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Goose – Dawn O’Porter – Book Review

Goose is the sequel to Dawn O’Porter’s debut novel Paper Aeroplanes, which is a brilliant book in itself. Goose tells the story of best friends Renee and Flo three years on. I read this in four hours it was so good!

Guernsey, 1997. Renee and Flo are eighteen and on the brink of their adult lives. But while Flo is determined to get to uni and take Renee with her, Renee can feel herself grow more independent. As Flo turns to the church and finds a potential boyfriend who is ‘even more of a virgin’ than her, Renee embarks on a seductive and perilous relationship with an older man. As they fall out and take different paths, will their friendship break apart or can they stay soulmates forever?

Cover for Goose, the sequel to O'Porter's first book. designed by Jet Purdie.

Cover for Goose, the sequel to O’Porter’s first book. designed by Jet Purdie.

 

Goose, like its prequel, made me laugh and cry. It was so good and page-turning that I read it in only four hours. It’s a definite page-turner, with content of all kinds. The characters are formed brilliantly and Dawn O’Porter’s writing perfectly complements the intense plotlines. With a number of characters that you want to cheer, scream at and slap, Goose really riles up some emotions.

 

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Paper Aeroplanes – Dawn O’Porter – Book Review

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The cover for Dawn O’Porter’s Paper Aeroplanes, designed by Jet Purdie. Photo credit: Hot Key Books

For a number of years, Paper Aeroplanes has been stored at the back of my mind, and I have been hunting for it since. I found it a few days ago, and read it in a day. Dawn O’Porter’s brilliant, true-to-life take on teenage friendship and relationships is mesmerising for, according to Caroline Flack, ‘anyone who has ever been a teenage girl’.

Guernsey, 1994. Fifteen-year-old schoolgirls Renee Sargent and Flo Parrot are not meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective Flo couldn’t be more different from extroverted, sexually curious Renee. But what they have in common runs deep. Loneliness, frustration and the longing for escape from their dysfunctional families joins them together in a bond that cannot be broken: the bond of female friendship.

That’s the blurb. It’s a story that involves many different plotlines, and you want to scream at some of the characters, which is always good. It made me laugh and cry all at the same time, and then I just came back for more and laughed and cried again. I haven’t read a novel like this in a while. I seriously recommend picking it up: it even has a sequel, and two more in the series to come, apparently.

Dawn O’Porter is a presenter on many documentaries covering topics like geishas, polygamy and the film Dirty Dancing. She is married to Irish actor Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd, Bridesmaids). Dawn’s books are brilliant.

Featured image courtesy of The Telegraph.

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The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend – Book Review

Ever since I discovered Adrian Mole one afternoon, I’ve been wanting to read this book. As the Observer plainly put it, Adrian Mole is ‘one of literature’s most endearing figures’. Sue Townsend, ever since she published the book in 1983, has become a national treasure. All in all, there are seven books, just like JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, except without the wizardry.

Adrian Mole, in the beginning of the book, lives with his mother, father and dog just round the corner from his grandma. He has a peaceful existence, with a punk best friend called Nigel, but unfortunately constantly plagued by spots. His new year’s resolutions for 1982 include ‘I will stop squeezing my spots’, ‘I will help the poor and ignorant’ and ‘After hearing the disgusting noises from downstairs last night, I have also vowed never to drink alcohol’. A while later, after his mother and father divorce, his mother flees with next door’s Mr Lucas. When the new girl, Pandora Braithwaite, joadrian-moleins Adrian’s school, he is immediately infatuated with her. She joins the Good Samaritans, and so does Adrian and Nigel. One of their jobs is looking after the elderly. Adrian gets assigned Bert Baxter, a communist OAP that refuses to die before the death of capitalism, who has an Alsatian called Sabre. He also inadvertently starts a protest by wearing red socks to school, calls his father’s new girlfriend Doreen ‘Stick Insect’ because of her skinniness and her young son Maxwell ‘Maxwell House’.

