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!

2018 Recap

Who else gets inspired to write when there is barely enough time? I noticed I hadn’t blogged in a while but hadn’t checked the exact date of my last post. October 4. It’s been over two months since I’ve last written here, yet it feels like an eternity for me.

So why haven’t I updated the blog recently? Well, I’ll be honest. After finishing The Glass Castle, I read Alice In Wonderland. It’s a timeless classic, one that I wish I’d fully read sooner (but better late than never, right?). I had nothing to review after it — I mean, it is Lewis Carroll after all, I simply loved it. Afterward, I *tried* to read The Bell Jar. But two things happened. One, I didn’t have much time to read, considering that during these past few months I’d use my free time to study for a course I’m taking. Secondly, while Sylvia Plath has some touching and intriguing poems, her narrative in The Bell Jar didn’t quite catch my attention. I understand that some books are slow at first, but at some point before the middle, they make you dive right in and continue reading non-stop. I was waiting for that moment to happen, but it never did. So I gave up and placed it again in my To Be Read pile.

I’m guessing it’s because of work and the course I’m taking, I’ve been so stressed out that I needed a light and distracting read. However, The Bell Jar was anything but that. I felt like I was being dragged into the same state of loneliness as Esther, it didn’t make me feel well. So I’ll just wait until I’m in a different (emotional) place so I can read it again.

Anyway, here is a summary of all the books I read this year:

  1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  2. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  4. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gardner
  5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  6. All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
  7. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  8. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
  11. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
  12. Into The Water by Paula Hawkins
  13. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  14. Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin
  15. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  16. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  17. Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Never in my life had I read so much in just one year. Yes, I’m a newbie bookworm. As for 2019, I have planned reading Michelle Obama’s memoir, more Agatha Christie novels and perhaps reread some of my favorites.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday, filled with books, hot chocolate, and blankets.

My favorite reads of this year

Review: The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - My Olivine Book Blog

The Glass Castle isn’t an easy book to review. It’s an incredible example of resilience, how you can put yourself out of any situation as long as you set your mind to it — regardless of your age. Some of the events described in this memoir were absolutely shocking, heartbreaking and mostly infuriating. At times, it all seemed so bizarre that I had to keep reminding myself that if the author wrote this book, it meant she got through it all.

I had mixed feelings while reading the book. Jeannette’s parents, Rose Mary and Rex Walls, were quite unconventional. Her dad was an alcoholic, her mom an aspiring artist. They could barely make ends meet, being unable to keep their jobs and moving from place to place like nomads. If they would’ve been a couple without kids, I wouldn’t be criticizing them. But being a parent means providing for your children, right? And the more kids you have, the more income you need to make to sustain them. Well, Rose Mary and Rex would have probably disagreed with that statement. The Walls children had to basically look after themselves since a very young age. For example, Jeannette’s first childhood memory is from when she was three-years-old and burned herself while frying a hot dog.

But before you start hating on the parents, there were moments in which they did show they really care for their kids. While there wasn’t always food on the table, there was always education. The Walls children spent some years being homeschooled and once they actually started attending school, they had already learned the lessons at home. In between the episodes of chaos, there was love and family unity. The parents had plenty of chances to turn things around and start living like a normal life, but their stubborn ideals prevented them from doing so.

Not to mention Jeannette’s writing. Simple yet captivating, while reading the book I was immediately transferred to the open desert or the the humid little town of Welch. I felt like an observer, witnessing the hardships of the Walls family, unable to do anything except turn the page.

This is actually the first memoir I read from start to finish. I tried reading Eat Pray Love a few years ago but wasn’t able to finish it, thinking the genre didn’t suit me. Well I’m glad to find out I was wrong.

Overall rating: 5/5

“Things usually work out in the end.”
“What if they don’t?”
“That just means you haven’t come to the end yet.”

The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

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After an entire month, I was finally able to finish The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s the first novel I read by Margaret Atwood, and it surely won’t the last. Two things motivated me to read it. First, the success of The Handmaid’s Tale TV series (which I haven’t watched yet). Second, I watched Alias Grace on Netflix several months ago and liked it quite a lot, but I didn’t know it was based on a novel by Atwood until I did some further research (I feel like I’ve been living under a literary rock lol).

Margaret Atwood’s writing differentiates a lot from the other authors I’ve read before. It got me hooked from the first chapter (didn’t finish sooner ‘cause life happened). I checked some reviews on Goodreads before getting started and noticed how some people complained about the changes in the tenses and the lack of quotation marks. Yet, that was one of the things I enjoyed the most. It was a bit challenging at first, but then you get the hang of it. After knowing more or less what the main character’s been through, it becomes intuitive to recognize when she’s referring to past and when it’s someone else who’s talking to her.

In case you have no clue on what The Handmaid’s Tale is about, here’s a short summary: The main character of the story is Offred. It’s a dystopian setting where the religion and the government have basically become the same thing, forcing a new structure into society. The Republic of Gilead is what it’s called now, where authorities impose a series of rituals and diverse hierarchy levels. Defred is a Handmaid, a modest and inoffensive term to refer to the role she has: becoming pregnant and giving the Commander and his wife a child. If she doesn’t get pregnant, she runs the risk of being sent to the Colonies –and no one wants to go there. Defred is not her real name either. None of the Handmaids have had the right to keep their real names. They’ve all been separated from their families, from their lives, in order to fulfill their new job. But will the regimen be taken down? Will Defred be able to run away?

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I don’t like to include any spoilers in my reviews. I think The Handmaid’s Tale is a must read for everyone, but there are probably only two ways to react: either you’ll love it or hate it. It’s up to you to find out.

Overall rating: 4/5

“But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.”