Category Archives: book

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Book Review

Spoiler alert.

Interestingly, I think I would have enjoyed this novel more if I had had to study it for English because then I would have been able to understand and appreciate it a lot more.

Nonetheless it kept me fairly engaged – that is, other than the long philosophical sounding passages. At first I tried to read and grasp every sentence but halfway through the book I only skim-read them instead.

Anyway I was really drawn to this novel simply because of the concept: the extraordinary picture of Dorian Gray – painted by Basil Hallward, who is “charmed by his looks”. Dorian’s sinful acts and ageing translate into grotesque features which gradually appear on the painting whilst Dorian himself remains youthful. I had to find out more!

The blurb (I cut out the bit I just explained above) seems to sum up the themes of the novel well I think:

But when Sir Henry Wotton visits and seduces Dorian into the worship of youthful beauty with an intoxicating speech, Dorian makes a wish he will live to regret…The stage is now set for a masterful tale about appearance, reality, art, life, truth, fiction and the burden of conscience.

The novel is only about 200 pages which is manageable. I found the first couple of chapters a bit boring to be honest. It wasn’t until Sibyl Vane that I became more engaged but after that, certain events felt kind of predictable – especially on the last pages.

I feel like the gothic genre is like a tragedy by nature and if there’s a name in the title, you have an idea of what will happen to that character. After everything Dorian did, you can imagine how hideous he must have looked in the end.

Basil’s demise was an exception. I wasn’t expecting that. Poor Basil. Now that part of the novel was really…grisly? Sordid? Not sure what describes it well. By this point I didn’t really admire any of the characters, not that I think I was supposed to, just how they were written. I think that Dorian Gray by the end of the novel is very self-centred, shallow, impressionable, dishonest and monstrous. (Why Dorian listened to virtually everything Sir Henry Wotton said is what I’d like to know.)

It’s hard for me to think of a specific thing that made me like this novel because it’s certainly not my favourite book. I think not being able to understand everything was part of its charm for me – the challenge. And the romantic undertones because the kind of genre it falls under is great but I find it a bit dry without any intimate aspects (like in Jekyll and Hyde – I find that lawyer Mr Utterson as dull and reserved as he’s described to be). I guess that goes for most things I read or watch.

One thing I will say though is that it’s a thought-provoking novel because it presents a lot of ideas about life and people and it has characters that I can connect with better than in the other gothic stuff I’ve read/began to read (The Man of the Crowd, Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde). And as someone who likes art, I found ideas about that particularly interesting.

There were also some odd remarks about women but I feel that’s par for the course given the time the novel was written and maybe because the author is Oscar Wilde. As far as I can remember, most of these remarks came from the peculiar Sir Henry Wotton (he seemed to take pleasure in influencing the young Dorian). At first, the comments made me frown but they amused me afterwards. One of them was “When a woman marries again, it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs”.

And these are some of my overall favourite quotes:

To define is to limit

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter

My final verdict is that The Picture of Dorian Gray is worth a read if you think you’d like this sort of thing.

Notes: featured image taken on my camera

What book are you currently reading? And if you have any gothic fiction recommendations I’d love to hear them. 🙂

Sorry my first review was a mess, I’ve realised I need to keep focused so here is my second attempt at a (still clearly  amateurish) book review…If you don’t try you can’t succeed 😛

I noticed the posts that I don’t expect to do well actually get more likes, it’s strange – maybe this could be one of them.

Song: Love The Way You Lie by Eminem ft. Rihanna (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uelHwf8o7_U)

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What draws me to novels and TV shows/movies about the world at war – Review of Wolf by Wolf and The Book Thief 

I’m nearly always late to the party (but only figuratively, I generally make sure I get to class or any event with 10 minutes to spare or exactly on time). For example, I read the complete Divergent and Hunger Games trilogies in 2014. Thanks to an enthusiastic friend. She made me discover a secret fondness for novels with romantic aspects.

