‘The Penelopiad’ by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 stars

Being a retelling of an Ancient Greek Myth, The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood features various characters whose names are well-known. Penelope assumes the role of storyteller after her death and reminisces about the events of the Odyssey from her perspective. This novella lends itself to various interpretations. My main take on it is that it exposes how a patriarchal society puts women in conflict with each other. Some women are so used to live under the power and influence of male figures that they don’t even realise that they have been engulfed by it.

Penelope was the daughter of King Icarus of Sparta and a Naiad. Her father ordered her to be thrown into the sea because of a prophecy. Luckily, a flock of ducks rescued her. From then on, her father became much more affectionate. Her cousin was the beautiful Helen of Troy, whom she describes as vain, ambitious and an attention-seeker. She is snarky in her descriptions of her behaviour, as Helen was of her appearance. At the age of 15, Penelope was married to Odysseus, after he cheated to win a race for her hand. He managed to convince her that they were friends and that he reciprocated her loving feelings.

Although she is remembered for her fidelity to Odysseus during the time he was away fighting in the Trojan War, Penelope doesn’t want other women to follow her example. She never contradicted her husband and nor asked questions. Her outlook on life has changed after death. She was never as blunt when she was alive. So, she has decided to reveal her version of events. Continue reading

Book Haul – February 2019

I managed to wait until February to buy books for the first time in 2019! It was really difficult to resist the urge to get new books until the second month of the year, although I still had a few unread ones on my shelves. I bought a total of eight books, unintentionally almost all of them were written by women.

 

Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Soon after getting married, Elsie became a widow. She has no friends amongst the servants nor the villagers. Her only company seems to be her late husband’s awkward cousin, until she finds a locked room where there is a wooden figure which strongly resembles herself. I am eager to be frightened by this book!

 

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This historical novel immediately caught my interest at the time of its release last year, but I decided to wait for the paperback edition. I started reading it soon after it was delivered and am now more than halfway through. Although I am enjoying discovering more about the characters, I was expecting more in terms of plot. One of Jonah Hancock’s captains sells his ship in exchange for what appears to be a mermaid. At first, he is appalled by the loss of his ship. However, his captain convinces him that by exhibiting the mermaid he can make a big profit. It’s thanks to his mermaid that he meets the beautiful courtesan Angelica. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – January 2018

January hasn’t been a particularly remarkable month generally speaking. It was a strange period during which I was both disappointed Christmas was over and eager for spring to finally come. Nevertheless, I have a few favourites to share with you concerning books, music and TV series.

At the end of last year, I watched the first season of The Crown and surprisingly quite enjoyed it. This month I watched the second season, but unfortunately ended up not liking it as much. However, there was one episode that stood out from the rest: Dear Mrs Kennedy. Immediately after watching it, I proceeded to search for information about the events mentioned to know whether the meeting between Elizabeth and Jackie Kennedy was true or fiction.

I haven’t read that many books this month. In fact, so far, I’ve only finished one, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, and am currently forcing myself to get to the end of Sibila by Agustina Bessa-Luís, mainly because she is one of the authors featured in my list of 100 women writers to read in my lifetime. All things considered, Alias Grace deserves a place among my favourites from this month. This is a novel about Grace Marks and the role she played in the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. While reading it, I felt like a detective looking for clues that would make sense of the events surrounding the crimes. Continue reading

‘Alias Grace’ by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 stars

While reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood I felt almost like a detective searching for clues that could shed some light on the role of the main character, Grace Marks, in the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper. This book is based on a true story, and I became rather intrigued by it while reading the fairly mysterious first chapter.

The narration of the book starts in 1851, when Grace is 24 years old. She has been in jail for eight years, since she was found guilty together with James McDermott of the two murders. While James was hanged, she is serving a life sentence at a penitentiary in Canada. They both worked at Thomas Kinnear’s house, Grace as a serving maid and James as a stable hand.

One day in 1859 she is at the parlour of the Governor’s wife, where she spends some time helping with the chores, when a doctor arrives with the aim of measuring her head. However, as he approaches, she starts screaming and is afterwards taken to solitary confinement. While there, she receives a visit from another doctor, Simon Jordan, who wants to hear everything she has to say, since he focuses on the “diseases of the mind and brain, and the nerves”. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2017

When I started reflecting on my reading experience in 2017, the first word that sprang to mind to describe it was ‘inconsistent’. It wasn’t a particularly extraordinary year, but it was also far from bad. A couple of the books that I read I ended up loving, a few I quite liked, and others were satisfactory. However, I really didn’t like three books, having rated them with 2 stars, and also gave up on reading two books without even reaching 1/3 of their length, and thus can’t really make a fair assessment about them.