Adrian Mole is a very true-to-life story. It explores potential real-life situations such as divorce, love and getting your poetry refused by the BBC. The characters in the story are very real, and I can see them as real schoolchildren in the 80s. Sue Townsend conjures up a picture of life at school, love and friends by giving her characters real solidness. Adrian, for example, is plagued by things that could actually happen to people: divorce, spots, looking after people and having to put up with people you don’t like. All the while, Adrian is terribly humourous, and being from Britain, I can understand some of the more “British” jokes. His comments about Margaret Thatcher are hilarious, the school bully’s ‘menacing’ challenges made me laugh and the disastrous school trip to London had me in fits.

Adrian Mole is a highly entertaining book for both adults and children. I recommend it.

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Don’t Judge A Book By Its Movie – Adaptations

Books are being transformed into films all the time – whether they’re Hollywood blockbusters or humble B-movies. The first known book to film adaptation was a Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale, dating way back to 1899. But, are book to film adaptations really great? Or are they disappointments?

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Georges Melies

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Most famous shot from A Trip To The Moon (1902)

The first known book to film adaptation was directed by prominent silent film director, the French Georges Méliès, who “pioneered many techniques”. He made two adaptations in 1899, Cinderellabased on the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale, and King John, the first known Shakespeare adaptation. Melies’ best known film is A Trip to the Moon (1902), one of the first sci-fi films. The only surviving footage of King John is housed in the Netherlands Film Museum, lasting under two minutes long. Melies’ sci-fi feature A Trip To The Moon was based on two popular novels of the time; one by H.G. Wells and another by Jules Verne. The 1902 film was prominent in the film movement back then, when films were silent. The film was viewed by many and they awaited another Melies picture.

Another one of the first adaptations was 1903’s Alice in Wonderland, directed by Cecil Hepworth. The surviving twelve minutes of the film is now in the BFI (British Film Institute) National Archive, along with a film promoting tea from the Second World War. This version of Carroll’s classic children’s tale is the first adaptation of this story…ever. The film is memorable for its use of special effects in times when such great effects were unheard of. Alice’s frequent shrinking is brilliantly portrayed for the time period. BFI restored its original colour tinting, and they hold the only known surviving copy.

Charlotte Bronte’s classic story Jane Eyre has been adapted into film many, many times over the years, but the first known adaptation was back in 1910, in silent film, starring Irma Taylor. More adaptations of the story in silent film occurred up until 1926. First, the one in 1910, then two in 1914. Two were made in 1915; Jane Eyre (starring Louise Vale) and The Castle of Thornfield, which was produced in Italy. In 1918, a Bronte adaptation of Jane Eyre was called Woman and Wife, starring Alice Brady. In 1921, Hugo Ballin made Jane Eyre, casting his wife Mabel in the title role. In 1926, Orphan of Lowood was made, filmed in Germany, directed by Curtis Bernhardt.

First edition cover for Kesey's novel

First edition cover for Kesey’s novel

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Film poster for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

In 1975, Milos Forman directed the most famous film adaptation of Ken Kesey’s classic 1962 book One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. It stars Jack Nicholson, who made a cameo in The Who’s rock opera Tommy that year, as the rebellious McMurphy. At the Academy Awards in 1976, the film went home with:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor In A Leading Role: Jack Nicholson
  • Best Actress In A Leading Role: Louise Fletcher
  • Best Director: Milos Forman
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Material: Laurence Hauben, Bo Goldman
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Cover for The Silence of The Lambs

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The Silence of The Lambs 1991 film poster

In 1988, Thomas Harris released the sequel to his bestseller Red DragonThe Silence of The Lambs. Of course, this was the book that centred around the cannibal Hannibal Lecter, Harris’ infamous character. Three years later, in 1991, the film version was released. TotalFilm, in their list of the fifty best adaptations of all time, has this at the top of their list. Jodie Foster, launched to fame by 1976’s Bugsy Malone when she was only fourteen, starred as Clarice Starling in the adaptation, starring alongside Anthony Hopkins, who plays Hannibal Lecter. In the Academy Awards, The Silence of The Lambs went home with:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor In A Leading Role: Anthony Hopkins
  • Best Actress In A Leading Role: Jodie Foster
  • Best Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published or Produced: Ted Tally

