Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin and The Death of the Author

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“Perhaps I did not do you justice, Lavinia.”

This is what Virgil himself says to the character he wrote, but never allowed to speak. In Ursula Le Guin’s novel Lavinia, Aeneas’ wife is finally given a voice. The story follows Lavinia from early childhood to her death, and almost reads as a memoir. To me, a particularly interesting part of the book was when Le Guin also gave voice to the author of the Aeneid himself. As he’s dying, Virgil appears as a spectre to Lavinia and talks to her about his work and what awaits her.

“‘And what I thought I knew of you – what little I thought of at all – was stupid, conventional, unimagined. I thought you were a blonde! But you can’t have two love stories in one epic. Where would the battles fit? In any case, how could one possibly end a story with a marriage?’
‘It does seem more like a beginning than an end,’ I said.
We both brooded.
‘It’s all wrong,’ he said. ‘I will tell them to burn it.'”

I loved how Le Guin used the fact that Aeneid was left unfinished and that Virgil wanted his work burned as a part of her own story. It also poses some interesting questions about authors and their characters. Once the characters are written, they begin a life of their own. They do not belong only to the author, they live in the minds of everyone who reads about them. It made me think of Roland Barthes and his “The Death of the Author”. One of the things Barthes points out is that the author’s intent is not what we should be concerned about. Writer, after writing a book, becomes just another reader. Barthes calls for the reader-response critial theory, the basis of which are individual thoughts about a literary work. The point is not to try to understand what the author wanted to say, but to focus on what you (the reader) think the book is saying.

“The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination.” – Roland Barthes, “Death of the Author”

I don’t think this novel is trying to make the same points as Barthes, but since I’m a reader and I have the power to say what I think, I’ll just share with you my thoughts. 😉 Le Guin’s novel makes the author just a part of the story. He created Lavinia and her life depends on him, but it also continues without him. His vision of Lavinia is not the same as her own view of her personality and her life. And while Lavinia is a character, I feel she might also be seen as a reader. Virgil tells her some of the things that are going to happen, and she gives her own opinion on them. She also reads the signs and prophecies on Aeneas’ shield. While Aeneas sees a the birth of a city, and his destiny fullfilled, Lavinia sees war and death. Both of these things are going to happen, but they are seeing them in a different way. The entire novel is basically the Aeneid seen in a different way, and from a different perspective.

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Speaking of war, I liked how the novel treats this subject. Yes, Aeneas is the hero. But does this make the wars he leads and deaths he causes acceptable? While Aeneas sees only his mission, and does what he thinks is right, Lavinia sees countless wars in the future. This doesn’t mean Aeneas is an unlikeable charater. He knows not everything is black and white, and is tortured by everything he did. He takes no pleasure in killing, and is trying to teach his son not to seek unnecessary wars. And yet, to him wars seem inevitable. Lavinia notices this, and she sees how men are raised to think of war as a part of their lives. They are raised to seek honour, and even to seek conflict. She, on the other hand, fears war, destruction, and loss. To Lavinia, war represents violence and loss of innocence, and she cannot see it as something that brings honour.

“Of all the greater powers the one I fear most is the one I cannot worship, the one who walks the boundary, the one who sets the ram on the ewe, and the bull on the heifer, and the sword in the farmer’s hand: Mavors, Marmor, Mars.”

Lavinia is not physically strong. She wants to lead a happy, calm life. And in that lies her feminine strength. She doesn’t have to be a warrior in order to be a heroine of her own story – and this is what book Virgil admits having failed to see. First he wonders why it is Lavinia who appeared to him before his death, and not his hero, Aeneas. He talks about heroism and honour, things that are important to him, but apparently not to her.

“Without war there are no heroes.”
“What harm would that be?”
“Oh, Lavinia, what a woman’s question that is.”

But in the end, Virgil sees Lavinia’s strengths. She’s clever, often cynical, but kind and caring. She is an interesting person to have a conversation with because she sees the world in a different way. Lavinia questions Virgil’s ideals, even his religion, and that’s what makes him admire her.

“Is it the gods who set this fire in our hearts, or do we each make our fierce desire into a god?”

