Book review: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle
By Dodie Smith

9780141371504

Published: 1948
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Vintage Classics
★★★★★

A few weeks ago I visited Portobello Market and walked around the streets looking for some vintage furniture for my new house. When I couldn’t find any that I liked and I was starting to think my trip has been all in vain, my boyfriend suggested (obviously trying to cheer me up a bit) visiting Waterstones in Notting Hill. The trouble that I have with Waterstones is that I can’t come in and not buy books. But this time I told myself that there wasn’t anything that I wanted to buy immediately. Little did I know that I was about to come across this book… this beautiful and extraordinary little book.

I Capture the Castle tells the story of Cassandra Mortmain and her family. She writes in her journal almost every day and wittily describes life growing up in a crumbling castle, with her father who suffers from writer’s block, her glamorous but ineffectual step-mother and her vain but beloved sister Rose. When two visiting Americans arrive, all of their lives are turned upside down, and Cassandra falls in love for the first time.

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This book is like having a cup of hot chocolate while its raining outside. It’s like waking up to a beautiful spring morning and that’s why I give it 5 brilliant stars.

What I liked about it was its simplicity, the exquisite writing and the different characters that you get know while reading chapter after chapter. I liked Rose – in spite of everything – I liked her very much and I could relate to her feelings as well as Cassandra’s.

This book not only made me want to abandon the city and move to the English countryside  for good but it also made me remember what I felt when I was 17 years old and I fell in love for the first time.

I cannot recommend it enough. Cassandra’s story will stay with you long after the last page is turned.  I really didn’t guess what was going to happen to the characters and I was quite surprised with the ending… that last sentence is memorable.

Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Book review: London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

London Belongs To Us 
by Sarra Manning

26177619

Publication: 02/06/2016
Paperback / eBook
Publisher: Hot Key Books, Bonnier Zaffre
★★★★

The first time I heard about this book was during my first week at Bonnier Zaffre and most of my colleagues seemed excited about this new title by author Sarra Manning. Oh, okay – I thought – another book about London, another girl-meets-boy  book in which they will discover the marvellous city they live in. And well, no need to say I was -obviously – completely wrong.

London Belongs To Us tells the story of seventeen-year-old Sunny, who has always been a little bit of a pushover. However, when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she know she’s got to act. The story presented in the novel presents the reader with a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill… and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny will meet a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

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I started reading Sarra’s novel when I was having my hair done in a terrible, terrible place near Kilburn Park station. I had forgotten my book at home but luckily, I was carrying my eBook reader with me and I remembered I had London Belongs To Us ready to be discovered. And what a marvellous read!

As someone who has moved to London from another country, I am fascinated by this city and I find really interesting to discover new things about it. The main character of this novel is young, funny and loves London more than anything else. Her enthusiasm for the city is contagious and the way in which she tells the story is brilliant!  I loved that each chapter in the book began with the name of a place in London followed by a description of its history because it was very interesting to learn more about it.

I also liked to see London’s diversity playing a key role in the book – because if there’s something great about the city, that is its diversity and also the respect that flows throughout its streets – and how the author succeeds in making London a character itself.

I was trapped from the very beginning and laughing out loud all the way through. The plot is fast-paced (the whole story takes place within 12 hours) and is full of fantastic descriptions of people’s feelings. The writing is exceptional – I am already looking forward to reading some other books written by the author – and the characters are adventurous and engaging.

I gave it four stars because I didn’t find the end as satisfying as I’d have loved to. There was something missing there! However, that’s just how I felt about it: some people have told me that the ending didn’t disappoint them and that they really liked it!

I guess you’ll have to read it in order to find out.

May you all have fun with Sunny around London!

Book review: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth

Shadows of the Workhouse
By Jennifer Worth

9780753825853

Publication: 22/01/2009- London, United Kingdom
Paperback
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
★★★★★

Shadows of the Workhouse is the second title in the Call The Midwife Trilogy written by Jennifer Worth. In this follow up to Call the Midwife – which first published in June – Jennifer Worth, a midwife working in the East End of London in the 1950s, tells more stories about the people she encountered.

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After my experience reading Jennifer Worth’s first book, I was very much looking forward to this one and I must say that it didn’t disappoint me. Not a tiny bit! The paperback is available to buy from Amazon and bookshops but I bought myself the Kindle edition.

This sequel continues the story that was first started in Call The Midwife, and revolves around Jennifer’s memories of Nonnatus House, the nuns that lived and worked there, the people she met and treated, and life in the docklands in the 1950s.

The complete title of the book is Shadows of the Workhouse: The Drama of Life in Postwar London and I was eager to start reading it because I thought I’d find the same kind of stories I did in Call The Midwife. I didn’t. Shadows of the Workhouse is, in fact, a much darker book and much sadder as well. Jennifer’s writing remains the same – light and beautiful – but the stories she remembers throughout the pages are blue and truly heartbreaking.

In the book you’ll find Jane, who cleaned and helped out at Nonnatus House and was taken to the workhouse as a baby. Then there’s also Peggy and Frank’s story; their parents both died and they were left destitute. At the time, there was no other option for them but the workhouse. You’ll also meet Reverend Thornton-Appleby-Thorton, a missionary in Africa who visits the Nonnatus nuns. And then there’s Sister Monica Joan and her shoplifting habits… which, in the end, will take her to court.

Shadows of the Workhouse is definitely harder to read than its predecessor -the stories it explores are very tragic – but it also reveals the reality of workhouses and life as it truly was in postwar London.
Jennifer Worth’s memories  help the reader to learn a bit more about the history of England and how society was organised. If you like history, you’d love to read about these and you’ll learn while you read – which sounds very boring but it really isn’t?

The BBC TV series brought this title to the screen by mixing its stories with more pleasant ones – and not everything was presented as remembered by the author- so I’d definitely recommend giving these books a go, instead of just relying on the TV portrayal of her memories. Her stories give a fascinating insight into the resilience and spirit that enabled ordinary people to overcome their difficulties. It’s a powerful book,  based on powerful memories and written by a powerful author. It’s sad I only have one title left to read in the series…

 

Hi there!

One of my resolutions for the new year was starting a new blog – and actually update it. Not on a daily basis, maybe, but just do it regularly.
I had various blogs in the past but I deleted them all. This is because when I came back and look at them from the outside, they seem tedious, tacky and most of all, pessimistic.

All those posts I kept writing for months reflected a person that was just starting to develop and couldn’t understand what was going on around her. I kept blogging about difficulties I encountered along the way, about how horrible was to be without the person I loved, about broken friendships and profound feelings. And I felt proud of my writing at that moment.

If I could look back at those paragraphs now, I think I’d feel repelled and bored. It’s not only that I was naive, it’s the fact that I thought I knew it all. I thought I was the only one struggling, the only one feeling alone and  the only one coming up against all sort of challenges.
I relied on inspirational quotes, images, films and songs which I thought would me keep going when in reality – deep inside – they only made me compare myself to others. Other people that I could not be, stories that I couldn’t live and quotes that I didn’t really believe in. I compared my behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. To put it bluntly, my posts were just pretentious, vague and unrealistic.

So this year, hopefully, I’ll be a better me. I’ll make sure to post what I really believe in, trying to look at things from another perspective, from a more positive and truthful perspective – one that reflects the girl that lives in flat number 41.

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