Girl On A Train- A J Waines

I discovered this book whilst scrolling down the Kindle Bestsellers list, but first dismissed it as a ‘rip off’ of the Hawkins novel that I read, and was incredibly disappointed in, earlier this year. However, after some research, I learned that it was actually a completely separate narrative, and people generally thought well of it. I bought it with some reservations (after all, people had raved about The Girl on The Train and I could barely bring myself to finish it), but it did promise an unpredictable twist and I wanted to give it a chance.

At first I was not blown away. My first impression was that the writing style did ressemble that of Hawkins, of which I was not a fan However, the saving grace in this case was that the book took a mere few pages to get into the action, which meant I quickly became interested in the narrative. I didn’t need pages to get to know the character and why she was there at that point etc. , I just wanted to get on with the story. My favourite was to learn about characters is through their reactions to other people and certain situations, as that is how we tend to get to know people in real life.

I liked how Anna, the protagonist, gets involved in the story through more than simply self-interestedness or being a busy-body. Her husband’s own suicide ( if that’s what it was) is what pushes her to clear Elly’s name from suicide, too. I like how, for the majority of the narrative, we are led on the quest to discover the clues Elly left behind, rather that being tricked into believing lots of red-herrings. This means that when the twist does come, it definitely is unexpected- and impossible to see coming (my favourite kind of twist!). And even though that initial twist isn’t the final conclusion, it very quickly leads Anna (and the reader) to find out the truth, which is even more shocking and unpredictable. Having said that, though, I did have some reservations about the credibility of the final result, even though it wouldn’t be completely impossible…

The book’s narrative is split into three sections: two of which are told from Anna’s perspective, and the middle told from Elly’s. I understand what Waines’ intentions were with this: to allow Elly’s voice to enter the story, even after she has died. However, in reality it didn’t really add much to the story- especially because it was only a short section of the longer narrative. What it does reveal is her thinking behind leaving the clues, which gives Anna’s predictions more credibility, but I would say that this is where its usefulness ends.

The narrative conclusion is satisfying, in the way that it ends in the way you hope, even though there are points at which it seems it won’t. However, it does leave some unanswered questions with regards to parts of the narrative that aren’t directly concerned with Elly- but perhaps that is the point?  And in spite of these unanswered questions, I definitely feel that those other aspects of the narrative that branch away from Elly’s death are important, as they give the characters some depth and explain their motivations.

 

To conclude, I would thoroughly recommend A J Waines’, Girl on a TrainWhether you enjoyed the similarly named Hawkins novel or not, there is definitely something to take from this one!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

What is this all about?

 

I’m Danielle, and I love books. I have always loved books. Now, I know that everyone says that, but I really have. For as long as I can remember books have been the one thing that I get really excited about buying or receiving as gifts, and now I’m at university, not only studying them in my own language, but in French, too!  I love their power to completely transport you into a different way of thinking, whether that is the world of the narrator of a novel, or the subject matter of a non-fiction book.

However, it is not just the reading of books that I have always enjoyed, but also telling others about them. I revel in the challenge of persuading people why they should dedicate their time to reading a particular book, and explaining why I was expecting more from some texts. In fact, I think reflecting upon a book is almost as fun as the actual experience of reading it, thinking about the effect that it has had on you, and whether that specific collection and arrangement of words has changed the way you look at the world.

I must admit that my university studies did get in the way of my reading for pleasure, and for months I had been promising myself that once coursework was all complete, and once exams were all out of the way, I would begin reading for enjoyment again. But, not only would I begin reading for pleasure, I would write about what I had read, doing what I loved a lot: reflecting upon the effect the books had had on me. However, I recently attended a workshop that made me realise there was no better time to start doing this than now. Of course, I recognise how clichéd that sounds, but the workshop was run by veterans at the charity, Blesma, and the ex-soldiers made me realise the importance of doing what you want to do, appreciating every opportunity and allowing nothing to get in your way. That very day, for the first time in over seven months, I selected a book to read out of choice, and I have not spent another tube, train or car journey looking mindlessly out of the window since, and I feel all the better for it.

So this is it; this is the beginning of daniellereadbooks, I will continue to read  more than the books that are on my reading lists, and I will write about how they made me feel. Of course, just because I have chosen a book myself, does not necessarily mean that I will love it, and likewise just because a book is set reading for my course, does not mean that I will dislike it- so perhaps the odd french novel will make an appearance! Also, given that I haven’t chosen books in a while, they won’t be the latest releases because I will be catching up on the ones I have been meaning to read for so long. Once a week, from here on, I will be posting my reflections on my latest readings, and I hope you enjoy!