The Outward Urge

Title: The Outward Urge

Author: John Wyndham

Summary: The ‘outward urge’ was a factor in the Troon inheritance. Successive generations of Troons, looking up at the stars, heard the siren voices that called them out into space. And, as the frontiers of space receded, there was usually one Troon, if not more, out there, helping to push them back.

The five exciting episodes related here deal with the parts they played in the building of the Space Station, the occupation of the Moon, the first landing on Mars, and the trouble about Venus and the asteroids.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: John Wyndham is one of my favourite authors. My absolute favourite, if you ask me on decisive day. I even recently got a John Wyndham inspired tattoo ♥ I’ve not read all his books yet; i’m taking them slowly, because there are only a finite number. It’s been a while now, though, so i thought i’d pick this one up.

This book has five stories set across 200 years, linked by the development and exploration of space, as well as by the Troon family. It is common for Troons to have the ‘outward urge’–that is, to explore space, to go further, to know what else there is out there. And so the Troons are at the forefront of every spaceward progression these stories explore. The first British space station, the first landing on the moon, the first Mars landing, the first Venus landing… I love that Wyndham uses a family to connect the stories. They are more intrinsically linked this way, yet still independent, with so much time passing between them.

The first story had me sobbing by the end of it, despite the fact it was pretty clear what was going to come. For the first story to hit me like that left me already so invested in the rest. I love that while we meet the first Troon, heading to help build the space station, he is a young man, but when we meet his moon station commander son in the second story, he is 50 years old. It’s so clearly not the same story or character development in each chapter; they each have their own heart and meaning. I loved them all, but the first and the last were stand out for me. The Mars landing was a very close third. Just… they’re all brilliant!

A few stories had some wonderful quotes and meaningful concepts. Wyndham explores that side of science fiction so, so well–the philosophical alongside the technological. I was underlining and dog earring quite a bit, and i love it when a passage strikes me so close to my heart that i have to pause in my reading to take a note of it. One of my favourites was this one:

Odd, he thought, in a kind of parenthesis, that it should need the suspicion of human hostility to reawaken the sense of the greater hostility constantly about them.

I would have given this book five stars in a heartbeat, if it weren’t for one glaring omission. Something that, for Wyndham, is surprising and disappointing. The lack of female characters. Every single Troon in this book, and every single space-bound non-Troon main character is a man. It could be argued that, writing in the 1950s, Wyndham was writing more in line with his era. BUT a) that’s never stopped Wyndham before, and b) the stories are set 40-240 years into the future, give me a god damn spacewoman! So yeah, the omission of decent female characters has irked me, but i also know how bloody good Wyndham is for including wonderful women elsewhere, so i won’t hold a grudge–this time.

In summary, I still love Mr Wyndham, but i’ll need a female-strong book from him next. And to be fair, that wont be for at least six months…

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The Word for World is Forest

Book Review: The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin 3/5 StarsTitle: The Word for World is Forest

Author: Ursula Le Guin

Summary: When the inhabitants of a peaceful world are conquered by the bloodthirsty yumens, they find themselves forced into servitude, at the mercy of their brutal masters. Eventually, desperation causes them to abandon their strictures against violence and rebel against their captors. But in doing so, they have endangered the very foundations of their society. For every blow against the invaders is a blow to the humanity of the Athsheans. And once the killing starts, there is no turning back.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I love Le Guin’s writing, but honestly haven’t read enough of it. I’ve had this book on my to read list since i first read The Dispossessed five years ago. This book had already been next on my to read pile, though it proved timely, coinciding with Le Guin recent and saddening death. The Dispossessed and The Word for World is Forest are the first two books in the Hainish Cycle, and let’s not pretend the third book in the series, Rocannon’s World, isn’t now top of my to buy list. The books aren’t connected by plot or characters, and can be read out of sequence or independently of each other–but chronologically is how i roll.

But this book. This book was interesting and frustrating all at the same time. Set on a world of islands, all completely covered in trees, the human race (as we know it) has arrived, settled, and started a small logging colony. The world and races created and explored here are wonderfully done. The native Athsheans, small and covered in green hair, are Le Guin’s literal ‘little green men’. From the human’s point of view they are a quiet, simple, unintelligent race, barely worth training up for menial tasks such as cooking and cleaning. The Athsheans are actually a lovely, peaceful, extremely clever introspective race who put much stock in dreaming. I found them quite charming.

