middle of January, just before our final semester of our final year.

Such a responsible and entirely fitting thing to do as a student.

We had just over a month before our ‘great and spectacular five-day adventure’ to Oslo. We discussed all the things we could do when we get there, with the naive intention to plan and construct an itinerary closer to the time of departure. Only, as master procrastinators (and a ton load of REAL WORK to get on with), that was never going to happen.

A few days later we decide it would be wise to book our transport to the airport. I, being overly relaxed about everything allowed Samina to sort this out, who was clearly happy to, being quite different to me. So an hour after extensive research (on her part) we booked a coach to Stansted airport. Cheapest ones obviously.

Guys which airport  will you arrive at? Sky asks us, a week prior to departure.

Oh yh, we still need to check. Samina replied and then privately messaged me,

We haven’t even planned what we’re going to do yet.

4 days prior to departure.

Guys, have you checked in? Sky asked.

Are we supposed to [check in] this early?

Yeah, it says so on the website.

Oh shoot… Ok we’ll do it by tonight!

The night before departure.

Up until this point, I hadn’t gone on many short trips. I had travelled for a week at the least. Which is why the flight to Norway was different in many ways. The first being I could only take cabin luggage (which I had never previously done), second being, that the weight limit was 10KG max and finally there was the case of carrying a sleeping bag around.

The wise owl in me had the urge to purchase a new suitcase but my mum convinced me not to ‘waste my money’ as we had one lying around in the loft. When I finally got it down from there I began to wonder whether I had made the right decision, it looked weak and worn out. Apparently it was only 3 years old but the appearance screamed otherwise. I texted Samina who sent me a picture of her stylish, strong suitcase (also so much thinner than mine) who told me she had gone through hell and back to fit her sleeping bag in it. I wondered how she would fit everything else in it, if her sleeping bag took up most of the space. An hour later I sat on the floor, packed and ready.

“So, what airport was it that you’re going to again?”

“Stanstead mum.” I said for the fifth time.

“And you’re getting there by coach right? Where’s the coach from again?”

“Good question. I should probably check that.”  I logged on to my email and scrolled to find the ticket details. My face dropped. “Stratford.”

“Stratford?! That’s really far! What time are you going to leave then?” I thought for a moment. Our flight was at 11:55 and the coach would leave from Stratford at 8 so, that would mean… I dropped my head,

“6:30am” What have I done, I thought.

After a lot of conferring, my mum decided she would drop me off to the nearest station to save me taking the bus that early.

D DAY (Departure Day).

I awoke at 5:15. I’m not a morning person but the adventure ahead freshened me. Tired but willing, my mum drove me to the station. I got out of the car and grabbed my suitcase from the back, lifted the pull handle and waved goodbye to my mum. As I turned to make my way towards the station, something stopped me. I looked back hoping with all the power in me that it wasn’t what I thought it was. Suddenly the weight of the five layers I wore crushed in on me, the scarf around my neck tightened. The bag on my shoulder felt heavier and the god forsaken sleeping bag looked like it had grown.

The pull handle on my suitcase was broken.

Was it from inside me or did I actually cry a little outburst of disbelief? I can’t remember. When I finally got to Stratford and found that I had exited the station in the wrong direction with only ten minutes before the coach would depart I knew it would take everything I had in me, my damned suitcase and oh god! That sleeping bag, to get to Norway without breaking down.

 

Review of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

I sailed through Northern Lights and there were many things I enjoyed about this novel.Although it’s not a light-hearted story, it’s quite a light hearted read and easily grips and keeps hold of your attention.

To sum up:

What was particularly good?: I really enjoyed the pace of this novel. It moved fast and there was always something new going on. There was constant development in both characters and the plot throughout which made it not only easy but also really fun to read.

What I didn’t enjoy?: Sometimes there were developments in relationships between characters which were sudden. Often they were good but there wasn’t much content to make it believable and you sort of just had to accept that’s how they were.

Novels that begin in medias res are doing it right. The tension is high the moment you enter the world so you’re almost obliged to keep reading. Northern Lights does this and never ceases to with each chapter. As I said above there is constantly something going on and each part of the story is vital to its plot.

Due to this, the story moves along fast so there isn’t really “time” to question the world because you become immersed in Lyra’s (protagonist) journey. You’re content knowing what she knows and not knowing what she doesn’t know because you know that eventually it will be revealed.

Besides it’s Anti/Biblical implications, the idea of having a daemon that embodies your consciousness or soul is a fantastic idea. It creates wonder and also an emotional attachment to the characters both human and daemon.The importance of having one is exemplified through the bonds that we see in Lyra and her daemon and the other humans alike – it’s sweet and you sympathise a whole lot more with the children (especially Lyra) than adults throughout.

