Recent Reads 2017 #1

Welcome to my first “Recent Reads”! Sometimes I’ll talk about the books I’ve read at the end of the month in a wrap-up post, and sometimes (especially if it looks as though I’ll be reading a lot of books in a particular month), I’ll separate them into different posts. Hope you enjoy!

The Awakening by Kate Chopin 

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“I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.”

The Awakening is a novel that has been on my periphery for a long time, starting with when my cousin was assigned to read this for school, and accidentally read a paranormal fantasy by the same name instead. Ever since, I have been intrigued to read it, hearing about it here and there: an early feminist work years ahead of its time.

In many ways this novel reminded me of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina– both books follow upper-class, married women as they go through personal and sexual transformations while falling in love with men who are not their husbands. The difference, is that I found The Awakening‘s Edna Pontellier to be a much more sympathetic character than the titular Anna; she too is stifled by societal expectations of women at the time, but makes active efforts to change her situation.

Edna is not someone who wallows in self-pity, nor does she find fault with others for her unhappiness; Chopin avoids angelizing or villainizing characters, simply portraying them as people shaped by the norms of the time. Though it was written more than a hundred years ago, the themes of women’s identities, their roles in society, and their happiness that are present in this novel made it relevant to me all these years later.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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“The knowledge that they might never see each other again, that some of them- maybe all of them- might not survive this night hung heavy in the air. A gambler, a convict, a wayward son, a lost Grisha, a Suli girl who had become a killer, a boy from the Barrel who had become something worse.”

There is something about thievery in fiction that automatically makes the story compelling. Whether it be Inception or Ocean’s Eleven, the thrill of a heist raises the stakes, ups the action, and promises mystery, madness, and deception. Six of Crows is no exception, and in addition to all the aforementioned, it features an impressive showcase of interesting and complex characters, while delving into the intricate relationships between them.

This is not a novel about the heroes of the story who sacrifice everything for the greater good. This is a novel about the outcasts, those who have risen up after being stomped out by society, and much like its characters, it is a book that thrives in shades of morally gray and black.

Searching for John Hughes: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know about Life I Learned from Watching ’80s Movies by Jason Diamond 

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Do not be fooled by the title- Searching for John Hughes is not an in depth exploration of John Hughes’ career and the impact his films have had on pop culture and America, nor is it a biography of the famous filmmaker. Rather, it is a memoir of Jason Diamond’s life, of his dysfunctional and abusive childhood, his struggles to become a writer and move past the tragedies of his early life, and his obsession with John Hughes.

While there are moments in this book that are dedicated to Hughes, and the impact he has had on Diamond is obvious, the strength of this memoir rests on Jason Diamond’s own story. Despite some of the horrors that he endured in his past, Diamond writes about these occurrences in a matter-of-fact way that is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, showing the strength and determination behind the man. Diamond is very self-deprecating and critical of his younger self, and his voice shines strong throughout, saving the book from wallowing in self-pity, though it wouldn’t be unwarranted.

This is a story that anyone who has turned to books and movies, and TV and music— as an escape or for comfort— is familiar with; the story of a lonely little boy who found John Hughes out of desperation, and the journey of a man to let him go.

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