Saturday, June 28, 2014

Homemade Heart-Shaped Bookmarks




I have always adored these heart-shaped bookmarks, so last night I made a bunch.

The last time I made bookmarks was a few years ago and these hearts are nowhere near as cute. But they are impossibly easy to make - just glue the top half of small heart on a larger heart for the first. Or - you can paste the top half of a cut out of a heart on a same sized heart to get the golden one. Quick and useful. The golden one will highlight your page number or title! The other one, well, it'll make even Marlowe seem cheerful and that's saying something!

Do you have any DIY bookmark ideas? I could use a little something-to-do. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (which, incidentally, J. K. Rowling loved) is a re-imagining of the Trojan war from the point of view of Patroclus, whose minor appearance in the Iliad has the greatest consequences. (If you don't know what I'm talking about stop reading when I say, "Spoiler!")

Overall impression: I'd rate this book a 3.5 / 5. It's an engaging read, recommended to those interested in Greek or Trojan mythology. That being said, there are countless interpretations of the Iliad, and it may be unfair to expect it to do something that hasn't been done before. It's not a retelling. It rarely strays from the original, but will be a good introduction to the myth. 

Summary: As a young boy, Patroclus is one of the princes present at the time when the beautiful Helen chooses to marry the red-haired Menelaus. Along with the other warrior men, Patroclus takes the oath, proposed by Odysseus, to honour Helen's choice and defend her husband against anyone who'd take her from him. All princes present are enviably handsome, powerful and gifted, while Patroclus is a little boy, feeble, unpromising and a disappointment to his father. One day, at the age of eight, Patroclus accidentally kills a boy who bullies him, and confesses. His father, infuriated by his un-princely humbleness, exiles him to Pythia, a small country ruled by King Peleus. Peleus's son, sired from the sea-nymph goddess Thetis, is prophecized to be Aristos Achaion, the best of the Greeks. Achilles.

Ignoring all the boys who fight for his attention, Achilles chooses Patroclus as his companion. Their friendship blossoms into love. Even Achilles's mother finds Patroclus unworthy of her son, and they struggle against all odds to be together. During their apprenticeship with Chiron, king of the Centaurs, news arrives of Queen Helen's abduction from Sparta and Agamemnon's appeal to sail to Troy to rescue her. Achilles, unable to trick his fate, and Patroclus, bound by his vow, are recruited to join the Greeks. With the prophecy hanging over their heads, certain that Achilles would die in the war, after the death of Hector, the Myrmidons, commanded by Achilles, set off for Troy.

What I didn't like: Flitting tenses are annoying, but that's just me. Patroclus's narration is often maudlin and he seems infatuated with Achilles and absurdly unaware of his own potential, until the moment it's revealed to us (surprise!) that Patroclus is the best of the Myrmidons. Patroclus's descriptions of Achilles are garish and repetitive, and the love scenes are sometimes laughably awkward. At some of the key moments, the purple prose strives to invoke a reaction and we lose the profound simplicity such scenes demand.

What I liked: The Song of Achilles is aptly titled and looks at Achilles in all his glory and terror with an unbiased honesty, that only a lover can show. The story and the point of view turns the hero or the villain, as he's bound to be either extreme in most interpretations of the myth, into a person. The characters of this book are charmingly fleshed out, my favourites are Odysseus, Thetis and Briseis. The floweriness of Patroclus's descriptions doesn't extend to the dialogue, which has a good flow and gives each character his distinct voice.

The all encompassing quality of this book makes it special. It strings together countless stories of all the men of Greece and Ilium and all the Olympian gods, capturing the essence of an epic. It's clear that a lot of research went into this book, and that makes the absence of information dumps all the better. 

(SPOILER!) From the very first page, beginning with Patroclus's first person narration, I wondered what would happen after he died. It would be weird if the narrative just stopped after Hector killed Patroclus and the book ended with Hector still alive. No book about Achilles would skip his final revenge. And a shift in point of view so close to the end would be too jarring. So what Miller's done is use a risky literary device and let the unburied spirit of Patroclus shadow the rest of the war, invisibly watching Achilles's death and the fall of Troy. It sounds hard to pull off, and seems too contrived at first, but the ghost-narration is wonderfully executed and the book ends on an impossibly happy note. (end of SPOILER)

Favourite conversations:

(a young Achilles, full of hope, in spite of his godly destiny)
"Name one hero who was happy." 
I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family; Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason's children and new wife were murdered by his old; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus' back.
"You can't." He was sitting up now, leaning forward. 
"I can't." 
"I know. They never let you be famous AND happy." He lifted an eyebrow. "I'll tell you a secret." 
"Tell me." I loved it when he was like this. 
"I'm going to be the first."

