The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Like a good classic? Why not check out the 19th century novel from Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of Oscar Wilde’s only novels. It is a gothic novel which follows the character of Dorian Gray and his demise after he sells his soul to the devil for beauty. Written in 1890, this novel is an interesting read as it was used as evidence during Wilde’s trial for gross indecency and relations with another man. At the time it was claimed that Wilde’s work emulated his own feelings in regards to homosexuality. Wilde even went on to add a prologue, which argues against the idea that his novel demonstrates his homosexual feelings. He argued that art can be created for the sake of it, that often there are no deep meanings behind art; it is just there to be enjoyed.

Believe it or not, previous to my introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray I have not had much experience with Wilde and his work. I personally struggle to connect with literature which is regarded as being ‘classic’. This may be because I have been continuously made to study them, and thus have found myself not enjoying them. However when I came across Wilde’s book I was pleasantly intrigued. I love a good gothic novel anyway, but the concept of selling ones soul for the sake of beauty was truly intriguing. I mean, I’m sure we all know somebody that would seriously consider this to stay young and beautiful forever, right?

The Picture of Dorian Gray is only a short novel, so I found myself getting through it quite quickly. This is helped by how well written and fluid Wilde’s work is. The speed that I got through it even had me questioning how it could be a 19th century novel. Though, that’s because of my personal experience with novels from this time period.

What I liked most about The Picture of Dorian Gray though was the character of Dorian himself. I loved how over such a short novel we saw such a progression in his character. The novel is set out over the course of many years, and in this time Dorian goes from a very well respected young man to a soulless murderous villain. And for me, this was exciting to read, to discover how far somebody can fall when they have made the decisions that Dorian had made. It was interesting to read how his decisions over this time were haunting him both mentally and physically. Wilde certainly has you questioning some of the decisions you go on to make after reading this novel.

I lack any negative comments regarding this book, though this may be because of how happy I am to have found a ‘classic’ that I love. I definitely think this Wilde’s novel is worth a read, whether you like the classics or not. It is a novel that leaves you reflecting on numerous themes, such as beauty, youth and greed. And, any novel that keeps you thinking and reflecting on what has been discussed is definitely a book worth reading.

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Teacher’s Pet – Hayley McGregor

Are books based on true stories your thing? Well, here i review the book that tells Hayley’s harrowing story

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Teacher’s Pet is the very true story of Hayley Mcgregor. Hayley was groomed and abused by her teacher in school, from the age of 12. It took Hayley twenty years though to realise what she went through was wrong. This is Hayley’s side of the story, as to what she experienced all those years ago, how she came to report those experiences to the police and what happened during the legal process.

It’s difficult to judge a book like Teacher’s Pet, this is for two reasons: 1. it is not a story from the imagination, you cannot really judge how the story progressed and how it ends, because it is a real life story, one that cannot and should not be manipulated for effect. 2. The writing and style just simply does not matter, yes if it is illegible it will be a struggle, but this book is not about how well it is written. It is simply a book trying to tell somebody’s side of the story and to spread a message.

That being said though, I found McGregor’s book to be a very good read. I’m not sure whether it was ghost written or not, though I’m not entirely sure that even matters. What I really liked though was the first few pages of the book, where McGregor gives a brief outline of what her story is about, and explains why she is telling her story. In this section of Teacher’s Pet the punishment of her abuser is divulged. Some might see this as a mistake, as the reader’s incentive to read on and see what became of the abuser is diminished. However, I found this to be the opposite, I was even more inclined to read on to discover Hayley’s own story. And, despite having the ending handed to me in the opening pages, I found that I read on and on finishing the book in a day.

You can’t help but have total admiration for Hayley after you have read this book. To have gone what she has gone through, from the abuse, to rocky relationships, to severe depression, and then to the realisation of what had really been happening to her. It really is remarkable how she is still fighting. Hayley did not need to write this book, she did not need to have her name publically known, but the fact she did is so important. Teacher’s Pet is allowing Hayley to spread her message and to reach those that may not realise what they too have been through or what they are currently going through. Teacher / Child relationships – I’m sure it is a topic we are all familiar with in one way of another. But, it is not a topic that I often see being severely frowned upon, and this book itself is testament on why both adults and children need to educate themselves on handling these types of situations.

So, if you are thinking about reading a true story next, or simply interested in how teacher/student relationships occur, as I was, I would highly recommend Teacher’s Pet. Although Hayley discusses sexual encounters in this book, I would not say it is too explicit. Therefore, I would encourage young adults and teenagers to read it, if only to open your eyes to the consequences and the trauma that can occur in these situations.

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A Poem for Every Night of the Year – Ed. Allie Esiri

in this post I move from reviewing novels to reviewing poetry

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So I know this blog is called find my fiction and it mainly focusses on novels, but I just wanted to share this book I had purchased quite recently. It is very simplistically called A Poem for Every Night of the Year and is edited by Allie Esiri. The book is exactly as the title suggests, it is a book full of 365 poems for you to devour each night before bed.

