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. 🙂


Currently Reading: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

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I’m really happy with my book choices lately. Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest is amazing so far, and I believe it will be amazing ’till the very end.

This novel is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Seven Swans”, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a story about six brothers and a sister, Sorcha, who will in the end have to save all of them. I believe this sentence from the Goodreads description portrays it perfectly:

Daughter of the Forest takes the reader to an Ireland on the edge where history and fairy tale meet.

The book has fantastical elements, but the magic feels so realistic that you almost don’t percieve it as something foreign or made up. It is also deeply rooted in Celtic folklore, and it speaks about the history of Ireland and Britain, where different nations lived, fought, and coexisted. At times it felt like reading historical fiction.

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One thing I’ve noticed, which may not be that important to everyone, but is very important to me, is the way this book deals with animals and nature. Respect which the characters show towards nature is very true to Celtic beliefs (I’m not an expert on this, but I’ve read about it quite a lot). It is stressed many time just how important nature is, and I think this is something we should hear more often. The villain of the story shows her true nature by doing bad things not only to people, but also to the plants. Animals are treated with respect. One of the brothers saves a dog, loyal Linn who appears all the time in the book (at least for now). Another brother saves a wounded owl, and cries as he lets her fly free. Sorcha doesn’t even eat animals, and I was so happy to read that, since it is not that common to have vegetarian characters.

I had not eaten flesh or fish since I was a small child, for I had always felt a closeness with other creatures that made my senses revolt at the very idea.

Then, there’s also her reason for not wearing shoes:

“I need no shoes, Father,” I said, hardly thinking. “My feet are tough, look,” and I raised one narrow, grubby foot to show him. “No need for some creature to die so I can be shod.”

I was so excited to read this, as I, too, don’t wear leather at all. And then, this book is also against war, and it makes it clear that people shouldn’t be judged by their nationality. So many good messages! This is what one of the brothers, Finbar, says to Sorcha:

“But there are two sides to every fight. It starts from something small, a chance remark, a gesture made lightly. It grows from there. Both sides can be unjust. Both can be cruel.”

Sorcha is kind and loving, but she’s also smart and she always speaks her mind. She knows how to make potions and is a very good healer. It is clear that she is proud of who she is, and that she doesn’t want to change for anyone.

“Why should I be polished and improved like goods for sale? I might not even want to marry! And besides, I have many skills, I can read and write and play the flute and harp. Why should I change to please some man? If he doesn’t like me the way I am, then he can get some other girl for his wife.”

Of course, good messeages don’t necessarily make a good book, but this book IS good. It is interesting, thought not too fast-paced. It gives you time to get to know the characters, without being too descriptive or slow. I really hope it’ll stay this good until it’s finished.

Have you read Daughter of the Forest? Do you want to? Feel free to let me know. 🙂


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Update and a Microtale

Hi, dear bloggers! I just wanted to let you know that I will be absent from my blog for a week. I’m spending the next week in Vienna, and I will celebrate the New Year’s Eve there! I can’t wait! 🙂 

Before I go, I decided to post the cutest photo from my previous trip, to Ireland and Northern Ireland, and a microtale that I made up for it. Wish you all great holidays! :*

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Sea Happiness

He jumped. The sea spattered around him. He had just an hour, or even less, before the sun set and the boring half of his day began. Then the sea would suddenly start to feel cold, and his limbs too weak to swim as fast as he would want to. Even the fish won’t taste good.

A long time ago the curse was spoken. He was to spend the day as a seal, and during the night he would take the human shape. An annoying curse, indeed. What was one supposed to do as a weak, two legged creature who doesn’t know how to enjoy the simplest and most beautiful things?

Microfiction Challenge: The Red Tree

writingThis is my first time participating in Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. When I saw the promt picture, by the artist Virginia Frances Sterret, I just had to make a story for it. I love it! 🙂 Just look how pretty it is:

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And now, here’s my story:

The Red Tree

Ayla had the magic beans and a plan.
Yes, she would have to defeat the giant, but she was ready for it. She had several tricks in her sleeve. With a wide smile on her face, she planted a bean in the ground. Ayla could already picture the gold and the jewels. No more hard work, no more rags, no more, no more…
It took just a few seconds for the tree to start growing. Did the ground move, or was it just her legs shaking?  Yes, the tree grew, but something wasn’t right.
A strange plant appeared before Ayla’s eyes, weak and wobbly. Its stalk was a dark, rotten red, all twisted and turned.

