Late (For) Tea

Month: March, 2016

The Giver by Lois Lowry – Review

Two days before his Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas feels ‘apprehensive’. Fear, like love and pain, are feelings unknown to the dwellers of Jonas’ seemingly perfect community. Jonas’ apprehension therefore causes his parents to worry. Moreover, he starts experiencing what seems like hallucinations. At the day of the ceremony, the Elders decide the young boy will be the community’s next Receiver of Memory, which is one of the most important jobs in the community. The Giver, an old man with a noticeable white beard, is responsible for transferring memories to young Jonas, which he does through touch. Consequently, Jonas learns that there is more to life than what the community’s been led to believe.

In The Giver, Lois Lowry creates an intriguing utopian-dystopian world that keeps you reading. From the moment the inhabitants of this world are born, they are being observed and studied by the Elders, who rule the community and keep order by giving passive-aggressive instructions through giant loud speakers. The Ceremony of Twelve is the most important event in a young dweller’s life as they’re being assigned to their jobs. Sexuality (“stirrings”) is repressed with pills. The people in the community don’t get to pick their spouses; the perfect spouse – like the perfect job – is picked for them by the Elders. Each couple has to adopt two children, a boy and a girl. Since couples don’t have intercourse but merely exist to work and rear the next generation of people, these children are born by Birthmothers. The elderly, who have become useless to the community, are released. So are those dwellers that are disobedient or fail to do their jobs properly. It’s not a secret that “release” stands for execution or euthanasia. However, for a strange reason nobody in the community understands what release actually means. They don’t even understand what death means, which I find hard to believe.

The main issue I had with this novel was its inconsistency. There are a variety of sci-fi elements built into this story. For instance, Jonas’ world is technologically advanced enough to control climate and produce pills that suppress sexual feelings. However, Lowry then abruptly jumps to the fantastical by introducing magic into the story. Wanting the reader to suspend disbelief is tricky and Lowry fails at it. I’m usually rather fond of writers mixing different genres but it does not work well enough in The Giver. There are too many plot holes in this novel and they are downright annoying. Leaving certain plot points open-ended can be a useful tool to create suspense, but in The Giver it looks like Lowry didn’t care enough to develop a number of rather significant ideas. For example, Jonas’ gift is never truly explained. How come some dwellers have this gift and others don’t? The way memories work is not explained either. How come Jonas can experience physical and emotional pain through memories? Lowry establishes that colour exists within the community. Jonas’ friend Fiona has blazing red hair. However, the people in the community are not able to see or perceive colour. How does that work? Lowry suggests that they cannot perceive colours because they don’t know the words for colours. She uses the same explanation for other concepts, like love. Her representation of the way language works is a gross misrepresentation. George Orwell’s obsession with language in 1984 was clearly an inspiration for Lowry. I don’t have a problem with that per se, but Orwell’s language determinism is outdated. I won’t get into this too much now, but there are various indications that language mirrors society, instead of exerting control over it.

Unfortunately, I can only give this novel a rating of 2.5 out of 5*. The innumerable plot holes, the somewhat boring characterisation and a completely irrational ending made this a gruelling read for me. I have no doubt in my mind, however, that most young people will probably enjoy this novel. It’s decent enough to serve as a light introduction to the utopia-dystopia genre.

Where to get this book:
The Giver (The Giver, #1)
The Book Depository (free delivery worldwide)
Barnes & Noble
BookFinder
AbeBooks

Advertisements

10 Ways to Get Back into Reading Books Again

While you were dusting your book shelf the other day, you saw a book you bought years ago when you were on holiday, but never actually read. Suddenly you start wondering about the last book you read, because you can’t quite remember what it was about. You kind of miss reading. You start books but never seem to finish them because you’re busy or not motivated enough to read. Maybe you cannot afford to buy books. You don’t know how to go about re-discovering your love and passion for reading books. Here’s a list of ten things you could do to develop a reading habit again.

  1. Read before going to sleep

Reading for half an hour every day before going to sleep is more than you might think. Not only will it help you get back into a reading habit, it can also help you relax. (It depends on what you read, obviously.)

  1. Read on public transport

Whether it’s on your daily thirty-minute commute or you’re on a twelve-hour flight, bring a book or an eReader. It will make time pass more quickly and your journey more interesting.

