My TBR Pile | Autumn 2015

IMG_6137Hello readers!!!

With autumn in full seasonal swing, I figured it was time to establish an Autumn TBR pile. Aside from all my course readings, which mostly consist of psychology textbooks and a plethora of psycholinguistics journal articles, there are the books that I would really like to read this season. Everyone needs some pleasure reading. None of the books I’ve selected are overly long, and all of them have received excellent reviews on GoodReads, so I should have no trouble motivating myself to finish them. I’ve even blocked off reading time in my study schedule so it doesn’t get overtaken by school stuff.

With that, on to the books!!!

1. The Hunter and the Wild Girl  by Pauline Holdstock

IMG_6139I have heard wonderful things about this book and, as an added incentive to read this book, I will get to meet the author!!! On November 10th, Pauline Holdstock will be having a reading and book signing at one of the local bookstores!!! I have already marked it down in my calendar, and have resolved that, as I read it, I will note down questions to ask her. I always love meeting authors because it is one thing to read a book, but another thing entirely to meet the person who wrote it and hear about how the story transferred from their mind onto the page. For some, the story flowed naturally; for others, there were extensive rewrites and multiple drafts; and for others still, a writing process somewhere in between these two extremes. I am really looking forward to hearing about Holdstock’s writing process, and hopefully some little inside facts about the story’s development.

2. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

IMG_6140This is one of those books that comes along and takes society by storm. Not in a Twilight “I-am-so-totally-ok-with-like-dating-a-guy-who-could-kill-me-at-any-moment” kind of way, but rather in a powerful way that forces us to re-evaluate how we see things, and how we define them. Professor, writer, and voice-on-the-Internet Roxane Ray wrote an essay titled “Bad Feminist” and then proceeded to write a book of the same title. Rather than try to describe this book, Roxane Gay has made it easy for me. She actually did a TED talk that will give you a good understanding about what her book is about and what she stands for. Feel free to watch it below 🙂 🙂

3. If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie 

IMG_6141This book was on my local bookstore’s recommended book club reads table. I have never been in a book club before, but I would love to start one up on GoodReads, and this would probably be the first book I would choose for the book club. This book tells the story of 12-year-old Will, the son of an extreme agoraphobe who has not left the house, nor allowed Will to leave, in years. But one day Will realizes that his life Inside is not normal, and prepares for imminent death as he ventures to Outside on his own. This is Michael Christie’s first novel, which I found surprising given the incredible reviews it has received. What a coup for Mr. Christie.

4. How to Be a Heroine (Or, what I’ve learned from reading too much) by Samantha Ellis 

IMG_6138I came across this book on my local bookstore’s staff recommendations table. I always like going through staff picks because I find it gives neat insight into who people are. Some people say you can tell a lot about someone by the contents of their purse, their shoes, etc. Well, I believe you can tell a lot about a person by the books they recommend to others. The title really caught my eye, and it turns out that this book describes what the author has learned from the female characters in classic literature. Many of us have had to study at least one of these ladies in English class, and I hope this book puts a quirky spin on the clichéd profiles of prominent fictional women in literature.

So now it’s your turn: what books are on your autumn TBR list??? If you have read any of these books before, let me know what you thought of them in the comments below!!!

Blog logo

Autumn Favourites Tag

20150908-124755.jpgHappy Autumn everyone!!!

I was tagged by the lovely Amy from Polished by Amy to do the Fall Favourites Tag. She has an incredible beauty blog with a spotlight on nails, and I am always so jealous of the designs she comes up with, so definitely check it out.

Side note: Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, but I was taught to say Autumn, and didn’t learn that it was synonymous with Fall until much much later. Anyone else have that???

But I digress. Let’s get into the Autumn spirit with some nostalgic favourites:

Favourite candle scent?

Oh goodness, I love so many. I think my favourite would probably be Aveda’s shampure scent.

Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?