Our three main characters are two humans–the selfish, egotistical, and cruel Davidson, and the reserved, observant, and kindhearted Lyubov–and one Athshean–the headstrong, confident, visionary Selver. Davidson, as Le Guin acknowledges in her introduction, is 100% the bad guy. He has no redeeming features, and is there solely to cause trouble and be hated. And oh, was he so easy to hate. I hated him unreservedly, and though that was really the point, and i loved to hate him, it also felt hollow and disappointing, to know he was written in that way and for him to have nothing but hate to give or receive. Selver was a smart man, and i don’t blame him for any of the choices he made–he did the best and smartest things he could given the situation, and he handled it marvellously. For someone who acted so emotionally to trauma and loss, he also seemed, on the whole, quite emotionless. Though i wonder if that may be a byproduct of introspection, of dreaming, of knowing oneself–being able to acknowledge your emotions and make conscious decisions rather than gut reactions. Lyubov, though. Lyubov was my favourite. He was the middle man, the one trying to bridge the gap between the humans and the Athsheans, with very few people on either side going along with that. I found him to have the purest heart, the most interesting perspective, and to be the only one not quite sure of himself.

The book is not without problems. Women treated as objects and commodities by the humans and all the main characters being male are two of the biggest. While the Athsheans have a more equal society, it still rubs me the wrong way that women have their assigned gender roles and men have theirs–it’s not fair to anyone. And while the women as sex objects and baby producers in the human society is certainly a negative commentary, it is never discussed or explored enough to be openly critiqued in the story, and i find that a huge blow.

Stand out in the story is the concept of violence and change. How people and societies develop in ways they need to to their surroundings and threats, but how that change is permanent. Although the threat might have passed, the actions taken are irreversible and will shape the development of things forever. It is, like every Le Guin book i have read so far, exceptional world building and exploration of ideas and themes and characters. I can’t wait to read more.

Ariel

Title: Ariel

Author: Sylvia Plath

Summary: Ariel, first published in 1965, contains many of Sylvis Plath’s best-known poems, written in an extraordinary burst of creativity just before her death in 1963. This is the collection on which her reputation as one of the most original and gifted poets of the twentieth century rests.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1.5/5

Review: I’m aware i’m not well-versed in poetry, but i do keep trying. This, however, has been my most unsuccessful attempt yet. What the hell was this?

Plath is so revered as a writer and a poet, the reviews of this collection are flooded with four and five stars. I read The Bell Jar and i loved the prose, the writing style, the depth and emotion. But here, in these poems, i didn’t feel that. I didn’t feel… much of anything, to be honest.

I love the lyricism of poetry, the often ambiguous meaning but a more intense sentiment. I love that they can mean different things to different people, and even different things to the same person at different points in their life. I really enjoy music and lyrics for the same reason. Someone once pointed out to me that songs are poetry set to music, and i’d never considered that before, but i love it.

These poems, though, lacked any kind of lyricism to me. They didn’t flow, they didn’t convey emotional depth or meaning. I felt i needed some sort of key or cipher to translate and understand what i was reading–it read like gibberish! If anything, i felt confused and amused by most of it.

The other does that,
His hair long and plausive,
Bastard
Masturbating a glitter,
He wants to be loved.

…How the hell does one ‘masturbate a glitter’?

Three days. Three nights.
Lemon water, chicken
water, water make me retch

…Is it some kind of terrible cook book?

In eight great bounds, a great scapegoat.
Here is his slipper, here is another,
And here the square of white linen
He wore instead of a hat.
He was sweet

…Yeah, he sounds lovely?

I’m sure in some way, to someone, these poems make sense. The tens of thousands of positive reviews mean i must be one of the few people they don’t make sense to. Alas.

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The Road Through the Wall

Title: The Road Through the Wall

Author: Shirley Jackson

Summary: In Pepper Street, an attractive suburban neighbourhood filled with bullies and egotistical bigots, the feelings of the inhabitants are shallow and selfish: what can a neighbour do to triumph over another neighbour, what may be won from a friend? One child stands alone in her goodness: little Caroline Desmond, kind, sweet and gentle, and the pride of her family. But the malice and self-absorption of the people of Pepper Street lead to a terrible event that will destroy the community of which they are so proud.

Exposing the murderous cruelty of children, and the blindness and selfishness of adults, Shirley Jackson reveals the ugly truth behind a ‘perfect’ world.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: The first Jackson novel i have given less than four stars to. I’m not sure if i’m more disappointed in the book or myself.

