Book Review: Jane Eyre

I decided to read more classics this year, and after finishing Anne of Avonlea, I thought I’d try Jane Eyre before going back to the series. I actually borrowed this from the children’s section of the public library. Late one evening, when I was struggling to fall asleep, I decided to do some light reading and opened it up. After the first chapter, I was in a nightmare! It wasn’t the best choice for bedtime reading. I put it down and didn’t pick it up again until a few weeks later. I have a habit of borrowing too many books and then continually renewing them every two weeks until the limit of five renewals is reached, then, either force myself to binge-read in the last few days, or just give up and return the book(s) unfinished. When I picked up Jane Eyre again, I was hooked. The language is not exactly the easiest to understand and I often had to reread passages again and again but the story was captivating. I started to enjoy the overly detailed descriptions of Jane’s thoughts, conversations, surroundings and feelings. I started to feel like I was in Jane’s head and felt how she felt. Her narrative was so honest and pure and I wanted more and more. I devoured the 500+ pages in one week, picking it up every day, reading during breakfast, between meals, before bed. It’s a good thing I don’t have to go to work and do freelance at home, or else I wouldn’t have this luxury. Needless to say, I hardly did any work that week.

The first volume of the book was the most depressing part of the story and I felt so bad for Jane. Orphaned as a baby, she was forced to live with her aunt and cousins who all clearly despised her. They accused her of things she didn’t do and after getting into a fight with her cousin, John Reed, she was locked in the red room of the house where a ghost appeared to her. I was screaming in my head. I normally love thrillers and scary stories and wouldn’t think much of a scene like this, but for some reason, I got goosebumps when I read this – maybe because I was relating to her as a nine-year-old girl.

When she was finally sent to Lowood boarding school, I thought things would improve when she became friends with Helen Burns, but no! She had to suffer even more and eventually grieve the death of Helen, her one true friend! She did become much stronger and even became a teacher at the school for two years, before she advertised to become a governess. And here is where the plot gets really good.

Jane was hired to be a governess to a young girl named Adele in Thornfield Hall, owned by Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester. She grew up into an intelligent, confident and strong-willed young woman and was cared for, appreciated and accepted for who she was, though she remained poor, obscure, plain and small. She began to fall in love with Rochester, which, at first I found it difficult to understand because he was described as ugly, abrupt, strange and secretive. Even more surprisingly, he loved Jane back! But through her honest and detailed descriptions, I started to fall in love with Rochester too – even with all his faults, questionable behaviour, awkward expressions, and despite the fact that he was twice Jane’s age (40+). I wanted to know more, see more, feel more of him. Why? Who really knows? It was like a sickness. Even after the strange fire, the bloody attack of his guest, Richard Mason, and Rochester’s insistance on keeping all that had transpired a secret, did not affect those feelings at all. I – I mean Jane, still loved and wanted him.

Everthing about their relationship was unconventional and uncommon, you may even say sinful, but I was rooting for it! When Jane declared her love for Rochester, I was so happy! Rochester was such an immature man and made her think he was to be married to the least interesting woman on earth! What an asshole move! Why does the woman always have to be the bold one and the man the coward? Finally he proposed and I hurrahed, but I thought that this happy ending is happening too early in the book – there are still over 200 pages left. Clearly, I was right and their wedding was stopped when Mason appeared and informed everyone that Rochester’s previous marriage to his sister, Bertha Mason, was an impediment to his getting married to Jane. Uh, WHAT? Ah, yes… Mason, the man that was stabbed by an unknown being, who turned out to be his sister, has decided to prevent Rochester from getting married to Jane and be happy. Yes, this was what was going through my mind at that moment, not the fact that Rochester had lied and tried to trick everyone and kept a mad woman locked up in the house for years! But, come on! That Bertha is a mad woman! They could not get divorced either. And Jane, the noble, smart, intelligent young woman who was also full of integrity and virtue, decided to leave Rochester and Thornfield Hall and run away without any money, instead of essentially becoming a mistress if she were to stay with Rochester. I can’t describe how much my heart ached at that point. It crushed me to read that Jane and Rochester couldn’t even spend one night together after all that waiting!