Hot chocolate all the way. About this time of year, I start making hot chocolate every few nights and have it while I do homework. Sometimes I even put an After Eight mint stick in the cup so it melts and gives the hot chocolate this super nice minty taste. I am all about the different flavours of hot chocolate. Like Rolo hot chocolate: yes please!!!

What’s the best autumn memory you have???

This one would have to be raking leaves with my grandfather in my grandparents’ backyard. I had this tiny little, red rake that he had made for me, and he used the giant green rake. We’d get them all into a pile and then proceed to throw them at each other and frolic in them. That’s right: a man in his seventies frolicked in leaves. Just picture that.

Which makeup trend do you prefer: dark lips or winged eyeliner?

Definitely dark lips. I feel like winged liner can go one of two ways: it looks absolutely perfect and makes your eyes bigger and bolder, or it goes horribly wrong and your eyes look misshapen and lopsided and questionably over-defined. With dark lips though, they are such a lovely, sultry Autumn trend, and make any look more dramatic and sophisticated. Berry lip and a little black dress and you can go anywhere.

Best fragrance for autumn?

I don’t know . . . I don’t really have fragrances designated for certain seasons. I am loving Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire though. I found out about it while in Paris, and then got some at a local store, and it smells so lovely. I don’t know if I would brand it an Autumn scent, but it’s assumed the role of my Autumn scent, at least for this year.

Favourite thanksgiving food?

This one is a toss-up between my grandmother’s turnip crumble and her turkey casserole. I know what you’re thinking: . . . she likes turnip??? but my grandmother makes this dish every Thanksgiving and Christmas and I can’t get enough of it. I’ll see if I can get a copy of the recipe this year and share it with you all so you, too, can experience the rare glory of tasty turnip. As for the casserole, it’s just the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, and it makes spending all day cooking a turkey worth it when you can get multiple meals out of it.

What is Autumn weather like where you live?

It’s perfect, at least in my opinion. It’s crisp, but not cold. It’s sunny, but not warm. And there are even a few foggy mornings thrown in.

Most worn sweater?

I don’t know if I have just one, but I have amassed quite a collection of Lord and Taylor cashmere sweaters over the years, and they have started to make their annual appearance in my recent outfits.

Football games or jumping in leaf piles?

Definitely jumping in leaf piles. Canada isn’t known for its football (I don’t think???) but hockey is a game that we will spend all day watching.

Favourite type of pie?

I’ve only ever had one piece of pie in my life . . . but the slice of homemade green apple pie that my friend’s grandmother made was delicious!!!

What song really gets you into the fall spirit?

Ed Sheeran’s Autumn Leaves. It is such a lovely song, and I just get lost in it.

Is pumpkin spice worth the hype?

I’ve only had one pumpkin spice anything, and that was Starbuck’s infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte. My friend’s father brought me, her, and another friend one each while we were marshalling a marathon in seventh grade. It was actually pretty good, but I wouldn’t go as crazy over it as I know some people do, and I don’t think I’d want a candle or anything else that smells like that.

Favourite Fall tv show?

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

“You’re holding my hand, Chuck, you sly dog” –Peppermint Patty

Skinny jeans or leggings?

Skinny jeans. Once the days get colder, I find leggings just don’t keep me warm enough.

Combat boots or UGGS?

UGGS. I know they aren’t super flattering, but they keep my toes oh-so-warm. I just wish they would do better in the rain. Or at least do ok in the rain.

Halloween: yay or nay?

Whatever’s in between yay and nay . . . okay??? I like Halloween and all, but I’m not big on dressing up, going to parties, scaring people or being scared, or watching horror movies so that I never have a nightmare-free sleep again for years.

Fall mornings or evenings?

Mornings. I love the low-hanging fog, and the smell of burning leaves.

What do you think about Black Friday?

Meh. It’s ok. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out on it, not for shopping anyways. I have real issues with crowded places, so I like to avoid hoards of people all cramming into stores for good deals that are usually just as good throughout the year.

One fall 2015 trend you love?

