If you have social media, then you might have seen the 7 Days 7 Covers challenge doing the rounds on Twitter. A few weeks ago I was challenged by a few of my followers to join in. The concept is that you post a picture of a book every day for 7 days that you have particularly enjoyed. There can be no reviews and no explanations, just photos of the covers. I stuck to the rules on Twitter, but as a book blogger I’m compelled to give explanations and reviews. Below you can find the 7 photos I tweeted along with summaries of the narratives and my reasons for including the books in my challenge. Have you seen this challenge? Have you been invited to join in? Does it sound like something you’d be interested in? Let me know in the comments below. Reader, enjoy.
Tales of Glass Town, Angria and Gondal by the Brontës and Christine Alexander
Summary: A selection of poetry and prose from the Brontë juvenilia. The collection features pieces by Charlotte and Branwell Brontë which are set in their fantasy worlds of Glass Town and Angria, and pieces from the remains of Anne and Emily Brontë’s Gondal saga.
Reason for Selection: Although there are other collections which feature this literature, Christine Alexander’s excellent introduction does a fantastic job of introducing new readers to these worlds, and also of contextualising the narratives which are taken from various periods of the Brontë juvenilia. Some highlights include Charlotte’s later, and more mature Angrian novelettes, Mina Laury and Caroline Vernon, and Branwell’s tale, The Politics of Verdopolis (click here to read more about Branwell’s tale).
My Rating: 5.5
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Summary: Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger who, after the death of her younger brother, travels to meet her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, in 1940s Germany. Whilst there she is exposed to the full horrors and reality of the Nazi regime, but also discovers defiance of their rule, kindness, and selflessness. She learns to read with the help of Hans (her papa), and a young Jewish fistfighter named Max, who the Hubermanns are sheltering from the Nazis. Liesel’s life is transformed by the power of words and she becomes the book thief of the title, rescuing books that have been condemned by the Nazis and also beginning to write her own story.
Reason for Selection: This is such an amazing book, and like another text on this list, it’s a war novel that fully captures the horrors and consequences of the conflict, but which doesn’t explicitly focus on it; instead, this is a civilian tale, and one that reminds the reader how ordinary people became caught up in the second world war. It also demonstrates the kind of courage, honesty, kindness, and love that people were capable of even in the face of such mindless brutality, and at risk to themselves.
My Rating: 5/5 really doesn’t do this one justice.
Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Summary: Ubik is Philip K. Dick at his absolute best. The narrative follows a group of employees of Runciter Associates in a 1992 where psychic powers are common and humans have managed to colonize the moon. The employees, including the perpetually in debt everyman protagonist, Joe Chip, are caught up in an explosion engineered by a rival firm, which kills their boss, Glen Runciter despite their best attempts to get him back to earth and into a state of what is known as half-life, where he would still be able to communicate with them as he is not completely dead. His employees prepare to bury Runciter, however, they begin to receive strange messages from him, prompting Chip to believe that he is still alive. However, when the world around them begins to shift and change, Chip and co. face a race against time to save Runciter with the help of a mysterious substance named Ubik.
Reason for Selection: This sounds like a straightforward narrative, but let’s remember that this is a tale by Philip K. Dick, the King of Science Fiction. Here he creates yet another world where everything may, or may not be as it seems. You’ll come out of this one with your own interpretation of events, but it might not be the same as other readers or Dick himself. Although this is fantastically twisty tale, it’s surprisingly accessible, and isn’t weighed down by the kind of interplanetary politics found in other works by Dick. You’re straight into the story, it races along, you race with it, and then you’re stuck in the world of Ubik long after you turn the final page. Even in 2019, Dick’s status as the greatest Sci-Fi writer is secure.
My Rating: 5/5
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Summary: Radiance is arguably part Science Fiction and part hard-boiled Noir, a partially nostalgic and partially futuristic novel in which story-telling, truth, lies, fact, fiction, reality, and illusion are explored. It has layers upon layers in which characters flit in and out of the narrative, a narrative which jumps around in time every time you finish a chapter, and a mystery at its heart in the form of Severin Unck, the daughter of a famous film director, whose unexplained disappearance leaves the people closest to her confused, lost, desperate for answers, but often unwilling to talk.
