The summer seems such a long time ago already. For me it was filled with day trips, live music and a whole lot of reading. The good news is that I had time to read all three books in time for this month’s meeting, as well as many others (I recommend ‘Alice’ by Christina Henry).
1984 – George Orwell
1984 is often high on lists of ‘books to read before you die’, it is a classic with a very dark theme, that actually made it a really tough read. Written in 1949, Orwell’s vision of a dystopian future in which humanity is quite frankly f*cked, features many predictions about the future that are scarily close to reality. There are many parallels to be drawn with the book and today’s society, and many lessons that could have been learnt. I was amazed by Orwell’s vision that a goverment would use technology to spy on people, alongside the recent ‘investigatory powers bill’ which essentially removes the right to privacy from UK citizens, this seems particularly pertinent.
In Orwell’s vision of the world in 1984 people are brainwashed by the words WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. The past is being rewritten continuously to suit those in control (the party), to deliver the message that they want to pass on to the rest of society. Party members work under the constant gaze of ‘Big Brother’ completing jobs that deliver the party message. They have no privacy and little freedom to escape from their rooms where the TV monitors their every move. Proles are the unwashed masses, kept uneducated, to keep them from challenging the system, or rising up against the party. They are kept numb and accepting of their reality with copious amounts of gin, which, along with Orwell’s descriptions of their homes and streets, paints a picture reminiscent of the poverty of victorian London.
I found 1984 fascinating, horrifying and really rather unsettling. It was an uncomfortable read from start to finish, and I found myself tied between wanting to put it down and pick up something a little lighter and desperately wanting to keep reading. I think it is unique in being beautifully written, yet so damn ugly that it hurts to look. What I would say is please don’t give up until you read a couple of chapters in part 2, as it does really grip you at that point. gave 1984 4.5* and would definitely recommend it, however it wasn’t for everyone and scores ranged from 2.5* – 5*.
Tell me three things – Julie Buxbaum
So it turns out this is a book for teens, didn’t check that when I added it to the list, but hey some teen books are good right? Yes, yes they are, and this is one of them. This is not a work of art, it will not change your life, and actually it’s a bit too predictable, but it has heart. The story follows Jessie, her mum died, then her dad has remarried and uprooted her from her home in Chigago. Her new life in California is tough, she is not rich like everyone else at her new school, she is not a Barbie doll like Cali teen, and she has a new step mum and brother to learn to live with.
Jessie hasn’t been in California long when she starts to recieve messages from ‘a friend’ with the name Somebody Nobody (which is shortened to SN quite quickly). SN sends messages of support and guidence, and soon forms a bond with Jessie, and keeps her sane in her new world. The secret identity of SN is finally revealed right at the end of the book, but as with any good ‘who could it be’ plot, there are several characters who could potentially be SN. The big reveal is not quite as well written as I would have hoped, but I was satisfied with the identity of SN.
There is a lovely part of the book where Jessie visits her best friend in Chicago, this is beautifully written and really was a turning point for me, the book went from ok to yay! I gave the boook 3.5* and that was the average score from the group, but I do think that it would score higher with a teen audience. It’s a nice easy summer read that draws you in and keeps your interest, it is not life changing.
The Humans – Matt Haig
The Humans is the story of an alien, who lands on earth and takes human form, think Mork and Mindy, except Mork didn’t intend to kill Mindy that I’m aware of. It starts beautifully with the alien ‘Andrew’ running around Cambridge naked, blissfully unaware of the fact that this is illegal, or in fact even strange at all. So our hero takes the form of ‘Andrew’ a Mathematics professor at Cambridge University and slips into his life and into his family. Andrew has a wife and a son, both of whom he has a strained relationship with.
This is a lovely book, with a lot of funny moments, but mostly with a lot of messages that remind us that life is precious and that we should be living it with more energy. There is a lovely part, about 200 pages in where alien Andrew tries to explain the week on earth to his superiors. He says that humans have 1 day that they repeat 5 times Monday to Friday, and 2 fun days, but he then goes on to explain that the 2 fun days are in fact only 1 fun day because ” Monday is to close to Sunday for Sunday’s liking” this made me love this book. The writing is great, some really great moments that made me think and some fantastic advice hidden within the text. My favourite quote is “I realised that if getting drunk was how people forgot they were mortal, then hangovers was how they remembered”
I properly enjoyed this book and read it in a day.I gave the book 4* and the group average was about 3.5* so it is defnitely worth a shot.