Bold bags. I usually purchase more conservative bags so they will go with more things, but I think this year I might treat myself to a super out-there bag; maybe a Kate Spade.

Thank you so much for reading!!! I tag all of YOU reading this to do this tag!!! If you do this tag, please link me so I can have a read about all your favourite autumn things!!! Have a lovely day 🙂 🙂

Blog logo

September Book Haul

IMG_6103Good morning everyone!!!

With the August book buying ban off, and university back into full gear, my book shopping sprees will be few and far between. So, when I stopped into Chapters downtown yesterday, I figured I might as well stock up on some school-friendly reads to keep in my backpack or on my desk for when I have a few spare moments.


The first book I picked up was YouTuber Tanya Burr’s Love, Tanya. I have watched her YouTube videos for years, but never went out and got the book when it was first released. The nice thing about this book is it is broken up into sections, which are perfect for reading at home during study breaks without feeling like I’m losing some of the overall effect of the book. The sections are also categorized so you can target areas of interest, like YouTube, beauty, healthy eating, etc. An added bonus is that this book has some blank pages for you to make notes in about things you like, or want to do. I just think this is such a cute coffee table book, and a great read for a busy school semester (helpful tips in here too!!!)


Ah, the September issue of Vogue. Choked full of 832 pages of the fall fashion shows, new trends, and a cover story on Beyoncé, this issue has it all. I love reading magazines, especially when I’m going to school, because it is really easy to just read one or two articles and then put it down for a bit, without the lure of a cliff hanger. Plus, lots of magazines come with a perfume sample, so I can put a bit of one on, go back to studying, and see if I like the fragrance around me. In addition, Vogue is an excellent way to lust over beautiful things without spending a dime, which is great if you’re a student like me and on a budget.

IMG_6105Next is His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay. My primary reason for buying this book is because I want to read it before Elizabeth Hay comes to a local bookstore next week. I am so excited to get to meet her. She is such an incredible author, and being able to hear her do readings is something that I am really looking forward to. Maybe I could even get this book signed 😀 😀 That would be amazing.

IMG_6108The next two books I grouped together because they are from the same series. I was given the first book in this series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson, for my birthday a few years back, but I never got around to reading it. Now that the fourth book has just come out (but written by a different author), I feel like I have to read them now before there are too many to catch up on. Besides, with these books priced at $10 each, how could I refuse???

IMG_6109Another good at-school read I picked up is Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I have heard such wonderful things about her unique narrative voice, and with her newest book Why Not Me? being listed as one of the best Fall reads, I wanted to get a taste of her writing style to see if it was something I would be interested in reading. These short stories are perfect because I can read one or two, and then go back to studying, or I can read a few in between classes. And if anyone’s seen The Mindy Project on TV, you will know just how funny she can be.


No Chapters book haul is complete without at least one Heather’s Pick, and The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha is the one that made it into my TBR pile this go around. What I learned yesterday is that Heather’s Picks are actually guaranteed reads, meaning if you don’t like the book, you can return it to the store. That is taking customer satisfaction to a whole new level. I love this book because it has small little sections on something small but awesome that can be encountered in daily life. This morning I read my first section, which was on when you successfully parallel park on the first attempt. I am going to read one of these little snippets of awesome each morning just to add a bit of positivity to my days.

And those are the books I’ve purchased this September!!!

Have you read any of these before??? What did you think??? Any other recommendations for September reads???

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my 100 followers giveaway for your chance to win a Chanel Autumn 2015 lipstick of your choice and one of Time magazine’s listed 100 best English-language novels!!! Click here to find the instructions for how to enter. *The giveaway is open internationally and will close September 30, 2015 at 11:59pm” 

Blog logo

Throwing in the Bookmark . . . For This Year

Good afternoon everyone!!!

As some of you may remember, I started the Books on the Nightstand Summer Book Bingo challenge back in July. Well . . . it’s September now, and let’s face it, with university back in full swing, and work on weekends, the books in my TBR pile will have to get comfortable because they might be there for awhile.