Similarly, The Book Thief has been out for over 10 years and I have neglected to read it, and instead just watched the film…sinful, I know.

However, it was different with Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin (which came out in 2015). Honestly, I probably would never have picked it up since I hadn’t heard of it before my sister gave to me as a birthday present. I’m pretty much out of the loop in all aspects of life. And that novel is one of the first novels she’s given me that I’ve actually read.

The blurb of this novel really grabbed me:

“Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in the kingdom of death. Wolves howled upon her arm. A whole pack of them – made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.

Germany, 1956. Over ten years since the Nazis won the war.

Seventeen-year-old Yael is part of the resistance, and she has just one mission: to kill Hitler.

But first she’s got to get close enough to him to do it.

Don’t read the following italic text (context/summary) if you want avoid spoilers:

You follow Yael’s journey from being a death camp prisoner to her escape and eventually being trained up, then sent to win the Axis Tour – the annual motorcycle race across the continents. The prize is an audience with Hitler at the Victor’s ball in Tokyo. And Yael is no ordinary girl. She has lives with the rare ability that the Angel of Death gave her.

I actually sat down to read Wolf by Wolf several weeks ago and shut the book after a few pages because it didn’t initially seem like a style I normally read. Why? Because it seemed like something I would have read when I was 14 or 15 rather than now. But then I tried it again and on Thursday I finished it.

I stuck with it because of the fascinating and likeable characters which are gradually unravelled, and the plot was nothing like anything I’ve read before. Yes, it’s set during the mid 1950s and yes, it’s about an alternate world where the Axis powers won World War Two, but it’s different. Full of action too. There’s humour, strong female characters, and plot twists I naively hadn’t expected, just like poor Yael. What more can you ask for?

Wolf by Wolf’s basic concept reminds me of The Man in the High Castle (a fantastic TV series which I recommend. It’s on Amazon prime) as it’s about what it might’ve been like if the Allies lost World War Two, and Japan and Germany took over the US. Spoiler of the beginning: Juliana Crain, witnesses her half-sister Trudy Walker’s murder at the hands of the Kempetai. Juliana discovers Trudy was a member of the resistance and receives a strange film. She makes the life-changing decision to travel to the Neutral Zone in order to deliver the film that was part of the mission Trudy was supposed to be on.high castle

And I really like this kind of subgenre or whatever it’s called for a two reasons that I can think of:

  • I like German(y) and history, both of which I studied at school. (While we’re on the topic of war, I strongly recommend Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – British character perspectives – and to to sum it up: espionage and heartbreaking.) I like German because: I was always forced to learn French; my year 5 teacher was awesome and gave us lebkuchen and stollen at Christmas; when I was 9, we had two lovely German exchange students over. I didn’t like the subject History though because you have to learn what are largely monotonous details of whatever’s on the curriculum. I prefer dipping into historical events and getting the funny trivial facts. code name verity
  • I also like Japanese stuff – the language, the culture, the history is just so interesting. When I was in my lower-mid teens I was absolutely obsessed with the Young Samurai series by Chris Bradford, and The Hidden Kingdom by Ian Beck since they are about olden day Japan.IMG_9422.JPG

I’m sure as most films are not as accurate/scintillating (such as the Harry Potter franchise, according to some readers, though I wouldn’t know because I grew up watching the films and not reading the books because they seemed like effort), in my opinion, that The Book Thief novel must be really good but I still adored the film in its own right.  And I thought it would have a happier ending. Which sounds kind of stupid in hindsight because the film’s set in World War Two.

The Book Thief is titled after the protagonist, Liesel Meminger, who is assigned a foster family (the Hubermanns) on Himmel Street, next door to the Steiners where the comical and ever-tenacious Rudy lives. Liesel develops an obsession for reading.

I think it’s great because it’s from the perspective of the ordinary people in Nazi Germany. (My friends used to just associate Germans with Hitler and that saddens me.) And also because it’s narrated by Death itself.