After she ran away, she suffered for three days without food or shelter until she came upon the Rivers’ house and begged them to take her in for the night. St John, the kind missionary, let her in. She told them her name was Jane Elliot and shared limited details about her past, expecting to only stay a few nights but she became quite good friends with the Rivers, who nursed her back to health. St John later gave her a job as a mistress of the girls’ school he had opened and her life was slowly getting back to normal. Later, it was discovered that Jane was related to the Rivers and were cousins when her uncle John Eyre of Madeira passed away and left his entire fortune to Jane. The Rivers learned of Jane’s real name and why she had left Thornfield Hall. Jane, the saint that she is, decided to split the fortune among all four of them, so that they could accept her as their sister. This turn of events just seemed too convenient at this point in the story. Jane could have done so much with her inheritance, she could have been free and independent, but she valued and wished for a family more than anything. I don’t think anyone in this day would have done what she did.

One day, St John asked Jane to marry him and go to India with him, saying that he believes God had given Jane her gifts to become a missionary’s wife. Jane, whose heart still yearned for Rochester, agreed to go to India if she may go free and not marry him, which was not acceptable by St John. They argued a few times on the matter and it was finally resolved when Jane suddenly heard her name being called in the middle of the wood, convinced that it was Rochester, she set out to seek him in Thornfield Hall again. Upon arriving in town, Jane learned that Thornfield Hall had been burned to the ground and that the arsonist was none other than Bertha Mason, who then jumped to her death from the roof. Rochester, while trying to save everyone, including Bertha, from the fire, was badly injured and had become blind. So when Jane could finally be with Rochester legally and sin-free, he had become an invalid, an incompetent, dependent, ageing man left with nothing. This had to be the most unsatisfying love-story ending of all time. I expected Jane to be smarter than this and choose a different path, but the heart desired to be chained to Rochester, no matter how ugly, useless, incompetent he was or that she would have to spend the rest of her life taking care of his every need like a nurse. But that was the path she chose and even though he did eventually gain part of his eyesight back and hinted toward a better future for Jane and Rochester, I had so many mixed emotions about this love story. When I finished the book I half jumped for joy and half screamed in frustration. I wanted to reread it and go back to the blossoming romance before all the chaos, but I quickly realised that every part of their romance was chaotic! They never had any real time spent together alone without incident or interruption! There were even times when Rochester was away for weeks with no word but Jane’s love only grew stronger during those times. Yet, it was those moments that made the story so captivating – making you wait, yearn, anticipate, just like Jane did.

I had never read anything like this before and I loved it so much! There are also a lot of Christian and religious themes woven into the story which provided a lot of wisdom and truths. I found it odd at times when the reader was addressed directly in the narrative, sometimes breaking the flow and bringing you out of the story. There were a lot of place names that were written like “——–shire” or simply “S——-” which was rather strange and distracting. I don’t know if it was just the the particular edition I had picked up or what. I also missed a lot of the dialogue when it was written in French with no translation or when it was presented with strange spellings to represent an accent. I gave up trying to understand what the intended words were supposed to be. I might reread it again later and try to decipher them (I downloaded a free e-book version after I returned the book to the library).

After I finished reading it, I got the movie and watched it three times in one night! Michael Fassbender, who I absolutely love, plays Rochester. Though he is described as an unhandsome and unattractive man, I couldn’t think of anyone better to play Rochester. They skipped a lot things from the book but I liked how the story was told as a memory after she ended up with the Rivers. It tied everything together and moved the story along quickly for the movie audiences.

Overall, I loved this book and wish I had read it sooner! Definitely worth five stars!

Book Review: All We Have Left ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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All We Have Left by Wendy Mills (Goodreads)

This is such a beautiful, sad, heartwarming, and hopeful story about 9/11. I randomly picked it up from the library and the blurb at the back just intrigued me.
Two girls. Two lives. One event that changed them – and the world – forever.

Jesse’s story takes place in the present time, 15 years after the events of 9/11. Her brother died in one of the twin towers and her family was never the same again. Her dad harboured a lot of hatred and anger toward Muslims which led to Jesse making a bad decision – tagging the side of the Muslim Peace Centre – resulting in community service and her mum leaving her father. However, Jesse starts to look into her brother’s death, which was something her family never wanted to do.