So, after much deliberation, I have decided to throw in the bookmark this year, and say goodbye to the Summer Book Bingo. I mean, after all, summer is long gone now, and I STILL have barely grazed (ha, get it?) the first few chapters of Animal Farm. I definitely want to do this again next summer though, and I’ll start it earlier so I can get in as much summer reading as possible.

Check out my bingo card from this summer:


I didn’t get a single bingo this year, which is a little disappointing, but I still read some amazing books, and it was neat to read books I might not otherwise have reached for, or books that I had sitting in my TBR pile for forever.

If you’re interested in reading any of the posts about the books I did read, I’ve linked them down below:

Was turned into a movie or TV show: It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Set in another country: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Romance or love story: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

A Booker Prize winner or made the short list: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Published in 2015: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

With only words on the cover: Room by Emma Donohue

See you all next summer for another round of Summer Book Bingo!!!

Blog logo

With Only Words on the Cover: Room by Emma Donohue

Photo from
Photo from

As I mentioned in my Pre-Paris book haul, I picked up this book because I wanted a lightweight paperback that I could immediately get into, and some of you commented saying I would love this book. Well I did.

Five-year-old Jack was born in Room and has never left. He wakes up in bed with Ma, they have breakfast at Table, use Toilet, have a bath, move Rug off the floor so they can do Phys Ed., have lunch, read books off of Shelf in Rocker, and then have dinner. But Jack must be asleep in Wardrobe by 9, because sometimes Old Nick visits and creaks the bed. But then later Ma will bring Jack into Bed with her.

To Jack, Room is home. But for Ma, it is a garden shed-turned-dungeon that she has been stuck in for six years since Old Nick kidnapped her from the university parking lot at age 19. She has made the best of it, giving birth to Jack on her own, and raising him as best as possible given the circumstances. But Ma knows that one day they will need to escape so Jack can have a normal life and she can finally be free from her captor.

What surprised me most was the effectiveness of having the narrator be a five-year-old child. At first I was skeptical, wondering how such a tragic circumstance could be conveyed through the words of a child, but in fact that is a large part of what made this book so good. Through Jack’s naïve descriptions of daily life and of Old Nick, the horror of the situation is shown from the alternative perspective of a child who knows nothing else.

And now for some facts:

First Paragraph:

Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. “Was I minus numbers?”

What I Loved Most: This book is divided into five sections: Presents, Unlying, Dying, After, and Living. Each one of these sections marks a major change in the plot, and helped me to compartmetalize the progression of the story. When I first read the titles of these sections, they made no sense to me, but once I started reading each section, their meanings became clear within the first few pages. Not having chapters was an adjustment, but I found chapters would have chopped up the story too much.

What I Loved Least: At first, I really didn’t like all the grammatical errors, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments, as I found they made the text harder to read and distracted from the story. But as I got more into the book, I found that without these deliberate errors, it would be hard to believe the narrator was a young child, and would have taken away from the naivety on which the narration operates.

Memorable Line:

Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.

Last Paragraph:

I look back one more time. It’s like a crater, a hole where something happened. Then we go out the door.

Final Thoughts: The New York Times book review said it perfectly: “Thrilling and at moments palm-sweatingly harrowing . . . A truly memorable novel.” It is one of those books you will want to read all in one go, but at the same time you’ll want to pause and think about the power of the noven. Such an amazing read. I would recommend this to anyone.

Next up is George Orwell’s Animal Farm for a book with a non-human main character!!!

Blog logo

The Perfect Paris Travel Book

IMG_6047Before leaving for Paris, I read numerous travel guides, and pored over maps of the arrondissements and the metro. I made lists of what I wanted to see most, and planned out what I could see on which days to limit travel time and maximize fun. But then I got to Paris and stumbled into Colette, one of the weirdest stores I have ever been in. With booming music, people everywhere, and a host of random products with no concrete theme, it was unlike any store I had seen. From Hello Kitty Polaroid cameras, to a wall of magazines I had never heard of, to office supplies, to clothes, to candy and keychains, Colette had it all.