It’s classic Jackson. She takes the suburban setting of Pepper Street with its various families, and simply following them in their daily routines shows them as slightly off. Exposing their idiosyncrasies and private relationships in subtle, slowly creepy ways. Children had budding malice, marriages had simmering hatred, families had rivalries and favourites, neighbours had polite distaste, and everyone had secrets.

I simply found, for my tastes, it wasn’t quite creepy enough. I think perhaps the book has not aged well; the concept of secrets and not all being as it seems beneath the surface of happy families is so common these days on TV and in film. The secrets and lies that have been explored and exposed in modern media has been so much more extreme, that Jackson’s attempt here just isn’t shocking.

The plot was minimal; it was much more of a character study with mini stories throughout. I liked this concept, but overall it didn’t leave me with the drive to keep reading. Long chapters with no arc or obvious advancement of the story didn’t help. Although i enjoyed reading when i did, i didn’t think about the book much when i wasn’t reading.

Talking of characters, there are a lot. Almost all were families, with all adults being referenced as “Mr X” or “Mrs Y”. I found it hard to keep track of most of them, relying on context to remember each character’s story and personality, rather than simply their names. It made for a hard slog, and often I’d be halfway through a particular section before realising who it was about and the full meaning of what was happening. There were only a handful of characters i remembered strongly enough by name alone, and for only this reason, they became my favourites. Though, with the nature of the book, i didn’t like any of the characters–and that’s a positive point as far as i’m concerned!

Although this is far from my favourite, it is so quintessentially Jackson. A slow-moving, quiet, unassumingly sinister tale. I would have just liked it to be a little more sinister.

The Invisible Man

timTitle: The Invisible Man

Author: H G Wells

Summary: There are good scientists and there are bad scientists, but Griffin is out on his own. A dazzling mind and a driving ambition have carried him to the very frontiers of modern science, and beyond into territory never before explored. For Griffin has pioneered a new field, the science of invisibility, and dedicated his life to the achievement of a single goal – that of becoming invisible himself.

With such a prize at stake, what sacrifice could be too great? What personal tie would not seem trivial; what ethical scruple not pale into insignificance? Through long, lonely days and nights Griffin has pursued his fantasy of invisibility, yet even as he attains his dream, his nightmare begins…

With undreamt power comes an unimaginable price: out of the ordinary, out of society, out of life – can an invisible man be a man at all?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5

Review: I’ve read two books by Wells before–The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds–one i loved and one i hated. I was nervous about reading another, to say the least. It was my review of the latter where someone recommended The Invisible Man as another i might enjoy, so when i spotted it in a charity shop, i decided to give it a go.

Thankfully, i loved it!

The start had me hooked. Instead of meeting the scientist and discovering how he turns himself invisible, we meet Mrs Hall, the proprietor of an inn, who welcomes her newest lodger. He’s a strange fellow, but she’s friendly and accommodating. Discovering the invisible man along with the entire population of this small town was a delight and a much more interesting way of following the story.

At first i sympathised with the invisible man right alongside Mrs Hall; it was only once he’d had to flee the town and move on that i began to question his tactics and state of mind. By the time he’d stumbled upon Kemp, i was rooting for his downfall.

Talking of Kemp–i adored him; he’s second only to Mrs Hall. His grasp of the entire situation, how to handle it, and how he teased out the back story we were missing was wonderful to read. I feared the worst for him by the last couple of chapters, but i saw it through.

This is perfectly the kind of Wells i want to read more of. There is science, with fudged but sensical enough facts for it make sci-fi sense. But it’s more than just the science. It’s a good story, with interesting characters, well told. So well told! It being self-referencing and omniscient point of view made the reading casual and fun.

I’ve already taken the plunge and bought more Wells. For as disappointing as i found War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and The Invisible Man are brilliant and I wouldn’t hesitate to read more like them. Fingers crossed i pick the right ones!

High Rise

highriseTitle: High Rise

Author: J G Ballard

Summary: Within the concealing walls of an elegant forty-storey tower block, the affluent tenants are hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on ‘enemy’ floors and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for riots and technological mayhem.

In this visionary tale of urban disillusionment society slips into a violent reverse as the isolated inhabitants of the high-rise, driven by primal urges, create a dystopian world ruled by the laws of the jungle.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 2.5/5

Review: I moved this book to the top of my to read pile when i heard about the film, hoping to read the book first and get to see the film at the cinema. There were some delays in getting to the book, but even if the film was still showing, i’m not sure i’d want to bother.