(Chiron, on the futility of war)
Chiron had said once that nations were the most foolish of mortal inventions. "No man is worth more than another, wherever he is from."  
"But what if he is your friend?" Achilles had asked him, feet kicked up on the wall of the rose-quartz cave. "Or your brother?  Should you treat him the same as a stranger?"  
"You ask a question that philosophers argue over," Chiron had said. "He is worth more to you, perhaps. But the stranger is someone else’s friend and brother. So which life is more important?"
We had been silent. We were fourteen, and these things were too hard for us. Now that we are twenty-seven, they still feel too hard.

(Odysseus and Pyrrhus on the randomness of glory)
Odysseus inclines his head. "True. But fame is a strange thing. Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another." He spread his broad hands. "We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory. Who knows?" He smiles. "Perhaps one day even I will be famous. Perhaps more famous than you.”
"I doubt it."
Odysseus shrugs. "We cannot say. We are men only, a brief flare of the torch. Those to come may raise us or lower us as they please."

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

Reminiscent of: The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe, The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh

We learn of great things by little experiences. The history of ages is but an indefinite repetition of the history of hours. The record of a soul is but a multiple of the story of a moment. The Recording Angel writes in the Great Book in no rainbow tints; his pen is dipped in no colours but light and darkness. For the eye of infinite wisdom there is no need of shading. All things, all thoughts, all emotions, all experiences, all doubts and hopes and fears, all intentions, all wishes seen down to the lower strata of their concrete and multitudinous elements, are finally resolved into direct opposites.

Summary: Malcolm Ross, a young barrister, is summoned by his lady friend Margaret Trelawney, when someone attempts to murder her father. Mr. Trelawney is an Egyptologist, and his house is filled with curios, from gruesome sarcophagi and mummies to ornate trinkets. 

The sudden attack on Mr. Trelawney, who is now unconscious, has left Margaret wholly distraught. Oddly, as if he has been aware of the danger all along, Mr. Trelawney has left his daughter a letter, instructing her not to move any items in his room,with an order that there always be at least one man and woman watching him at all times, night or day. On the first night, a second attack is made on Mr. Trelawney, right under the noses of the watchers, including Ross, are found discovered in a deep seemingly drug induced slumber. 

Through the course of the book unfolds the story of Egyptian Queen Tera, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Margaret, and her dream of resurrecting in a future world, more suited to a powerful woman like her. Now, fifty thousands years later, Queen Tera has been set free. It is apparent that she wants to return to her own embalmed body, which rests unsurprisingly in a sarcophagus in Mr. Trelawney's house. The question is: how much does Mr. Trelawney know and what is he hiding?

My thoughts: I was very curious to read another book by Bram Stoker,  needless to say, I love Dracula. The Jewel of Seven Stars is a curious intriguing book. But it suffers from the pesky The Casual Vacancy syndrome, and is underrated, because, well - it's not Dracula.

Of course it isn't Dracula, but you can see it's the same writer. The switching of perspectives is smooth, we slip easily into two long stories - one by an old explorer when he first unearthed Queen Tera's tomb and the other by Mr. Trelawney's friend about their journeys through Egypt. Malcolm Ross's first person narration resembles Jonathan Harker's in its deep detailed descriptions. But I love how we have a very biased view of the story, partial to the admirable Margaret Trelawney whom the lawyer never doubts. We see every character through the almost self-deprecating eyes of Ross, who gives so little away about himself - we only know of his intellect and experience through the others' easy confidence in him. Stoker is good with characters in Dracula, and this is no less.

Another truly enchanting quality of the book is its mood. The atmosphere is rich with suspense and mythical exoticness. The glimpses into the old unfamiliar culture are evident not only through the travels to Egypt but in that antique quality possessed by the Trelawneys' house and lives.

The book questions belief and experimentation, questions science and skeptics, and contrasts the knowledge of the Old and New worlds. It also has a very feministic quality, and Margaret Trelawney is a remarkable character, comparable with Mina, if in nothing other than her strength.