Pages 22-23
Pages 22-23

Finding my comfort zone in the notebook and stationary section, I came across the book This is my Paris by Marie Bashkirtseff, with text and compilation by Petra de Hamer. Along the lines of the Wreck my Journal concept, this book is touted as a “travel diary, activity book, and city guide in one”. It has everything from beautiful and quirky illustrations of Paris’s sights, to lists of must-see stores and restaurants, to blank pages for lists of things to see and do, to pages to tape business cards and tickets, and even pages of recipes for classic French foods and beverages. Essentially this book provides the framework of a trip scrapbook; all you have to do is add in whatever you want.

I saved up everything from my trip in a manilla envelope, and now that I’m home, I will be filling it all out and taping everything in. I would recommend purchasing this book before leaving for Paris though, because some pages are meant for pre-trip planning. On these ones, I am going to attach all of my lists, but it would have been nice to list things directly in the book.

If this type of books is interesting to you, there is also a This is my Berlin book, and possibly more.

So here’s a question for you: how do you document your travels???

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you have a lovely day ☺ ☺

Switching Books. . .

Photo from
Photo from
Photo from
Photo from

I’m sure everyone has experienced this at some point: you start reading a book you’ve heard great things about, or have wanted to read for a long time only to get partway through it and find that it is not nearly as good as you thought it would be, and it is near impossible to get immersed in it. So what do you do?

Many people I know, both avid readers and not, abandon the book, with the logic of “why waste time reading a book you aren’t enjoying when you could switch to a book you’d like better?” That logic makes perfect sense to me but ever the optimist, I like to persevere, thinking that eventually the book will get better. And, if it doesn’t, well then at least I know how the story ends.

But with Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club, the book I had picked to read for Books On The Nightstand’s summer book bingo under the category of a book with only words on the cover, I quit partway through.

The gist of the plot is that Will Schwalbe’s mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he and her end up creating an impromptu two-member book club. They recommend books to one another, and discuss them during his mother’s chemo treatments. The story is incredible, but the writing style is so far from what I like reading that it dulled the story for me to the point where I was counting the number of pages left before the next chapter began. While I have stopped reading it for now, I wrote a post-it note with the title of the book and the page number I got to and stuck it on my bookshelf so that I can always go back and try it again.

In order to fill the gap of a book with only words on the cover, I substituted in Room by Emma Donohue, which I mentioned in my Pre-Paris book haul. I read it over the course of my trip, finishing it just yesterday on the plane home, so expect to see a review of that one soon. It is an incredibly powerful novel, and one that I would have read in one sitting if I could have, but the plane ride over wasn’t long enough.

So, my question of the day is what book did you start reading but didn’t finish???

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you have a lovely day 🙂 🙂

Pre-Paris Book Haul

20150821-093913.jpgI know, I know, I said no more buying books. But as I mentioned in a previous post, I am off to Paris soon. I am beyond excited about this trip, but unfortunately there is a fair bit of traveling involved before I arrive in Paris. Between the taxis and busses and the 9-hour flight, I just know I will get bored, and nothing quells boredom like a good book.

Now I, like many, love going to the library to check out books. It is a super easy and cost-effective way to read books and try out works by new authors. But I don’t really feel comfortable taking a library book to another continent where it could get lost or damaged. I know there is no such thing as a library version of a permanent record, but in case that does come to exist, I don’t want to be known at my local library branch as the girl who wrecks books and accrues months of late fees because the books go missing.

Hence this pre-Paris book haul was necessary (like how I’m justifying it to myself?) Besides, being stuck on a long-haul flight with a book that isn’t living up to its reputation or is just not sucking you in is a drag.