The premise is fascinating. A self-contained society within one multistory block of flats descending into chaos. That’s the kind of story i want to get into the details of, to follow along with as things unravel. Except in this case, that didn’t really happen. The specifics and action surrounding the collapse of the society within the high rise are severely lacking. There are glimpses, but it’s mostly exposition after the fact. The focus is not on the action. Not on what is actually happening or why. The focus is actually one the three main characters. Really, the story is more of a psychological thriller. Instead of detailing the high rise’s decline into dystopia, it follows three men’s descent into varying types of madness.

Spoilers ahead. I can’t talk about how problematic this book is without them, i’m afraid…

There is Royal, the architect of the building, who lives on the top floor and sees himself as above–literally and figuratively–the rest of the residents. This causes him to draw away from his neighbours and isolate himself, instead forming (what he thinks is) a kinship with dogs and birds. There is Wilder, a television producer who lives on the lower floors and is at first keen to make a documentary about the high rise and its self-contained collapse. Over time he becomes obsessed with ascending the building, even abandoning his wife and children to accomplish the feat. There is Laing, a medical professor who lives in the middle of building and mostly just wants to keep to himself. Despite the madness around him, he manages this, pulling his sister in until she’s dependant on him.

The thing is… a story about the fragile egos of three men isn’t fascinating. I didn’t like any of them, honestly. By the end i assumed at least one of them would die, but I wanted all of them to. I just didn’t care about their plights, their mental health, their futures. I just didn’t care.

As male-centric as the bulk of the story is, the end was almost–almost–pretty awesome. While the men have been scrambling about the building, fighting, barricading, protecting… the women have been biding their time, working together and generally getting shit done. BUT, when the focus of the women’s power is centred around caring for children and keeping house i’m left feeling distinctly resentful. Honestly, that’s some pretty dated stereotyping, even for 1975.

Essentially, this was a brilliant idea poorly executed. I had a couple of other Ballard books on my to read list, but i’m seriously going to re-think them. I’m in no rush to read more of his work. I think i will give the film a go, when it comes out on DVD. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually better.

Slaughterhouse Five

S5Title: Slaughterhouse Five

Author: Kurt Vonnegut

Summary: Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centring on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: This was my third Vonnegut novel, and while i’ve enjoyed them all, this was probably my least favourite of the three. Considering the amount of times i laughed out loud, was made to pause and think, and grab my pen to underline quotes… i did thoroughly enjoy this book.

The disjointed non-linear narrative follows the main character, Billy Pilgrim, in his disjointed non-linear leaps through time. We essentially experience the book as he experiences his life. Whether or not Billy really does jump around in time in time is never revealed, and i love the ambiguity in that. I can imagine it being real, but i can also imagine it being a mental health disorder, or something Billy made up for fun. I enjoy aspects of all the possibilities. The same goes for Billy’s belief that he was abducted by aliens.

His alien abduction, whether real, imagined or fabricated, is a key point in Billy’s life. He learns lessons and alters his perception of life due to the influence of the Tralfamadorians, and think it helps him embrace himself, his time travel and his life. He is so laid back about everything, and i appreciate that about him. So many dramatic things happen to him, but he makes none of them dramatic.

I’m thinking too much, now. About all those ambiguous possibilities. I’m putting things together and making them fit in all new ways. I so love books that allow me to do that. To play with the meaning for so long after i finish the book.

This isn’t a book that instantly leaves an impression on the reader, but one that stays with you. It’s crept into my subconscious and will stew there, as i ponder on it more and more. And i’m already changing my mind on this being the Vonnegut i’ve enjoyed the least. Come back to me in a month or two, and i’m sure i’ll have dozens of other things to say about this book. Right now, i’m still mentally digesting it.

The ideas this book has stirred will continue for a good long while, but the book itself is over. So it goes.

This is the eleventh book i’ve read from my Classics Club list.

The BFG

bfgTitle: The BFG

Author: Roald Dahl

Summary: The BFG is a nice and jumbly giant. In fact, he is the only big friendly giant in Giant Country. All the other giants are big bonecrunching brutes, and now the BFG and his friend Sophie must stop them guzzling up little human beans–with some help from Her Majesty the Queen.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: This was, undoubtedly, my favourite book as a child. I remember my mum reading it to me at night. I remember when i had learnt to read, reading it myself. This is the book of my childhood. And one of the films of my childhood, the only real ‘kid’s film’ i remember watching. So many childhood memories wrapped up in this book for me.