This novel in particular was based a lot around “The Alethiometer” or “The Golden Compass” and its powers or more so Lyra’s powers. This soon became more evident but, I feel that the explanations of how Lyra hears the answers it gives whilst the other characters do not is too brief. It is quite an important factor of the story so would’ve been worth the explanation.

The ending of the novel is not anymore intense than other parts of the story but it still has a great impact as we learn like Lyra, ‘horrible truths’. It also paves a way for the sequel so it’s not all frowns and tears because her journey has not yet ended.

Being a practiced liar doesn’t mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have no imagination at all; it’s that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction.

My rating: 5/5

Review of 1984 by George Orwell

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It is entirely coincidental that I should be reading this book as part of course material at the same time as the whole Trump ordeal. Last week I also realised that it had made a comeback on bestselling too – I now see why of course and it did surprise me a little that I hadn’t studied or even read this novel before now. Well, anyhow, I’m here now so that’s all that matters.

To sum up:

What was particularly good?:  What I most enjoyed about reading 1984 was that it was so explicit and upfront in its narrative style. I had expected flowery, obscure language but there is little of that compared to its clarity. The clarity in his writing provides the ability to read objectively and engage better with the novel. Orwell’s views politically as well as emotionally are raw and transparent that it gives you a very good sense of the author as the storyteller.

What I didn’t enjoy?: There were two things that I really disliked about the novel. In short, the repetition of key points and the extremely slow pace. As a creative response to communism, the book really works well. As a novel, it was hard to feel at all interested in Winston’s (protagonist’s) life. There is the subtle knowledge that his life is somewhat important in the story but at times it is so mundane that I had to put the novel down and come back to it constantly.

For such a political novel, the themes and symbolism can hardly be obscure. Orwell’s intention is to highlight the possibilities of a different outcome post-war so, to review the book as singularly ‘dystopian’ would be stupid. The novel focuses on a totalitarian society and I feel that, that in itself allowed the novel to rise to such success. The thought of what could’ve, might’ve happened or even what could happen is the basis of any good creative writing – so needless to say there’s no doubt that Orwell has mastered this. It’s obviously more personal than this though, because the twist in the novel towards the end displays a harsher attitude towards this imaginary scenario.It’s not the typical heroic attempt of the protagonist to fix or even help to fix the situation, instead it’s more about how some things cannot be fixed – so maybe we should begin to really think about avoiding those things altogether. But quite basically Orwell obviously doesn’t believe in happy endings.

Now that we’ve got that out the way, I can talk about how much I hated the process of reading 1984. The novel (in it’s entirety, all 3 parts) in my opinion is divided unequally between interesting and non interesting points as displayed in the diagram below:

table-of-interestExhibit A: (Excuse my poor attempt at a diagram).

This meant for the entire “Ok I get it. Can we have some action please?” part of the novel, I was constantly picking up the novel only to put it back down again after reading a mere few pages.

Despite this disappointing setback I absolutely loved the second half, in a non creepy way. It was full of advancements, there was finally some reasoning behind the mundane start and it gave a very impact-full ending. There was both a great deal of emotion and some mystery too for once so it pushed me to finish the novel. There is something about dystopian fiction that attracts readers in an odd way – it’s brutal yet exciting. Obviously reader of the 50’s would have reason to disagree with “excitement” as a description but on the whole it is quite thrilling.

Finally, I think another factor of this novel’s success is the sense of realism in the world that Orwell has managed to build out of exaggerated imagination. There is plausibility and therefore it’s quite haunting not only to the readers of the past but more so to us now.

The best books… are those that tell you what you already know.

My rating: 4/5

Review of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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Where do I even begin with this book? You know when people say that a book took them on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Well, for me this book is one of those…

To sum up:

What was particularly good?: The writing. I have so often heard in the past (about A Clockwork Orange) the difficulties of understanding the narrative voice, the dialogue and consequently the story. For me I thought it was spectacular. The challenge of grasping the youth “lingo” in the beginning is what helped to keep me interested. Those types of books in my opinion are rare gems. There’s enough of the lingo to make you feel like you’re part of something, part of the story, you know what the narrator knows whilst other characters don’t. At the same time it’s not tedious and over whelming, you can generally get the gist of it after a while and isn’t it just amazing when authors can use what is deemed non-standard English in such a profound manner.

What I didn’t enjoy?: The realism or more so the lack of it, depending on which way you were to look at it. This falls down to the way the story plays out especially in the third part. Without giving too much away, the  string of events that took part seemed so haphazard. Actually, to say it was haphazard is harsh because they took place with sensible links but one could say it’s all too coincidental that one after another these events took place, and therefore lacking a sort of realistic element. There’s “Karma” but then… Really? Then again, it is a work of fiction, so you can altogether discard my opinion as just that, an opinion.

