Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years- Sue Townsend

Back to normal this week with a book review!

Due to the sheer amount of belongings that I had to bring to France, I was unable to bring any physical books, so (because I don’t love reading on my Kindle), I was delighted to discover that the family I am living with have an impressive array of books to choose from- both in English and in French. I was even more delighted to see that  Adrian Mole: The Prostratre Years  was on the shelf. I had only read the original (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4) when I was much younger, but I really did love the book, and had heard good things about the many sequels, so naturally this was my first choice.

The thing that first struck me was that Townsend’s style of writing and way of presenting Adrian’s character had not changed at all from the first book. Although much older, the awkward teenager Adrian that I remembered was still entirely apparent, just in the form of a married father. I think this added to the humour of the book, as it was clear to see that, even with years of life experience, Adrian failed to fit comfortable into society. Not only was this funny, but it meant that I still felt the same endearment towards Adrian as I had the first time I met his character. I shan’t ruin the narrative (though I do recognise that it is an old book, so you may have already read it), but I love that even when the central points of Adrian’s life begin to fall apart he does not even seem to flinch. It is as if he knows that his reaction isn’t even worthwhile, and almost as if he expects no less.

I also loved the character of his daughter Gracie. I felt that her mischievous behaviour added further to the humour, thus further to the sympathy I felt for Adrian. It is as if nothing, not even his child, can really go to plan. Likewise Mrs Mole, she is the same overbearing, somewhat cringeworthy working class mother that I remember from the first book of the series. Once again, this simply adds to the general picture of hopelessness that appears to be Adrian Mole’s life. Some might say that characters are over the top, and ‘too much’, and I have to admit that in other narrative situations I might agree. However, there is something about Townsend’s Adrian Mole series that makes allowances for this.

As with the original book, I love the diary style narrative. Not only does it suit Adrian’s character very well, as if he has no one else but his diary (thus the reader) to confide in. I also find that it makes it very easy to read, and allows the reader to realise the progression of time in the narrative much more easily and much more naturally than if  a narrator were to explicitly draw attention to it.

I really like that the book is very clearly set in 2007, and brings much attention to this through the conversation about contemporary events (for example Gordon Brown becoming Prime Minister and the failing of Northern Rock). Instead of dating the book, as one might expect, it, once again, adds to the humour. Even though I was young in 2011, I can remember hearing people talk about such events, and seeing them on the news, which means that I can actually read the book with a knowledge and opinion only gained through hindsight.

Overall, I couldn’t recommend this book enough! It was packed with the humour and embarrassment and awkwardness that I know and love from the original, and it simply consolidates Townsend’s ability as an author, and proves how well she know this fantastic character. I would perhaps suggest that you read the original book first, in order that you gain a sense of who Adrian Mole is as a character, so that you can ‘get’ the book a little more. I am definitely now intrigued to read all of the books in between that I have missed out on!

 

 

Bridget Jones’s Baby- Film Review

Firstly, I want to apologise for my lack of a post last week. I am currently in the middle of preparing to move to France for my year abroad (in fact, by the time you are reading this I will already have arrived!), and things have been very busy. Unfortunately, reading has had to take a back seat due to the fact that I have been trying to fit so much in (both in terms of packing my suitcase and trying to see the people I will miss the most). As a result of this, this week’s review shall be on the newest chic-flick that everyone is going mad for. I managed to squeeze in a trip to see this as part of my goodbyes, and it’s not too out of place on a book review blog, seeing as the Bridget Jones films are based on books…right? Right!

Whether the critics were saying good or bad things about this new film mattered very little to me- I was going to see it anyway, and I really couldn’t wait. Everyone knows that Renée Zellweger had changed a lot since the prequels, but this wasn’t going to matter, it would be a new take on an older, more experienced Bridget Jones.

However, I have to say that I was disappointed. Something just didn’t sit right with the fact that Bridget Jones didn’t look like herself, and it made the acting feel a little uncomfortable, and maybe even try-hard.  It was clear that the producers had made an extremely obvious effort to show that the films were up to date with current technology and popular culture, but this felt quite unnatural, and was the opposite to subtle, especially at the beginning of the film when Mrs Jones can’t quite get the hang of FaceTime. These sort of references were obviously included for humour, but simply resulted in a cheap laugh.

And, unfortunately, this is how I felt about the humour for the rest of the film. There were points at which I laughed, but I can’t help but feel as if this was simply because I felt I should be laughing at a Bridget Jones film, rather than actually finding it funny, although Emma Thompson’s character definitely did deserve the laughs she received. As a contrast, Bridget Jones’s Baby did pull at my heart strings a couple of times, and this felt more genuine and less forced than any of the humour- especially when Bridget is explaining her love for Mr Darcy.

The narrative was nothing complex or innovative, but in a good way. Bridget Jones films are what you watch when you’re feeling a little under the weather and need distracting from everything in your own life, and it certainly did the trick. The ending was completely predictable, but I don’t think I minded as it left nothing unanswered or unsaid and, once again, allowed for easy watching.

With regards to the soundtrack, there’s no beating the classics that feature in the first two films. However, the cameo appearance of a particular current star ( I shan’t ruin it for anyone that hasn’t seen it), was a great surprise, and the featured song is an undeniable guilty pleasure!