Now, I am not somebody who loves poetry, and I always dreaded studying it at school, college and even university. However, when I came across this book I just could not resist it. Mainly because it is just a beautifully decorated book, but also because I loved the idea of a book which could possibly open my eyes to the apparently great world of poetry. What is great about this selection of poems is the range of poets that are incorporated, from more classics such as T.S Elliott to some more modern and contemporary poets such as Tony Mitton. Allowing for a great range of poetry for you to discover, meaning there’s definitely something for everybody.

I came across this book on Amazon, and when I was reading the descriptions and the reviews I got the impression this book was more for children. I would strongly disagree with this view, and say that this book is for everybody. Some poems are silly and accessible for children, but some poems are far more complex than they may be able to grasp. So, I would say that this book definitely should not just be marketed for children. Though I agree it is a good tool to use to get children into poetry and all its forms.

Whether you are a child or an adult reading this book I feel you would appreciate, like I do, the short descriptions that Esiri includes prior to each poem. These descriptions give us a short insight into the mind of the poet, their inspiration or even some context. This I feel makes the reading experience far more enjoyable, because if you’re like me and a real poetry novice, the descriptions help to make more sense of the poetry in front of you.

If you have not already guessed, I would highly recommend A Poem for Every Day of the Week. Whether you are a poetry enthusiast or a bit a novice, you will find something in these pages that really sparks your imagination. – Though with 365 poems, I believe this will happen numerous times.

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Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

Have you seen the trailer? Well, here I review the novel by Nicola Yoon

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Everything Everything is the 2015 debut novel by Nicola Yoon. It has recently come back into the ‘limelight’ due to the soon to be released film adaptation. The novel tells the story of a young girl, Maddy, and her budding relationship with the boy next door, Olly. The twist with this first love story is that Maddy suffers from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), an illness which means she is allergic to everything and is unable to leave the house.

I do not know a lot about SIDC, so I cannot comment on its portrayal in this novel. However, I thought the story itself provided an interesting and thought provoking read. Everything Everything is simply an exploration of the lengths we will go to, and the risks we take, for love. One of my favourite aspects of the novel was this progression in Maddy. Somebody, who at the beginning of the novel simply accepted her situation, locked in the confines of her house. Yet, by the end of the novel we see how she has progressed into a life loving, adventure seeking woman with a thirst for life. Maddy was certainly a character that I routed for throughout the novel, one that I felt very much invested in. This, I must add, is a reaction to a character I have not had in a while. So, thank you Nicola.

I found Everything Everything to be a very quick read. Alongside a fantastic story, which leaves you wanting more, it has a very unique style and layout. The chapters of the novel are often very short, with some ‘chapters’ only last a few lines. So, if you’re somebody is conscious about paper wastage, maybe this book is not for you. Yoon’s husband, David Yoon also provided the novel with many great illustrations, which you will see throughout the novel. With the illustrations and the often extremely short chapters it is understandably why you may finish this, as I did, in one sitting.

I found this style that Yoon used to be very refreshing, and a very accessible way to write a book, as you are not bogged down by pages and pages of complicated writing. This I feel makes Everything Everything a perfect read for young adults. And with the novel focussing of young and first love I feel this book will appeal even more for young adult readers!

The only problem I found with this novel is that I found the ending and its twist to be very predictable. This appears to be happening very often to me, that I am finding myself disappointed as I have already worked out the plot. Maybe I will have to stop expecting unpredictability, or maybe I’m just not reading the right novels. Either way, I was a little disappointed that the story was so easily guessed. On a positive note though, because I had routed for Maddy’s character and for her journey so much, I was equally pleased with how Yoon closed the novel. So maybe shocking, unpredictable, wow factors are not everything?

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Lion: A Long Way Home – Saroo Brierley

stepping way from the fiction, here i review Saroo Brierley’s true story

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Lion: A Long Way Home is the true story of Saroo Brierley. The memoir tells the story of how a five-year-old Saroo boarded a train and got lost in India, and what has happened to him in the twenty-five years since this train journey. The first half of the book focuses on the struggles Saroo faced as a young boy lost in India. We learn of his experiences sleeping on the streets, how he was saved (twice) by a homeless man and how he was taken in by an orphanage. The second half of the book explores his adoption to Australia, his accomplishments and most importantly how he goes on to find his way back home to India.

This was a remarkable story, it seems incredible that a young boy lost so far from home would go on to make the journey that Saroo did. Even more so when you learn that Saroo finding his home town in India all these years later was a mere accident. However, the book itself was a little disappointing. The first half of Brierley’s story was great; it was full of interesting anecdotes and information. However, the second half I found began to feel a little repetitive. Brierley describes how he would spend hours upon hours searching on Google Earth for his village in India. Although understandably this was a repetitive act, I just felt that the book did not need this section to be quite so stretched out. It simply felt that Brierley was attempting to fill space so a book could be marketed.

Lion: A Long Way Home is also, for the majority, a story relying on very old memories. Often because of this, I would find myself questioning how reliable this story is. I understand people are different; sometimes traumatic experiences live with us very clearly, and sometimes our subconscious blocks out this trauma. So, I will not go into too much depth. But, there were a few moments in the first half of the book, when Saroo would have been very young, where I found myself questioning Saroo’s recollections – as it did not seem believable that these memories would still be so clear.

