Wednesday, 27 March 2013

HELLO The Classics Club - Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, written in 1886 by Robert Louis Stevenson. It's a horror, thriller about London lawyer, Gabriel John Utterson, who investigates the strange goings on with his friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the allusive, evil, Mr Edward Hyde.

It's the classic good verses evil, seen through Jekyll and Hyde, the divided personalities within the one body.

13th Nov 1850 - 3rd Dec 1894

Stevenson suffered from reoccurring illnesses from childhood till his death, leaving him extremely thin. He was an only child and described as 'strange looking,' and 'eccentric.' Due his illnesses he spent a lot of time at home, and wrote lots of stories.

He moved from his birth place of Scotland to warmer climes,to Bournemouth, for his health. Here he wrote Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, inspired by a dream. Apparently, he was ill with a haemorrhage at the time.

It has been said that we place a part of ourselves in our work. That rings a bell. Oh, yes. I'm reading The Picture of Dorian Gray at the moment. It is true, I believe, and Stevenson certainly did in this work. He was interested in how personality effects our lives, and with him suffering will bouts of illness, this story is symbolic of his physical and spiritual struggles.

I recently read The Golem by Gustav Meyrink, and this book has the same feel to me. Jekyll and Hyde were always on the periphery, yet they drew you in, through the streets and houses, murder and fear. Poor Dr Jekyll feels alive as Hyde, but this dark side has to die.

The story is allegorical, as Stevenson's wife suggested. Good verses evil. I think from a psychological point of view, conscious verses subconscious, it would make a great study. I enjoyed this book and have discovered, from other books I've selected in my 50 list, that a nice 'shelf' of them are Gothic horror.

Monday, 25 March 2013

HELLO The Classics Club - Frankenstein

Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, 1818.
A Gothic horror, romance about a nameless creature created by experimentation, by the scientist, Victor Frankenstein.

Prometheus refers to the Greek myth of the Titan, creator of mankind, in his image, who brought man light.

The story is told by Captain Walton who is on a North Pole expedition, and is corresponding with his sister. He rescues Frankenstein from the ice waters. He narrates his story to Walton.

Frankenstein is ambitious. But upon creating life, a monster in his eyes) he abandons it. The create, no doubt, seeks revenge.

30th Aug 1797 - 1st Feb 1851

Mary Shelley was born to William Godwin, political philosopher, and Mary Wollstonecraft, philospher and feminist, who died shortly after giving birth to her. She conducted an affair with poet, Percy Shelley, and they later married, in 1816, following the suicide of his wife. It was that same year, whilst in Switzerland with Lord Byron (poet), John William Polidori (creator of vampire genre) and Claire Clairemont (Mary's stepsister), that Mary Shelley literally dreamt the idea of Frankenstein. She died from a brain tumour ages 53.

I read this book expecting thunder bolts and lightning, nuts and bolts, forgetting that was all Hollywood's input. Forget the rumours of its authorship. Frankenstein is a brilliant Gothic, horror romance. There is a monster. Yes, he kills. However, there is a point where you empathise with the creature. He's alone in the woods and learns language by listening and observing a family who live there. He does kind, unseen deeds to help them. In a bid to be accepted be confronts the blind resident, of course it doesn't turn out how he thinks.

It's sad too, that he has no name, though Hollywood insist on Frankenstein. Tut!

It goes to show. Read the book before you see the film versions. Create your own images.

Friday, 22 March 2013

HELLO The Classic Club - Animal Farm

The Classics Spin. Another re-read from my childhood. I read the book without knowing the symbolism behind the animals on the farm. Back then, I thought it was a story about disgruntled animals who'd had enough of the farmer controlling their lives.

Animal Farm was first published in 1945 with the sub-title: A Fairy Story, which was later dropped. It is a satire capturing the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Stalinism by way of symbolism. For example, the Old Major, the prize boar and leader of the animals, represents a combination of Marx and Lenin. When he dies, Napoleon and Snowball, two opposing pigs take the rule. They represent Lenin and Trotsky respectively. Other animals play out human characteristics.

23/06/1903 - 21/01/1950
As a child, George dreamed of becoming a writer, hoping to write a book like H.G.Well's A Modern Utopia. Other literary connections occur at Eton where he was taught French, briefly, by Aldous Huxley.

His family suggested sending him to India, where he was born, and where he enrolled in the Indian Imperial Police. He also worked in Burma, but became sick and returned home in 1927, to pursue writing.

Did I enjoy it second time round. Yes, I did. I can read the book with it's multi layers and appreciate what Orwell was portraying in his allegory. And I guess you can call it a fairy tale. I don't know why he did or why the title was dropped, but fairy tales, too, use symbolism to get their story across. I do that in my own writing.

As the story developed you could see how the rules that were made by the animals in power, the pigs, were changed to benefit them, and manipulated, to dumb down the rest of the farm. Some animals didn't see the subtleties, some chose to ignore them, feeling safe in their ignorance. And then full circle. And an apt ending.

My other Orwell read on my list of 50 is Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

HELLO World Book Day

It's World Book Day today.

To celebrate, every junior school child is given a £1 book token. They also dress up as a fictional character. I remember my daughter's costume encompassed the story of The Three Little Pigs. She was dressed in black, as the Big Bad Wolf, and carried three little soft toy pigs. I think I was the only mum who didn't mind being creative.

Well, being a bookworm, I ventured into town on my day off (yey), and had a wonder round Waterstones. I bought these two books, added points to my card and got a free £10 pound gift card in the process.



How did you celebrate World Book Day?

Did you buy a book for yourself or someone else?

What book are you reading at the moment?

P.S Happy Birthday to The Classics Club who celebrate their first birthday today.

Friday, 1 March 2013

HELLO The Classics Club - Lord of the Flies

This was a set book I remember reading at high school. I should say I remember the story, because we watched the film too. What I do know is that I enjoyed that fact that it was kids on an island fending for themselves. The two things that were ingrained in my mind were Piggy and the conch.

William Golding - novelist, playwright and poet - was born 19th September 1911, in Cornwall, England. Best know for his novel, Lord of the Flies, published by Faber and Faber, 1954. Initially not successful, it became a best-seller in the sixties, and a popular choice for set reading in schools and colleges.
19/09/19 - 10/06/93
This classic involves a group of school boys who crash land on an uninhabited island. It's a story about survival without adults, a child's greatest fear. Initially, 'no adults' seems fun, but someone has to take control. Ralph takes this role with the conch shell, bringing order out of chaos. But things go belly-up.

This book is a psychological and sociological experience about isolation. Educated boys form groups to perform tasks such as hunting and fire lighting, and rules are created. Paradise becomes a threat when fear emerges in the form of the 'beast.' Basic life breaks down into primitive savagery. 

My remembered character, Piggy, is a wonderfully flawed character in many ways, but one that keeps the characters and story in check, I think. The sensible 'adult' figure amongst the groups trying to get his voice heard.

It may not have had a fairy-tale ending, but stranded on an island, things were never going to end smoothly. I found it satisfying.