And it stands up to the test of adulthood. I still love it. In some ways, i love it even more, in other ways, slightly less. Overall, though, just as much love.

The BFG is fabulous. His way with words is wonderful and hilarious, and i would never get sick of it. I could read his switchfiddling the English language around all day. I also want to introduce the word ‘whizzpop’ into my everyday vocabulary. But aside from the language, the BFG is so effortlessly wise, and despite the communication difficulties, makes himself perfectly and easily understood. The lessons he teaches Sophie–and the reader, if they’re paying attention–about the world are relevant and important beyond the pages of the book. There was one section of several pages that made me stop and smile with how simply he demonstrates the hypocrisy and arrogance of the human race.

“You is a human bean and you is saying it is grizzling and horrigust for giants to be eating human beans. Right or left?”
“Right,” Sophie said.
“But human beans is squishing each other all the time,” the BFG said. “They is shooting guns and and going up in aerioplanes to drop their bombs on each other’s heads every week. Human beans is always killing other human beans.”

“I think it’s rotten that those foul giants should go off every night to eat humans. Humans have never done them any harm.”
“That is what the little piggy-wig is saying every day,” the BFG answered. “He is saying, ‘I has never done any harm to the human bean so why should he be eating me?'”

I missed these wise words as a child, or, at least i didn’t consciously recognise them for what they are. It could have had more of an affect that i realised, because i did grow up to be a vegan who holds strong anti-war opinions…

The thing that unfortunately didn’t hold up to an adult reading was the nature of the heroic conclusion. A queen who holds authority over the army and the air force, who takes the revelation that giants exist in her stride and invites one to breakfast, who commands so absolutely that no politicians are involved and no one else bats an eyelid at the giant because if they queen’s cool with it then it’s fine. I hold little respect or regard for the royals, and am just unable to stomach the queen being a realistic go-to figure to help save the day. And okay, yes, fiction, but in that case, magic up an evil-giant zapping machine or make Jack and his beanstalk a reality. Don’t base the solution in fact, but have it be so unrealistic. …Turns out, if i let myself, i feel quite strongly about that aspect. Oops?

Thankfully, the disappointing resolve of the story doesn’t do enough to take away from the BFG himself and his perfectly splendiferousness. If only human beans could be as wise, insightful, eloquent and… friendly.

This knocks the final(!!) square off my Bookish Bingo: A book from my childhood.

The Paper Men

tpmTitle: The Paper Men

Author: William Golding

Summary: Fame, success, fortune; a drink problem slipping over the borderline into alcoholism, a dead marriage, the incurable itches of middle-aged lust. For Wilfred Barclay, novelist, the final, unbearable irritation is Professor Rick L. Tucker, implacable in his determination to become The Barclay Man.

Locked in a lethal relationship they stumble half-blindly across Europe, shedding wives, self-respect, illusions. They confront terrifying abysses – physical, emotional, spiritual – continually change roles, change themselves, change the worlds about them. The climax, when it comes, is as inevitable as it is unexpected.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.5/5

Review: Golding is an author who’s work i am making my way through at a sedate pace. I haven’t loved every book i’ve read so far, but i have liked, appreciated and admired them all. He’s an author who doesn’t stick to the same genre, format or message. Each of his books is unique, and i love that. The Paper Men was, gladly, another score for the ‘love’ list.

I was apprehensive at first, as i had read some pretty damning reviews. The only thing those bad reviews liked was the ending; they adored the last line. Unfortunately, as i am wont to do, i had already flipped to the last page and read the last line. So i knew going in exactly how this book ended. (Therefore it was not at all as unexpected as the synopsis claimed–they never take into account people skipping ahead!) But screw all the bad reviews–this book was brilliant!

There is humour–oh, so much humour, i laughed loud and often. There is meaningfulness, introspection, commentary. How people can gloss over or miss that and complain that not enough happened makes their taste and intelligence poor, if i’m being honest in my own opinion.