Saroo Brierley’s book was a pleasant read, the writing and grammar was decent so there were no problems with struggling to read it. However, there just seemed to lack a little something extra. I also felt as though the book could have been condensed much further and still have produced the same affect. So, although Brierley’s story was remarkable, I’m not so sure this was the best platform to tell this story. If you have not heard about it already, this book was adapted into a film, starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. I’m no film critique, however I found the film to be far better, and I enjoyed it far more than the book.

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A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Looking for something under the ‘children’s fiction’ category, here i review A Monster Calls

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Patricks Ness’ book, based upon the original idea of Siobhan Dowd, A Monster Calls has recently been thrown into the limelight due to its film adaptation in 2016. This adaptation was how I came to learn about the book. It is a novel written for children and focusses upon a boy who is struggling to cope with the diagnosis and consequences of his mother’s terminal cancer. Conor goes to sleep every night and experiences the same dream, until one night when he has a visitor at his window. What does this visitor want? It wants the truth, a truth that Conor is too scared to admit.

I was not sure what to expect from A Monster Calls, I had seen the trailers for the film adaption but was not entirely sure as to what the story was about. So, on a whim, I decided to purchase the novel, since I prefer to read the books before watching the movies. As a child, I was not a big reader, so I cannot begin to think what my child self would have made of the book. However, from an adult’s perspective I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was a novel that I got through in a day, and that’s telling, as that rarely happens. The story provides a rollercoaster of emotions as the main character, Conor, comes to terms with his mother’s illness that does not seem to be getting better.

The novel, like many classic fairy tales, follows the rule of three. – whereby something is done or said three times. If you’re not aware, this structure is used for several reasons. One reason being that this pattern can be more memorable when telling a story. Since A Monster Calls is a children’s novel, with a lesson to be learned, this technique is very effective. This is because it enables the story to remain with the child for longer. In A Monster Calls this rule of three is created through the stories that the monster tells on three separate occasions. Each one teaching a lesson to Conor, and the reader, until Conor is ready to divulge his truth. I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of building Conor up to his truth, as it enables both he and the reader to realise that it is ok to be honest even if you believe what you’re thinking is wrong. The book therefore takes the reader on lesson filled journey to discovery.

Although I studied a module on children’s literature at university, I am no expert on the topic. So, I’m probably not the best person to review a children’s novel. However, form a novice? I would definitely say this book is worth a read, whether you’re a child or an adult. It’s truly emotional, and simply gives a different approach to the stories of a parent getting ill. -Very rarely have I seen a novel about very sick parent from a struggling child’s point of view. Though I may just be missing a whole range of novels that have dealt with this subject and approach, I’m not sure. You’ll have to enlighten me, if that’s the case!

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Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

Recently adapted into a BBC drama, here I review the novel

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Apple Tree Yard is the 2013 novel by Louise Doughty. This book has received a lot of popularity recently, with the BCC drama of the same name being aired earlier on in the year. The plot focuses upon a character called Yvonne Carmichael who simply happens to find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time – and this leads to a terrible situation. I could go on about the plot of this novel, but I’m afraid this time I will give too much away. What I will say though is this: Yvonne was once happily married and a successful scientist, but finds herself embroiled in an affair, and later in the witness box for the charge of murder.

This is one of my favourite novels at the moment. Although the pivotal moment that leads to the trial is predictable, I can forgive this because of the depth and the layers of the story that Doughty creates. The subject matter of the affair is so ordinary and humane it makes the progression of the plot even more worrying. It is simply the idea of somebody being in the wrong place at the wrong time – and there is nothing more relatable than that.

Throughout Apple Tree Yard, Doughty uses the second person, and it worked brilliantly. Yvonne addresses us, the reader, as though we are her lover throughout the novel. This approach gives us a great sense of her feelings and her reasonings behind some of her actions. This is perfect as it emphasises just how ordinary of a character Yvonne is, so like you and me, that it is not impossible to see that we could make similar decisions.

Another thing I really liked about this novel is that until the trial we only know the lover by the name ‘X’. By removing the identity of the lover, we see, like Yvonne, how much of a fantasy the adulterous relationship is.  The name of Yvonne’s lover is revealed during the trial. By doing this I feel Doughty emphasised just how ordinary the lover actually is. Therefore, heightening the idea of the fantasy coming crashing down and revealing the realities. This therefore turned out to be an effective technique that the novel used, as it emphasised the contrast between the Yvonne’s fantasy world and its consequences.

I can honestly say I can’t think of a single thing I did not like about Apple Tree Yard. It was a very realistic novel, with relatable characters and a relatable situation for many. Through this it very effectively demonstrated how one decision or one bad choice can lead to very terrible situations. It is a novel that shows us as readers that our life can lead anywhere, no matter how happy and stable we seem at the current time. Understandably then, I would one hundred percent recommend you read this novel. For the reasons I have outlined, I feel like it would be a novel that most people would enjoy and could relate to in one way or another. I have not yet watched the BBC adaptation as I wanted to read the novel first, though I feel it is unlikely that the drama would match up to Doughty’s writing.

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