Nadja- Andre Breton

Essay questions have been released which means that I haven’t had a lot of spare time to read something that isn’t based on the modernisation of Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. However, there is still a review this week because I actually really enjoyed one of the texts on the reading list and it was a book I had heard lots of people talk about before, so was on my mental ‘to read’ list.  The book is largely a surrealist text, which is something I haven’t been massively into in the past, but something about this book just really made me love it!

The book’s beginning sentence: ‘Qui suis-je?’ (‘Who am I?’) instantly grabbed my attention, as I could tell the narrator was going to be unreliable…if they’re admitting don’t know themselves, how are they going to recount a whole book’s worth of narrative? And from that point, it is quite apparent that the narrator doesn’t really know what exactly happened. However, instead of this being annoying or frustrating, it is actually incredibly interesting, as it requires active readership- we must constantly work to realise that certain events didn’t happen in the order we are being told, and may not have happened exactly how we are told. And this active readership is essential to comprehension (although, I’m not sure I completely understand the book), but most importantly, enjoyment of the narrative. Without paying attention, it would be impossible to understand why certain things are significant.

Having said I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I must admit that had I not any previous knowledge of the era or of similar authors and poets from the period, perhaps I would have enjoyed it less because I might not have understood the significance of references that Breton makes, or why certain attitudes within the book are important. Although, I wouldn’t necessarily say that you have to have a sound knowledge of the period to enjoy the book, a simple wikipedia search of contemporary artists and authors and their ideas would probably suffice.

What I did like most about the book, and what seems to be one of the most important themes, is its focus on identity and how this can change and be altered, depending on a series of different things, such as who we meet, our physical surroundings and our daily routine. I feel that this gave the book so much more to offer, than if characters had been sound in their personal identity and did not consider that they were more than the moment. In fact, because the characters did question their identity so much, it almost forces the reader to do so, and I think this brings an important lesson: to realise that we can and will be so much more than we are in any one given moment.

Overall, I would highly recommend Nadja (in french or in english), it is just such a different type of book that you are likely to read, but a book that can offer so much more than simply enjoyment. At under 200 pages, it does not take long to read, which means that even if you decide surrealism is not for you, you have at least decided that after what I believe to be a great example of a text in that genre.

East, West- Salman Rushdie

East, West  is a book that I have so many people speak about, yet have never actually had the opportunity to read myself, so when I saw it on the bookshelf, I was intrigued. I knew nothing about about the book before I picked it up, except that any one I had heard speak about it thoroughly recommended it, so it must be worth a read. Obviously, from the title, I gathered that the book would be about the coming together of, or perhaps transition between the East and the West, but I had no expectations other than that.

What first struck me was the ease with which I could read Rushie’s writing- especially in the first short story. His choice of vocabulary feels so natural, and his use of syntax so clear, that the reader is able to fully immerse themselves into the world of the narrative. Rushdie’s simple, yet far from simplistic, writing style made East, West  the perfect bedtime read and, because this is when I do most of my reading, this suited me perfectly.

Similarly, the fact that the book is actually a composition of multiple short stories makes the book a perfect choice to read before bed, or for people that don’t have prolonged periods of time to dedicate to reading. However, what is great is that each of the stories are connected in some way, meaning that, even though the narratives are different, they share some similarities, which gives the book a real sense of continuity.

Each of the short stories is a great insight into contemporary life in each situation. And Rushdie’s expertly interwoven references to pop culture make each situation really come to life, and truly demonstrates the way in which eastern and western cultures influence one another. However, what I also liked about this collection of short stories, is that I was introduced to styles of writing, and types of fiction, that I would probably never have chosen myself (such as Yorick and Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship (Santa Fé, AD 1492) ) and whilst I wouldn’t necessarily choose such styles again, I am glad that I had the opportunity to sample it for myself, and to develop my own opinion of it.

To conclude, I would highly recommend Rushdie’s East, West, simply because it was completely different to anything I had read before, especially with regards to the cultural aspects. I think that, even if you don’t actually enjoy the narratives within each short story, it is definitely a good experience to have read this style of writing and to see, in a simple way, how cultures can affect one another. Now that I have read this book, I would definitely be interested in reading other texts that deal with a similar theme and I believe that is the most important thing about reading: that it can open your eyes to interests you didn’t know you had before!




Falling For You-Julie Ortolon

I chose Falling For You  as I choose most of my Kindle book purchases- based on the reviews that previous readers have left about them. My theory is that, if someone has taken the time to go back to Amazon and share their feelings about the book, they must have strong feelings about it. I was looking for a fairly easy read that didn’t require too much concentration, and the reviews for this book were nearly all positive, so it seemed like a fail-safe option. Romantic comedies aren’t my favourite genre of book, but it did fit the bill of what I wanted on this occasion. Also, it is the first book of a trilogy, so I hoped that it could provide me with two good future reads.

My first impressions, as I read the opening chapter, was that it seemed very much like an American television show, targeted at teenage girls. Though it wasn’t what I was looking for, it wasn’t necessarily a negative thing and I continued to give it a chance. Unfortunately, I have to say that it only got worse. Every description of the setting, the characters and their emotions became sickeningly overloaded with adjectives to the point that, for me, it actually took away from the narrative- which I was actually genuinely interested in.

I did find the basis of the plot interesting, and I did wish to know how characters and their relationships were going to progress- but the characters when they weren’t described excessively. In fact, I think rather than the descriptions creating a very clear picture of what characters looked like and their personalities, the adjectives actually worked as a barrier that prevented me from getting to know them- it felt a bit forced and fake.

On a similar theme, I found the intimate scenes (completely necessary and inevitable in a book of this genre) a little bit uncomfortable to read, once again because of the over-the-top nature of description. Perhaps it was Ortolon’s intention to make the scene so dramatic and clichéd, but if this was the case, it wasn’t obvious enough. I understand that these types of scenes must be incredibly difficult to write, but I found myself laughing because the whole situation just seemed very silly- not helped by some of the similes used to describe it afterwards.

As a result of all of the cliché and exaggeration, I did find it very difficult to stick to my rule about finishing every book that I begin reading, simply because it made me feel a little uncomfortable. However, I did persevere and managed to complete it (I promise it wasn’t as much of a horrible task as that makes it sound!).

In spite of all my negativity, I must emphasise that I was interested in the narrative of the basic characters, and I must say that there were some quotes (mostly from Chance’s mother) that did stand out, and that I will remember. But I do really feel that the over-the-top description overshadowed this, and did make it seem like a teenage television series, and as a result I would not recommend it and shan’t be reading the two following books in the trilogy. However, having said that , it is very possible that I am simply the wrong target audience for such a book, and that others with particular interests may be less disappointed.