What the book lacks is perhaps a coherent structure. The plot is confusing, its pace inconsistent. It almost feels as if not enough work went into it. And then there's the ending - abrupt, bizarre, surprising and actually effective. I don't think Stoker ever intended for Margaret's 'connection' with Queen Tera to be a secret - but even with only thirty pages left in the book, we find it hard to imagine what might happen next and when the ending does come it leaves us aghast - in a good way, if that's possible. Think: every Stephen King ending, it's so simple, you wouldn't have dreamt a whole book would built up to that. Now I prefer such an ending to an unexpected unlikely twist. But I can see how others wouldn't. Apparently: Stoker was forced to rewrite his disturbing, depressing ending to make it more appealing to the masses. (I wish he hadn't fallen for that.) 

My copy had both endings. The first shocked me, so I tried the next. But: the alternate ending is mind-numbingly sappy, a fairy tale wrap-up so enormously disappointing, it spoils the overall effect of the book - like a delicious dessert with a bad after-taste, which makes you wish you hadn't eaten that thing in the first place.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, if you know what to expect. It's not outright horror, more a mix of dark fantasy, adventure and mystery. It's also not Dracula. If you do decide to read this, though, I'd suggest making sure you read the first ending, the one that Stoker originally intended. What you want is the 1903 version, which you can find here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top Ten Books On My Summer (sort of) TBR List

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic requires a little revising around here. I should call it Top Ten Books On My Monsoon TBR List, because summer is finally dwindling to that much awaited end. When it stops being so excruciatingly hot and at last rains, I'd cuddle with a blanket and a cuppa, and spend my time reading:

Books I've bought recently, but haven't got around to reading:

1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - The book is apparently about the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. I'm a sucker for Troy retellings. When I read that Rowling recommended the book, I had to buy it!

2. Farthing by Jo Walton - After I read Tooth and Claw by Walton, I was recommended this, and I jumped at the chance of reading an alternate history novel.

3. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett - I have loved the Moist von Lipwig books so far (Going Postal and Making Money) and can't wait to read about the new trains in Discworld.

Classics that would make the perfect rainy weather + stuck inside the house reads. 

4. Persuasion by Jane Austen - I just got this from the library. I've only read one Austen and I can't wait to be surprised by her all over again.

5. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - I want to tackle this monster this year, before I start college again, and now seems like the perfect time. I read Anna Karenina in a month, so two should do for this, what do you think?

New-ish books that seem promising

6. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith - Does she still really keep up with the penname? Either way, anything by J.K. Rowling is a auto-buy for me. Cuckoo's Calling was interesting, and I can't wait to meet the Strike + Robin duo again.

7. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King - I'm on the fence about this one. While Stephen king is one of those authors I have to buy, I have quit gory horror, so I might just buy it and put it away for next year. Though I probably won't be able to resist reading it once I have it .

8. A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie - When this came out a couple of months ago, the publisher's Facebook page kept bragging and swooning about it and I've been meaning to get this book ever since.

Books everyone else has read that I really need to catch up on. 

9. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - Okay, there's only one book here. Honestly, with books that have so much hype, it's an effort to keep no expectations, but I'm going to try.

Short Stories

10. Short stories - Collections, anthologies and e-zines as many as I can read. This is a genre(?) I haven't explored nearly enough, but am very interested in.

What about you? Which of these have you read and liked? And what are your reading plans for the next few months?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore by Angela Carter (from American Ghosts and Old World Wonders)


When I discovered that Delia at Postcards from Asia and Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat were hosting the Angela Carter Week from 8th to 15th June, I immediately signed up.

Then I skipped off to Wikipedia and saw, alongside that interesting picture, that she was an English writer known for her feminism, magical realism and picaresque writing. I later also came across an interesting interview of A. S. Byatt, in which she describes her first meeting with Carter, with whom she became great friends, and admits:

"...About five years ago she (Angela Carter) said that she had realized that she was a writer because of fairy tales, because she was hooked on narrative as a child, not by realist novels about social behavior or how to be a good girl, but by these very primitive stories that go I think a lot deeper. It wasn't until she said it that I felt empowered..."

American Ghosts and Old World Wonders by Angela Carter is a stylish book, a little slow but avant-garde. I've read five stories in this collection so far and it'll be easier to write about all in one three-starred review. But this story deserves a post of its own. It has some of the most imaginative, creative writing I have read in a while.