I love roller coasters. So, to say that this book was like one means that I loved it right? Wrong. In fact I don’t quite know how I feel about this book because there are so many different emotions Burgess clearly wants you to feel.

Generally speaking roller coasters only ever make me feel very simply joy on many different levels however, if it were my first time on one I can imagine that it would reflect my impressions of A Clockwork Orange and would look a little something like this:

Part I in its entirety is the exhilarating climb up the first peak at the beginning of the coaster. The cars ride slowly up, as does your feeling for the narrator, they are mixed, you are excited and at the same time a bit cautious, maybe even scared. Either way, you know what’s coming at the top. There’s something uneasy in the pit of your stomach and then when you fall you feel the full weight of what you now have to sit through for the rest of the ride… What you have to read for the rest of the book. That uneasiness is only exemplified and there to remain. In this part of the book, you can’t help but feel slightly dull by the shock at how Burgess manages to write about such sensitive topics through a narrative voice of young teenage boy and pull it off with such an ‘innocent’ tone, bearing in mind there’s absolutely nothing innocent about it.

Part II is then the middle of the ride, something that is predictable, enjoyable and easy to sit through.  It’s the calm before the climax when you can see the line of vertical loops ready to make you feel slightly ill. Again you’re not sure now whether you should be glad or not. Is it weird to feel glad or should you be feeling nauseous? But you don’t have time to think of this because, the best part are those vertical loops which are already here and by the way constitute most of…

Part III. This part in quick successions one after another, makes you feel somewhat sorry for the narrator, all the whilst feeling guilty for feeling pity and then horrified at what takes place. It is a torturous cycle until you can’t help but feel like you’re just glad it’s over when it is. And all stories do come to an end as all rides do.

The ending is such an abrupt change that naturally I was left contemplating whether I enjoyed it or not and unfortunately I can’t say that I’ve come to a conclusion. Only, that the mere fact of it’s ability to have me being so twisted in my feelings towards it deserves songs of praise.

It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil.

My rating: 4.5/5

 

Review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this novel. After reading The Drowned World, my hopes for liking Science Fiction had fallen but when I read the opening sentence of this book I knew it was going to be good.

To sum up:

What was particularly good?: The ideas. It’s one thing to think “What if we had…?” or “What if there were…?” and another thing to actually answer it. The question of androids being so technologically advanced that they can pass and even overtake humans is a popular rising discussion but Dick has managed to create an entirely other world just to address this and it’s so wonderfully done.

What I didn’t enjoy?: This is quite hard to answer because I don’t quite remember a part at which I thought “I don’t like this.” If I had to pick, it would be an element of the plot, so if I said what it was I would be spoiling.

The book begins, “A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard.”  The mood organ is the focus of the first chapter and while it never really plays any big role until it returns at the end of the novel it sets up the surroundings. What kind of world do these characters live in? Dick manages to answer this question without long and lengthy descriptions of the actual surroundings but rather by action that takes place.

There is a beautiful balance of dialogue and description throughout the novel that continues to build the world as you read until the very end. Consequently, this makes the world feel familiar, you’re not constantly trying to figure out why things are the way they are, you can accept that this is the world that Dick has created. As it all unfolds you can easily imagine this world playing out in your mind.

Some of the action that takes place isn’t even all that interesting, it’s merely to move the story along but it still provides something as you read and that’s why I very rarely felt like skipping anything. The intense elements are written in a way that’s smooth and clear, reflecting the severity of the situation i.e. life and death – no in between.Finally the ending is one so satisfying. As with any novel there is a sense of reality in it, there is something bitter sweet about the character Deckard’s realisation and like him you feel glad that it’s all finally over.

It’s the basic condition of life to be required to violate our own identity.

My rating: 5/5

 

 

Review of The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

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“I don’t think my bookshelf will be kind to me this year.” She says as she  finally closes The Drowned World and puts it alongside the still-to-read books. I’m sat here 1:00 am writing this review because I’m finally,after much struggle,finished and I have to be over with it so that I can read another book.

Until reading The Time Machine just last month, I hadn’t gone anywhere near a Science Fiction novel,mainly because I like my science fiction in the cinemas. The Drowned World is amongst the books I have to read for my course though so there was no escaping it. I had to sit myself down and power through. Which I did eventually…

Unfortunately, throughout the first half of the novel I barely understood some of the terminology used so I couldn’t get myself into it enough to power through. It was so different to The Time Machine. There were references to ‘types’ of things, like a type of boat or a specific species of crocodile – which in all honesty I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t watched Planet Earth. I spent so much time having to re-read paragraphs or look up new vocabulary, I am certain I read the first chapter almost three times. It could be blamed on my ignorance and lack of knowledge but, I just couldn’t immerse myself into Ballard’s world, I couldn’t even wrap myself around it. It took me a few chapters to fully grasp what everything was and where everything was placed. It made me realise how different Science Fiction is and more so how incredibly thought out it is.