Alia’s story is the most significant as it records her experience in the Twin Towers from before the planes hit to when the towers fell. Her story ties in very well side by side with Jesse’s. Alia met a boy in the elevator of the tower, who was actually Jesse’s brother. Together they helped a woman with a heart condition down hundreds of steps as they all attempt to get out before the inevitable happened. Along the way, they share about their lives and why they were in the towers that day.

The two stories weave together beautifully, going back and forth between Jesse’s and Alia’s story. Each is told in the first person narrative and we learn about how their lives and those around them had changed. Though, Alia’s story is mostly about that single day’s events and Jesse’s story spans several weeks, they were both equally captivating. Both girls are very similar in that they both made mistakes and struggled to reconcile with their parents.

Their stories tie together because of Travis, Jesse’s brother, who is the unlikely hero of this story. Although he was described as a coward by his own father and even himself at times, he showed immense bravery and courage and selflessness through his actions that day. His final moments were not explained in detail, but this is also a reality for a lot of survivors. Their heroes did not make it out and many survivors have no idea what happened to them or what their final moments were like. No one will ever know what happened to them in the end.

This is such a well-researched book. The descriptions were so clear and detailed and everything felt so real, it felt like the author was writing from personal experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Though some parts may be difficult to read, especially if you remember the events of that day and read enough news articles to know just how tragic that day was for the whole world, I think it is a great depiction of how many people’s lives had changed. It also goes deep into the issues of religion, racism, discrimination, hatred and even grief. It teaches us to be more tolerant, understanding, and accepting of different religions and races, and to educate ourselves so that we do not become ignorant bigots.

There is danger of stereotyping people because of the colour of their skin or what they choose to wear or even the traditions they keep. I often find myself making assumptions about people because of what the media or the mass majority tells us to believe. I hope to have a better understanding and not make that mistake again. I have learned a lot about the Islamic religion and practices of Muslims from reading this book and I think it is a very good book to teach young people about good morals and values as well. We need more books like this, now more than ever.

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Book Review: Anne of Avonlea

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It’s hard not to fall in love with this endearing girl, Anne Shirley. There were times when I rolled my eyes at some of the things she would do or say, especially in her early teens, but as Anne matured in this book, I started to admire her for her strong-willed nature, her wisdom, her way with words, her hopes and dreams, the way she romanticised about everything and made everything seem better, more beautiful than they really were. Sometimes Marilla spoke pessimistically, trying to show the more realistic side of the situations but Anne always had a way of bringing out the good and positive.

I enjoyed the storyline about Miss Lavender and Mr Irving that came in the second half of the book. However the first half was a bit slow in the storytelling. And too many events happened that it as hard to follow at times.

Davy was quite an annoying little child and I didn’t really see why Anne and Marilla seemed to like him over his sister. It seemed to say that she was too good a child and that made her less interesting and lovable. So even though Davy constantly got into trouble, they still liked him more.

I did, however, wanted to read more about Gilbert and how her friendship with him grew. But that didn’t seem to be in the story very much after the first few chapters. He didn’t appear much until the end where he vaguely expressed some interest in Anne in the most romantic way, saying of Miss Lavender and Mr Irving’s romance, “wouldn’t it have been more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been NO separation or misunderstanding… if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?” This made my heart skip a beat! But it was still not anything that directly revealed their feelings for each other that could spark a more-than-friends relationship in that moment. That really frustrated me! Normally, when I read romance novels, this kind of stuff doesn’t really have much of an effect on me, but this part really got to me! Perhaps it has something to do with my own experience (or lack thereof) in love (often unrequited; ‘friend-zoned’).

It took me quite a long time to finish this book for some reason. I am always simultaneously reading several books at the same time but this book was in rotation for lot longer than I had anticipated. It takes quite of lot of patience to read to appreciate it fully. Being such an old classic, it was not easy to understand some of the language and structures used in the sentences. Some of words were also deliberately misspelled in quotations to let us know how they were being mispronounced by the characters, especially by the young children and Charlotta the Fourth. I sometimes had to reread and even read it out loud to guess what the intended word was. This was a nice touch though, even though it caused some confusion.

I am now going to continue on with Anne of the Island!