So, the three books I picked up are Room by Emma Donohue, A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, and Son by Lois Lowry. I got all of these in paperback because they are lighter and smaller, and therefore easier to pack. I know that I will love these books, which is why I have selected them as the three books that will be coming on my trip with me. I don’t want to have any unnecessary book weight in my carry-on from books that I don’t plan on reading, or am doubtful as to whether or not I will like them.

But who knows, maybe I’ll pick up a few more books while I’m in Paris to weigh down my suitcase on the flight home. Perhaps they’ll even be in French. . .

Blog logo

Published in 2015: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Photo from Wikipedia
Photo from Wikipedia

Out of all the books published in 2015 thus far, I feel like, hands down, this one has generated the most hub-bubb amongst readers, both avid and less so.

The controversy around this novel comes from whether this long-lost manuscript can be considered a new novel by Harper Lee, or whether it is simply an interesting read to see what the story of To Kill a Mockingbird started out as.

Some people took the release quite well and just accepted the book for what it was; others are not taking it so well. For instance, as reported yesterday by The Guardian, the bookstore Brilliant Books in Michigan is offering refunds to its customers who purchased Go Set a Watchman, because they feel the book should not have been marketed as a new novel, bur rather as a source of insight into Harper Lee’s development as a writer, and the development of the story of TKAM. Click here if you would like to read The Guardian‘s full article.

This novel was written in the 1950s, and is what can be called the first draft of TKAM. Throughout this book, there are countless flashbacks to Scout’s childhood in Maycomb, and her editor advised her to focus on these rather than on Scout’s adult self. And so TKAM was born with the youthful Scout as narrator.

This novel takes place in Maycomb County, Alabama with a 26-year-old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returning from New York to visit her aging father, Atticus. Many of the TKAM characters are in this book, including Henry Clinton and Calpurnia, though I will say that one of the major characters is dead early on, which upset me some, but I can’t really be mad since this character was dead in this version before he/she was alive in TKAM. The plot of this novel deals with the shock and anger that overcomes Scout when she learns of her father’s racist views toward Negroes. For many readers, I think this is what shocked them the most: reading that the heroic Atticus Finch who defended an African-American man in a rape case in TKAM could actually be a bigot.

Despite various responses to the new novel, Go Set a Watchman has been a number one bestseller since its release, and I think it deserves it. Going in, I knew that this book was not meant to be a sequel or anything like that, so I read it pretending like TKAM didn’t exist.

And now for a few factual tidbits:

Opening paragraph:

Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical. Over her breakfast coffee, she watched the last of Georgia’s hills recede and the red earth appear, and with it tin-roofed houses set in the middle of swept yards, and in the yards the inevitable verbena grew, surrounded by whitewashed tires. She grinned when she saw her first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house; as they multiplied, her joy rose.

What I Loved Most: From reading this book long after TKAM, I found that the characters are almost richer and have more depth. Rarely do readers have a chance to get to know characters from such widespread ages, but with more than 20 years between Scout in TKAM and Jean Louise in GSAW, it is incredible to see how the youthful Scout developed from her older counterpart, and how her flashbacks into childhood were edited to become Scout’s account of how things happened.

What I Loved Least: Maybe it was just me, but I noticed a few weird grammatical errors and typos and such. I know that this is an early draft, and is not meant to be a polished novel, but even drafts are edited so things like this don’t slip in.

Memorable Line:

As sure as time, history is repeating itself, and as sure as man is man, history is the last place he’ll look for his lessons.

Closing Paragraph: 

She went around the car, and as she slipped under the steering wheel, this time she was careful not to bump her head.

Final Thoughts: If you take away nothing else from this post, please remember that if you are going to read this book, read it for what it is, not for what it isn’t. If you start the first page thinking that it won’t be as good because it’s not TKAM, you will be right. It won’t be TKAM and it’s not supposed to be. It is just a super interesting way to see how the story developed, where Harper Lee made changes, etc. If you read it with that in mind, it is actually a very well-told story that still has a lot of powerful messages about racism in the South in it.

Next up is The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe for a novel with only words on the cover!!!

