Black No More – George S Schuyer

51Ql++yQzJL._AC_US436_QL65_This is a book which asks, ‘What if …?’. That is, what if someone invented a machine to turn black skin white and then the whole of the Black population in the US underwent the procedure? Black No More is set in 1931 when being white meant better jobs, education and opportunities. There is much documentation of people at the time ‘passing’ as white for these reasons. I recently read and reviewed Passing by Nella Larsen

As I suspected this is a ‘the grass is always greener’ book and the reality of human nature is that we seem to need to feel superior to others. Meaning that even when the country is all white, we are not happy and discrimination doesn’t disappear. In fact, the population continues to look for differences and to discriminate against others for these. I think the book is trying to say that colour is not the core issue here, the problem is that we need to change our attitudes and accept that deep down we are all the same. In the same way that young children don’t see colour or race.

The book is a satire so when Max joins the equivalent of the KKK and then carries out his money-making and power hungry schemes, we need to take it all with a pinch of salt. The book is of its time, the references to white supremacy are uncomfortable reading nowadays. All in all the book highlights how wrong racism is and interestingly how it is manipulated by those in power to gain control. I would recommend it but what it makes you think about is much more interesting that the actual plot.

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Library Loot – September 12 to 18

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they have checked out from the library.

I really need to stop myself, I can’t pass the library or a charity shop by without picking up some more books. I have no idea when I am going to read all these books but even still, I can’t stop. Having said that at least it is healthier than picking up doughnuts every time I pass the bakers. This is what I found in the library this week:

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Wild – Cheryl Strayed. I’m sure this book was extremely popular several years ago when Oprah Winfrey chose it for her book group. It is the tale of a woman finding and saving herself by walking a large chunk of the American West Coast.

 

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A line made by Walking – Sara Baume. This is about a woman who is struggling to cope with modern life and takes herself away to her grandmother’s rural bungalow. What is interesting about this book is that whilst there she takes photographs of dead animals and these are in the book as a form of art and coming to terms with grief.

 

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Herland and the Yellow Wallpaper -Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I have already read The Yellow Wallpaper, which is a fantastic depiction of a woman’s downward spiral into madness. Herland is a Utopian Feminist novel, can’t wait to see what that is like.

 

 

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The Unicorn – Iris Murdoch. Mercedes recently hauled this novel on her book tube channel and I really liked the sound of it. So when I saw it, it got added to the pile.

 

 

 

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The Hotel – Elizabeth Bowen. This takes place on the Italian Riviera in the 1920’s. I don’t need to say anymore. That sounds perfect to me.

 

 

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The Revolution of the Moon – Andrea Camilleri. This is based on the true story of Eleanora De Moura who in 1677 became Marquise of Palmero after succeeding her husband on his deathbed. She only lasted one month (i.e. the revolution of the moon) before she was recalled to Spain.  It has been on my Amazon Wishlist for several months so I was thrilled to find it on the library shelf.

 

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CoDex 1962 – Sjon. Once again this is a recommendation from a booktuber. Simon of Savidge Reads, who also writes a blog. This has been described as an epic novel and a work of great ambition.

 

 

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Black No More – George S Schuyler. I have started reading this one because it has such an fascinating subject. It is 1933 and a Dr Junius Crookman has discovered a process which turns black skin white. The novel follows Max Disher, a young black man, who one of the first to undergo the process in New York and what happens to him whilst the rest of the black population turns white too.

A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness – Sky Drama Series

41qe6sL51GL._AC_US436_QL65_I must admit I was quite excited about this this morning. I read Harkness’s novel a while ago and although I can’t really remember a lot of details, I do remember that I raced through it and enjoyed the magic, vampires and pure escapism of it. It was a good read but I didn’t then go on to read the next two books in the trilogy probably because they hadn’t been written yet and I had moved on to other things by the time they were.

Anyway, Sky have made a mini series of A Discovery of Witches and the Radio Times have the first episode on their website to watch completely free – find it here.

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I started watching it this morning and now I am completely hooked. I actually think it may be better than the book. Matthew Goode is brilliant as the Vampire and visually it is perfect. Just one problem, we don’t have Sky so if anybody would like to invite me round to watch the next episode that would be great!

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

518riWYfbgL._AC_US436_QL65_Sarah Waters is definitely one of my favourite authors. I can’t forget how she completely caught me with the twist in Fingersmith,  I never saw it coming and that is unusual. Tipping the velvet, Nightwatch and The Little Stranger are also fantastic books and I am currently debating whether to go see the film version of The Little Stranger. I bet it’s a great film but will it live up to the book and the eerie house I have imagined?