Book Review: Educated

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There was so much hype surrounding this book, I decided to read it too. It was even highly recommended by Bill Gates and Barrack Obama!

educatedHere is my condensed book review on Goodreads of Educated by Tara Westover:

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It was slow start for me but I couldn’t put it down when I got to Part 3. Her childhood was horrific and unsettling to read. I had to take breaks in between to digest. Tara suffered so much physical and emotional abuse as a child. However, as she describes those events, she attributed her strength, courage, perseverance and character to them. The way she just laughed off having her head pushed down the toilet made me cringe. When everyone around her tried to get her to see how abusive and broken her family was, she would time and time again return to them and ask them for help. There were times when her family surprised everyone by encouraging her, paying for dance lessons, driving her to auditions and rehearsals, then suddenly completely turn their back on her and cutting her out of the family. Time and time again, she returned home to attempt at reconciling with her family.

Her father was described as a survivalist with extremist views of the Government, even believing the Illuminati had infiltrated them, and later as having symptoms of bipolar disorder. His belief that his faith in God was enough to save him (even when he was badly burned with charred skin, he refused to go to a hospital) made me wonder if we should really refuse help from others when offered and say “God will save me!” Doesn’t God work through other people as well? I don’t think God ever said not to accept help from others. (But then, I read that he was willing to take Peter, Shawn’s newborn son to the hospital when he was born. What changed?) Are we really to cut off communication with non-believers who don’t agree with our beliefs? Aren’t we supposed to grow in community and not isolate ourselves from others, even if they are Gentiles? Are Mormons reading a different Bible – did they miss the whole part about Jesus in the New Testament? Perhaps it was a mental illness after all, which exacerbated his narrow beliefs. As I was reading, I found myself continually thanking God for blessing me with a loving and caring family, allowing me to grow up with an education and balanced world-view, and taking me to see the doctor whenever I was sick.

It frustrated me when her family told her to forgive Shawn and take her father’s blessing in order to be accepted back into the family. God does tell us to forgive others as He forgives us; to show grace and mercy. But He doesn’t withhold His love or blessings. A part of me wanted Tara to show forgiveness and take his blessing and be welcomed back into the family (they are her family after all), and another part of me wanted her to get justice – report them, sue them, something. What actually happened was estrangement from half of her family. Her attempt at reconnecting with her mother was met with rejection because her mother refused to see her without her father. I can’t imagine how much further damage the release of this book had caused to their relationship. Tara is only in contact with three of her siblings, the ones who had also left their home in Buck’s Peak and gotten an education themselves. (From a so-called ‘uneducated’ upbringing, never stepping foot in a school, it is miraculous that, not one, but three of them were able to get a PhD.)

I was surprised to read that the family lawyer (they have a family lawyer but refused to see doctors… ok) advised readers to read the story with a grain of salt and that the Westovers would not take any legal action against Tara because they love her and don’t want to hurt her. Perhaps there is some hope for reconciliation in the future? I would like to hear the other family members’ side of the story, maybe from Tyler or Richard.

The feeling I got while reading her memoir was that everything seemed so matter-of-fact and lacked emotion. Perhaps this was because she is an academic and used to writing academic papers? Nonetheless, it was a very well-written and detailed memoir. I like the way she organised and structured the chapters as well, describing specific events as a whole and the effects they had on her life, rather than a chronological year-by-year account.

It did make me think about whether or not I should pursue further studies and apply for a PhD. I have more resources than Tara ever had and she could do it! We are even the same age! Unlike her father, mine would have been extremely proud and ecstatic if I got a PhD. My mum would definitely be more than happy. Well, we shall see… it’s not like I have any ideas about topics to research at the moment.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Here is a video of an interview Tara did on PBS NewsHour if you want to know more about her.

Disclaimer: I apologize if you haven’t read this book and don’t know or understand what I’m talking about, but I wrote it for those who have also read it and hopefully share similar thoughts or feelings.

Book Review: Eats, Shoots & Leaves

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Here is my book review of ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ by Lynne Truss:

eatsshoots
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Sticklers unite! I never thought I’d enjoy a book about punctuation as much as I did. I could have easily read it in one sitting but I took a break after the introduction because it felt like it would never end! I mean, it was over thirty pages long! The chapters that followed were much more interesting and entertaining, and deeply informative. I never imagined that I would get excited reading a book about punctuation!