America begins and ends in the cold and solitude. Up here, she pillows her head upon the Arctic snow. Down there, she dips her feet in the chilly waters of the South Atlantic, home of the perpetually restless albatross.

That is an excellent sample of the kind of descriptions and metaphors Angela treats you with throughout the book. But John Ford's 'Tis a Pity She's a Whore is special. The unique story begins with a note: John Ford was an English playwright, best known for his tragedy, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. In his time, the play was hugely controversial, and was retitled Giovanni and Annabella, after the two siblings whose scandalous incestuous affair the story follows.

In her story John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, Angela Carter has re-imagined the Jacobean play as a movie by the Irish American film director, also named John Ford, who was popular for his westerns. The siblings have been aptly renamed Johnny and Annie-Belle, and that is only the first of the many cheeky puns and tropes the story uses. It is not just a retelling, but an Americanization; one that will make you both throw your head back and laugh, and marvel at its ingenuity. 

The story itself is pretty straightforward. When their mother dies, Johnny and Annie-Belle are left with their father, who has no time for them, and live far away from anyone else. Silence and space and an unimaginable freedom which they dare not imagine. Their affair, which seems only natural at first, leads to suspicious rumours about town, and ends in an unwanted pregnancy. Finally aware of the 'wrongness' of their love, Annie-Belle, the good girl that she is, agrees to marry the Minister's son, who has always thought her pretty. The pregnancy becomes known only after the wedding, and while the Minister's wife swears to kick the girl out, the men of the family show her an uncanny kindness. Annie-Belle tells her husband that the father of the child is a random passerby, no one he knows. Johnny, seething with rage, jealousy, running on alcohol, sets off to set the record straight.

What really stirs me is the brilliant structure of the story. It reads like a combination of a proper narrative, a script of a play and a screenplay. The action flits back and forth in time, as does the language. The alternating techniques and juxtaposing styles form a deeply interactive story, which uses its reader's imagination as fuel. Carter breaks all the rules; gives you background music, stage directions, an omniscient narrator, notes to herself and camera positions. Varying the placing of the text, playing with the indents, using the page as almost a canvas, she creates an artwork of a short story. 

                                        EXTERIOR. PRAIRIE. DAY
                                        (Close up) Johnny and Annie-Belle kiss.
                                        "Love Theme" up.
                                        Dissolve.

                         No. It wasn't like that! Not in the least like that.
                         He put out his hand and touched her wet hair. He was giddy.

Annabella: Methinks you are not well.
Giovanni: Here's none but you and I. I think you love me, sister.
Annabella: Yes, you know I do.

The innovative structure of this story takes nothing away from Carter's fairy tale style, which features in the other stories of this collection as well. From the simplistic "Once upon a time..."-style beginning right up to the abrupt ending, Carter leaves the reader to draw his own conclusions. But, she does depart from the plot long enough to drop observations and opinions that challenge you to take a closer look at the tragedy and its implications.

Each time they lay down there together, as if she obeyed a voice that came out of the quilt telling her to put the light out, she would extinguish the candle flame between her finger-tips. All around them, the tactility of the dark. 
She pondered the irreversibility of defloration. According to what the Minister's wife said, she had lost everything and was a lost girl. And yet this change did not seem to have changed her.

Of the other stories I've read, I like Gun for the Devil, which revolves around an old legend, about a man who makes a pact with the devil to obtain a bullet that cannot miss its target. Should you decide to read this collection, here's a fair warning: be prepared to have every expectation (and every notion of how a story ought to be) unforgivingly shattered.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Love Will Make You Drink and Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night by Shelly Lowenkopf

About the book: Love Will Make You Drink and Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night brings a number of Shelly Lowenkopf’s previously published short stories together in a single volume. All the stories revolve around life in Santa Barbara, the oceanside city north of Los Angeles, where people go after they’ve burned out in San Francisco and L.A. Yet there’s no safe haven anywhere. Interwoven into Santa Barbara’s picturesque setting, the people in these twelve stories reveal what their hearts and souls encounter in relationships. Their misreadings, mistakes, and misadventures bare what happens to people who love another

