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. ๐Ÿ™‚


โ€œThis Is My Genre, Tell Me Yoursโ€ Book Tag

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Today is a perfect day for a fun tag! Ellie at Blogging for Dopamineย tagged me fo the This Is My Genre, Tell Me Yours book tag and she really made me think… I wasn’t even sure what my favourite genre was! XD Thank you, Ellie, so much for the tag! โค

First things first, here are the rules:

  • Credit ย Drew @ TheTattooedBookGeekย as the creator of the tag, use the created tag name graphic and link back to hisย blog. (Also, if you want to learn more about the tag you can see Drew’s post HERE.)
  • Answer the questions.
  • Tag as many people as you want.

And now, let’s get to the questions!

1. What is your favourite genre?

So, in the end, I decided that my favourite genre is Gothic fiction, in all of its different shapes and forms. From the Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, published in 1764, the classics such as Samuel Talylor Coleridge, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and many others, through books that are only slightly gothic (like my beloved Wuthering Heightsย or most of Daphne du Maurier’s books) to some modern takes on the genre. This is the genre from which some amazing characters were born, characters we never stop talking about – Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera, Carmilla, Dorian Gray, Jekyll and Hyde… It’s characterised by creepy atmosphere, old castles, dark woods, and often with some paranormal occurences (though not always). It is also the genre that gave us horror fiction. What’s not to love?

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2. Who is your favourite author from the genre?

Another hard decision! XD When it comes to Gothic classics, then it has to be Mary Shelley. I’ve talked so many times about my love for her and her writing, so I don’t want to repeat myself, but she is my queen! And my other, modern, queen is Anne Rice. She introduced me to the vampire lore and I’ve never stopped being intrigued by it.

3. What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?

Mostly, it’s the atmosphere. I think Gothic fiction is the most atmospheric of all fiction. It’s dark and mysterious, beautiful and desciptive, but also creepy and un-put-downable. (Is that a word? Now it is.) And there are just so many possibilities! Many Gothic stories use some folkloric elements and make them their own, which is very interesting to me. I like seeing how different authors interpret similar ideas.

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4. What is the book that started your love for the genre?

Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles – the first three in the series are soooo amazing and I love them to death. Lestat is one of my favourite fictional characters. After reading Anne Rice’s books when I was about 14, I just had to read Dracula and that’s how my little obsession started.

5. If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?

If that person wants to start with Gothic classics, then I’d recommedย Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Those are my favourites. (I think everyone should read Frankenstein, even if they’re not interested in Gothic fiction, to be honest;)) If the person wants to start with something modern, then Anne Rice, of course. Or Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I think his books are approachable to (and loved by) the people who are not fans of the Gothic genre as well as those who are.

6. Why do you read?

Because that’s how I have fun! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve always loved stories, and even before I could read, my parents read to me. My father sometimes even made up stories. I learned to love reading from an early age and my love for books only grew from there. I read to have fun, yes, but I also read to learn, to feel, to be intrigued, to have my thoughts provoked, and even to cry. ๐Ÿ™‚

And in the end, I tag these lovely people: Misty@mistysbookspace,ย Matxi@matxibooks, Sophie@blameitonchocolate, Anna@itsmybirthwrite,ย Caffeinated Bibliophileย and Elena@elenasquareeyes.

Happy blogging! ๐Ÿ™‚


First two pictures are from pixabay.com, the other two are mine.