Hidden Figures – Magot Lee Shetterly

Here i review the book based on the true story of the female minds behind the early days of space exploration

Advertisements

hidden-figures

Hidden Figures is the novel by Margot Lee Shetterly, based on the true story of the women behind the space programs in the mid twentieth century. The novel focuses upon the efforts of America to get a man into orbit around the earth, as well as the mission to get the first man on to the moon. Shetterly uses this novel to tell us this previously untold story of a group of black women who were behind much of the maths and calculations that made these missions happen.

Hidden Figures is a true but untold story, so it is difficult to dislike, as it is so unique. It was great to read about how these women fought both racial and gender struggles in order to do the job that they were doing. And what was also fascinating was reading about how some of these women were thought of as being ‘computers’. At a time when we are surrounding with technology it’s hard to imagine a time when computers and calculators did not exist to carry out our work and mathematics. But the reality is, of course there was a time like this. And at this time it was people with ridiculous maths skills that would be in charge of making these calculations – often they were calculations that would mean life or death.

So, from the perspective of Hidden Figures being a big eye opener and a reality check for somebody who takes technology and pretty much life for granted, Shetterly’s novel is a great read. However, for me, I simply felt there were too many scientific and mathematical references. I felt because I am not somebody from that world and I don’t have a real grasp on space and maths, that I struggled to keep track and follow everything that was happening. Obviously for a book that is telling the story of these women in the space program it would be impossible to not include the science and maths, as that is the story. However, unfortunately for me, I did struggle with the novel a little bit.

I feel that Shetterly did a great job in bringing this story to the forefront of many minds, and it was great to learn that a program such as NASA, which most would associate with white males, actually had so many strong and powerful black females at its core. So, I would recommend this book for anybody who is after a book with something a bit different happening and something whereby you can learn from. However, if you’re like me and get a bit bogged down with terminology and references that you don’t necessarily understand, I would not recommend that you read Hidden Figures. Simple because I feel, like myself, you might find reading this book a bit more of a chore than a pleasure. That being said though, in 2016 Hidden Figures was adapted into a film. This I found to be so much more accessible, and allowed me to come to grips with the story so much more. So, although I am not here to recommend films, this is one I would recommend.

star-1star-1

Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

Seen the movie? Well, why not read the book?

fight-club

Fight Club is the 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk. The novel focuses upon an unnamed protagonist who sets up a ‘secret’ club allowing men to fight one another. You’ve surely heard the number one rule about fight club in your lifetime, ‘The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club’, well this is the origins of that reference. And, I apologise in advance for breaking this crucial rule.

I first read this book as part of my university course, on a module that explored the representations of masculinity in fiction. So, I’m finding it slightly hard to look at this novel without the discussions we had at university niggling away at me. For me, Palahniuk’s Fight Club is all that masculinity is. It demonstrates that archetypal need to prove ones masculinity continuously. I mean it is a novel about the creation of a fight club, a fight club that allows men to escape their everyday and act in violent ways, ways that society views as masculine. So, understandably it is painfully hard not to talk about this novel without referencing the portrayal of the masculine figure.

I felt that Palahniuk’s novel was too much of a blanket statement. By this I mean that the novel only portrayed males as being this architype of masculinity. I don’t recall hearing of a male character that knew about the club turn their nose up to it. Instead we were given male after male who felt they needed to be involved, and ultimately prove how masculine they were. Maybe this was the point though, that within every male there is that man who is struggling with their identity and struggling to accept their masculinity. Either way I felt it would have been more interesting to include somebody who did not bow down to these pressures, somebody who could see the club for what it was; a performance. Therefore, for me, although this novel attempts to portray masculinity it does not do a rounded job, as in reality not all men are like this.

That being said though, I did enjoy the way that Palahniuk wrote this novel. It is only a short novel of around 210 pages, yet he included such a brilliant plot twist that books of twice the length are unable to achieve. We know throughout the novel that the unnamed protagonist is an insomniac and that he has a friend Tyler who he talks about a lot. In fact, it was Tyler who the protagonist sets up the fight club with. Yet, what I was not expecting was the shocking twist of events towards the end of the novel. Which, if you read Fight Club yourself, you will find flips the plot and puts into question the events of the entire novel.

I think it’s safe to say that everybody knows of the movie adaptation of Fight Club. I, myself, have not actually seen it – and no I don’t live under a rock. So, I cannot compare the novel with the film in anyway. Though, after reading Palahniuk’s novel I will definitely be adding Fight Club to my list of ‘movies to watch’, as I am very intrigued as to how this novel has been adapted for the screen.

Palahniuk’s novel has a lot of violence and aggressive imagery in it, so if that is something that you don’t like reading, then obviously this book is not for you. However, I would recommend this book if you are interested in stereotypical masculine behaviours. Though, like I previous said, don’t be expecting a rounded evenly weighted argument of masculinity, as you will not get it.

star-1star-1

Lion: A Long Way Home – Saroo Brierley

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

lion-saroo-brierley

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.

star-1star-1