Virgil’s fictional realisation validates Lavinia’s importance. And I think it is these metatextual elements that make this book an interesting read, despite some of it’s flaws. If any of these ramblings seemed interesting to you, then I recommend reading the book. 🙂


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Quote for Thought: Reality and Insanity in The Book Collector by Alice Thompson

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“Many years later, looking back, she was amazed at the capacity we have for not wanting to confront the truth. How the humdrum of our own lives, the security of habit and comfort, prevent us from questioning the clues that the truth gives us. We can ignore them, make excuses and forget whatever we want.”

The Book Collector by Alice Thompson is part The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, part Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, part fairy tale retelling. It’s eerie and disturbing, and I just couldn’t put it down. I kept reading, like mesmerised. To be honest, the prose felt odd at times, almost like it was trying too hard. Some sentences were weirdly structured. And, yet, I highlighted quite a lot of lovely quotes.

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The novella deals with many issues, and one of them is the unwillingness to accept the truth if it means getting out of our comfort zone. This maybe spoke to me because I am mortally afraid of change, but I think everyone can relate to not wanting certain things in their life disturbed.

Violet, the main character of the novel, had this idea of a perfect marriage and a fairy tale love story. But fairy tales are often dark and scary. The novella plays with this idea, the way we perceive fairy tales as something ideal versus the violence that can actually be found in those stories. Violet knows something is wrong. She feels it, but at first tries to ignore it. Her fears come alive in dreamlike visions, and in her semi-conscious state she is able to piece together the truth.

“She had married to avoid pain. She had lost herself in the arcadian countryside to avoid pain. Her whole married life had been a carefully constructed edifice to avoid pain. And it had worked well. Until she fell ill.”

This leads to her being sent to an asylum, where she once again tries to get “normality” back. But at the same time, she meets women whose sad lives seem more real than anything in her life ever did. It’s also a commentary on how women were, and sadly sometimes still are, treated in society, how their stories are regarded as imagination or, in todays terms, “hormones”.

“And for an insane moment she thought, this is no different from normality, just women existing and surviving, this is what happens to women who don’t fit into a world created by men.”

The mental institution serves as an example of what happens to those who don’t want to accept the lies they live in, people who dare speak up. It’s an inherent fear in all people – belonging nowhere, having no one to love you, which might happen if you don’t adapt, or even change some parts of who you are. And I think this is what makes The Book Collector so disturbing and claustrophobic.

Have any of you read this novella? Do you have a different interpretation? I’d love to hear from you. 🙂


Classic Spotlight: Antigone in Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

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DISCLAIMER: I’ll try to keep this spoiler-free when it comes to Home Fire, though if you’ve read Antigone I guess you are sort of spoilt anyway. XD


I finished Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie yesterday, and it goes without saying that I really loved it. I love the story itself, but I also loved that it’s a modern retelling of the myth of Antigone, or more accurately Sophocles’ tragedy of the same name. While you can definitely read it on its own, I think the book is even better if you have read Antigone. It was interesting to see how Home Fire uses the plot and ideas from Antigone, and makes them into a completely new story.

Let me start with Antigone. The play takes place in Thebes, and it tells the story of Oedipus’ children. Oedipus’ family line is, in lack of a better word, cursed, because his father Laius had a son despite the fact that the gods have forbidden it. This led to the well-known story of Oedipus unknowingly killing his father and marrying his mother. Oedipus leaves behind two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, and two daughters, Antigone and Ismene. Polyneices and Eteocles end up fighting for the throne, and kill each other in battle. That’s when their uncle, Creon, becomes the new king and decides to give Eteocles a proper burial, since he fought on the side of Thebes, but leave Polyneices to rot because he fought against Thebes. That’s when the play starts, and Antigone decides to bury her brother despite the orders of her uncle.

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Frederic Leighton, “Antigone

The main theme of Antigone is the opposition between the law, and doing what is right. Antigone goes against the law, but she claims that she’s following a more important law, the one of the gods, who want all people to be given a proper burial. She’s also loyal to her brother more than to any law of the state. The play also poses the question: if the law is unjust, should people break it?

