‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen: A Review

Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Fiction, Classic, Gothic.
First Published: 1817 (posthumous)
Pages: 187

Jane Austen challenges the role of women in her novel ‘Northanger Abbey.’ Her opening line states that, ‘No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine.’ But Catherine’s heroic traits differ from the stereotypical ones we often encounter in classic literature…

Catherine lives with her parents and many brothers and sisters in a notably rural life. However, she is offered the chance to accompany her neighbours, the wealthy and elderly Allen couple, on their extended stay in Bath. New to city life, Catherine is initially bored due to the lack of acquaintances to talk to at the glamorous balls and theatre trips. However, one day she  meets the delightful Henry Tilney, whom she instantly falls in love with. After dancing with Henry at a ball, Catherine is eager to see him again, but his disappearance from Bath prevents the meeting she longs for. During Henry’s, Mrs Allen bumps into her old school friend, Mrs Thorpe, who’s eldest daughter, Isabella, immediately befriends Catherine. Continue reading

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‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker: A Review

Author: Bram Stoker
Genre: Fiction, Classics, Horror, Gothic
First Published: 1897
Pages: 315

‘Dracula’ is a fractured narrative made up of journals, newspaper articles and telegrams, collected as evidence of the existence of vampires. The journey starts as we follow Jonathan Harker into the eerie depths of Transylvania, as he plans to meet Count Dracula, to settle the business of the estates that he has bought in England. After an extended stay at Castle Dracula, Jonathan gradually becomes to realise that all is not as it seems, and he is indeed a prisoner in the castle. One evening he witnesses the Count ‘crawl down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings’ and he comes face to face with three seductive women, who attempt to drink his blood.

We leave Jonathon despairing in the castle, unable to find any means of escape, and meet his fiancée, Mina, in the coastal town of Whitby. She is paying a visit to her friend Lucy, who suffers from sleepwalking. One evening, Mina wakes to find Lucy has disappeared in her state of unconsciousness. Terrified, Mina goes in search of Lucy, and finds her in the church graveyard, with a mysterious figure of a man looming over her. Mina takes Lucy home, but she suffers a fever, and Jack Seward, a friend of Lucy, calls the aid of his friend Dr Abraham Vanhelsing, to see if he can help the patient. Vanhelsing at once realises that Lucy has been bitten by a vampire by the tell-tale make on her neck, and does everything in his power to save her but Dracula’s grip on Lucy is too strong.

Continue reading

‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes’ by Loren D. Estleman: A Review

Author: Loren D. Estleman
Genre: Fiction, Crime, Thriller, Mystery
First Published: 2010
Pages: 214

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella, ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,many questions were left unanswered. Now, Estleman answers these questions with a little help from the infamous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.’ 

One October evening, Sherlock Holmes is visited by the lawyer, Mr. Utterson. Utterson has concerns surrounding the will of the esteemed Dr. Jekyll, which states that if he is to die or disappear, all of his goods shall be left to the detestable Edward Hyde. Hyde is a name well known in the pubs and brothels of London’s notorious East End, and Utterson is concerned that Jekyll is being blackmailed by Hyde.

Holmes and his companion Watson set out to discover the truth behind the unlikely relationship between Jekyll and Hyde, but once Hyde commits the murder of a well-liked MP, a vicious man-hunt begins. Once Holmes unravels the mystery surrounding Jekyll and Hyde, a deadly confrontation occurs.

Estleman did a fantastic job with this novel. Not only is it true to Conan Doyle’s original tales in the sense that it is recorded by Watson, and the tone of the novel echoes that of the originals, but it also stays entirely true to Stevenson’s plot. What I found most fascinating about this novel was the conclusion that it offered. All of the questions that Stevenson left unanswered surrounding Jekyll’s mysterious death are answered in an unexpected confrontation.

This reworking of two classic protagonists offers a new light on the tales. It is wonderful reading a story that you know so well from another perspective (as well as feeling like you are one step ahead of the master that is Sherlock Holmes!) Although the tone does slip from time to time, Estleman has done a brilliant job of capturing the ‘voice’ of the time, whilst also making these classic stories appeal to a modern generation.

Now I have read this title I am eager to begin other titles in the ‘Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ series. I am particularly interested in the outcome of ‘Sherlock Holmes and the War of the Worlds’ (keep an eye out for a review on that one!) For anyone who loves either Sherlock Holmes and/or Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, this one is a must read!

Favourite quote: ‘Quite right, Watson. These days, however, gentlemanly status seems to be more a question of appearance than conduct. I sometimes think that a gorilla would pass without comment at one of our West End social functions, so long as his shirt front remains spotless and he holds his teacup in the proper fashion.’ (p. 47)

Rating: 9/10

Reading List #2

As I have just finished the last book on my first reading list, I have decided to share my next one with you! As my summer holiday is slipping away quickly, I have decided that it is time to tackle my university reading list. In my first semester, I will be doing a Shakespeare module and a Gothic module, but I still want to read some of my own books while I have time! So I have decided that I will read a Shakespeare play, Gothic novel, Shakespeare play, book of choice, Shakespeare play, Gothic novel…etc. So, here are my first ten plays/books to read!