 

Overall, in spite of my somewhat negative review, I wouldn’t discourage people from watching Bridget Jones’s Baby. Instead, I would just suggest that you don’t go with expectations too high, as I did. In reality, when a sequel is released over a decade later, it is never going to be quite the same. Perhaps my age affected my enjoyment of the film, as the many middle-aged and above women in my screening came out talking about how much they loved it, and I can say that it did feel like more of an ‘older’ film. If you want a feel-good easy watch, then this could be the perfect film for you, but perhaps wait until the DVD release, just to be on the safe side.

 

 

 

 

 

Down and Out in Paris and London- George Orwell

Having been a fan of Orwell’s writing style in 1984, I didn’t hesitate to read Down and Out in Paris and London when one of my sixth form teachers recommended it to me. Perhaps it is just because I am nosy, but I really like to read about other people’s lives, especially the lives of renowned writers, so Orwell’s memoir was always going to be a winner! What’s more, given my interest in France and french culture, and the fact that I have spent the last two years living in London, the idea that the memoir tells the story of what happened both in Paris and in London appeals to me greatly!

 

Firstly, I must say how raw Orwell’s writing is, and how brilliant I found this. He spares the reader of nothing, meaning that we get to experience poverty in the cities in the same way that Orwell did himself (well, as much as is possible without actually experiencing it first hand). As a result of this, I had vivid images of the scenes in my head for the entirety of the memoir, thanks to the author’s genius use of figurative language.

 

I love that in publishing the book, Orwell was flouting all expectations of literature at the time. He exposed the squalor and hardships faced by the poor working classes, which was so consciously kept hidden from the middle and upper classes- the main audience for contemporary literature, given their almost exclusive access to education.I also love that, Orwell shows that being exposed to, and forced to live in, such conditions does not result in desensitisation: no matter how long one is forced to live like an animal, it never ceases to be disgusting, repulsive and upsetting.

Of course, there is very little that I can say in terms of plot, given that the book recounts real-life events. However, I can say that it was seeing the progression throughout the book, as well as Orwell’s changing opinion of the poor (he summarises his changed opinions at the very end of the text) is actually very eye-opening, as a modern reader, and would have been rather scandalous in the thirties, I imagine.

The lodging houses, or ‘spikes’, as Orwell explains they were referred to by those who frequented them, and soup kitchens were my favourite aspects to read about in this memoir. This is perhaps because they were the most shocking  aspects, but also because it allowed Orwell to ‘zoom in’ on individuals in both cities, meaning the reader can experience a different range of people in such poverty.

 

I would, without a doubt, recommend Down and Out in Paris and London to anyone with an interest in people or places. For the book’s entirety, I truly felt like I was a fly on the wall in the situations that Orwell found himself in. What I like most is that, even though the text is a non-fiction memoir, it could easily be mistaken for a fictional novel- it is just that interesting and carefully written!

 

 

 

 

Mrs Dalloway- Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway was on one of my university module reading lists, and I really thought that it deserved a review. Being very short at under 200 pages, it was a pleasant change from the Victorian novels I had been used to, and actually meant that I was much more alert for the book’s entirety- aware that every word would matter. I certainly wasn’t wrong about that, it was such an intense read, with every page packed with ‘stuff’- in a good way! I found myself highlighting and underlining all the time, and not merely for academic purposes, but simply because there was just so much that I thought stood out. It was refreshing to read a book that had so much to offer on every page, even though the timeline of the narrative is only actually one day and only really follows preparation for one party.

 

The fact that this book is set around World War I instantly appealed to me, as it is a subject I can’t ever learn enough about, and the fact that it is written by a woman added to this appeal because so much war literature is dominated by men.

 

I can’t avoid the truth that the narrative is a little confusing, and only really upon my second and third readings did I really get the book. Mrs Dalloway, if you didn’t know, is written with a ‘stream of consciousness’ narrative. This means that point of view that the narrative is told from can change without notice- even between sentences.  Once you have gotten to grips with this, it actually makes for a brilliant read, allowing you to realise how everyone’s thoughts do sort of merge into and follow on from each other in daily life.

The book deals with the issue of PTSD in a very subtle way through the character of Septimus Smith and his relationship, not only with other people, but the world in general. Woolf noted his reactions to such small details that I might never have considered would affect a sufferer, and how this altered his relationships with other people, notably his wife. I really believe this gave the book a new level, and was great to have a character developed in such a way.

On a similar note, Woolf’s attention to detail throughout the entire narrative really was second to none, and her use of figurative language and imagery means that no questions are left as to why Mrs Dalloway is such a timeless classic. One part that particularly stands out to me is close to the beginning, describing the public’s reactions to planes in the sky post war, and the fact that no one can yet fully comprehend that they will not cause harm as they did in previous years.

 

I would wholeheartedly recommend Mrs Dalloway to anyone regardless of age, gender, or anything. It doesn’t matter that it was written almost one hundred years ago- I believe that everyone has a lot to learn from Woolf’s literature. If nothing else, it allows you to see where modern types of stream of consciousness narrative may have got their inspiration from, and accomplishes such a narrative far better than I have ever read before. Virginia Woolf- a true literary genius.