Elizabeth Gaskell – North & South

Ok guys, here is my absolute favourite book of ALL TIMES. Seriously. North & South is like a masterpiece, so briliant, so well written, so adorable and so smart and… It’s perfect. It is just perfect.

So, my first question would be – if you don’t know Elizabeth Gaskell yet – do you know Jane Austen?

If so, and if you like her, run to the closest bookshop and buy North and South! You will love it!

You know what? I will be nice, and I will even give you the link of the FULL book. Because I’m like that. You can thank the Gutenberg project for it :) Obviously, I still advise you to buy a proper paper version of the book, because paper versions are the best, they smell nice and it feels good to have it in your hands. Reading on a screen doesn’t have the same impact, nor the same warm, comforting feeling. But, anyway, here is the link: “NORTH AND SOUTH”

Now what is it about? Let me write a short summary.

The story takes place during the industrial revolution in England. The Hale family leave the South to settle down in an industrial city of the north called Milton.

It is nothing like what they know. The misery of the workers, the apparent cruelty of the ‘bosses’ and the rising capitalism are very hard to understand for Margaret, the daughter, who absolutely hate this new place she is forced to call home. Her prejudices will cause more harm than good but as she struggle to adjust to her new life, Margaret will also start to realize that maybe there is some good in this city.

In Milton, John Thorton is one of the bosses. He is sarcastic, very cold and extremely strict. But as the story goes on, we start understanding that this is only a façade and that maybe Mr Thorton is not the cruel, heartless man he seems to be.

For 425 pages, Margaret and Mr Thorton struggle to find a way to understand each other despite their prejudices and differences, to a background of strike, bosses-workers relations, industrial revolution, debts, capitalism and bankrupcy, diseases, tragedies, deaths and home life.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, here is a quote from the book:

“One word more. You look as if you thought it tainted you to be loved by me. You cannot avoid it. Nay, I, if I would, cannot cleanse you from it. But I would not if I could. I have never loved any woman before; my life has been too busy, my thoughts too much absolved with other things. Now I love and will love. But do not be afraid of too much expression on my part.”
― Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South

You might cry, get frustrated, yell at the characters, smile or maybe even laugh, but one thing is sure, you cannot remain completely indifferent to Elizabeth Gaskell’s amazing writing style.

I consider North and South to be an Autumn book. I really think it suits the November-like atmosphere and I love reading it while drinking a hot cup of mocca and petting my cat. Well, I don’t have my cat with me this year, but I do have Mocca, and I do have my book, so I am definitely going to read it again in a few weeks, when I finish all the essay writing I have to do for my classes.

I hope you guys will enjoy reading it as well, and please do tell me if you liked it! Also, if you read it already, I’m interested in your opinion as well!

Thank you,

Pink.

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Marian Keyes – This Charming Man

Ok. So this is a book review! It had been ages since I read a new book. I usually just re-read ones that I’m sure I like. Don’t want to be disappointed. But! I read this new book, took me more than two months. Absolutely unbelievable. Usually, if I start a book, I finish it right away. I CAN’T sleep if I don’t finish my book.

I wondered several times “why did I buy this book? Why?” It isn’t like if the synopsis actually made me want to read it. Here it is:

“Everybody remembers where they were the day they heard that Paddy de Courcy was getting married”

But for four women in particular, the big news about the charismatic politician is especially momentous…

Stylist Lola has every reason to be interested in who Paddy’s marrying – because she’s his girlfriend, yet she definitely isn’t the bride-to-be… Journalist Grace wants the inside story on the de Courcy engagement and thinks Lola holds the key… while Grace’s sister, Marnie, still can’t forget her first love: a certain Paddy de Courcy. And what of the soon-to-be Mrs de Courcy? Alicia will do anything for her fiancé and is determined to be the perfect wife. But does she know the real Paddy?

Four different women

One awfully charming man

And the dark secret that binds them all.

I usually don’t like those kind of stories (or rather, the kind of story I thought this book would be, based on the synopsis). I don’t like love triangles (here it would be an hexagone, but who cares!), I don’t like when there is a sort of jealousy, of I-don’t-know-who-he/she-will-choose feeling. Because it’s annoying. Like, the man isn’t so sure who he prefers so he dates the two girls at the same time, changes his mind every five minutes, lies to both until the end and finally finds his true love and gets forgiven. No. Just no.