I love who was cast for the film – as soon as he came on screen, I recognised Geoffrey Rush (who plays Liesel’s kind foster father) from The King’s Speech.

So are you going watch it? One spit is yes, two spits no (Book Thief reference). Anyway I hope you enjoyed my review, happy reading/watching!

Notes: The book cover and TV series/film poster pictures are not mine and the photo of the books on the bookshelf is.

Song: Revolution by Trading Yesterday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4J2KJP3ZV5E)- I’ve been listening to their More Than This album all week, it’s emotive and relaxing


What got me into Gothic novellas – Review of Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla (the novella) was first published in 1872, shockingly, twenty-five years before Dracula! That’s right, Carmilla is a female vampire novel.  First of all, I think it’s so refreshing to have a female perspective for this era, but that’s certainly not the only reason why you should read Carmilla.

I have to admit, I watched the web series before I read the novella but I think this is an acceptable order because the two have similar fundamental aspects but other than that, are very different. I think that this is beneficial because in a way, the web series kind of adds to the charm of the novella and further brings it to life. You can put a face to the characters and perhaps better understand them after seeing them in the familiar (albeit with supernatural aspects) modern world.

Although I had a little trouble with some of the language, I found it fairly accessible compared to other Gothic works such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which had more specific terms that I needed to check to fully understand the story). I am also enjoying the latter so far, and will review that all in good time.

Laura is just nineteen at the time the incident took place and she is also the narrator; eight years later, she recounts the grim events which have left such an awful impression.

I feel Carmilla has all the markers of a Gothic novella. It is set at castle – typical – located somewhere in Styria, Austria. There’s a ‘damsel in distress’, and presumably countless others who are not mentioned, that were plagued by Carmilla/Millarca over the years. (These are simply anagrams of her original name, Mircalla – aka Countess Karnstein.) And I suppose if there is a ‘hero’, it would be the person who puts an end to the curse which is intrinsic to Carmilla’s existence. There’s even a touch of romance amongst the horror. I think there’s definitely suspense, not so much mystery as other stories but nevertheless enjoyable.

In addition, Carmilla gives an insight into what life was like for a young woman living in a remote location in the late nineteenth century. Carmilla has made me want to read more stories from this time period because it’s just so different and exciting to me. Not to mention the fact people used to describe furniture as “rude”. I find that amusing.

On the back of the copy I have (pictured below), there are three words that I could not agree more with, which describe this story: “menacing, sensual and spellbinding”.

Now let’s talk about Carmilla, the Canadian web series! Laura Hollis (Elise Bauman) is attending Silas University and  there are strange goings-on which she is determined to investigate; Laura’s roommate (Betty) inexplicably goes missing and it seems she’s not the first one. Guess who Laura’s new roommate is.

Yep, Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis).

Not only is the show great for LGBTQ+ representation, it also normalises LGBTQ+ people, as uncovering the secrets and dealing with the dramas at Silas remains the focus. As well as this, the cast has amazing chemistry and the majority are (kick-ass) women which is pretty nice for a change, right? This makes Carmilla an awesome show to watch. In fact, I love it so much that I have one of Valentine M. Smith’s spectacular artworks of Karnstein herself as my phone lockscreen.

So far, Season 1, Season 2 and Season 0 are available on KindaTV’s channel on YouTube. Season 3 should be coming soon, and sadly it will be the last one, but I can’t wait to see how everything pans out. You have plenty of time to catch up because each episode is usually only 2-5 minutes long and that means you’re in the lucky position where you can binge-watch Carmilla…

Notes: illustration by D. H. Friston. Also this review may contain spoilers as I hint at things. Wrote this in advance as I’m in London all day today for my A-level English coursework! (But I got about 3 hours sleep…)

Song pick naturally had to be Love Will Have Its Sacrifices by Soles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrOTSFx6p6w) – it is after all, the official theme song of the web series Carmilla which is based on the novella.