Exploration of Motherhood in Books

Depicting mothers has always been a challenge that authors were willing to accept throughout history, particularly in adult fiction. They can be portrayed as the “ideal” mums, the ones that get everything right and do no wrong, but more often than not the most interesting mothers are those who are struggling in some way, that have conflicting feelings towards motherhood, that are afraid of failing, or that try incredibly hard to protect their offspring, occasionally to no avail.

In the latest years, I read some books that made me ponder on the importance that motherhood plays in stories. The mothers in Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, Circe by Madeline Miller, The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, The Muse and The Confession by Jessie Burton are all dissimilar. Nevertheless, they have a huge relevance in the plot of the novels they are a part of, even when they are not the main characters.

If you have not read the novels I mentioned previously, I warn you that I’ll allude to some occurrences that may be considered spoilers. Continue reading

Favourite Protagonists II

While some books shine thanks to their gripping plots, others enchant readers because of their convincing and memorable characters. They don’t need to have faultless personalities, but their traits and behaviours have to be plausible and feel genuine. A great, complex protagonist is always a plus in any novel. Since I wrote my first post about my favourite protagonists, almost four years ago, I’ve discovered other believable main characters that I soon won’t forget.

 

Mary Yellan – Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier created magnificent characters. The protagonist of Jamaica Inn, Mary Yellan, is just one of many. She is spirited, determined and curious. Although she is undoubtfully brave, in certain occasions she (understandably) succumbs to fear. It’s striking how she frequently muses on her behaviour towards other characters, particularly her aunt. Despite being well-intentioned, Mary is sometimes too severe with her.

 

Circe – Circe by Madeline Miller

Bullied and tormented by her siblings, Circe felt like an outcast since a young age. Madeline Miller clearly shows how the life experiences of the protagonist of this Ancient Greek myth retelling shaped her personality. After using her witchcraft powers, Circe is banished to a deserted island, becoming much more independent and less fearful. Her emotions are believable and palpable throughout. Continue reading

Favourite Book Covers VI

It has been almost two years since I last shared with you a few of my favourite book covers. Since then I added to my shelves various books that were not only worthy reads, but whose covers are also a feast for the eyes. All of them are paperback editions, which is unsurprising. I mostly only buy paperbacks, as they are cheaper, lighter, and I have a complicated relationship with dust jackets.

Let’s get a good look at my five new favourite covers!

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Cover design: Leanne Shapton

Publisher: Vintage

Collection: Vintage Classics Austen Continue reading

Books I Almost Loved

Very rarely do I rate books with five stars. For that to happen, a book has to be perfect in every regard in my opinion. I can’t even have a minor complaint. As I decided early on not to use half stars on my ratings, I always award four stars to books that weren’t flawless but that I almost loved. Only by reading the review can my high esteem for such books be fully perceived. The following eight books fall under that category.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

This retelling of an Ancient Greek myth resembles a fictional memoir. Circe, the daughter of Helios (the god of sun) and Perse (a nymph), was sentenced to exile as a punishment for using witchcraft against her own kind. Throughout the book, Madeline Miller delves into the meaning of love and the fear of losing a dear one. The prose is gripping and the characters feel truly real, thanks to a tangible portrayal of emotions, particularly those of Circe. However, the book loses a bit of its enchantment when Circe tells stories about Odysseus.

 

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

The first book in The Farseer Trilogy is not only a story of court intrigue and lust for power, but also a true interpretation of human emotions. When he was 6 years old, Fitz was left by his grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. Some years later, he started being trained as an assassin in secret. The detailed and absorbing writing style is one of the highlights of this fantasy book. Unfortunately, the last chapter is not as thorough and some events are just briefly mentioned. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2019

2019 was a complicated reading year. I read various praiseworthy novels, short story and poetry collections. In terms of genres, my reading was as varied, featuring classics, literary fiction, fantasy and myth retellings, for example. So far, I’ve read 34 books and will probably finish another one in the following days. However, I decided not to finish eight books, a number higher than ever before, if I’m not mistaken.