I’ll be honest here. The only reason why I bought this book is that when I was in London back in January I temporarily lost my mind. WHSmith is paradise. Sooooo many books there. Couldn’t resist. And there it was, with this beautiful pink-colored cover. Couldn’t resist I say. The title isn’t actually purple. It’s pink. But since it’s a shiny (it’s actually shining!) pink, it appears purple on screen. Weird enough. Honestly, based on the cover, I thought it might be a cute story. And since I love pink… I thought “it will look pretty in my bookcase!” I know, I know, I shouldn’t choose books based on their covers. But I always do. An ugly cover isn’t appealing at all. I can’t read a book with an ugly cover.

I started to read it back in April. So long ago! Read three pages at a time, because more was impossible. Didn’t understand anything, was very disturbing.

Finally I found the courage to read it. A bit every night before going to bed. And finally I understood. Every pieces started to fit and in a way, I was happy that this book actually managed to SURPRISE me. It hardly ever happens. I hadn’t guessed at all the main issue until page 500-something. Well, I felt something was wrong. I did. But didn’t guess anything.

It’s a very complicated story, to be honest. It’s not even one story. It’s four stories into one. Or rather three-and-a-half, because we almost never read about Alicia (the bride-to-be).

Marian Keyes decided to write her book from the point of view of the four women, which means that the narrator regularly changes. Each woman lives her own life, has her own issues to deal with, her own stories, but in the end, the central theme still is Paddy and his relationship with each of them. It’s just that the story you are reading isn’t always related to the main story. So it can be a bit hard to read.

Lola, the stylist, run away from Dublin because she is unable to control her pain. She ends up in a small irish village near the coast, meets everyone there, becomes friend with some of them… it isn’t as boring as it sounds. I actually enjoyed Lola‘s narrotor times a lot. Her life in Knockavoy brings some -much needed- smiles.
Slowly but surely, we learn how was her relationship with Paddy. At the beginning of the book, we don’t know who he is (we know what he is: an engaged politician, but not who). As she creates bonds with her new neighbours she starts to trust them with her secrets, things that she hasn’t shared with her bestfriends in Dublin. And then you, as a reader, start to understand what the whole story is about.

Marnie, Paddy‘s first ‘love’, is an alcoholic. She refuses to admit it until the very end of the book, though, but she has very serious issues with alcohol and her state is very, very bad. She often forgets things, often disappears and comes back miserable. Ends up in the hospital. It’s very bad. She is married and has two young daughters. It’s a problem that she drinks so much vodka. Although the synopsys says she isn’t over Paddy… from what I read… she was actually over him. Not completely, but she really had moved on with her life. A girl never forgets her first love, so of course she is a bit upset by the news… but I think her true link with Paddy is that he is the main reason why she is drinking so much. As the story goes on, we learn more and more about they former relationship, and no wonder why Marnie is how she is.

Grace, the journalist, is Marnie‘s sister, so right away she has good reasons to hate Paddy. She is living with her ten-years boyfriend Damien and enjoys her job. She is particularly fond of a woman politician named Dee Rossini, and several times saves her from scandals that could have destroyed her career. Grace the central piece of the story. I think she shares the “main character” role with Lola, but she is the one that actually lead the story to its end. I really, really liked Grace. Don’t know why, but she was definitely the character I understood the best. Well, most of the time.

Finally Alicia, the bride-to-be, isn’t a big part of the story. She is just there, no-one knows why Paddy chose her. She wants to be the perfect wife and most of all, she wants to show Grace and Marnie that she managed to get him. That’s what she always wanted (and I was proud because I understood right at the beginning that Alicia was friend with Grace and Marnie a long time before the engagement). Alicia in the end is the only one for who we don’t know what happens. I’m afraid her fate isn’t really desirable….

There are various things I liked while reading This Charming Man. When Marian Keyes changed of narrator, there were small interludes, if I can call it like that… one paragraph or so. It seems so random at the beginning I was really wondering “what does it have to do with anything?” but as you learn more about the characters, it suddenly becomes so clear.