I adored Wilf. I’m not sure i was supposed to, but there we have it. He isn’t perfect, by any means, but he is unapologetically himself, and hurts almost no one but himself. Almost, except those closest to him (though whether he is close to them is debatable), and of course Rick L. Tucker. Wilf travels the world on no whim but his own, drinking, sleeping and writing. He makes no demands on people, letting the wind take him wherever it decides to blow. Rick L. Tucker, on the other hand, goes exactly where Wilf does. His obsessive, stalker, relentless behaviour really, really bothered me. He just wouldn’t give up chasing Wilf around, trying to convince him to let him be his official biographer. How many times can Wilf say, “No,” and disappear to another country before Rick gets the message? Never enough, apparently. Sorry, but harassment is not an endearing quality, and for all Wilf’s faults, i’ll take him over Tucker any day.

That covers the plot, really. The rest of the interest of the book is more Wilf’s mind and thoughts, so i supposed having a soft spot for Wilf makes me more inclined to enjoy his words and the book itself. He is very much a writer, often comparing the world to how things would be done in one of his novels, and offering insight into the mind of a writer. He tos and fros between thought processes, opinions on himself, and choices and reasons. He’s an intellectual and literary man, and he’s also one of the most unreliable narrators i have ever read. His words were a joy, his drinking problem worrisome but occasionally controlled, his paranoia palpable but relatively harmless. He was, ultimately, fascinating.

There is, really, only one point of criticism i have of The Paper Men. As much as i loved reading it when i was reading, when i wasn’t reading, i had no drive to get back to it. I didn’t think about the book when i wasn’t reading it. When i picked it up again i often had to re-read the last paragraph of the previous chapter to remind myself of the exact circumstances it had left of on. And while this didn’t impede my enjoyment of the book when i was reading it, i did miss that burn–that desire to still be reading and to know what happens. I missed it enough to be distinctly aware that it wasn’t there.

But still, the book itself, regardless of my emotions towards it when i put it down, is thoroughly enjoyable, insightful and such a hoot. I loved some sections so much that when i did have a pencil to mark passages i… i used a pen! And i don’t regret a single inked line.

This knocks one square off my Bookish Bingo: Published in my birth year.

Much Ado About Nothing

much adoTitle: Much Ado About Nothing

Author: William Shakespeare

Summary: Set in a courtly world of masked revels and dances, this play turns on the archetypal story if a lady falsely accused of unfaithfulness, spurned by her bridegroom, and finally vindicated and reunited with him. Villainy, schemes, and deceit threatens to darken the brilliant humour and sparkling wordplay–but the hilarious counter plot of a warring couple, Beatrice and Benedick, steals the scene as the two are finally tricked into admitting their love for each other in Shakespeare’s superb comedy of manners.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: Like most people, i read and studied a bit of Shakespeare at school. I never hated his work as vehemently as some, though i didn’t love it either (excepting A Midsummer Night’s Dream–that play is a hoot!). However, in my maturity (ha!) i have wanted to read the plays i didn’t get a change to at school. I’ve finally started that task by reading Much Ado About Nothing.

At first it was hard to get into, the language is awkward and difficult to get your head around, but it was only that way for a few pages. I realised quickly that i was reading as i would have at school; slowly and meticulously in order to pick apart the words and figure out how they’re put together and decipher their meaning. As soon as i was conscious of what i was doing, i stopped doing it. The moment i stopped trying to analyse the language, it all started to make much more sense. I didn’t have to know exactly how something was being said to understand what was being said.

Beatrice and Benedick certainly do steal the show, despite the main plot being Claudio and Hero’s engagement and drama surrounding it. For me, it was because they were the characters i liked the most. They were witty and intelligent and, despite the verbal sparring, they were respectful of each other. The other characters, with their preoccupation with marriage, interference and lies, were much more difficult to sympathise with.

The plot was simple enough, but then the play isn’t long. I can’t say i enjoyed the conclusion, with Claudio and Hero marrying despite the accusations that were so easy thrown around. But what this story had plenty of was humour. I genuinely laughed out loud on several occasions. While each character had a moment or two to shine, and Beatrice and Benedick shine throughout, the funniest characters by far were Dogberry and the watchmen. Every ‘deformed’ with a capital D gave me a little chuckle.

I would urge anyone with the slightest inclination to give ol’ Shakespeare a go. He’s more awesome than you think, and basically invented half the words we all use today… not to mention the insults! This book also left me thinking in Shakespeare for a few hours after i’d finished. And now, i can finally get around to watching Joss Whedon’s adaptation!

This knocks one square off my Bookish Bingo: A play.