Truss writes with humour, conviction, authority, and shamelessly shames those who don’t know the difference between a comma and an apostrophe (yes, they exist!), and misplace apostrophes in contractions, plurals (unnecessarily adding them, i.e. banana’s – banana’s what?) and possessives. She explains, in great detail, when and how to use various punctuation marks with numerous literary examples. She even provides a historical background for each of them! I was surprised to learn that George Bernard Shaw once campaigned to reform the spelling of the English language (most notably ‘bomb’ into ‘bom’, because, well, it just saves time!) and even to abolish the use of inverted commas and italics font for titles.

I’d thought I knew the difference between a colon and a semicolon, but after reading the twenty-nine-page chapter titled ‘Airs and Graces’, I learned that there was more to their story than I had originally thought. I did try teaching the colon and semicolon to my students once and immediately thought better of it, then swiftly removed the items from the syllabus. It’s one thing to say you understand the difference, it’s quite another to teach it. Well, I never tried again. One of the reasons Truss says people use for not mastering the colon and semicolon is that “The difference between them is too negligible to be grasped by the brain of man”, which literally made me laugh out loud and choke on my own saliva! And I definitely will be rereading that chapter again, more than once if I have to!

Punctuation has always fascinated me; I even campaigned to include punctuation worksheets and exercises for students during my time as an English panel-chairperson (though a somewhat short-lived role). It deeply frustrated and irritated me when students (and even my fellow colleagues, who were native speakers, mind you!) consistently misused you’re/ your, it’s/ its, they’re/ their and the like. I highly recommend this book to them!

Well, I tremendously enjoyed reading all about punctuation – the history, function and usage – and how important they are to language and communication. I will surely be paying close attention to punctuation from now on (not that I hadn’t already before). I did, at times, find Truss rather obnoxious and snobbish, arrogantly sitting on her high-horse while silently mocking or yelling at greengrocers, editors and a poor old pen-pal named Kerry-Anne. It can come off as either incredibly pretentious or utterly hilarious.

Have you read this book? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments.

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Can you become addicted to reading?

I hate that I’m going to start this blog with a cliche – I can’t believe how quickly this year just flew by! I am somewhat conflicted by some of the choices I have made last year, mostly starting a new part-time job, staying there for eight months, then resigning from that job. I was excited to start it but I later realised it wasn’t for me and it became unsatisfying, isolating, frustrating, never-ending. I felt relieved when I no longer needed to set my alarm clock for 5:00 a.m. every morning or panicking when I accidentally snoozed and failed to set a second alarm. However, I quickly fell into a slump and woke up five hours later, sometimes even at noon, losing half the day to sleep and intermittent naps. It was not a good sign. I needed to get back into a routine.

I wanted to spend time developing my own projects and passions and enjoying what I used to love. I thought about doing many things – reading, writing, travelling, drawing, photography, animation, research, the list goes on. Well, there is one thing I can not stop doing – reading. I read all kinds of books – memoirs, biographies, chick lit, thrillers, self-help, guide books… I am a reading machine! I can’t stop buying books either – paperbacks from bookstores or ordering online, as well as eBooks on Kindle! I read 15 books in four months – September to December! However, I realised that while I was at my last job, I started getting into audio-books because it was just too quiet working in that room by myself with nothing but my own thoughts. I finished seven audio-books within a few months. I guess from then on, I just couldn’t stop. For the last three months, I found myself thinking about reading constantly; if I wasn’t reading, I was browsing and searching for the next book to read. Whenever I got on the train or the bus, I would just start reading. I mean, why waste that commuting time? I purchased a Kindle, which I still can’t believe I didn’t get until last month!

I have set myself a reading challenge for 2019 on Goodreads to read 35 books. Today, I finished my 4th book since starting on 1st January. At this pace, I may surpass my goal. I wish I could just do this for the rest of my life and not worry about anything else. Something just happens to me when I am immersed in a book. Nothing else in the world matters. My thoughts rest and I think only about the characters, the setting, the hidden meanings. My mind opens and absorbs the words on the page. I have learned more from reading books than I have from all my years of schooling. But then…

There are times when I’d forget what time it is, forget to eat or shower or sleep. It is like I can’t live a day without reading. Can you become addicted to reading? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Am I just escaping reality?

Follow me on Goodreads and check out my reads and reviews! Let me know what you think!