Friday, 30 November 2012

The Woman in White Review by Owen Jones (Second Attempt)

The Woman in White Review

The Woman in White is a work of crime-fiction written by Wilkie Collins in 1859 and is an early example of a ‘sensation’ novel. The story revolves around Walter Hartright, a young watercolour drawer and tutor who through a combination of accident and love becomes embroiled in a far reaching criminal conspiracy, which, compelled by strong motives, he attempts to unveil.
                The form of the novel is perhaps its most interesting and most original aspect. The text is divided between several different narrators, some of whom are directly involved in the criminal activity themselves.  Walter is the primary narrator; his reason for writing the narrative is to provide comprehensive evidence for the central crime of the story and to attain this he requires the perspectives of other characters. This distinctive form can be considered the reason for both the novel’s greatest successes and most critical flaws. Importantly, it allows Collins to demonstrate considerable skill as a writer: he voices each character convincingly and distinctly, fluctuating between high and low registers as well as capturing each character’s individual idiosyncrasies. This variety ensures that the novel is rarely monotonous owing especially to those characters, such as Frederick Fairlie, whose voices are somewhat too shallow to sustain a larger narrative but which in shorter ones are greatly entertaining. Changes in perspective often come in tandem with changes of place and leaps (both forward and backward) in time. The outcome is possibly Collins’ greatest accomplishment in the novel, which is to find an effective and refreshing way of presenting narrative: the reader doesn’t really experience the story linearly, but rather as a larger more amorphous collection of events, from which order is gradually formed. To excuse the cliché, it really does feel like assembling a jig-saw- an effect which in crime fiction can only be applauded.
            With regard to characterisation, the novel mostly excels. Regrettably Walter is a fairly non-descript character and the object of his love, Laura Fairlie, is only more so. This can be wearying as they occupy such central roles and Walter indeed narrates probably over half of the novel. Though this isn’t so fatal as what actually happens when he narrates is very interesting and his narrative voice is at least functional if not inspired. Fortunately, these are isolated cases and characters such as Marian Halcombe and Count Fosco are far more prominently and effectively characterised. Marian is a triumph of internal characterisation whereas the count is a triumph of external characterisation. Marian is a sympathetic character- the reader is made familiar with her hopes, affections, opinions and fears; she is also unorthodox and because of this, fascinating; she overshadows Walter, who performs a similar role, and becomes a perfect window to view events and people through. The count, conversely, is the perfect object to through view that window; he is understood in purely superficial terms; his appearance, his mannerisms and his actions are described vividly, but we know very little about his innermost thoughts. Because of this there is always an aura of mystique surrounding the Count and he can become larger than life in a way which is thoroughly believable. He is at once charming and repulsive, friendly and terrifying. Collins furthers this success when it becomes time for the Count’s own narrative; the Count protects his interiority with rhetoric and a self-awareness of his own legend; the only time he exposes himself is to show admiration for Marian- which acts as a sole and unnerving glimpse into a dark and incomprehensible self.
                Writing in the first person can create a closer proximity between the characters and the reader, enabling access to their thoughts and feelings in the most direct way. This consequently can facilitate a greater emotional connection between the reader and characters, and Collins’ success in this regard is almost total. This success, however, acts sometimes to the detriment of his other stylistic choices, namely the conventions of sensational writing. A deeper investment in a character’s emotions can intensify drama and generate suspense, but Collins occasionally overplays this and there are moments which are too emotionally exhausting for this to work properly. This is problematic as it leads one to question what Collins is actually intending the novel to do. Peter Thoms writes:

            Collins was justly recognized as one of fiction's most accomplished plotters, but this             valuation was double-edged, granting Collins talent as a carpenter of plot as it             simultaneously denied him a loftier position as a serious, well-rounded author.

