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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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RATING: 5/5

BLURB: “Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers…”

REVIEW: This is without doubt the best book I have read in a long time. ‘Rebecca’ gripped me from that infamous first line (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”) right until its abrupt and shocking end. The fact that the main character remains nameless only serves to make her experiences more personal to the reader; we feel as though we are the protagonist, suffering agonies over trying to live up to the everlasting reputation of the daring Rebecca, reportedly killed in a drowning accident. It also makes the fear the reader feels of the terrifying housekeeper Mrs Danvers all the more real – although not violent in any way, her psychological manipulation of the protagonist’s feelings and her ongoing campaign of victimisation is enough to send chills up the spine of the reader, particularly when she attempts to encourage the protagonist to commit suicide. I cannot speak much further of the book, because the plot twists are phenomenal and left me surprised and excited at every turn. I felt as though I could hardly breathe until I’d finished the novel, and even though that was a few days ago now, the story has stayed with me – the hallmark of a truly great book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

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Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

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RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “Elinor Dashwood, an architecture student, values patience and reliability. Her impulsive sister, Marianne, takes after their mother Belle and is fiery and creative, filling the house with her dramas and guitar playing, while dreaming of going to art school. But when their father, Henry Dashwood, dies suddenly his whole family finds itself forced out of Norland Park, their beloved home of twenty years. Without the comfort of status, their values are severely put to the test. Can Elinor remain stoic and restrained knowing that the man she really likes has already been ensnared by another girl? Will Marianne’s faith in a one and only lifetime love be shaken by meeting the hottest boy in the county, John Willoughby? And in a world where social media and its opinions are the controlling forces at play, can love ever triumph over conventions and disapproval?”

REVIEW: Although as an Austen fan I would highly recommend reading the original classic ‘Sense and Sensibility’ before going out to purchase this novel, this book was an absolute joy to read. The writing is fun and light-hearted and transfers the story very smoothly to the modern day. The beloved characters of Elinor and Marianne retain the fundamental characteristics that made them so successful in Austen’s original, but also have new traits that make them more relatable to the modern reader. Although sometimes Trollope’s efforts to bring the tale into the modern world – for example, her frequent mentions of social media like facebook and twitter – sometimes seemed forced, the book overall was great fun to read and the characters of Marianne and Elinor made so truly likeable that the reader simply can’t help caring for them! I would definitely recommend this to fans of Jane Austen, chick-lit and romance.

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.”

–          REVIEW: I will admit at once that I expected quite a lot from this book. Given its reputation as a literary classic, I was greatly looking forward to seeing how Bradbury pictured the possible future of our world. I understand why, in terms of the writing skill, this novel is so well renowned. Bradbury’s writing is fluid, so fast-paced that there is no other way to read it other than at your top speed. Somehow, this makes the dystopian world that Montag occupies even more terrifying; we feel as though we are running with him, desperate from escape just like he is. The metaphorical nature of Bradbury’s writing is also quite astonishing. In the introduction to this edition of the book, he describes how, when he sat down to write this novel, he had no idea what he was doing – upon reading it, it is hard to believe that anyone could have such a brilliantly natural and instinctive talent for writing as he does, and not know about it. 

I do, however, have some issues with the plot itself. I do understand, as a writer, the need for leaving loose ends at the end of a novel. In this case, however, I felt that there were so many loose ends that the conclusion of the novel was simply unsatisfying. The removal of Clarisse from the story (which even Bradbury concedes was a mistake) takes away one of the most intriguing and engaging characters I have ever read of, and, at least for me, actually ruined the story. Montag’s relationship with his wife Mildred also has a highly unsatisfactory conclusion, and the cliffhanger of an ending leaves the reader feeling as though they’ve run a marathon and not even been given a bottle of water to cool down at the end of it.

I would still recommend the book to book lovers and fans of dystopian fiction, who would probably find Bradbury’s distressing portrayal of the future a fascinating and intricate read.

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How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “When Elizabeth Hotchkiss stumbles upon a copy of HOW TO MARRY A MARQUIS in her employer’s library, she’s convinced someone is playing a cruel joke. With three younger siblings to support, she knows she has to marry for money, but who might have guessed how desperate she’s become? A guidebook to seduction might be just the thing she needs – and what harm could there be in taking a little peek?

James Sidwell, the Marquis of Riverdale, has been summoned to rescue his aunt from a blackmailer, a task that requires him to pose as the new estate manager, and his primary suspect is his aunt’s companion, Elizabeth. Intrigued by the alluring young woman with the curious little rulebook, he gallantly offers to help her find a husband … by practicing her wiles on him. But when practise becomes all too perfect, James decides that there is only one rule worth following – that Elizabeth marry her marquis.”

REVIEW: It isn’t very often that I read light, fluffy books – as any of you who have followed this blog for a while may be able to tell. But this was without doubt the best romance I have read in quite some time. I smiled pretty much the whole way through, even at the parts when it looked like Elizabeth and James would never work out that they were meant to be together, simply because I knew I was guaranteed a happy ending. I finished the book easily within a couple of hours and it really eased the stress I was feeling at the time. Elizabeth is truly reminiscent of an Austen heroine – funny, witty and with just the right touch of awkwardness and clumsiness to make her truly loveable, the reader truly grows to care for Elizabeth and admire her determination to care for her younger siblings despite their poverty. James, too, is very much like an Austen male, being particularly similar to Mr Darcy, and he is definitely very easy to fall in love with – the reader can certainly empathise with Elizabeth there! My favourite character, however, has to be Lady Danbury. Funny and feisty, Lady Danbury pushes the couple together at every opportunity and her witty one-liners often made me laugh aloud while reading! Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am planning on reading it again very soon in order to de-stress from my exams…I would recommend it highly to fans of Austen and fans of chick-lit. 

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Charles Dickens Museum

I apologise for the lack of book reviews lately – what with revision and exams I’ve had no time to type up any semblance of a decent review! I have kept a catalogue of the books I’ve read and my thoughts on them though, so don’t worry, I’ll be able to pick up where I left off! Just thought I’d give you a slightly different something to look at today as I don’t really have time to type up a full review, and here it is; a post about the lovely Charles Dickens Museum.

I went to the museum a few weeks ago and just had to share it with my fellow fans of literature. Located on Doughty Street in central London, the Charles Dickens Museum is based in the house Dickens lived in when he wrote Oliver Twist and the Pickwick Papers. It has been beautifully refurbished and contains many beautiful original artefacts from Dickens’ time there, such as his writing desk and a lock of his hair. The rooms are filled with not only wonderful objects to admire but are also full of fascinating facts that even a huge Dickens fan like myself had not previously been aware of. It’s easy to locate and can be reached from numerous tube stations on the London Underground – we went from King’s Cross but places like Russell Square and Holborn would probably be a bit closer. The shop also had lots of fun, quirky products that would make gifts or treats to yourself. Just to give you a taster, here are some photos I took while I was at the museum 🙂

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The top two photos were taken in my favourite room; it was great fun to test myself and see if I could remember where all the quote came from! The small Victorian tea room that we went to for lunch after our lunch was also lovely, and the food delicious despite it being a little bit pricey. Here’s a link to the website for more information: http://www.dickensmuseum.com/

Enjoy your trip! And keep an eagle eye for more book reviews coming soon – exams are over in two weeks!