In Home Fire, the story is more complex than that. The novel follows two sisters and a brother who are Muslims living in London. It deals with prejudice, religious fanaticism and family. And it also deals with laws and politics. The novel’s Creon in Karamat Lone, also known as “Lone Wolf”. Karamat Lone is the British Home Secretary, and on his way to the top he turned his back on his own people, and his own traditions. Well, in a way. Karamat Lone wanted to do the right thing, to help Muslims in Britain have better opportunities in life. But in his desire to make things better, Karamat takes a very strict, unyielding path. He calls for integration, but he doesn’t leave room for keeping the traditions. Once a fighter for equality and racial tolerance, he’s now a conservative in his own way. It’s especially interesting to see his point of view, when he realises that the ones attacking him are the people he thought were like him.

“…if someone had said he’d be the home secretary in a safe room while men prowled outside trying to kill him, he’d have known without asking that the men were neo-Nazi skinheads. But how dare they – how dare it be his people? After everything his generation did to make this country better for them, how dare they.”

Now what did the Creon of Home Fire do? Karamat Lone also decided to let the body of a young man rot, the body of Home Fire‘s Polynices – Parvais. Why? Because Parvais was a jihadi. And of course, Karamat is appalled by this, and he sees him as the main reason why Muslims are experiencing so much hatred. Which is a completely justified point of view. What he fails to realise is that the strict laws that are made to protect people from terrorism can sometimes create terrorists.

This is another instance in Home Fire when things are not that simple. Parvais’s father was a jihadi, and he and his sisters, Isma and Aneeka, barely know him. All they know is that he made their lives very hard. But when Farook, a friend of his father, comes into Parvais’ life, he paints him a completely different picture of the man he barely knew. He speaks of the torture Parvais’ father went though, and the great ideals he had. Parvais is aware that Muslims are treated with suspicion and prejudice, which is why he’s easily manipulated and leaves with Farook for Pakistan. It’s interesting how Shamsie in her own way uses the theme of the “cursed” family, in this case the son of a jihadi who becomes a jihadi himself. The media immediately treats Parvais’ case as “we should have seen it coming” and “of course he followed the footsteps of his father”. I also think that the press plays the role of the Choir in Greek tragedies, as it gives commentary and explains some events to the reader.

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Sébastien Norblin, “Antigone and Polyneices

Isma and Aneeka, Parvais’ sisters, reflect the characters of Ismene and Antigone. Isma doesn’t want to disobey the laws. She wants to live her life, and to make sure her siblings have a good future, too. She is the eldest child, Aneeka and Parvais are twins, and she took care of them after their mother died. Isma despises her father, and is aware that he’s to blame for the suffering and even the death of their mother. What he did causes her a lot of shame. Aneeka, on the other hand, has no opinion of her father. She was too young to see how much her mother had changed because of his actions, just as Parvais was, but unlike her brother, she never wanted to know more about him. She simply believes they are better off without him.

In Antigone, Ismene doesn’t want to have anything to do with Antigone’s plan, and she tries to persuade her sister not to anger Creon. Her character is much like Isma’s, but Isma gets much more attention that Ismene, and is a wonderful, kind character. Aneeka is very similar to Antigone. She’s bold, unyielding, and stubborn. She puts her loyalty to her brother first, loyalty to family before the loyalty to state.

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Antigone and Ismene

Home Fire has its own Haemon, too. Haemon is Antigone’s fiancée and Creon’s son, and Eamonn Lone is Karamat’s son. Both Haemon and Eamonn show the emotional side of their apparently emotionless fathers. I won’t reveal too much, but they share a similar destiny, and also show similar characteristics. I love how all of the characters follow not only a similar story, but they also have similar personalities to those in Antigone. While Haemon is just a side character in Antigone, Eamonn gets his own chapters and his point of view, which is very interesting because he’s a person of Muslim background, but was not raised as a Muslim, and he sees himself only as British. He’s even rejected by the British Muslims.

“Eamonn, that was his name. How they’d laughed in Wembley when the newspaper article accompanying the family picture revealed this detail, an Irish spelling to disguise a Muslim name – Ayman became Eamonn so that people would know the father had integrated.”