I’d love to give you the main theme of this book. I suppose some of you guessed all right reading my article, but I hope I didn’t reveal too much. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise. It’s actually really well written and I highly recommend it. And I was happy enough because there was a few love stories in it. And I love love stories.

It’s a really serious book. I was surprised, I hadn’t expected it at all (and frankly, would you, based on the cover?), but it’s really enlightening. It’s NOT a teenage story. It’s NOT cute, it’s NOT heartwarming. It’s dead serious, it’s frustrating and yet it’s light. I don’t know how to say it… It’s just… it’s kinda easy to read, once you get into it. It’s not depressing or boring. It’s good. It’s really, really good, you even manage to laugh at times, even though it deals with important, serious subjects, like politics, women, work, alcoholism… (and yes, on the cover it’s written that it’s funny, but I didn’t really think it’s funny. It makes you smile, yes, that’s true, but laugh out loud? Maybe once or twice, no more)

So you guys go to the library now and find this book!

SPink

If only Hogwarts hadn’t forgotten my letter…

When I was 11, I patiently waited for my letter to arrive. I seriously did, just as many other children the same age as me. It was nearly 10 years ago… At the beginning, I created all sorts of scenarios to explain why I hadn’t yet received this letter. I remember some of them, like… “they forgot about me!”,  “Maybe I’m under a spell that errased my powers and they can’t locate me!” or “they want to protect me because a very bad wizard wants to kill me!“… silly stuff like this. Who didn’t? I was pretty sure I was a forgotten-muggle-born-witch and that at some point the Magic world had made a mistake and had yet to discover my existence.

It goes without saying that I was an unpopular, lonely, bookworm little girl with lots of imagination. 

I am 20 now. It seems rather certain that I am a muggle. Which is a shame. I would LOVE to be a witch. I am sure I would have been very good at school. But let’s imagine for a minute what would my life have been if I had received that letter.

DSC_0355

I took this picture at the Harry Potter studios earlier this year~~

I would have been a student there from 2003 to 2010. Sounds great to me. Those are not my favourite years. I still remember just how cruel children and teenagers can be. A little bit of magic would have helped.

If I am to believe my Pottermore results, I would have been a Ravenclaw. I was surprised. Honestly, when I read the book, I thought “ah, so I would have been an Hufflepuff, right?“. I really admire them, in some way. I admire their qualities. Anyway. Ravenclaw definitely suits me, I guess. Though I am not the hardworker Ravenclaws usually are, I think I understand why the little quizz put me in that House.

I would have been terrible at flying, so Quidditch was probably not for me (I am awful at any sport with a ball, so with or without a broomstick doesn’t make much difference). However, cheering my House team would have been a pleasure~!

The subject I would have loved the most is certainly History of Magic. I know, I know, it sounds terribly boring and all, and I read just like you how soporific Binns classes were. But it just fascinates me. The subject, I mean. I would have loved to learn all those things. In middle school and High School, History was my favourite subject. Seriously. I love it.

Potion would have been terrible. I know Snape was dead, in 2003, so maybe the teacher was somewhat kinder, but still, I know how I cook. I overlook quantities and just stop when it seems right. Potions need way too much precision for me.

Charms and Transfiguration both sounds very interesting, so I really wish I could be a witch for just one day and try those two. Please! I want a wand!

I would probably have had good results to my O.W.Ls, and continued some classes to N.E.W.T level. I am sure it is much easier for young wizards to find out what they want to do with their life. Magic is amazing. You can actually do anything, really…

If I had gone to Hogwarts, I would have graduated three years ago. So, by now, I would probably already have found a fascinating job, maybe at the Ministry? Something like that. Sounds great.

But, all of that will never happen. (Yeah, for those of you who doubted it, I am perfeclty sane, don’t worry!)

And, honestly… since I am French, Beauxbatons would have been my school, not Hogwarts, right?

So, what about you all? Did you dream to receive your letter? How would have been your life if you had gone to Hogwarts?

For those of you who wonder “why such a post?”, well, I am completing application forms for Master degrees lately, and I’m definitely dreaming of NOT having to do all of that right now. It just makes me panic.

 Pink

PS: please don’t re-use my photo of the letter without my consent, thanks!