The Paying Guests is Waters’ last book to be published and I have held onto it for a while before reading it. Here Waters has expertly recreated a time period i.e. 1920s. The details are perfect and the atmosphere feels authentic, however, this book weighs in at nearly 600 pages and I’m afraid to say it is easily 200 too many. There are two distinct parts of the book where the plot stalls and we plod along in Frances’ and Lilian’s lives. Once in the middle of the book and then again close to the end and since the book is a primarily a mystery and a bit of a thriller; we need more pace.

In addition, the love story in the book which doesn’t feel real to me. I can’t place my finger on it exactly but there is a hollow feeling to it, or maybe that is what Waters intended? They go through a huge ordeal, and for what? A ghost of a relationship.

Although I have criticised The Paying Guests, it is only because of how good Waters’  previous books are. This is still a good book and I enjoyed it but a little more editing was required. More importantly, I can’t wait until Waters writes another. I will be first in line for it as always.

The Monsters We Deserve – Marcus Sedgwick

41Ti7dwtvfL._AC_US436_QL65_I was lucky enough to see Marcus Sedgwick and Dr Sam George of the University of Hertfordshire battle it out last week as to which book was superior, Frankenstein or Dracula. Both are very entertaining speakers and it was fun.

The reason for the debate was the publication of Sedgwick’s new book, The Monsters We Deserve and naturally enough I picked up a copy on the night. Which I have now finished and been surprised by. It wasn’t quite what I expected. I expected a horror tale, a rewriting of Mary Shelley’s back story about how Frankenstein was written. Instead this book was the tale of a writer (possibly a fictionalised Sedgwick) trying to finish writing a book in a chalet on the Swiss alps, with some suspense, horror  and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein thrown in for good measure.

Sedgwick’s writing is excellent, he draws you into the story completely and writes intelligently. The background information of Mary Shelley’s life and her book is fascinating. I loved the gradual build up of uncertainty and the feeling that something is not quite right in the narrator’s chalet, however, Sedgwick then introduces a character which, for me, took away from the potential horror story. The fictional author then spends time talking to this character and here the book felt a little too introspective for me. The message in the book, to be careful of your actions (what you create) because we get the monsters we deserve is interesting and there are many things to ponder on, resulting in a book which is going to stay with me and makes me want to read both the 1818 and 1831 editions of Frankenstein.  

Credit should also be given for the cover design, it is very striking and stands out on the shelves. I reckon I have discovered a new writer (to me) and can’t wait to read more of Sedgwick’s books, of which there are many.

Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie

512vinl8sPL._AC_US436_QL65_Home Fire is the re-telling of the Greek tragedy of Antigone, set in modern day Britain. It deals with radicalisation, ISIS and strong family ties. I read this book for my book group and I’m going to be honest and say that I knew of it already but hadn’t rushed to buy it. It felt like one I should read because it touched on important subject matters but it wasn’t one that grabbed me immediately.

How wrong was I? Very, apparently. This book is a fantastic re-telling of Antigone but I do warn you, if you don’t know the story of the Greek play, don’t read Wikipedia until you’ve finished the book! It will spoil the ending and even the names of the characters are very similar.

The book is told with each section from the viewpoint of a different character. Which gradually builds our understanding of their reasoning and actions. But what I liked the most was the way Shamsie cleverly caught the melodrama, family betrayal and politics of a Greek myth and made it relevant for today. She carefully handles very emotive subjects and made me rethink some of my views.

As you can tell, I’m not spoiling the plot for you, you need to read this book for yourself and enjoy it for the expert storytelling and important message it imparts.

Passing – Nella Larsen

51B9E5A-kCL._AC_US436_QL65_My absolute favourite period of literature is the Modernist period. This is normally from 1890 to 1939 and includes works from those such as Virginia Woolf, E M Forster, Jean Rhys and Katherine Mansfield, who were pushing the boundaries and writing new and experimental literature, whether in style or subject matter.  There is something about that period which society today mirrors; the world was changing quickly due to new technology, our lives became faster and busier, and as such we felt lost and needed to find our sense of self.

Passing is a novella written in the 1920’s and is about a black woman  (Clare) who is passing herself off as white. She is even married to a white man who despises black people and is completely unaware who he is married to. The narrator of the book is Irene, Clare’s friend,  she does not approve of what Clare is doing and doesn’t want to be involved with her but somehow falls under her spell in the same way that everybody else does. The concept of the book is fascinating and I completely sided with Irene but can understand that, at the time, the benefits of ‘Passing’ included improved social acceptance, better access to education and more availability of jobs. During the Harlem Renaissance when this book is set, this practice was more common than I realised and there is another example of it in Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a book I absolutely loved and will review once we have covered it in class.

The ending really appealed to me and I liked Irene even more than I should have, but I got to the end and thought,  ‘I’ve read this before’, proving the ending is memorable but maybe not the rest of the book! Passing is a fable or even a warning to those willing to give up their identity and disown their heritage. It is a perfect little snapshot of my favourite literary period and I want to put some more research into this subject matter.  I really hope I can do this in the future.