Nationality, and what it means to be a citizen of a country is also a prominent theme in Home Fire, which is a very topic, especially today, when so many people are moving abroad. The novel offers different sides to the story. While in Antigone the reader/audience is supposed to be on her side, everything is much more complicated in Home Fire. Aneeka’s love for her brother and desire to save him is understandable, but so are the feelings of people who oppose her. As her cousin from Pakistan puts it:

“Did you or your brother stop to think about those of us with passports that look like toilet paper to the rest of the world, who spend our whole lives being so careful we don’t give anyone a reason to reject our visa applications. Don’t stand next to this guy, don’t follow that guy on Twitter, don’t download that Noam Chomsky book. And then first your brother uses us as a cover to join some psycho killers, and then your government thinks this country can be a dumping ground for its unwanted corpses and your family just expects us to jump up and organise a funeral for this week’s face of terrorism.”

But besides all these political and social issues, Home Fire manages to be emotional, too. The later chapters are especially well-written and poetic. So, I’ll end this post with a wonderful paragraph on grief and rage, and once again say that I highly recommend this book to everyone.

“This was not grief. It was rage. It was his rage, the boy who allowed himself every emotion but rage, so it was the unfamiliar part of him, that was all he was allowing her now, it was all she had left of him. She held it to her breast, she fed it, she stroked its mane, she whispered love to it under the starless sky, and sharpened her teeth on its gleaming claws.”


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Unique Blogger Award

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I have a quick, fun little post for you today! The lovely Ellie @bloggingfordopamine nominated me for the Unique Blogger Award, and asked some interesting questions. Now, it’s time for me to answer.

First, the rules:

  • Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.
  • Answer the questions.
  • In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 people for the same award.
  • Ask them 3 questions.

And here are my answers:

1. I have so many books I’m looking forward to reading this year. What’s your most anticipated 2018 read?

It is (or actually was) Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, which is now my current read. And it’s great so far, I’ll definitely write a post about it soon. Another book I really want to read is The Sagas of the Icelanders, a collection of old Icelandic tales and sagas. It’s a huge book, but I’m sure it will be worth my time.

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2. When I was younger, I was obsessed with Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and now that I’m older, I have even more admiration for her character. Are there any childhood favourite characters that you appreciate even more now that you’re older?

I can’t really think of one specific character for this question, but the characters from Winnie-the -Pooh as a whole really mean a lot to me. I loved then as a child, and when I reread the book I realized just how wonderful they are. They are all flawed – Piglet is always anxious, Eeyore is depressed, Pooh doesn’t understand what’s going on most of the time… But they are all supportive of each other, and accept their friends the way they are. For example, they try to mae Eeyore happy on his birthday, but they don’t expect him to change and instantly stop being sad. And they say the sweetest, most innocent things. Oh, I just love how pure those books are.

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3. My blog has changed so much since I started it. What was the topic of the first ever blog post you wrote?

My first post as a silly “introduction”. Not really interesting. XD And the first real one was about my favourite books of all time. I guess I could do a new one, since there are some books that should definitely be added to the list.

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Now, here are the questions I came up with:

1. A monster breaks into your home! (Gasp!) But it’s not a very dangerous one, don’t worry. It’s just lost, poor thing. It can easily be scared, and then it will go into the wild and live happily ever after. But you need to scare it. The only thing that comes to mind is to throw a book at it, because you’re standing next to your shelves. You obviously don’t want to throw and possibly destroy a book you love, so you grab a book you don’t like and you don’t even know why you still have it. What book do you choose?

2. You’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and you find a magical lamp. (You now it’s magical because it sparkles. Or something.) And what do you do – you rub the lamp of course. You know how these things work! And, yes, a genie comes out and says he’ll give you any superpower you want.
“But, I thought I was supposed to get three wishes!” you say.
“I’m the genie, I know how this works! You get a superpower!”
You shrug and accept the offer. A superpower is still great. Which superpower do you choose?

3. I’ll keep this one shorter, I promise. XD Now, you have superpowers, but you still need help because you’re new at the whole supernatural thing. Which character (from a book or tv show) would you choose to be your partner and best friend?