My thoughts: Love Will Make You Drink and Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night will make you appreciate short stories. I've only been reading collections and anthologies for a few years now, but this will definitely make it to my top favourites. Only the other day I read this blog post about Hemingway's iceberg theory, and it sort of applies to Shelly Lowenkopf's writing: there's a lot more meaning to glean from the stories than it would appear. Not all stories had the same deep impact on me, and I have to confess, some left me a bit confused - but overall, this makes good collection, the kind that you'd want to savour over time rather than devouring in a day. My favourite stories:

I've Got Those King City Blues - Placing must be important in a collection. This story makes a good first taste, enough to make you want to continue, but not so good as to set your expectations too high! It's not as much a story as a glimpse into the life of Charlene, a forty one year old, just out of a bad relationship and looking for a chance at a better one. The writing is atmospheric and tense, and the ending leaves you wanting more.

Charlene sat up, withdrew her hand from his, circled her knees with her arms. “Doesn’t anything last, Brian Sullivan?” Even in the growing dimness, she saw the same expression on him as when she’d caught him peering into his coffee cup.
“It hasn't so far,” he said.

The Ability - Rachel is hired as a ghost writer of condolence letters. This story is brilliant, both in its concept and execution. It is made up of tiny intriguing details of character, things that could only be caught by an experienced and observant eye. It makes you laugh, tear up and wonder how strange life often gets.

Absent Friends - This is easily my favourite story of the bunch and certainly worth buying the whole collection for. Who knew a short story could have so much to say? I've already read this thrice and still don't have words to explain it. Saying it's about the relationships in the life of Sam Zachary, who is worried he has lost his cat, is not enough. It's a sad story that makes you put your joys and troubles in perspective, and wish you didn't have to.

"Not everyone gets to live the span projected  for them. I know it sucks, particularly if life seems to be going so well. Sometimes there are unanticipated events. Sometimes-" she seemed to consider for a moment, "-sometimes you have to make choices."

Death Watches - This story captures the effect of the death of an acquaintance on a lonely man; and the comical inner struggle that follows, between filling an apparent void in his life and the habitual inability to make amends.

The sadness this time had begun with the news of Richard Martin’s death. Then, the sadness had begun to spread, like a spilled glass of wine on someone’s table cloth, taking up friendships, loves, old relationships, future possibilities, and, of course Langer's own sense of his own longevity.

Love Will Make You Drink and Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night - The title story is another well placed story, right in the middle. It follows the winding relationship between Carter and Cissy in a matter of days. It's the kind of story that you can read over and over, and end up with a completely different impression every time. It's also a story with a powerful makes-you-smile ending.

"The freaking universe has a mind of its own. Unfolds the way it wants."

Messages - This story is about the relationship dynamic between two people seemingly in love, the giving and getting back, the missed signals, the expectations. You see Roger Beck, who takes his relationship a step further by moving in with Dana and her kid Frances, who is pretty okay except when she hears voices. It's a weird story, packed with restless confusion - there is no real beginning and ending, but that works astonishingly well.

I also liked the stories Mr. Right and Coming to Terms, Witness Relocation Program and Molly, which is this strange, funny piece about a man who plans to steal his friend's dog. All stories are about weaknesses, misunderstandings and mistakes but even the gray characters have these inevitable, redemptive qualities. The stories are set in the same world, with a few characters and places crossing over, like the Xanadu Coffee Shop and it's a world that, despite all its issues, you want to be a part of.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves a good short story, and definitely suggest it to every budding writer. At close to two hundred pages, Love Can Make You Drink and Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night by Shelly Lowenkopf is a treat.

Check out the Virtual Author Book Tours page for more reviews, giveaways and interviews. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.

You know, I'd decided to stay away from horror and the resolve seems to have lasted barely two months and about twelve books. I suppose Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier isn't horror in the strictest sense, it's a mystery and a romance; but it is ruthless, daring, packed with haunting emotion and brutally honest; which makes it everything I wished to avoid about horror and am glad I didn't.

Summary: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." This is definitely one of the most iconic book beginnings ever. Right from the very first words, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier maintains an engrossing style. The book begins with our narrator giving us glimpses of her life in the present in a hotel, with her husband, and nostalgic memories of another life, in a place called Manderley that she dares not mention to her husband. Then our unnamed narrator takes us back to when she first met her husband, Maxim de Winter, in Monte Carlo.