In terms of numbers, I’ve read 33 books so far, and will probably finish another one before the actual end of the year. I do know that this is a really small number for many people, but for me it’s a great one, since I’ve only managed to read 19 books in 2016, and not that many years ago I was probably not even reading more than one book a month.

My favourite books among the ones that I read this year, in reverse order, are: Continue reading

Book Haul – November / December 2017

I don’t know if you remember, but I was trying not to buy any more books until the end of the year. Obviously, I was unsuccessful! I blame Black Friday and other random discounts. I probably won’t even manage to get to some of the books mentioned below during the following twelve months or so, thanks to a reading plan I have for next year (I’ll reveal it on a future post about my bookish resolutions for 2018). But it’s really hard to resist a bargain.

So, without further ado (and pointless excuses), these are my most recent acquisitions:

 

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is one of the authors I plan to read a book by every year. So, I needed to buy a new one for 2018. It was quite easy to choose Alias Grace, because I’m rather curious about the TV series adaptation and don’t want to watch it before reading the book. Inspired by the 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in Upper Canada, it delves into the story of Grace Marks through a “tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery”. Continue reading

Authors I Want to Read Every Year

There are some authors that I really want to read more books by, in order to get even more familiar with their work. So, I decided that I’ll try to read at least one book by each of the authors mentioned below every year, starting in the next one, since 2017 is fast coming to an end. I don’t intend to read the entirety of their back catalogue, but there are quite a few books by these writers on my wish list.

While I’ve only read one book by some of these authors, I’ve read various by others. However, all these writers have one thing in common: the books I have read by them left me curious enough to continue delving into their published work. I may even end up reading more books than I’m currently planning to, since some of these writers are still alive and continue to work on new material.

There are obviously more authors that I want to read additional books by, but these are the most predominant ones on my wish list. The only way I believe that I’ll ever get to read them all (and at the same time continue to enjoy books by other writers) is if I commit to read at least one every year.    Continue reading

Favourite Dystopian Books

Lately the real world seems to be getting worryingly more similar to the ones portrayed by some dystopian novels, and my desire to read books from that genre is also increasing. By showing a regression of political, environmental, economic or social standards, they draw attention to real-world issues that should concern us all.

I haven’t read many dystopian novels, but I quite enjoyed the vast majority of them. There is something strangely appealing about reading a book that focuses on a community being plagued by an undesirable and frightening state of affairs. Today I reveal my three favourite dystopian novels, all delving into different types of societies.

 

1984 by George Orwell      

1984 takes place during a time of perpetual war, government surveillance and public manipulation. Power is in the hands of a single party, which is personified by the Big Brother. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth as a rewriter of historical events. He has an affair with Julia, who shares his animosity towards the Party. Continue reading

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 stars

The Handmaid’s Tale can be described as a dystopian novel or as a work of speculative fiction, but at the same time it is far more than that. Margaret Atwood created a classic full of enlightening remarks about equality, freedom (or the lack of it), love, feminism and women’s agency, which serves as a warning that even the most fundamental rights can be lost.

The novel takes place in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and repressive state that has established a puritanical society in the USA, where there seems to exist a problem of infertility. People are set apart according to functions, each group having a specific name and rules to obey.

Handmaids are fertile women whose single purpose is to be used by the Commanders, men who are part of the elite, to breed, since their own Wives can’t conceive. The Handmaids have had children, but they were not married, remarried after getting a divorce, or married someone who had been married before. As every second marriage was deemed illegal, their children were taken away from them. They are prepared for the role of Handmaids by the Aunts. If any baby is born, the mother will be the Commander’s Wife, however. Continue reading

Book Haul – January 2017

New year, new books. Well, at least they are new to my shelves. At the beginning of this month, I bought a few books that I have either been wanting to read for a while or that I have discovered more recently. During this year, I will try to read both the books that I’ve just bought and the ones that I already owned before buying new ones. However, I have a feeling that that won’t happen and that I won’t resist the temptation of buying more books.

These are the books I bought this month:

 

The Muse by Jessie Burton

I loved Jessie Burton’s debut novel, The Miniaturist, and ever since The Muse was released I have been wanting to read it. However, as I much prefer paperbacks, I patiently waited until now. I plan to read it pretty soon to know everything about a lost masterpiece and the connection between the characters from two time periods – 1967 and 1936. Continue reading