Now I will nominate some people, but if anyone wants to answer these questions, feel free to do it. I’m interested to hear your answers. 🙂

Anna @mybookishdream

Chelsea @spotlightonstories

Lola @lolaetlavie

Sarah @dragonsandzombies

Jewel @foxynerdyrebelle

Naty @natysbookshelf

Luna @bookishluna

Izzy @thinkingandinking

Maniacal Book Unicorn @maniacalbookunicorn


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My Top 5 Non-fiction Reads of 2017

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I made my Top 10 Books of 2017 list a few days ago, but it was actually a list of my favourite novels from last year. This was intentional, because I’ve read some great non-fiction books in 2017, and I wanted to make a separate list for those books.

These are, of course, books that I’ve read in 2017, not books published in 2017. And this list is in no praticular order since these books are all quite different, and all great. Anyway, here’s my list:

1. Romantic Outlaws; The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon

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This book is the most “bookish” one on the list. As it says in the title, it’s a dual biograpy of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, and it’s just perfect. It’s very detailed, and it really gives the reader a sense of everything these women went through, and the world they lived in. I would highly recommend it to everyone interested in these two writers and thinkers, Romanticism, feminism, and just literature in general.

“[A Vindication of the Rights of Woman] outlined the evils of the present state of society, and introduced solutions that would redeem men as well as women. Yes, men. From the first page to last, Mary emphasized that women’s liberty should matter to everyone.”

2. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

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This book left such an impression on me that I wrote my longest post ever after reading it. Even if you’re not a vegetarian or a vegan, I think you would learn a lot from this book and the things that are happening not only to animals, but to the entire environment because of factory farming. It’s well-researched book, and the author talked to many people on different sides of the debate. And no, there are not just two sides – things are not that simple. I think that the fact that Jonathan Safron Foer writes novels also helped to make this book very readable, and well-written.

As told by Kafka’s close friend Max Brod:

“Suddenly he began to speak to the fish in their illuminated tanks. ‘Now at least I can look at you in peace, I don’t eat you anymore.’ It was the time he turned strictly vegetarian.”

3. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

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This is a book I would recommend to everyone who loves nature. It was very interesting and I learned so much from it! We, humans, are destroying everything. And our lack of knowledge isn’t helping, either. So, let’s learn! The point of this books it that trees (and plants) are living beings and they deserve respect. They also deserve that we try to understand them better.

“If we want to use forests as a weapon in the fight against climate change, then we must allow them to grow old, which is exactly what large conservation groups are asking us to do.”

4. The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer

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If you like reading about everyday life in different historical periods – this is the book you’ve been looking for. Also, it’s a perfect book for anyone interested in the Middle Ages. I always thought history should be taught this way – give students a real sense of how it was like to live back then. History is nnot just a list of kings and queens, a list of conflicts and wars. And it’s interesting to compare other time periods to our own. For example:

“When people declare that ‘children have to grow up so quickly these days’ they should reflect on this fact. Medieval boys are expected to work from the age of seven and can be hanged for theft at the same age. They can marry at the age of fourteen…”

5. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde

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This is a different kind of non-fiction, so if you’re someone who likes to read memoir-like non-fiction, this is my recommendation for you. De Profundis is a long letter Oscar Wilde wrote to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas  while he was imprisoned in Reading Gaol. It’s his reflection on his sentence, his life, his plans for the future, philosophy and literature. It’s amazing to read Wilde’s deepest thoughts during the probably hardest time of his life. I wrote a little post about what he says about nature which you can read here.

“But it is a very unimaginative nature that only cares for people on their pedestals.”

And that’s my list! Do you have any non-fiction recommendations? I’d love to know!

My Top 10 Books of 2017

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The time has come to look back on all we’ve read in the last year. Or not. Totally up to you.

I did look back, and decided to compose this list. It’s in no particular order, because I’m too indecisive, and the books are quite different one from the other so I would never be able to rank them. I’ll just put some similar books next to each other. Also, I’ve written posts abut some of these books, so I the title is clickable, you can go read the post. 🙂

The first two books that I’m going to mention are vampire books. I really wanted to find some interesting vampire books, especially after I was a bit disappointed by Prince Lestat, and in the end I managed to find these two which made me really happy.

1. Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

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I’ve never read ASOISAF. And I’m not sure I ever will… But this book made me realize that George R.R. Martin is a great writer. The book is set in the 1850s USA, and it’s historical fiction as much as it is paranormal/vampire fiction. I loved the way Martin used the vampire legends, and made them his own, without straying too much from the source. It’s also a book about how dark humanity is, how prejudiced people can be, and just how capable they are of committing horrible deeds such as enslaving other people. It was a great read, and much more than a vampire novel.

2. The Making of Gabriel Davenport by Beverly Lee

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I would never have heard of this series were it not for Instagram, because that’s where I met Bevery Lee. So thank you Instagram! The series is very atmospheric, and the characters are interesting. It follows a boy, Gabriel, but also quite a few other characters – some of them supernatural. I don’t want to reveal too much, since I’ve read the first two books (the third is not out yet) and I might spoil everything to you, but if you want a good supernatural novel, I think this might be it.

Now let’s move on to my favourite fantasy book (trilogy, actually) of this year. I haven’t read that much fantasy this year, but this series was so good it made up for this lack of fantasy reads.

3. The Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

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This is the last book in the series, and the reason I put this one on the list is because I feel like it’s always hard to end a series in a really satisfying way. I loved the first two books, but the way everything ends is perfect. All the characters are very flawed, and nothing is sugar-coated or romanticized. I liked that the writing was slow-paced, and that the author focuses so much on the inner struggles of the characters, besides everything that is going of in this fictional world. Inquisitor Glokta is my favourite. He’s far from being a loveable character, but I love reading his snarky inner monologues. I highly recommend this book to all fantasy lovers!

The next three books all feature magical elements, but in a subtle way. They are fantasy combined with historical fiction.

4. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

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Daughter of the Forest is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Six Swans”, but it’s also so much more than that. The Germanic tale, collected by the Grimm brothers, is in this case set in Ireland and Britain and interwoven with Celtic mythology and folktales. It is magical, but it also feels very real; the fantastical and the historical creates one whole, one wonderful story. It is also a story which speaks against war and the hatred of others. And it’s wonderfully written. I enjoyed this book immensely!

5. Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

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If a book is set in the Middle Ages, I’m immediately intrigued. If the Middle Ages are actually described in a more historically accurate, and less clichéd way, I fall in love with the book. Yeah, I’m simple like that. XD But this book is so well written, atmospheric, and mysterious. The characters all have a story to tell – literally and figuratively. They are all hiding something, and they are all lying about something. The story revolves around finding out the truth, and the destructive power of lies. Again – both literally and figuratively. The book is also inspired by the Canterbury Tales, since all the characters set off to a journey together in hope to escape the plague. It’s a great read, and I’ll definitely read more Karen Maitland’s books.

6. Bright Air Black by David Vann

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This one is not really historical fiction, but a myth retelling. It’s the story of Jason and Medea from Medea’s point of view and it’s just perfect. Brutal, but perfectly so. I loved diving into Medea’s mind. She’s a sorceress, a devotee of the witch-godess Hecate, and her powers and brutality really show in this book, but at the same time it’s hard not to find simpathise with her. The book is written so well, it feels like it transports you to a different world.

In the end, I have some literary fiction (I guess) books, with no magic, or paranormal.

7. Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss

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This novel is historical fiction. It’s set in Victorian England, and follows mostly female characters and their struggles to become more than society allows them to be. The main character, Ally, want to become a doctor. She’s focused on her cause, the fight for equal treatment of women and men in medicine, and become the best person she could be. Her perfecionism becomes a great burden, and she suffers from what I presume are panic attacks. She’s also under constant scrutiny of her mother who is trying to save suffering women, young prostitutes, and the poor, but is at the same time too harsh on her daughters. She wants them to know that they live in abundance while others suffer, and does it in a rigid, adamant manner. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s Ally’s sister May who seems to conctantly find a way to disobey her mother’s restrictions, their father the painter, and his friend who constantly hangs out with the girls… So many interesting relationships, and human struggles in one book.

8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Well, you’ve all heard of this one, so I won’t talk about it too much. I should have read it earlier, but I’m so glad I finally did. And the series is great, too!

9. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

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You need a little patience for this one, but it’s worth it! The psychological portrayal of characters is amazing! The story mostly follows Maggie and Tom Tulliver, a brother and sister, and their relationship since early childhood. The novels also speakks of the expectations that the women of the time had to meet. The protagonist, Maggie, is strong and smart, but the society she lives in makes her ignore both of those traits. The biggest tragedy of this novel is the fact that she could’ve achieved so much, but was not allowed to. There are also some great side characters, especially poor Philip who is constntly judged because of his physical appearence. This book is truly a classic.

10. The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir

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I talked about this book recently. It’s one of the last books I’ve read this year, and it’s amazing! It’s a collection of three stories, and every story follows daily life of a woman who is going though something bad in her life. None of these women are perfect, but the emotions and thoughts expressed in these stories are so raw and sincere, it really feels like you’re reading someone’s diary.

And that’s it! I hope you had a great reading year and that the next one would be even better! What are some of your favourite books from last year? If you did a similar list please feel free to link it to me, I’m really interested to read those posts! 🙂

Currently Reading: The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir

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Everyone’s heard of Simone de Beauvoir (or at least everyone should have). She’s mosty known as a feminist, social theorist, and political activist. She’s the author of The Second Sex, a book on women’s opression which became one of the most important feminist works.

Simone de Beauvoir was also a fiction writer, though her works read almost like memoirs. The Woman Destroyed is a collection of three long stories, and so far I’ve finished the first one, “The Age of Discretion”, and since the description says all of the stories deal with similar themes, I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts of this story, before reading the others, as an introduction to de Beauvoir’s fiction.

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“The Age of Discretion” is written in first person, and it follows the intimate thoughts of the unnamed main character. Both the main character and her husband are intellectuals, she’s a writer and he a scientist. Their conversations are interesting and at times philosophical, as is the entire story. “The Age of Discretion” is, therefore, a quite erudite read, but at the same time it’s very sincere and human. It deals with everyday thoughts, insecurities, selfishness, and vanity. It’s about those little thoughts we have, but never dare express. Thoughts that belong to us, even though we don’t want to admit it.

Maybe it was during those moments, as I watch him disappear, that he exists to me with the most overwhelming clarity: his tall shape grows smaller, each pace marking out the path of his return; it vanishes and the street seems to be empty; but in fact it is a field of energy that will lead him back to me as his natural habitat: I find this certainty even more moving than his presence.

The story deals with the main character’s relationship with her husband, her son, and her own self – the past and the present, the constant change and passing of life. When it comes to her husband, she ponders on many questions. Does he still love her? Is he tired of her? Would another woman have made him happier? She cannot answer those questions, and sometimes her insecurities create more problems. She thinks too much which leads to misunderstandings.

The relationship with her son is even more complex, since he decided to take a past she did not intend for him. She feels he had made a mistakke, and cannot accept his decisions. She wants him to be a different man than he is now, and it’s hard for her to accept that. He decides not to be a professor, not to become an intellectual, and she acuses him of being greedy and only thinking about earning more money. Was that the real reason? It’s hard to tell, but for the main character it’s a great disappointment. She is watching her son become the kind of person she despises. He is not the person she tried to shape. He is his own person now, not a reflection of her ideals, and she feels that she’s losing him.

He will turn into a stranger.

The main character also struggles with her work, as her new book gets bad reviews. She sees that she’s getting old and fears she can no longer produce anything fresh and important. The world around her is changing. She is changing.

The sight of the changing world is miraculous and heart-breaking, both at the same time.

The “discretion” from the title really captures the tone of the story well. This story is mostly about things left unsaid, things we presume, though sometimes falsely, and things we are afraid to admit to ourselves. Expectations versus reality. It’s a wonderfully written story of human nature, without sugar-coating, but, in the end, still somewhat hopeful. It also shows how fragile we all are, how full of doubts.

What is an adult? A child puffed with age.

I feel like I don’t have to emphasize that I really liked the story, but, yes, I did, and I’m looking forward to reading the other two in the collection. What do you think? Have you read The Woman Destroyed? Are you interested in reading it?


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