When they first meet, the narrator is a naive twenty one year old orphan working as a lady's maid for the insufferable Mrs. Van Hopper. Maxim de Winter is a handsome middle aged gentleman who is known for his fabulous house, Manderley, and the fact that his wife drowned a year ago. Both find escape from their lives in each other's company, and when it's time for the narrator to leave to New York with her gossipy employer, Maxim de Winter proposes to her and offers her to accompany him to Manderley.

'A little while ago you talked about an invention,' he said, 'some scheme for capturing a memory. You would like, you told me, at a chosen moment to live the past again. I'm afraid I think rather differently from you. All memories are bitter, and I prefer to ignore them. Something happened a year ago that altered my whole life, and I want to forget every phase in my existence up to that time. (...) You have blotted out the past for me, you know, far more effectively that all the bright lights of Monte Carlo.'

But in Manderley, which is scenic and mesmerizing, things aren't as easy as the new Mrs. de Winter supposed. She can see her husband is happy at home, but he's also distant, and prone to the oddest mood swings. And as she soon begins to discover, the house and its people and relations are still stuck in the past. The the shadow of Maxim's first wife, Rebecca, looms over the narrator, stifling her, making her an intruder on her own life. Wherever she goes, it's Rebecca this, Rebecca that, "she was the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen." Their neighbours, the narrator feels, compare her with Rebecca and she falls short. Rebecca's old lady's maid, Mrs. Danvers hates the narrator for trying to replace her mistress, and tries to sabotage her relationship with Manderley at every turn. The gossip torments our uneducated, untrained, innocent narrator and the expectations bog her down.

And in the midst of it all, there's the mystery of Rebecca's death. As if an accomplished sailor drowning in her own boat wasn't odd enough, the narrator finds Mrs. Danvers and a strange man in Rebecca's old room, Maxim pales at even the barest mention of his first wife, a crazy guy called Ben living in the cottage where Rebecca spent her many nights has freaky things to say about her, and as the narrator tries to piece together the tragedy of Manderley, she wonders if Maxim would ever love her as he loved Rebecca.

My thoughts: The narration is evocative, urgent, authentic. The descriptions are vivid, richly suspenseful. But for me, it's the construction of the book, the falling in to place like a puzzle of the story, the timelines, the little technical details like never revealing the narrator's name, and never actually showing us Rebecca, we see not even a picture, only the impression she's left on those alive and what the narrator makes of it, the truth revealed is all the more shocking hence. I love the writer for showing us just enough to help us guess the truth on our own. At the end it's not a story we've been told, it's something we've experienced - and that lends it its intellectual charm.

For the first time in a long time, I wrote about the book first in my diary and am now typing it out. I've written three pages of notes. I've written how I love the brooding aristocratic Maxim and his relationships, especially with his sister and his ever carefully calm and composed exterior. It occurs to me how you can never guess the torment inside anybody, no matter how well you think you know them. Poring over my notes, I realize I could never fit them into a conventional review; the scenes that stand clear in my memory; how Mrs. Danvers tried to coax the narrator into taking her life, how the narrator burnt the page of the book of poems with Rebecca's writing on it, how she seethed at the thought of Rebecca calling her husband Max and how even at the end the narrator never did end up calling him that, how she never fit in, accidentally saying Mrs. de Winter was dead when she answered the phone, how she never second guessed her judgments nor doubted her self image. It's a coming of age story; a story of her youth through the voice of her aged wisdom. At twenty one, I find Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier perfect in some places and mysteriously irrelevant in others, the book is terrible in so many ways, but it also makes me just a little hopeful.

They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word. Today, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching middle age, the infinitesimal pricks of day by day brush one but lightly and are soon forgotten, but then - how a careless word would linger, becoming a fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal.

A few weeks ago I told someone I don't like Romantic books. It was in reference to Frankenstein, which isn't my favourite book at all. That being said, that was a generalization that I would like to take back. From now on, when someone says gothic romance, I'll think of Rebecca and be happy, and sad. What a book. The funny thing is, I'm already reading the book again as I type this and it is still just as engaging. If you haven't already, I highly recommend you to read this book. If you have, tell me, did you like it?

I might say that we have paid for freedom. But I have had enough melodrama in this life, and would willingly give my five senses if they could ensure us our present peace and security. Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind of course we have on moments of depression; but there are other moments too, when time, unmeasured by the clock, runs on into eternity.