This was also the year when I chose to reread a book again after probably decades without doing so. Thus, I had to decide whether to include rereads in my favourite books of the year or not from now on. I decided against it. This post only includes books that I read for the first time during the year, irrespective of date of publication.

I don’t tend to rate books with five stars very often, because they need to be completely flawless for that to happen. This year I only rated one book with five stars, and it was the one that I reread – O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis) by José Saramago. The majority of the books that I rate with four stars are still great, though. Some of the five books that I selected as my favourites of 2019 are indeed almost perfect, in my opinion. In reverse order, they are: Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – July 2019

The July instalment of my monthly favourites may be a bit later than usual, but I do have a few sources of joy to share with you. These include two books (they are both worthy of a mention), two specific episodes of two very different TV series, a documentary and music from a band that I hadn’t listened to in ages.

Last month, for the first time in probably two decades, I finished rereading a book. O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis in the English translation) is one of the books that I wanted to reread, since I remembered it as an old favourite. And I’m so glad that I loved it as much as the first time! It is a fantastic example of intertextuality, as Ricardo Reis, one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms, is turned into a real person. After 16 years living in Brazil, he returns to Portugal at the end of 1935. In Lisbon, he interacts mainly with three people: Lídia, a chambermaid at the hotel he is staying in; Marcenda, a young woman whose left hand is paralysed; and his deceased friend Fernando Pessoa. Although not much happens in terms of plot, this is still an engrossing and mesmerising work of literature, which also delves into the fascist regime in Portugal.

Another book that I also highly enjoyed reading in July was Circe by Madeline Miller, a retelling of an Ancient Greek myth. Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of sun, and the nymph Perse. She was sentenced to exile on a deserted island for using witchcraft against her own kind. Her emotions throughout the novel, which reads much like a fictional memoir, are palpable. It focuses on what she learnt during her life and explores the meaning of love and the fear of losing someone. The prose is almost always gripping. Continue reading

‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller

My rating: 4 stars

In Circe, a retelling of an Ancient Greek myth that resembles a fictional memoir, Madeline Miller skilfully evaluates human emotions. This novel is most of all a tale about what Circe, the main character and narrator, learnt throughout her life and how that shaped her personality and fate. She came to understand love and how to deal with the fear of losing someone dear to her.

Circe is the daughter of Helios, a Titan and god of sun, and the nymph Perse, one of Oceanos’ children. When she was born, her father informed her mother that she would marry a prince. Perse was appalled at the prospect of her daughter wedding a mortal. Circe had two siblings who bullied and tormented her, because they thought she was stupid. She felt like an outcast, as no one cared or paid much attention to her. Her parents also considered that she was inapt.

When Prometheus, Circe’s uncle, was sentenced to be punished for defying Zeus, an old conflict between Titans and Olympians was close to be renewed. However, Helios was against starting a war, since Prometheus was going to be chastised for his love for mortals and not to teach a lesson to Titans in general. He was not the only one who had a soft spot for mortals, though. After Prometheus’ chastisement, as he was bleeding, Circe asked him about them and offered him nectar. She then borrowed a dagger from the treasury and cut her palm to see what her blood looked like. It was red, instead of golden, and without her uncle’s power. Continue reading

Book Haul – July 2019

As it was my birthday a couple of days ago, I obviously had to buy some books this month! But I managed to control myself and only acquired four. Some I’ve been meaning to read for ages, while others caught my attention more recently.

 

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Fitz is the protagonist of the first book in the Farseer Trilogy. He is a royal bastard with a magical link with animals, which is an old art known as the Wit. This power is frowned upon by the nobility, so when he is accepted into the royal household, he has to give it up. Secretly, he starts training as a royal assassin. I’m eager to finally start my journey into Robin Hobb’s work.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

I’m also yet to read a book by Madeline Miller. In this myth retelling, Circe is banished by Zeus to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her witchcraft skills and needs to decide whether her place is among the deities or the mortals. I have high hopes for this novel! Continue reading