 

But, some book-to-film adaptations aren’t so greatly received. Flavorwire.com hated the version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore. This version was even slated in the film Easy A, which centred a lot on the topic Hawthorne’s book covers. Flavorwire called it the “gold standard of all bad adaptations – the reverse Godfather, if you will”. The same website slated the 2002 version of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. Even though Tim Burton’s version of Alice In Wonderland, released some 97 years after the first ever adaptation, was well received by the public and box office, Flavorwire slated it too.

So, when push comes to shove, are adaptations good or bad? I asked some local people and they said:

Well, it really depends on who makes it. If it’s a great director, a good cast and crew, then it’s bound to be good. But, overall, I think no, because books are meant to be books. A lot of classics are made into good films, but some modern books aren’t. I’m not too sure really. I’m not against them, but, hey ho.

Another person:

Despite what most think, I think book-to-film adaptations are quite good. As technology develops, we’re getting better at graphics and things, and actors nowadays are really good. With the right resources and good people, I think films can be just as good as the books.

Another person:

I think directors Hollywood-ize books a lot. I hate it when they change the storyline, or get a character wrong, especially if I’ve read the book before. I recently re-watched the adaptation of my favourite books and saw countless faults. I don’t like adaptations. Literature should stay literature and films stay films. Both are all very well, but I don’t like adaptations. The page and the silver screen are two very different things.

So, there you go. Some mixed opinions. I agree most with the middle quote. I quite like adaptations, but some are very bad. Like the third person, I hate it when they change the storyline and get a character wrong. I agree with the first person when they say that a good cast and crew change the way a film is made, especially an adaptation. Please provide your opinion, but nothing nasty. Please comment below, or re-blog this post.

Thank you for taking time to read,
emr08

 

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High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – Book Review

High Fidelity was Nick Hornby’s fiction debut, and I have been looking forward to reading it. I have seen the film probably too many times, and I was thrilled when I found this in the shop. Nick Hornby’s debut was the book Fever Pitch, about his fanatical supporting of Arsenal Football Club. It was turned into two films. High Fidelity was adapted into a film in 2000, five years after it was published.

Rob runs a shop called Championship Vinyl. He knows his top five worst breakups of all time. But, Laura isn’t on it, even if she has just become his latest ex. He has to deal with his shop assistants, Dick and Barry who are sometimes annoying, and he has just discovered an high-fidelity-coverAmerican folk singer called Marie and that Laura is seeing another guy. Rob has to juggle his emotions while trying to keep sane for his friends and family.

This was a really great book. I loved the brilliantly formulated characters and the wit. This drove me to read About A Boy, also by Nick Hornby. Rob is a really great protagonist and is sarcastic, mean and funny all at the same time, a good mix for a perfect main character. Laura was a funny character too – a perfect example of a post-breakup woman that isn’t getting along with her ex. Marie was a good character as well; she was ‘typically American’ in this context. I am half American and know a lot of Americans, so I can see how Marie works. The plot is well formed and the characters are good, so this is an all round good book.

 

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The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis – Book Review

The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis - Book Review

The Rachel Papers was published in 1973 and was adapted to a ‘scandalously witty’ film in 1989, starring Dexter Fletcher and Ione Skye, who starred alongside John Cusack in Say Anything the same year. Martin Amis’ debut was a book I had been looking forward to reading.

I first discovered Amis when I read my father’s copy of Yellow Dog. I looked into it and my father told me he had also read The Rachel Papers. My father usually has some pretty good book choices, so I went along to my local Waterstone’s and purchased a copy of The Rachel Papers.