Reason for Selection: Radiance is dreamy, daring, delicious, demanding, and about as close to perfect as you can get in book form. It’s not easy to dive into, but once you get into the book, you’ll be fully immersed in Valente’s world. Like all good Sci-Fi narratives, you might not be entirely sure how to interpret what you have read, but you’ll give it a go anyway and the book will stay with you long after you finish it. I still can’t can’t get it out of my head almost a year after first reading it. I particularly loved what I interpreted as Valente’s little tribute to Philip K. Dick’s Ubik in Ubik. You can click here to read my full, spoiler free review of Radiance.
My Rating: 5/5
A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
Summary: The plot concerns Tom Birkin, a surviving soldier of World War One who, in his advancing years, reflects on the summer of 1920 when he found peace and refuge during his stay in tranquil village of Oxgodby where his task was to uncover a church mural. Whilst there he comes into contact with another former soldier who has also been damaged by the war, and who is intent on uncovering a lost grave in addition to the local vicar’s attractive wife. A Month in the Country is a brilliant war novel without really being a war novel at all, at least not in the traditional sense; whilst the narrative focuses on the effects of World War One, it does not feature any conflict and is a curious mix of war novel and pastoral novel and of melancholia, happiness, and spirituality.
Reason for Selection: This is brilliant short read that captures the sense of alienation felt by those returning from the conflict, and their inability to readjust to civilian life. As well as the themes stated above, the focus on nostalgia is sure to captivate the reader.
My Rating: 5/5
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Summary: Set between April and October in a year in the 1930s, I Capture the Castle follows the journey of its teenage protagonist, Cassandra Mortmain, who lives with her eccentric family in a run down, decaying castle in the middle of nowhere. Her family includes her bohemian father who is suffering from severe writer’s block, her glamorous stepmother, beautiful older sister, and younger brother. The family are poor due to her father’s failure to finish another book and they begin to sell their possessions in order to buy food. Cassandra records events in her diary and things get complicated when the heirs to the castle the Mortmains live in arrive from America, and both sisters find themselves falling in love.
Reason for Selection: This is an engaging and undemanding read, with Smith recognising that teenagers like Cassandra deserve a voice and representation, and that the experience of adolescents is not to be trivialised. However, there are plenty of other characters of all ages in the book and it’s a charming read, but youth, is at the heart of novel and the narrative is Cassandra’s coming of age story, and transition into a young woman. The book also makes readers yearn for a simpler way of life in a ostensibly simpler time, however, issues of love, life, adventure, and poverty demonstrate that the past is not always simpler, and that there are problems and experiences which resonate across the decades.
My Rating: 4/5
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
Summary: This text is actually a short story that focuses on 15 year old Connie and her attempt to fight off the unwelcome attention of a man named Arnold Friend. Connie is beautiful, self-absorbed, and at war with her mother (who she obviously dreads becoming one day). She is, in many respects, the typical American teenage girl, and unknown to her parents, spends most nights trying to catch the attention of boys at a local restaurant. Connie’s life changes after capturing the attention of Arnold who one day turns up at her home in his car, and attempts to lure her away from the safety of her family home.
Reason for Selection: Oates’s tale has been interpreted in many different ways by different critics since its first publication in 1966. One reading of the text is that it maps Connie’s journey from innocence to experience, and from childhood to adulthood. Like Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is also a coming of age tale, however, it is much darker. I love this story as it documents Connie’s transition across different states, and doesn’t trivialise this journey or disguise the type of threats that may be faced by girls like Connie. Like Smith, Oates also recognises that the state of adolescence and adolescents themselves are worthy of representation and study, however, Connie’s fate is very different to Cassandra Mortmain’s. This edition also features some excellent critical essays on the text.
My Rating: 5/5
By Nicola F. a.k.a. The Brontë Babe.
Thanks for reading. Find me on twitter @BronteBabeBlog where I tweet about books, the Brontës, and animal rights, or on my Brontë Babe Blog Facebook page. Look me up on Goodreads too. I also have a side project where I blog about my love of Classic Crime Fiction over at The Classic Crime Chonicle. I’d love it if you joined me there.
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