“You freed me,” the plant spoke. “So now, I will grant you three wishes.”

“Three wishes?” Ayla was confused. “But you’re supposed to take me up in the clouds, to the treasure.”

“Treasure in the clouds? I’ve never heard of such a thing…”

“Well, not exactly in the clouds… Anyway, I didn’t free you. I planted you,” Ayla was getting a bit annoyed. This was not a part of her plan. “And it’s genies who grant wishes. Or goldfish. Not trees.”

“That’s quite judgemental of you,” the plant sounded offended. “What do you know about trees, anyway?”

“I’m sorry…” Ayla sighed. “I’m just a bit surprised. Three wishes are a great deal!”

“I’m not sure I want to grant them anymore…”

“Oh, please!” Ayla wasn’t ready to give up on her dreams.

“Fine. What’s your first wish?” the plant sounded friendly again.

“Well, I want to be rich!”

“I try not to be prejudiced, but this is such a human thing to wish for. Riches. Always the riches. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with that.”

“Why not?”

“I’m just a tree! Money doesn’t grow on trees!”

“Well, what can you do?”

“I can grow fruit.”

A number of different fruits appeared. Yellow pears, blue grapes, red apples. Ayla sighed. It was obvious now that things don’t always turn out like the stories tell. She picked an apple, sat comfortably underneath the tree and tasted it. It was very good. She might never become rich, but she could at least make the best of what she had.

The Road to Grandmother’s House

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If you do as I say
One healty and alive
Will welcome you there.

He told her there was just one rule, as gods always do.

Red was determined not to do the same mistake as everyone before, even though she knew the odds were not in her favour. Pandora always opens the box, Eve always bites the apple, Orpheus turns to look at his lovely wife, and all of Bluebeard’s wives unlock the forbidden door.

The rule was simple. Red had to follow the road to her grandmother’s home, without making even a slightest turn aside, and when she enters the little house, her grandmother would welcome her there. She would be alive and well, in her rocking chair and not underneath the wet, cold ground.

Red’s steps were quick and determined. She believed in herself and could feel happiness enveloping her entire being. Then she saw beautiful flowers on the side of the road and thought how lovely it would be to bring them to her grandmother. She was careful as she picked them not to step from the road, not even with the tip of her shoe.

“The flowers are much more beautiful there, farther into the woods,” a deep voice said.

Red raised her eyes and saw a big wolf staring at her with piercing, green eyes.

“Oh, no, I can’t get off the road,” she said proudly. It was not so easy to fool her.

“Where are you going?” the wolf asked, and his voice was so warm and so kind that Red couldn’t refuse to answer.

“I’m going to my grandmother’s house. She died, but I was promised she will be alive again.”

“Don’t you want to see her sooner then? I know a way through the forest, it’s much shorter,” the wolf said and Red wanted to follow him anywhere.

“No, no!” she replied. “I have to follow the road.”

“Then, you can always run,” the wolf said. “Do you want to race me? I will go through the forest, and you run along the road. Let’s see who comes first!”

Red was suspicious, but she couldn’t find anything wrong about the suggestion. She would still follow the road, no matter what the wolf does. And he seemed so friendly, so she didn’t want to offend him.

“Fine! Let’s race!” she smiled.

The wolf nodded and disappeared among the trees. Red ran and ran, as fast as she could, thinking of the grandmother and thinking of the wolf. She wanted to win but when she came the wolf was already standing on the doorstep.

“You see, I know a much faster way,” the wolf seemed proud.

“Well, I admit, you won,” Red laughed. She wasn’t sad for losing, because in the end, she had also won. She had come to her grandmother’s house, and she followed the road. Magicians, genies, gods… They were never cheating. All those who failed before her were just silly people, with no power of will.

Red knocked on the door, but no one answered. She was a bit surprised to find the door unlocked. She entered the house and called for her grandmother, but no one replied.

“What happened?” she heard the wolf ask.

And then she remembered the exact words of the promise, and she remembered the wolf greeting her on the doorstep.

If you do as I say
One healty and alive
Will welcome you there.

