Review: Autumn

Ali Smith Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith is a Brexit novel but at the same time, it isn’t. It’s a story about love, friendship and growing old. The description on Goodreads is just as vague: Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic once-in-a-generation summer.Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand in hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever…

Some passages are very abstract and it’s filled with metaphors. Sometimes there’s a metaphor within a metaphor. And there’s no chronological timeline or specific plot. Things just happen, and Ali Smith does an excellent job at making the mundane seem interesting. 

Although it’s short, it’s not the type of book you should rush through. On the contrary, I enjoyed it more when I read it slower. The reader must be committed to pay attention and make inferences, as many of the events and things described require interpretation. There’s also a lot of cultural references which I suggest you look up in case you don’t know much about them. 

There’s a main character, two actually, Elizabeth and Mr. Gluck. But they’re not the sole focus of the story. The narrator is sometimes omnipresent, sometimes tacitly becomes the characters, while other times it narrates scenes with no characters involved. 

There’s a prominent Virginia Woolf influence, but Ali Smith has a more modern, direct, and unique style. Her words flow easily, it feels as if you were floating in a body of water and the only way to read the novel is to let yourself go and flow with the current. 

I cannot wait to read the rest of the seasonal quartet.

Overall rating: 4/5

Review: The Nightingale

The Nightingale is a beautiful, captivating and heartbreaking historical fiction novel. The story focuses on two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. Vianne is the oldest and is happily married, and has a daughter. But that picture-perfect life finalizes when the Second World War begins, and her husband is enlisted to battle. Vianne is scared and tries to stay out of trouble — her only objective is to keep her daughter safe and survive. Isabelle, on the other hand, has been a rebel since she was a child, never doing what she’s told. Now that she’s a grown woman, it’s no exception. She’s against the German invasion and wants to contribute one way or another to France’s freedom. 

At the beginning of the war, Vianne is doing okay, until a German soldier decides to stay at her house. In the meantime, Isabelle runs away and gets a new identification, she finally finds the way to fulfill her mission. Throughout the story, we witness the complexity of family dynamics and the uncertainty and fear behind all the decisions the main characters make.

Though it’s not based on real historical figures, Isabelle’s character was inspired by Andrée de Jongh, a Belgian woman who during World War II helped numerous aviators and people escape.

The Nightingale was enthralling since the beginning. I devoured the pages and cried at the end. It’s been so long since a book moved me so much. Kristin Hannah’s writing style was very fluid, and it was easy to empathize with Vianne and Isabelle. Joining them along in their pain, grief, and joy. Two women who showed strength during such adverse times.

Last but not least, The Nightingale will have a film adaptation starring Dakota Fanning and her sister Elle Fanning. It’s expected to be released at the end of this year. I have high expectations for this movie, I cannot wait! 

Overall rating: 5/5

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

– Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

Bookstagram 101: How to become a Bookstagrammer

Hi there! Today’s post is a little different. I’ve been on bookstagram for a while now — almost 3 years already! What I love most about this community is the general kindness and easy connection. What a better conversation starter than book you share in common with someone else! I’m pretty sure if you start your bookstagram account, you’ll soon start making new friends.

Today I wanted to share some tips about the things I’ve learned these past few years. I gotta admit, the first year and a half I wasn’t as active, weeks could pass without me even logging in to my account. That changed on January 2020, when I decided I’d been on bookstagram long enough to start taking it more seriously, while still having fun.

Here are 5 tips to get started:

  1. Choose your handle: It doesn’t necessarily have to be book-related, but it helps if it does. You could include your name to help others identify you (e.g. Amy’s Bookshelf). But if you want to stay anonymous that’s completely fine too. I’d suggest going for a name that’s easy to pronounce/remember. While coming up with a name, keep in mind that are opportunities for becoming a book influencer or building a personal brand later on. So how would you want to be remembered?
  2. Select a profile picture: I’ve personally struggled with this one. Deciding between a logo or a photograph can be tough. I’d recommend going for a logo if your vision is more on brand-building, perhaps opening up a book-related business or bookclub — it’s also useful if you want to remain anonymous. A photograph of yourself can generate more connection with potential followers, people are curious and always want to see the person behind the account. However, if you’re a bit shy or simply don’t want to go through the process of creating a logo, a picture of books will work just fine! Or in my case, I have a picture of myself holding a book, but my face isn’t entirely visible — many bookstagrammers do this too.
  3. Pick a theme (or not!): You might be thinking “we’re in 2021, themes are so 2016“. Yes, and no. Keep in mind that bookstagram is a visual place, the accounts with the nicest aesthetics are the ones who generally have more followers. You can play around with different editing apps and use a theme to communicate your reading preferences (e.g. dark academia lovers tend to share somber pictures). But if you rather not do this, that is okay! Not everything is about the aesthetics.
  4. Find your niche: Which leads me to this point, it’s useful to determine the type of content you’ll be sharing. Some accounts focus more on photography and briefly discuss books. Other accounts focus more on sharing reviews. You can also concentrate on sharing certain genres of books only — such as YA novels or classic literature. It’s up to you to decide how narrow or wide you keep your content.
  5. Experiment: Nothing is written in stone. Trends shift over time and so does Instagram’s algorithm. Don’t be afraid to start. Share pictures, connect with other fellow readers and along the way you can determine if you’ll be sticking to a theme or switching it up later. Just be you.

Last but not least, a bonus tip: share often. If you want your bookstagram platform to grow, it’s important to be posting often (2 – 3 times per week), sharing stories and engaging with other accounts. And if you’re curious about statistics, switch up to a professional account. You’ll have access to data that can help you see what’s working and what’s not.

So are you ready to start your bookstagram adventure?

For any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via the Contact form or send me a DM on Instagram. ‘Til next time!

Review: To The Lighthouse

Hi there! This is the second book I read by Virginia Woolf. The first was Mrs. Dalloway which I read two years ago. And now I thought it was finally time to read To The Lighthouse. At first, it took me a while to get used to her style of writing again. And I can see why Virginia Woolf may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The style she uses, which is called stream of consciousness, can be confusing and a bit hard to keep up with. It consists of the character’s thoughts, about random things and sometimes there’s no chronological order between these thoughts — just how the mind works. Not to mention, in this flow of words, she jumps from one character to another without any previous notice. In the beginning, it all feels a bit strange, but once you start reading and get used to it, it’s hard not to admire Woolf and her words.

To The Lighthouse centers on the Ramsay family, Mrs. Ramsay in particular. To be honest, the plot itself is not outstanding. It describes the day-to-day events that occur in her house, near the sea, where they have a clear view of the lighthouse. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay have eight children, from toddlers to teens, who go on and about their day. Mrs. Ramsay plays and takes care of the youngest one, and her main worry is the weather and if they’ll be able to go to the lighthouse.

It’s important to point out that Mr. Ramsay is a particular character who, alongside some other secondary ones, represents the male chauvinism of that time. He is also very insecure about this profession and the legacy of his book and seeks other people’s acceptance — especially his wife’s. Another important character is Lily Briscoe, who becomes a protagonist towards the end, and we get to see things from her perspective. She represents a feminist who doesn’t conform to the norms of her time, a woman who wishes independence and rejects marriage, something she knows Mrs. Ramsay wouldn’t approve of nor comprehend. Just like Mr. Ramsay, she is also insecure about her work, a painting she’s been working on for years.

The family returns to their beach house a decade later and invites Lily to spend time with them. In the end, Mr. Ramsay and his two youngest children finally pay a visit to the lighthouse while Lily stays in the house to finally finish her painting. That is when she realizes that what matters most is the final result of her vision, not the legacy it leaves.

I’m omitting certain parts in order not to spoil it for anyone, but really, there aren’t that many major events. And the only “big” events are briefly described in a few sentences — which can be offputting if you were looking for a plot with twists and turns.

While I enjoyed it (though towards the end it became really slow, to be honest), I’d suggest you first read Mrs. Dalloway before first. In this novel, the effects of the stream of consciousness are more intense, hence increasing its difficulty. But this is what makes Virginia Woolf’s work different. Her prose is remarkable, there’s deep character development and the scenery and events are described with rich metaphors (and I’m a sucker for metaphors).

“𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚎𝚕𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚊𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚒𝚜𝚝, 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎.”

Have you read To The Lighthouse yet? Let me know!

‘Til next time!

Review: The Broken Girls

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Do you believe in ghosts? If so, you’ll most probably like this novel. And even if you don’t, there’s plenty of mystery and unsolved situations that will keep you hooked.

In case you hadn’t heard of this book before, The Broken Girls has two timelines. One, dating back to 1950 in Vermont. Four girls who are roommates are becoming close friends while attending Idlewild Hall, an all-girls boarding school. Due to the fact that each one of them had some troubled past, it took them a while to open up to each other and just when they were achieving this, one of them goes missing. What happened to Sonia?

Fast forward to 2014, and Fiona Sheridan, a local journalist, is revising past events of her sister’s murder that occurred twenty years ago. Deb’s body had been found at Idlewild’s abandoned sports field. There’s something about the facts that don’t add up, and even though the murderer was convicted, she still thought some information was missing. However, her investigation gets a bit sidetracked when she hears that the Idlewild Hall has been bought to renovate and reopen. Does Idlewild Hall have anything to do with Deb’s murder? 

Though it felt a bit predictable at times, some events really took me by surprise — the twists were quite deceitful. Specially those pertaining real people. This novel, just like in many other books and movies, makes you wonder if you can really trust those who surround you. There are so many unsolved missing person and cold cases, I personally think it’s important to unravel the information and solve the puzzle, in order to at least give the victim’s family some closure, and also the victim’s soul that can be restlessly wandering.

To sum up, I won’t say it’s the best thriller novel I’ve read. The style of writing was a bit prosaic, but then again so are most of the contemporary novels in this genre. It’s an interesting and quick read, the type that will have you turning pages to find out what happened to all of those broken girls.

Review: The House Of Spirits

I am at loss for words. How can a gruesome story be written so beautifully? I feel like The House Of Spirits is the type of book you’ll either love or hate, and I’m not sure if that applies for the rest of Isabel Allende’s work, this being the first time that I read one of her novels.

I was captivated by Allende’s writing since the first chapter. In the beginning, it took me some time to get used to the magic realism involved. Certain things such as a giant dog or green hair seemed so odd, yet normal within the context of the story. What made me dive into pages was the richness in similes and metaphors, creating the most bizarre or ravishing representations.

The House Of Spirits is a story about a family and four of its generations, they’re located somewhere in South America, and although it’s not specified, one can deduct that it’s set in Chile. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re really sensitive, because some of the events described are: domestic abuse, rape, abortion, and even necrophilia. Doesn’t sound nice at all, does it? And in fact, it isn’t. However, I think that was one of the reasons why I loved this novel so much, it was raw, it felt real and was quite thought-provoking.

The main characters are the women in the family: Nivea, Clara, Blanca, and Alba. Throughout the four generations, each and one of them have different struggles, but they’re all strong and do what’s in their power to fight for what they think is right.

And would there be any tragedy without love? Of course, there are romances. The main character’s actions are also dictated by their feelings towards their partners. The secondary male characters portray important roles, they’re either the ones that cause the suffering or that provide help in some way.

There is also plenty of politics involved and it all relates to the gap between classes and all the social problems this entails. Towards the end of the novel, the events described refer to the overthrow of the socialist president, Salvador Allende, in 1973. And no, the last names aren’t mere coincidence. Salvador Allende was, in fact, Isabel’s uncle. So The House Of Spirits partly consists of the author’s personal experiences.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this far more than I had expected. And here I share my favorite quote:

I write, she wrote, that memory is fragile and the space of a single life is brief, passing so quickly that we never get a chance to see the relationship between events; we cannot gauge the consequences of our acts, and we believe in the fiction of past, present, and future, but it may also be true that everything happens simultaneously.

Have you read The House Of Spirits? If so, I’d like to hear your opinions about it.

‘Til next time!