ST.ART Committee Book Reviews
For our first Literature piece under our Creative Writing section, members of the ST.ART 2016-17 committee compiled a list of must-read books covering a wide variety of genres: from romance novels and short story collections to informational art history textbooks and works of fiction made into film adaptations. So check out what we're reading, and if you feel inspired, pick up a copy yourselves!
xx The Creative
Lou Reeves (Creative Writing Sub-Editor): The Power by Naomi Alderman
As an English student, I all too easily fall into the trap of purely reading for class: the love of literature which first inspired my degree choice has now resulted in the end of ‘reading for pleasure’ — especially last semester when bogged down by a dissertation, job applications and, you know, just general living. Over Christmas, I decided to change this. And that’s what I did, I walked into Foyles, picked up The Power and began to love reading purely for the sake of reading again.
‘She throws her head back and pushes her chest forward and lets go a huge blast right into the centre of his body. The rivulets and streams of red scarring run across his chest and up around his throat. She’d put her hand on his heart and stopped him dead.’
The Power is Naomi Alderman’s fourth novel. A work of feminist science fiction — and speculative fiction, and fiction about a fictional thing — in the novel very suddenly women in the world develop to the power to electrocute with people at will. (Even if you don’t usually enjoy science fiction, stay with me. On the surface the concept seems a bit cliche or obvious, but the theory and thought behind this novel is absolute genius.) And so, almost overnight, everything is different. Power, after all, can be transferred. Patriarchy is no longer possible — how is a man to exert his power when just a touch from a woman can result in full electro-death? This novel, then, is one of ideas. It asks what would happen if women had the power to cause pain, the power to dominate based purely on their sex, the power to gain more power. Satirical invention is what energises the text, and Alderman maintains this superbly throughout. The conceit is so beautifully and carefully constructed: as the final ten pages or so illustrate, her idea penetrates even the form of the novel which is actually a revisionist historical text written in a hazily post-apocalyptic future in which female supremacy is viewed as inevitable. After all, evolution dictates that women would rule. they have babies to protect and so have always been forced to be violent and aggressive; if patriarchy had ever existed, surely it would have been loving and nurturing?
I won’t give any more away, but those last ten pages or so changed my perspective about life. Or, revitalised and refuelled thoughts I already had. The Power is clever, shocking, and moving: Margaret Atwood is right — it makes you rethink everything. I cannot suggest enough that you go read it.
Emma Galligani (Content Editor and Head of PR): Cœur Brûle et autres romances by J.M.G Le Clézio
Cœur Brûle et autres romances, by Nobel Prize in Literature winner J.M.G Le Clézio, is a haunting collection of seven short stories set in France and Mexico. Fast-paced and relatively easy to understand for both native and non-native speakers, the stories are dark, mysterious and thrilling and never fail to captivate the reader.
Hannah Brattesani (Business Manager): There But For The by Ali Smith
A man named Miles Garth goes to dinner at a family friend's house, locks himself in their spare bedroom and remains there for months. If you have a penchant for wildly escalating quotidian behaviour There But For The will delight you. If you also have a innate need for closure and hate the feeling of being left unsatisfied please do continue to read the book... just email me afterwards so we can wallow in joint frustration.
Ileana Livingston (Fashion Sub-Editor): The Journey is the Destination: The Journal of Dan Eldon by Dan Eldon
The Journey is the Destination: The Journal of Dan Eldon is not a narrative: it's scans of a photojournalist's journal as he chronicles his travels through different countries in Africa. He has a really cool style and collaged photos from his trip that are mixed with writings and sketches. It really influenced how I see the world and motivated me to always try and live my life as fully as possible.
Natasha Hunt (Photographer): My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
Having spent a large proportion of my summers in Cornwall, I am attracted to writing set in this idyllic corner of the country. My Cousin Rachel is one of the many novels by Daphne du Maurier set along this coastline. Du Maurier draws out the suspense in this old-fashioned style mystery, proving it to be a worthwhile read.
Liz Dias (Event Manager): Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
If you know Vonnegut, then you know you either love his work or don't. As for me, I don't simply love, I worship his writing. Slaughterhouse Five was the first of now several novels of his I've read, and it is still my favorite. Retelling the bombings of Dreseden without actually ever describing the bombings, the semi autobiographical satire follows the main character, Billy Pilgrim through his time traveling adventures in Dresden, Ilium, and best of all Tralfamadoria. Vonnegut attempts to answer, through wit and humor, as always, the true 'meaning of life'.
Lucy Beurle (Events Manager): The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Junot Diaz is one of my favourite authors. His attention to detail creates a fully fleshed out world that is so much fun to explore. Oscar Wao is a semi-autobiographical story about a Dominican family that moves to New Jersey, and Diaz's frequent use of Spanish is intended to make English speaking readers understand what it's like to be in a world where you only understand half the language. Oscar Wao is emotional and informative, full of wonder and magic and the kind of book that stays with you long after you finish reading it.
Maddy Belton (Music Sub-Editor): It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Read it. It won Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance in 2016 and it's worth it. When I finished this book I bought it for all the important women in my life, and every one of them has called me when they finished it. It's better if you don't know anything more than the blurb tells you; it's an easy read and nothing very academic, but the writing is effective and it really is one of those books that you get emotionally invested in.
Mercedes Weidmer (Film Sub-Editor): A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
Released in 2009 as Tom Ford's directorial debut, A Single Man stars Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. The film, of exceptional quality in itself, is based on the book of the same name by Christopher Isherwood from 1964. It follows George, who experiences depression and something of an existential crisis following the death of his lover in a tragic car crash. Exploring homosexuality, mid-twentieth century America, love, loss, and so much more, the book is written with a level of eloquence and insight which I have found unparalleled. A Single Man stands as one of my favorite books of all time, and I warmly recommend it to anyone and everyone!
Natasha Warby (Theatre Sub-Editor): The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
While less well-known than Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro's earlier novel is dear to my heart. Never before or since have I read a novel that so beautifully embodies the bittersweet melancholy of growing older and leaving dreams and loves unfulfilled.
Taliha Gazi (Arts and Culture Sub-Editor): Beauty and Art: 1750-2000 by Elizabeth Prettejohn
I have an interest in aesthetics, and this book responds to the questions concerning what makes an artwork beautiful, and how judgements of beauty change over time. It also challenges the notion about whether or not beauty has any relevance in art in the twenty-first century.
Violet India Chaudoir (Content Editor): Boo by Neil Smith
It may seem incredibly morbid to say my favourite book is about a thirteen year old who wakes up in the afterlife, however I can assure you this book is hilarious, entirely unpredictable and very poignant. Boo by Neil Smith takes a closer look at mental health, the uncertainty of life and the impact of violence and it has a unforgettable plot twist which’ll keep you reeling for days.
Have a favourite book of your own that you'd like to share with us? What books have you read recently? Which authors intrigue and inspire you? Email your pieces to our Creative Writing Sub-Editor Lou Reeves at ler5 to see it published, or for general inquiries.