Charles Highway is a precociously intelligent and highly sexed university student who aims to sleep with an older woman by the time he is twenty. Rachel fits the bill perfectly, and Charles plans his seduction meticulously, thus forming ‘The Rachel Papers’, an array of papers and notepads full of tips and techniques he learns from his friend Geoffrey and the media. But, it doesn’t come off quite as Charles expects.

The story is told through the eyes of Charles, and he is very witty and funny. But, I just couldn’t get into the book. It was well written and had a good plot, but its constant long words sometimes confused me. If I may so myself, I think I am a quite clever person, and I understood most of the words some readers may find a bit confusing. But, I normally sink into a book, and I couldn’t do so with this book. Martin Amis is a brilliant writer and most of his books are funny and highly intelligent, but I just didn’t get into the book.

The plot was well-structured, but at times didn’t flow well. Charles Highway is a brilliantly formulated character, and so is Rachel Noyce. Charles’ sister Jenny and her husband Norman have a strange relationship that was described brilliantly here. Overall, I think this book was good and well-written, but didn’t flow at times

Favourite Books of People I Know – Volume One

I asked some of my elders, well, people I know, what their favourite books were and why. One person I talked to told me these (in no particular order)…

1. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (1969)
Maya Angelou’s writing style was the main thing that intrigued me when I first read this. It was published three years before I was born, and I read it when I was about nineteen, so I had a pretty good understanding of everything in the book. It was about a black family from San Francisco, and the reason it was very interesting to me was because it was about black people that were not from the south, and I was so used to reading about black people that grew up in the south of America. I was very intrigued, because I only ever read about Southern black people, and they were from California, on the west coast of the US. I liked the title very much too, I really understood it after reading the book.

2. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey (1962)
One of the main reasons I liked this was because I have always been interested in mental health issues and how people’s minds work. The characters in the book are so well formulated and the fact that it’s told through the eyes of someone who doesn’t speak makes for an even more interesting view of the characters and their surroundings. It’s set in a mental hospital, and McMurphy is hysterical. It’s about conformity, really, and do you conform to rules because people tell you to? It’s about a lot of different things, but I liked the rebellion in it. I was in high school, so I liked the whole idea of McMurphy saying to everyone, basically, ‘go f**k yourselves’. 

3. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (1963)
I was sixteen and I was reading a lot of women authors at the time, and I liked the idea of reading a lot of female authors at one time, and I was reading Eudora Welty at the time as well, who I also like. Again, it was about depression and mental illness, which I was interested in. It was definitely thought-provoking because of its dark, sort of, content. I could sort of relate to the sadness of Esther [the main character] and she was close to my age when I read it. It was, of course, Plath’s only book and it was a good one at that.

4. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers (1940)
I think I was fourteen, no, more like seventeen when I read it. It was set in the deep south of Georgia, this is part of why I liked it, and I had to read it, for school. Alright, basically, it’s set in Georgia and it’s about this guy called John Singer, he’s deaf; I think I related to him mainly because I had people with disabilities in my family and if you took them out in public people looked at you funny and stuff, we didn’t care, but it still made you feel different. John’s deaf and he’s a bit of a misfit, and it’s set in this little county mill town, so it’s kind of a small community. It’s all about him and the people that he meets in this little town; he has this best friend called Antonapoulous. Anyway, they’re both deaf mutes and basically, they live together for a while, I don’t know how long, but Ant ends up going into a mental hospital and all this other stuff happens. The whole book is about the friends he has, and people’s misinterpretations of people who are different from well, people that don’t have disabilities, and their biases. All her books are set in the south, and she kind of gave a voice to the people who were oppressed.

5. The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger (1951)
I was…probably about fourteen or fifteen when I read the book. It’s about this guy called Holden Caulfield and he goes to this prep school and he’s like the head of the fencing team and in the beginning of the book it starts with him losing all the fencing equipment on a subway in New York. It’s basically about teenage angst and rebellion. His character’s really, really good. It initially made me want to read more and I enjoyed reading it. I first read it because I had to for school, but then I thought, there’s stuff outside of school I can read that I like, and that explains why I’m a big reader now.