  1. Give Netflix a break

I know, I know. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. Sometimes watching one or two episodes of your favourite series seems more appealing than reading a book. Yet, books can be very entertaining too, even if it does require your brain to work a little harder.

  1. Start a smart phone diet

Smart phones are one of the greatest technological inventions of our time. I love how convenient they are. Yet, sometimes I feel like my phone takes control of my brain. I’ve caught myself more than once scrolling through Instagram for hours, leaving me feeling unaccomplished and bored. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much reading you can get done if you pick up a book every time you feel the urge to look at your phone.

  1. Organise a Read-a-thon

Read-a-thons are a great way to start reading that one book that’s been waiting for you patiently, rotting away on your book shelf for forty-eight months. Reading can be a lonely endeavour. You could make a read-a-thon more social by inviting friends to read for a couple of hours. Get some snacks, drinks and cosy blankets. Read for a set amount of time, then talk about what you’ve just read and share your thoughts. You can also organise a virtual read-a-thon.

2o4dgfj1y5

Photo: Anthony Delanoix/snap.io

  1. Set small goals

You’ve always wanted to read The Lord of the Rings because it seems that everyone’s read it, except you. However, reading The Lord of the Rings also means you’ll have to read quite a few pages, making it an overwhelming task for some. Set small goals for longer reads. Try and read a chapter a week or ten pages a day. You could also read longer novels on an eReader. Sometimes it’s the visual bulkiness of a book that makes us put off reading in the first place.

  1. Join GoodReads

I’ve been a GoodReads member since 2009 and I’ve been using it regularly ever since. It gave me a fierce hunger for books again, because it made me realise how many great adventures I was missing out on by not reading regularly. GoodReads allows you to show your friends how your reading is going, which is a good incentive. It also has an annual Reading Challenge. You can set a goal of how many books you’d like to read in the course of a year. The website will tell you when and by how many books you’re behind (or ahead) on your goal.

  1. Join your local library

Books are expensive. If money is the main reason you’re not reading anymore, join a library. Whenever I’m in a library I feel like reading. I love looking at books, smelling them, touching them, and being surrounded by hundreds and thousands of them. Libraries can also be a great place to relax if you’ve had a stressful day. They tend to be quiet and less busy than other places, like coffee shops, for instance.

  1. Listen to audiobooks

You want to read this one book but somehow can’t seem to fit enough time into your schedule to get it done. At the end of the day you’re often too tired to read and reading on public transport makes you ill. Luckily, we live in a wonderful world that makes it possible for you to have someone read a book to you. You can do laundry, cook dinner, wash dishes, etc. and listen to an audiobook at the same time. I had Roald Dahl’s Matilda read to me by Kate Winslet and it was such a joyful experience. Listening to audiobooks will take you a lot longer than reading the book yourself, but it’s definitely worth it if you don’t have the time or patience to read.

  1. Download free ebooks.

If you don’t feel like joining the local library or you simply don’t have access to one, don’t despair. The Gutenberg Project gives you access to over 50,000 ebooks for free. Due to copyright reasons, you won’t find any contemporary books on there, but you can legally download classics like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. They also offer ebooks in different languages. Literature.org and Bartleby also offer classic works for free.

Happy International Women’s Day!

A Mother’s Reckoning – Review

On 20th April, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went to school with the intention to kill. They murdered thirteen people – twelve students and a teacher – and injured twenty-four. Eventually, the two perpetrators turned their guns against themselves and committed suicide. Eric and Dylan had intended to take many more lives. However, the pipe bombs the boys had built and brought to Columbine High School fortunately failed to detonate. The Columbine massacre shocked the world. Speculations on the reasons why these teenage boys decided to commit such a heinous crime began circulating soon after the shooting. There was talk about bullying, violent video games, and bad parenting. Not being able to get an explanation from the two dead teenagers, the media and families of the victims did not take long to turn against Eric and Dylan’s parents. They were blamed for failing to see their sons’ intentions and to prevent the massacre.

Next April, it will be seventeen years since this tragedy unfolded. Unfortunately, Columbine wasn’t an isolated incident. There was Virginia Tech in 2007, which claimed thirty-three lives. In 2012, the Sandy Hook shooting left twenty-eight dead. These are only the most “high-profile” school shootings. There were so many more. In each of the shootings I’ve just mentioned, the perpetrators – like Eric and Dylan – committed suicide. Nobody could deny the shooters in these cases were deeply troubled kids.