1.Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

2. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe  GOTHIC 

3. King Richard the Second by William Shakespeare

4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

5.The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

6. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle GOTHIC

7. King Henry the Fifth by William Shakespeare

8. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

9. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

10. Dracula by Bram Stoker GOTHIC

So this should keep me busy for a while! Plus, I still have the reviews from the last two books I read, (Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes and Elsewhere) so keep an eye out for these! And of course I will be reviewing all of these as soon as I have finished them!

Also, if you haven’t had chance yet but you are interested in doing so, I would appreciate it if you would have a look at the article that I wrote about the Horror Night as part of our local literary festival. Thank you!

Bookchase Board Game

In the January sales at work I stumbled upon a board game called ‘Bookchase.’ The purpose of the game is to travel to each of the six different coloured section, and answer a question correctly to receive a book of the corresponding colour. Once you have collected one book in each colour you have to roll the exact number necessary to land on the centre square to win the game. However, it is necessary to do this without ‘losing’ any books on the way – therefore it is necessary to avoid the ‘sentence or reward’ cards. The game is similar to ‘Trivial Pursuit,’ just with a sole focus on books.

Even though the game is completely book based, it is not just a game for book lovers. My boyfriend has become thoroughly addicted, even though he is not a regular reader. All of the questions have multiple choice answers, but that certainly doesn’t make the game any less challenging! The questions also focus on six different genres, so there are areas that every player, reader or non-reader will be confident in answering.

The questions all come under the following genres:

  • Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Children and Fun
  • Travel and Adventure
  • Classics and Modern
  • Poetry and Plays
  • Crime and Thrillers

Included with the game are some miniature ‘book jacket’ stickers, which you can stick onto the plastic books. All of the jackets have titles on them so you can customise your game to your reading tastes.

This game is incredibly fun and definitely very competitive! I would recommend it to any book-lover and encourage them to get everyone involved so they can see that you don’t have to read lots to win this game! Penguin have also released their own version of Bookchase using their trademark coloured covers for each section, which is beautifully presented in a giant box that looks like a book.

Enjoy!

If you enjoyed this please read my article on the London Olympics: http://bit.ly/IaTK1X

Reading List: Next 10 Books to Read

Here are the next ten books that I am planning to read (the order is subject to change.) I have written a brief summary under each of the titles, however, this was just the information I pulled from the blurb. Full length reviews will follow when I have read them

1.‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan (1997)

After a bizarre and fatal hot air balloon accident, Joe Rose never expected his mundane life to take such an unexpected twist.

2. ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ by Haruki Murakami (2006 – in English translation)

A collection of short stories about everything from animated cows and a criminal monkey to a romantic exile in Greece and a chance reunion in Italy.

3. ‘The Omen’ by David Seltzer (1976)

A man exchanges his stillborn son for a new-born orphan. But as the years go on, Robert Thorn begins to unravel the horrible truth about the child that he has raised.

4. ‘Déjà Dead’ by Kathy Reichs (1997)

See Dr Temperance Brennan, Direct of Forensic Anthropology solve her first murder. The series that inspired the television series ‘Bones’. 

5. ‘Carrie’ by Stephen King (1974)

A young girl in New England is not quite what she seems. A demonic force lies behind an innocent face.

6. ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue (2010)

‘Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma.’ Witness the world through Jack’s eyes, a child who was born as a result of abduction and rape. His whole world exists in the only room he has ever known.

7. ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

Visit the world of Nick Carraway and the mansions that lined Long Island, America in the 1920s and the mystery that surrounds him.

8. ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2001)

Ten-year-old Daniel chooses a book from the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ in 1945, but as he grows up, people begin looking for him. It becomes a race to discover the truth.

9. ‘The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes’ by Loren D Estleman (2010)

Conan Doyle’s infamous detective solves Robert Louis Stevenson’s fictional tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 

10. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (2005)

A sixteen year old girl dies when she is hit by a car. She finds herself is ‘Elsewhere’, where ‘life’ continues as usual, but the inhabitants get younger.

If you enjoyed this please read my article on the London Olympics: http://bit.ly/IaTK1X

‘The Haunted House’ by Charles Dickens

This morning I just finished reading ‘The Haunted House’ by Charles Dickens. Being both an avid reader of ghost stories and Dickens, I was surprised that I had never heard of this title before. It was originally written in 1859 for Dickens’ weekly periodical All the Year Round. What makes this story unique is the fact that the haunting of each room within the haunted house is told by a different author. Dickens recruited some of his best friends (who also happen to be some of the best writers of the period) such as Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell to write ‘hauntings’ of the rooms in the house.

This complete story by different authors gives a fantastic insight into some of the key writers of the Victorian period, as well as building one story from several voices which are literally very different. It is interesting to see how the different authors (and poets) construct very different ghost stories, which act together as a whole story.

While the concept is very interesting, I found some of the stories difficult to follow as the authors all had a different approach to writing a ‘ghost’ story. I was also slightly disappointed that the ‘ghosts’ were less spectral than I had hoped. However, the story is nevertheless very unique and presents a wonderful collection of Victorian authors. At only one hundred pages long it can easily be read in a couple of days and, even though the ending could be seen as disappointing, it still makes for an entertaining and unusual read.

If you enjoyed this please read my article on the London Olympics: http://bit.ly/IaTK1X