Blog logo

A Booker Prize Winner (Or Made the Short List): The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Photo from Wikipedia
Photo from Wikipedia

Now THIS is a good read!!!

I picked this up at Chapters a while back off the award-winners table, but never really gave it much attention. I am awful at this, but sometimes I write off award-winning books as being too dense or heavy for a nice, light read. I mean, come on, if they win something as big as the Man Booker Prize, chances are the plot isn’t simply girl meets boy, girl loves boy, they fight a little, but then live happily every after. You know the story has to have some depth and a new perspective on the ordinary, which sometimes takes me longer to wade through, because I want to understand every word of it. But this novella is actually incredible, and not nearly as daunting as I made it out to be. Ha, and at only 150 pages, I figured I could make it.

This novella is divided into two parts. The first chronicles Tony Webster’s journey through sixth form, his friendship with the brilliant mystery Adrian Finn, and the failure of his first relationship with fellow university student Veronica. The second part takes place forty years later, when Tony receives a solicitor’s letter informing him that he has been left Adrian’s diary in a will. Because of this, Tony is forced to examine his life, and analyze the accuracy of his youthful memories, as his relationship with Veronica is reopened, a relationship he had chosen to erase from the memories of his life. This book largely focuses on the importance of documentation because, as Tony repeatedly states, corroboration is vital for assessing the truthfulness of subjective memory.

What I found really interesting about this novella is the development of Tony as a character. While many of us seek to be unique and stand out, Tony accepts that he is ordinary, and in some cases it can be argued that he is satisfied with being so. He has led a successful life in that he had a good career with a good retirement, a good marriage with a good-natured divorce, and a daughter, Susie, whom he escorted into the domestic safety of marriage. All in all, his life has gone ok. But “I had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded,” says Tony, because he knows his life should have been more than just ok. As the sense of his own ending begins to approach, Tony recognizes that the purpose of life is to help us come to terms with its consequent loss, i.e. life is meant to show us that it is not nearly as great and wonderful as we thought it would be when we were young.

Overall, this book is a wonderful rumination on memory, aging, and remorse, and one that I feel I cannot fully relate to yet. When reading the first part, I found it very easy to connect to Tony as he discussed how he believed his emotions should be like those of characters he read about in literature, and how he wondered if he had ever really been in love with Veronica. Those are emotions that make sense to me, because they are felt by all young people at some point. In youth, we map out our futures as being grand lives filled with adventure. However, when reading the second part, I was often left slightly confused, because the sense of my ending is still off in the distance. As a young adult who is still in my “I am invincible and the world is my oyster” phase, I have yet to have reflections on memory and aging of the same nature as those of Tony Webster. I definitely want to read this book again and again every few years, because I know it will be one of those books where I change my opinion of it and see something new in the story every time I read it.

Now for some nifty novella notes:

Opening Paragraph: 

I remember, in no particular order:

-a shiny inner wrist;

– steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;

– gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;

– a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams;

– another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;

– bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door;

This last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.

What I Loved Most: The brevity of this novella in no way compromises the potency of the themes. It may be short, but every sentence is precious, and adds a deeper level of understanding.

What I Loved Least: This is not a critique of the novella itself, but rather a critique of novellas as a whole: their length. Admittedly, I love novellas for the powerful messages they can convey in such a limited number of pages, but this also means that each page and each sentence is all the more important, and should be read with a focused mind, ready to make connections. Unfortunately, I read this book in several choppy sittings, when it deserved a read in one sitting with a cup of hot chocolate perched on a nearby table.

Memorable Line:

History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.

Closing Paragraph:

There is accumulation. There is responsibility. And beyond these, there is unrest. There is great unrest. 

Final Thoughts: Simply put, this is an amazing novel. There is no doubt in my mind why it won the 2011 Man Booker Prize, and I hope to re-read it again in years to come to better understand the second part, as Tony questions the veracity of his memories of his youth.

Next up is Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman for a book published in 2015!!!

Blog logo