After all these years, Sue Klebold – Dylan Klebold’s mother – made the decision to write about her son and her shattered life after the shooting by publishing A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy.

201602-orig-susan-klebold-949x534

Sue Klebold writes about the Dylan she reared and loved. She writes about the son she knew before the massacre. She explains how she clings to the image of her son as her “sunshine boy,” rather than the cold-blooded mass murderer. She includes pictures of Dylan looking like any ordinary, happy and loved child. The pictures are particularly heart-wrenching and I understand how difficult it must have been for Klebold to wrap her head around the unspeakable crime her son committed. Even after seventeen years, it appears that Klebold is still struggling to write about him. Her writing is disjointed, repetitive. It underlines the sheer impossibility to write clearly about such an emotionally complex subject.  It highlights the guilt she still feels after all these years and her distraught desire to atone for her son’s crime. Her book left me wondering how anyone could have blamed the parents for not being able to read their sons’ minds like an open book. No parent truly can, which is the point Klebold eventually makes. Depressed teenagers are often experts at hiding their anguish from those who are closest to them. I commend Klebold for sharing what she’s learned about mental health and her attempt to educate her readers about suicide. She doesn’t deny the damage her son has caused but very bravely admits that she still loves him despite the pain and chaos he left behind.

A Mother’s Reckoning is a troubling read, which makes you wonder whether you truly know those who are closest to you. It will make you thoughtful and sad. I’m grateful Sue Klebold wrote this book and shared her pain. There are many things to be learned from this text and I can only recommend it to anyone who’s interested in learning more about mental health, Dylan Klebold’s short life and how Sue Klebold deals with being the mother of a dead teenager, who forever will be remembered by the public as a mass murderer.

This book was published by Crown on 15th February 2016.

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy

Where to get this book:

The Book Depository (free delivery worldwide)
Barnes & Noble
BookFinder
AbeBooks

Our Shared Shelf: A Feminist Book Club

Ever since British actor Emma Watson appeared in the Harry Potter films as Hermione Granger, I have always felt connected to her. We are both women. We were born in the same year. We seem to like the same things, we have similar ambitions. Emma has been in the public eye for a long time now. I respect her most for using her influence to try and make a difference in the world, rather than merely focusing on her career as an actor. She understands and acknowledges her privilege as a wealthy, white woman. She understands what it means to be a feminist, and – most importantly – she is not afraid to identify as one. (Thank you, Emma!)

16839150509_a88bcfcb28_b

Photo from tricks ware on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

My admiration for her has only grown since she’s become a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and a more than adequate representative for the HeforShe campaign. In a recent article for Paper magazine, Emma revealed to American writer and feminist bell hooks that she’s taking a year off from acting to focus on “personal development” by doing a lot of reading and listening. As a result she created a feminist book club called Our Shared Shelf on GoodReads in January this year, which seeks to motivate members to discuss and learn from the club’s selected feminist works. The first book the group members analysed was Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road. It was followed by Alice Walker’s The Color Purple in February and this month is dedicated to bell hooks’ All About Love: New Visions.

If you are an Emma Watson fan, you love reading and/or you’re simply interested in feminism, I would urge you to create a GoodReads account (if you haven’t done so already) and join the book club. I’ve had a GoodReads account for a few years now because I love the idea of a social media platform which focuses on books. There are many different online book clubs on GoodReads and I’ve joined a handful of them in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, they always failed to engage me on a meaningful level. I wanted to have more complex discussions than “I liked the book because…” or “I hated it because…,” which probably stems from being a literature graduate. I am excited to see that Emma’s book club appears to be much more engaging. It attracts so many feminist book lovers from all over the world. I also appreciate that Emma tries to get interviews with some of these wonderful writers. A couple of days ago, for instance, she shared an interesting conversation she had with Gloria Steinem. It’s a great talk and you should take some time to watch it, even if you have no idea who Gloria Steinem is.

I haven’t read any of the suggested books yet as I have only recently discovered the club. However, today I ordered hooks’ All About Love and hopefully I will be able to join the discussion sooner rather than later. I encourage you to do the same and I really hope I’ll see/read you there. Happy reading!