Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews’

I have just finished reading “Gentlemen and Players” by Joanne Harris.

“Gentlemen and Players” by Joanne Harris (via Goodreads)

The blurb reads:

“For generations, privileged young men have attended St. Oswald’s Grammar School for Boys, groomed for success by the likes of Roy Straitley, the eccentric Classics teacher who has been a fixture there for more than thirty years. This year, however, the wind of unwelcome change is blowing, and Straitley is finally, reluctantly, contemplating retirement. As the new term gets under way, a number of incidents befall students and faculty alike, beginning as small annoyances but soon escalating in both number and consequence. St. Oswald’s is unraveling, and only Straitley stands in the way of its ruin. But he faces a formidable opponent with a bitter grudge and a master strategy that has been meticulously planned to the final, deadly move.”

It’s a great book with many twists and it keeps you guessing for ages!

It follows a young lad who becomes obsessed with St Oswald’s Grammar School for Boys and enters this world so different to what lies outside. The reader also get to see the school from the viewpoint of the teacher, Roy Straitley, who knows the workings of the school better than anyone, and who prides himself on knowing the things that make the staff and boys tick.

As the novel progresses, it is clear that what started as a innocent desire for something different has turned into something dangerous and more disturbing than anything else that has happened in the school. It jumps back and forth through time, which makes it a little bit confusing at times but simply adds to the mystery and the tension!

You feel an empathy with the youngster who wants a life that is beyond his reach, and who wants to break the rules. You also feel sorry for Straitley, who just wants to reach his century of teaching at the school but faces so much opposition when unfortunate events start to occur.

I love how this book keeps you wondering who is the person causing all the incidents and scandals to happen, and questioning who could have such a strong motive for wanting to harm the school, its reputation, and the staff and pupils inside. You have to keep reading because there are so many little hints and little details which are important to keep track of. The ending is pure brilliance! I’m not going to spoil it, but there’s a great plot twist!

I love this book, and give it 8/10 because it’s so gripping and the characters are so fascinatingly ordinary! You might think a book about a boy’s school would be boring but it’s the everyday normality which makes this novel so interesting, especially when things start going wrong! It’s worth a read, especially if you like suspense and mystery, and love Joanne Harris!

I have just read “Oedipus the King”, a short play by Sophocles.

“Oedipus the King” by Sophocies (via Goodreads)

This Greek tragedy and its doomed protagonist, Oedipus, is well known, but I had never looked into plays about it before, only knowing the basic story from Greek legends. I found this copy in an old textbook I used at university while studying English, and found it of a reasonable length to read it quickly.

Oedipus is an unfortunate character who was supposed to have been left to die as an infant when it was foretold that he would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother. This play is set after he is married and while he is King, during a time of great misery for his kingdom. They believe there is a curse on their homeland as crops are failing, unborn children don’t live and there is a general feeling of unease.

After seeking advice from an oracle at the temple on how to heal his kingdom’s bad luck, Oedipus starts to search for the person who killed the old King and through a series of interactions with various friends and messengers, he soon discovers the terrible truth in this tale: it was himself who killed the King, who was in fact his father, and has married the dead King’s wife, who is actually his mother. At this revelation, he and the Queen are both distraught, and Oedipus blinds himself in order to stop him seeing the horror he has inflicted around him.

It is quite a horrific tale, and you wonder how Oedipus didn’t twig that the Queen looked like him, or that he was in fact adopted. It is quite horrendous to hear of how he blinds himself so he can’t see, and then how he cries for himself, the suicide of the Queen, and their poor children who now have no joyful future because of his mistake making them figures of corruption through their incestuous birth.

I give it 7/10 because it’s a good play if you’ve never read it before, but know the story, and you get all the emotional responses to the revelation played out. I find plays a bit dull to read and usually they are quite long, but this one is short and loaded with suspense and emotion. It would be better acted out, as would any play, but I enjoyed it nonetheless because I love a good tragedy!

I have just read “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates, a short story about a girl who is punished for not conforming to her gender’s social expectations.

It starts out quite normal, with a pretty teenage girl, Connie, who resents her mother who doesn’t understand her and prefers her less attractive and more “sorted” sister. It then gets really creepy towards the end with the appearance of a guy with a gold car who is interested in Connie and puts her in a dangerous situation. Connie feels threatened by this guy, who expects her to get in his car with him and go off somewhere, and is freaked out when he describes what her family are doing at that same moment while they are out at a party.

Connie is a normal teenage girl, who acts one way with her family, and another, more mature and sexualised way with her friends, keeping her two personalities separate, until this strange guy, Arnold Friend comes around and her two personalities come crashing together. She realises just how dangerous her sexuality can be in the wrong situation and is forced out of childhood and into adulthood as a result of this terrifying experience.

Arnold Friend seems to be a cool boy at first, but as the tale progresses the description of him gets more worrying, with little things adding to the unease around this strange character. The fact that he is unsteady on his feet suggests he is possibly drunk, he knows more than he should know about Connie, her family and her friends, and runs through a list of old-fashioned expressions he thinks are cool when he tells his friend to leave him to it. It’s not clear if Arnold is a real man or a nightmare that Connie is having, but their interaction changes the way Connie sees the world.

There is a lot of tension in this short story, and it’s really creepy! It’s quite a disturbing wake-up call when you realise how much trouble your sexuality can cause when you’re barely mature enough to understand what it means to you and to other people. What you think is a game is very real to others who are older than you.

I give it 8/10 because it is well written, the atmosphere is very tense, and it makes you think a lot about being that age when everything is confusing and think you’re being mature when you’re clearly not.

If you want to read it, this link takes you to a PDF version: