Tag Archives: modern classic

Dolly by Susan Hill

Dolly by Susan Hill

Set in the dank dark landscape of the English fens, orphan Edward Cayley is sent to spend the summer with his Aunt Kestrel, whom he has never met. With him is his spoilt and spiteful cousin Leonora, also visiting for the summer. After Leonora’s birthday wish for a beautiful Indian doll is not fulfilled, the furious rage she unleashes unsettles Edward and haunts him for many years to come. Years later when Edward and Leonora are the only surviving members of the family, he returns to the the fens, and discovers the frightening consequences of Leonora’s actions, which are inescapable…

‘In the distance he heard the sound of paper rustling and the muffled crying of Dolly, buried beneath the earth.’

The problem with reading ghost stories by Susan Hill, is that her fans expect it to be as good (if not better) than The Woman in Black. While I will say this one isn’t quite as frightening, I also don’t think they’re particularly comparable. Dolly is quite a short story, only 153 pages long, but it feels a lot shorter. The majority of the book is leading up to the terrifying consequences of Leonora’s actions, which means that 80% of the story is spent on the edge of your seat waiting…

‘The grasses whisper, the wind moves among the gravestones. And somewhere just about here, by the low wall, another sound, not like the grass but like paper rustling. But there is no paper.’

What I liked the most, were her brilliant descriptions of the English fens, and the old gothic decaying house. Her writing style is such that you could read any of her books and be happy just reading her atmospheric writing, even if the story isn’t perfect. I would however highly recommend Dolly – it is a short but intriguing ghost story, great for reading in front of the fire on a winter’s evening. Just don’t expect it to be the next Woman in Black.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

‘I was warm, and the ground beneath me was soft with moss and fallen leaves. I could not believe that only this morning I had woken in Peleus’ palace. This small clearing, the gleaming walls of the cave within, were more vivid than the pale white palace had ever been.’

Madeline Miller writes a beautiful modern translation of the events leading up to the Trojan war, and then the war itself. Narrated by Patroclus, (Achilles’ close friend, and in some texts, this one included, lover) the life of Achilles, Patroclus and those close to them, is shown in a new and particularly accessible light.

I have always adored reading about Greek Mythology, and loved reading the Iliad, the Odyssey and Metamorphoses back in my university days, so ‘The Song of Achilles’ went straight to the top of my list of books to read. Miller did not disappoint. She writes a beautiful and engrossing translation (taken mostly from early texts) of Achilles’ life, and paints some fantastic imagery with her descriptions. I was not at all surprised to learn that this novel took her nearly 10 years to write; it is an absolute masterpiece, and I too would have voted it the winner for the Orange Fiction Prize 2012.

‘Her mouth was a gash of red, like the torn-open stomach of a sacrifice, bloody and oracular. Behind it her teeth shone sharp and white as bone.’

The pace is steady yet gripping, and I suspect this will soon be added to school reading lists – both educational and a fantastic read. I very much look forward to reading her next novel, and hope that there is much more to come from her as an author.

Contains a couple of sexual scenes, so I’d say age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

‘It takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing – until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.’

I had to read The Sense of an Ending, of course. After winning the Man Booker Prize 2011, and having heard so many positive reviews, it was inevitable that I would get around to reading it.

I only needed to read the first paragraph before I knew I was going to like it. Even if I had hated the story, Julian Barnes’ writing is such that you are captivated, no matter what. At only 150 pages, and such a slim book, it’s almost a novella, and certainly felt that way after I finished it in a day.

The story centers around Tony Webster; a retired divorced man, with little left going on in his life. A letter he receives from a lawyer dredges up long forgotten memories of his school days, and Tony tries to understand and come to terms with events long past.

I felt that the main point was not so much what happens in the story itself, but memories, and how our memories are so tainted and unreliable over time, so as to confuse our own past. You are left with what the title suggests, a ‘sense’ of an ending, but not really an ending itself. The end is of course ambiguous; left up to the reader to interpret.
Tony is an entirely unreliable narrator, and you get the feeling perhaps he’s repressed his memories so much, that we are only hearing half of the story. Without giving too much away, small comments he makes throughout the novel imply various goings-on, but are never confirmed nor elaborated on.

‘How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but – mainly – to ourselves.’

I absolutely love Julian Barnes’ writing, he is a master with words, and I take great pleasure in reading his novels. When reading this book, you should start with no expectations, no prejudice, no ideals, nothing. Just take it as it is, and come to your own conclusions. Thought provoking and mysterious, I most definitely recommend giving it a read.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

‘I want to yell so loud that Baby Girl can hear me that dirty ain’t a color, disease ain’t the Negro side a town. I want to stop that moment from coming – and it come in ever white child’s life – when they start to think that colored folks ain’t as good as whites. … I pray that wasn’t her moment, Pray I still got time.’

The Help is one of those books that you just never want to finish. The characters feel like your closest friends, and you cannot bear to part with them after the novel finishes.

Set in Jackson Mississippi 1962, this is the story of black maids raising white women’s children, but at the same time, they aren’t trusted not to steal from them. The story is written from three different perspectives.
Aibileen – Who’s raising her 17th white child, while at the same time grieving for her own son’s tragic death.
Miss Skeeter – A college girl and journalist, returning home to find that her beloved maid has disappeared.
and Minny – Whose cooking is brilliant and famous in Jackson, but she can’t keep her thoughts to herself, and soon that big mouth of hers is going to get her in real trouble…

Each of these women is searching for truth and freedom, and together, they may just find it…

Kathryn Stockett does a brilliant job of showing how these women struggle, trying to overcome years of narrow-minded prejudice and change the world for generations to come.
I absolutely fell in love with this book. It is wonderfully written, and even though novels on this topic have been written before, this was a brand new perspective. Not only was it both heartwarming and heartbreaking, but it was hilarious in the process. A book to make you both laugh and cry, and want to read all over again.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

‘He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.’

This is the first Cormac McCarthy book I have read, and I was far from disappointed.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, a man and his son on the brink of starvation journey along the road hoping to survive. The earth has fallen apart, vegetation is gone and it snows ash all around them. Those left alive must either run and hide, or fight each other, some even turning to cannibalism.

It is a bleak, bleak tale, but captivating nonetheless. I have yet to read another book with such depth and such simplicity all at the same time. The focus is on the unnamed man and boy, and their relationship – the lengths a man will go to, to protect his son. It isn’t your typical heroic-survival-in-a-desolate-world, but more the real end of the world, almost the end of humanity altogether. The style of his writing mimics their journey to such an extent, that you feel as if you are right there with them, watching it unfold before your very eyes. His words are wonderfully poetic.

Heartbreaking and incredibly powerful, this is one novel that you really must read. A sad story, but not without the most important ingredient; hope.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

‘The doors were all bolted and the windows all pinned,
Except one little window where Long Lankin crept in.’

Long Lankin is one of my favourite new books. It made it to the longlist of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2012, and frankly I was shocked it didn’t make it further than that.

It feels completely original, I haven’t read anything like this for as long as I can remember.
Inspired by the old folk song ‘Long Lankin’, Lindsey has created a good old-fashioned ghost story at its best.

Set in the eerie post World War II village of Bryers Guerdon, 9 year-old Cora and her little sister Mimi are sent away by their father to stay with their aunt Ida in the mysterious Guerdon Hall. But, there is a deep-seated evil lurking in the village, and it has been tearing the town apart for generations. Together they must uncover the secrets hidden within Bryers Guerdon before it’s too late…

A wonderfully written and unique debut novel, I was scared out of my wits towards the end of the book! Lindsey Barraclough is an author to watch.

Suitable for age 10+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

‘When she first fell in love with Jack, she had dreamed she could fly, that on a warm, inky black night she had pushed off the grass with her bare feet to float among the leafy treetops and stars in her nightgown. The sensation had returned. Through the window, the night air appeared dense, each snowflake slowed in its long, tumbling fall through the black. It was the kind of snow that brought children running out their doors, made them turn their faces skyward, and spin in circles with their arms outstretched.’

The Snow Child is loosely based on, but mainly inspired by a Russian fairly tale called Snegurochka, which translates as The Snow Maiden.
Eowyn Ivey uses this to create one of the most breathtakingly beautiful books I have ever read.

I’ll admit it, I judged the book by its cover. Without even knowing really what it was about, I was drawn to that magical cover (which seems as if a type of stencil has been used on it), and bought it immediately.

Set in the 1920s, it tells the story of middle-aged couple, Jack and Mabel, who move to Alaska to escape the painful memories surrounding their stillborn child. Living deep in the middle of nowhere, isolated from most of the village, and struggling to keep the homestead going, life seems desperate. In the middle of the night it starts to snow, calm and delicate snowflakes. Overcome with emotion Jack and Mabel try to recapture their happier days, by creating a girl out of snow together. By morning, the snow girl has disappeared, but a young feral child has been spotted darting in and out of the forest nearby.

Eowyn creates an incredible atmosphere with her detailed enchanting descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness. This novel is very much a fairy tale for adults; it is both spellbinding and heartbreaking all at the same time.
It’s difficult to describe the wonderfully strong and vivid imagery in the novel, I could not fault Eowyn’s powerful writing. The story is slow-moving and yet really draws you in.

I loved The Snow Child more than I can describe – I plan to buy the audiobook version at some point too, because that fantastic descriptive language is something I could listen to over and over again. You must get this book, and get it in hardback.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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