Despite its sticky beginning, the plot proved to be quite interesting. Set in a futuristic time zone where the world has finally comes to its most dire stages as a result of climate change, the story has a sense of relatability to the present day. Ballard’s ability to create the sense of atmosphere is intense and almost real. The climate, temperature and emotions are so well portrayed that it’s easy to put yourself in a single characters shoes and yet, the story itself is quite obviously unreal so you can all the while distance yourself and read the story as if you are watching it on screen.

It has quite a considerable slow start as it introduces the characters, their thoughts and their standpoints. The world building took up quite a few chapters which meant there was very little action until the second half. This however allowed the climax to be kept a surprise. Not really a shocking surprise but, not knowing the protagonists mission or end goal is possibly what kept me interested.

Once I had finally gotten a hold of the different aspects of this drowned world, the action was a lot more vividly imaginable and enjoyable but I think the most enjoyable aspect is that Ballard has a very round about manner of describing events, so concepts that are usually grasped quite quickly are revealed a lot slower. This helped in always keeping the suspense alive.

The ending, I felt (deep down) was predictable. And however predictable it may have been was still disappointing because the little action that Ballard added to the second half came to an end too quickly.It was anticlimactic, nothing special hence, quite disappointing.

All in all it was  a challenging read but interesting. Is it worth a read? Well, if you’re good with concentration and you want to know what might happen to the world if we keep up destroying the Earth then yes. If you’re not into Sci-Fi then maybe this isn’t the book for you.

Did I or did I not try to kill myself?’ One of the few existential absolutes, far more significant than ‘To be or not to be?’,

Strangman

My rating:  3.5/5

Review of The Time Machine by H.G.Wells

It’s shameful to say that as an English student “I don’t read that much”, but it’s even more shameful to say ” I’m not reading anything outside the course materials.”

My NYR is to read more books but, getting back into the habit requires forming one – So, I’ll start now with the hopes that well into 2017 I’ll be able to say that I’m keeping to it.

The Time Machine is well-known as a “classic” read. Unsurprisingly I haven’t read too many of the classics and I always make the mistake of beginning with a classic after a long period of non-reading. This time around too, I made that mistake.

To sum up:

What was particularly good? : I loved the imagery in this book. Every good fantasy has well developed descriptive imagination which this book is filled with. It’s more speculative fiction but could very well cross over into fantasy.

What I didn’t enjoy: The lack of action. The narrative reminded me too much of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The majority of the story explored the Time Traveller’s surroundings and his thought process as he tried to get used to these but this left very little space for real tension building action.

I chose to begin my reading adventure with The Time Machine because visibly, it’s such a short read but having said that, the narrative felt considerably long. I assume that this was because of its descriptive writing style but, Wells captures the characters sense of being “hopelessly trapped” incredibly well. The narrative only really takes place within a timeframe of a week, for the Time Traveller – 8 days. However, what takes place within most of these 8 days is explained in such detail that it feels like an eternity. Of course this is both world establishing but annoying at times. For a 90 page read though, I could hardly expect more.

Nevertheless the actual appeal of the story, the act of time travel was outdated, more so having read this in 2016. There are fresher and more exciting approaches to it I have no doubt but, it’s still amazing to think that in the 19th Century the imagination could reach as far as 802,701 AD and with scientific explanation behind description, Wells ideas are arguably plausible to an extent, (for someone who knows nothing about science), especially from the time he was writing in.

I did quite enjoy the idea of a possibly utopian futuristic society, especially living in a time which is much closer to the opposite but, there is also an important lesson learnt at the end of the novel – the impossibility of utopia. Wells portrays this in my opinion subtly and beautifully with the unforeseen twists throughout the story.

Although the starting is intriguing, the old Victorian English language took me a while to get it into. Once I finally settled into the 19th Century setting it was then the descriptive narrative that I had to get used to and once I was used to this, the story was a whole lot more tolerable.

On the whole, the story wasn’t gripping per say, it was merely an interesting read, as if hearing an interesting story from someone you know. This short novel is more for pastime and a quick delve into a possible future. The only problem is that it’s so far ahead in time that it’s very easy to come out of that world and back to reality. It’s definitely not a book for an escapist.

Then, in the intermittent darknesses, I saw the moon spinning swiftly through her quarters from new to full, and had a faint glimpse of the circling stars.

My rating: 3.5/5