Colours of Good Morning

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It was time for school, and the boy left his home with the bag on his shoulders. The boy. That’s how he came to think of himself. Yes, he had a name, and not a bad one, but not everyone knew it. As he walked through the farmer’s market each day, people would call after him. And they called him boy.

“Hey, boy, do you want some sweet strawberries?”
“Little boy, a few lovely apricots to take to school!”
“Come, boy, buy an apple! You now what they say about apples and doctors!”

The word started to sound right to him, though a bit disheartening. That was what he was. A boy. Just a boy. A nobody. Most people were nobodies, pretending to be somebodies by wearing a name. Only a few really became more than what the people in the market place called them. The rest – just numerous boys, girls, ladies and sirs. The boy wanted more than that. He hated monotony. He yearned for something exciting, something new, something magical. As he passed through the market, it seemed painfully dull to him, despite all the orange apricots, red apples, yellow lemons and green cucumbers. Colours were nothing in comparison to what he hoped for. He dreamed of dragons, fairies, and evil forces that had to be defeated. He wished to be a hero, brave and kind, loved by all.

Suddenly, an old man caught his attention. The man was wearing dirty, shapeless clothes, and begging for some money. He seemed completely grey, standing not so far from the colourful market. Some people passed by, but no one seemed to notice him.
The boy had nothing in his pockets. He wanted to become a hero, but now, he couldn’t even give some change to the poor old man. He felt embarrassed.

Well, the boy thought,  I may have no money, but at least I’ll show him that I see him. I will show him that I care.

With the widest, kindest smile, the boy turned to face the old beggar.
“Good morning!” he greeted him.
The old man raised his eyes, and the boy saw that he was smiling. The lines on his face started to fade. The old beggar jumped from joy, but when his feet touched the ground, he wasn’t an old man in rags anymore. His clothes were clean and white, and on his now golden hair proudly stood a royal crown.
“Magic!” the boy gasped.

A single “good morning” turned the beggar into a prince.

Puss in Boots

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No one takes notice
Of one little kitty
Easy to trick you
Oh, what a pitty!

I do what I want
I never obey
I can walk upright
Now what do you say?

The littlest things
Have the power of will
I don’t play with yarn
I dress to kill.

In boots I walk
To make you see
That you should never
Make fun of me.


A silly little poem today, it was so fun to write. XD 

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Quote for Thought: Bicycle

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“To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them.”

Angela Carter, “The Lady of the House of Love” from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

A random little quote I wanted to sheare with you. I’ve recently read Angela Carter’s short story collection, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, and I’m amazed by her writing. It’s brilliant. Her stories are dark, I’d even use the word disturbing, and each of them takes fairy tale imagery and makes something completely new out of it. For some reason, this quote stuck with me, even though there are so many wonderful ones. Maybe because it speaks of something mundane, almost random and not connected to fairy tales at all, but it’s still great. And it works great within the story, which I highly recommend. 🙂

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The Ice Queen

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I have nothing against princesses,
I like the sound of crackling fire,
and I’m very fond of cats,
but it doesn’t mean I don’t see
when injustice is being served.

Why are wolves always hunted
yet you forgive your cats
for killing birds and little mice
and bringing them as gifts?
Why is ice considered cruel
when fire can hurt as well?
Why are queens always evil
and princesses you root for?

I write my own fairy tale,
and I create a powerful queen
a woman needs not be weak
nor act sweet and for rescue wait
if she wants to be a heroine.

So I bestow on her a gift of ice,
ice-cold eyes, a power to create,
she will freeze you if you dare
in a tower lock her up,
she will make you disappear
before your wicked curse is uttered.

A magic mirror in her possession,
but who’s the fairest she doesn’t ask,
she uses it to uncover lies,
to see where’s a need to fight,
defend herself and all she loves,
a crown of ice on head held high.

She runs in the company of wolves,
with them she is always free,
she howls proudly at the moon
and hunts those who deserve it;
little girls that carry baskets
are not always what they seem,
sometimes a poisoned apple
and hidden thorns lie therein.

A queen, not a princess,
powerful and not naïve,
clever and not benign,
her touch so cold that it burns,
but that doesn’t mean she’s cruel.


Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

The Classics Book Tag

I first saw this tag on booktube, but it’s been around on blogs, too, so I thought I might do it. The original tag can be found here. Anyway, I thought it would be fun, so even though no one tagged me I decided to do it so that you can get to know me better and hopefully some discussion may arise. Feel free to comment! 🙂

1. An overhyped classic you really didn’t like:

Don Quixote, I don’t even have to think about it! I really, really, really don’t like it. And it is said to be the best novel ever written! The novel is picaresque, and it’s an ironic portrayal of chivalric romances, so I should have liked, but no. I do get that it’s metaphoric and all that, but I found it too repetitive, the same things being said time and time again but in a different way, and I didn’t care for it at all. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, I don’t know…

2. Favourite time period to read about:

I can’t really say that I have a favourite time period to read about. I really like reading about the Middle Ages, and I have recently read The Decameron by Giovanni Boccacio, which was written in the fourteenth century, and am currently reading The Once and Future King by T.H. White, which is a retelling of the Arthurian legends. I also like to read about the Celts, but I haven’t read a lot about them so I hope someone can recommend something to me. I would certainly suggest reading Ellen Evert Hopman’s books, Priestess of the ForestThe Druid’s Isle, and Priestess of The Fire Temple because they are interesting but also very informative.

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I also like the beginning of the 19th century (Mary Shelley, Bronte sisters etc.) and modern books which take place in the Victorian era.

3. Favourite fairy tale:

Probably Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, though it makes me so sad… I have a soft spot for animals.

4. What is the most embarrassing classic you haven’t read yet:

I wish I’ve read more Dickens, I’ve only read Oliver Twist and Great Expectations so far. I must admit I’m not really drawn to Dickens’ novels… But I’m most embarrassed that I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 because I’m sure I would love it. The thing is, I grew up with different classics here in Croatia, a lot of Russian and French literature, so I haven’t read as many American and English classics as people form English-speaking countries have. I studied English in college though, so I caught up with a lot of them, but I feel that the modern classics weren’t mentioned a lot, and I’m trying to read them as I feel I really should, considering my education. Oh, and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, that’s something I definitely should’ve read by now!

5. Top 5 classics you would like to read soon:

Well, Fahrenheit 451 and Lolita for sure, The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens because I think I might enjoy this one, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut because I liked the other two of his books that I’ve read, and Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates because I’ve heard great things about it.

6. Favourite modern book/series based on a classic:

I’m not really sure I know one, so I’m going to cheat a little on this one. Terry Pratchett’s books are quite intertextual, so Wyrd Sisters has a lot of references to Shakespeare, while Witches Abroad references fairy tales.

7. Favourite movie version/tv-series based on a classic:

BBC series are always good, but everybody knows that. I liked the first season of Penny Dreadful, a series that features all the most famous horror characters – characters from Dracula, Dorian Gray, Victor Frankenstein and his Creature etc. But the second season is not that interesting I have to say…

And I would like to add something, as the question about fairy tales reminded me of Disney, I have to say that I love Tangled and The Emperor’s New Groove! Oh, The Emperor’s New Groove, only watching the trailer makes me feel so happy! 🙂

8. Worst classic to movie adaptation:

There was never a good Frankenstein… I liked how the creature was portrayed in Penny Dreadful, though.

9. Favourite editions you’d like to collect more classics from:

I have to say that I like my simple black Penguin Classics, white Penguin Modern Classics and Oxford Classics. All of these are beautiful in their simplicity, and I actually prefer paperbacks because I find them more practical. And I do like how these editions look an the shelves. In an ideal world, I would collect the Barns and Noble classics which are just too pretty, though quite huge and I guess hard to read from… But I would just look at them and enjoy. XD

10. An underhyped classic you would recommend to everyone:

I’m not sure if it’s underhyped, but I don’t see a lot of people talking about it – The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I really loved this novel. I would also recommend The Decameron, which I’ve already mentioned, especially if you’re interested in the middle ages and the Italian Renaissance. It’s basically a collection of short stories sou you can’t always pick and chose a few if you don’t want to read it whole.the age of innocence

EDIT: How could I forget The Song of the Nibelungs! Shame on me, because it’s great – a medieval German saga about the hero Siegfried in which Siegfried is not really the main character… Lovely 🙂

Does anyone want to do this tag? Feel free to do it! 🙂