In The Woman in White Collins, as previously discussed, is certainly an accomplished plotter; this doesn’t prevent him, however, from striving towards a ‘loftier position’, though perhaps it should. The central crime of the novel is one that is both ingenious and particularly cruel; Collins doesn’t seem to want the reader to forget either of these facts, something which places them in an uncomfortable position. In encouraging us to often think about the consequences of crime, specifically for the victims, Collin’s prevents us from possessing the level of neutrality required to revel in the glamour and solving of it. This problem isn’t so severe that the well shaped plot is completely ruined by it, but it can have a curbing influence on the reader’s enjoyment.
            Unfortunately, the familiarity of setting is cause for more disappointment. Almost the entire novel is set in England, and at a time contemporaneous with the time of writing. Furthermore, much of it is set in rural England, which one cannot help but feel is a little mundane, and those scenes which are set in London rarely evoke anything approaching a ‘mood’. The opening scene is perhaps the most evocative scene of all, but it is also the most misleading. It prepares the reader for a mysterious, even Gothic, tale, but by the time the plot is in full swing this sense of the uncanny has almost evaporated, and the eponymous woman in white, who at first was so compelling, eventually becomes reduced to little more than a footnote. There are even times when Collins seems to have deliberately chosen an unexciting setting, such as the town of Welmingham, and one wonders why. This wouldn’t be so much of a flaw in itself, if only the reader wasn’t constantly teased with more exciting locations that exist on the peripheries of the main plot. For instance, Walter spends a great amount of time in South America, where we are led to believe he has many life-threatening encounters; the Count, also, is involved in an international ‘brotherhood’, the nature of which is barely explored, despite its larger significance. These locations and events are admittedly only incidental and further attention to them might have seen digressive and irrelevant; but nevertheless, it is frustrating to have to read about Walter being pursued by two ruffians in a boring town in England, while he likens the experience to being pursued by savages in an exotic jungle in South America.
            Overall the novel is well written but sporadic. It is occasionally brilliant; its characterisation is often superb and its method of storytelling is well paced and original. But Collins’ focus sometimes appears misguided, and one, when reading it, sometimes is unsure what to feel, in a way which more confusing than it is interesting. The setting and main character too, lack any edge, which if they weren’t saved by the well wrought plot, might undermine the sense of danger that is so important to the novel’s effect. It seems that even in a novel that contains so much welcome unfamiliarity as The Woman in White, familiarity can be all too relied upon.

'A Year in the Wild' by James Hendry

‘A Year in the Wild’ by James Hendry

‘A Year in the Wild,’ is set in Sasekile Private Game Lodge in the South African bushveld, and tells the story of two brothers who have loathed each other since childhood. In a last attempt at reconciliation, the parents of Hugh and Angus McNaughton convince them to work for a year together at a five star lodge and we are treated to the experiences and events that consequently unfold. The rivalry between the brothers makes for a hilarious read, with Hugh as the perfect sibling, and one that troublemaker Angus very easily and quickly drives to the point of frustration.

The novel is written in a conversational tone in the unusual form of email correspondence between Angus, Hugh and their sister Jules. Their frequent emails home include experiences and encounters with guests, wildlife and female staff, sometimes combining all three! When I first began the novel I was apprehensive about the email correspondence form, however my reservations were soon removed as James Hendry has obviously taken great care to create two completely different characters in Angus and Hugh, with different tones, styles and voices. The device works particularly well due to an emphasis on character development a rather than a heavy plot. The conflict and contrasts in the brothers’ relationship is portrayed clearly through this form in their brutally honest emails home. The novel is a light and easy read, written in a relaxed, conversational tone, using simple language which is easy to understand. The introduction to the novel displays a list of South African terms and slang used throughout the emails, yet the emails are well written, with the correct grammar and spellings, which is often overshadowed in similar formats.

The book is saved from being a clichéd farcical tale by several plot turns, humor, and slightly cynical undertones, with a combination of characters ranging from hilariously stereotyped guests to loving family members and camp employees. Yet it’s most promising aspect perhaps is the gradual development of the characters, with their deepest interior emotions emerging towards the end of the novel.  I loved the two brothers from beginning to end, however I developed a much stronger connection with Angus McNaughton, and feel it was indeed his character who advanced the most throughout the novel. He is introduced to the reader with a physical description of height and eye and hair colour, and as we begin to read his emails we delve deeper into his interior characteristics and emotions. Angus starts the novel with a sarcastic and arrogant tone, constantly complaining and trying humiliate his brother; ‘Well I’ve made it through week one. Fifty-one to go. Joy and rapture.’ Yet, as the novel progresses his selfish character is deepened through the character of Anna, a graceful, calm and loving manager at the camp. Through their close friendship and relationship, we see a deeper side to Angus and a change of thought and personality after her tragic death at the camp. He becomes a much softer and more sympathetic character, through both descriptions of his heartbreak in emails from Hugh, and his own contemplative and thought provoking emails home.

With both hilarious and tear jerking moments, the novel paints an easy-to-imagine, highly accurate picture of the goings on behind the scenes of posh game-reserve lodges and their employees, and leaves you to ponder the importance of both family and friends. ‘A year in the Wild,’ is a light and quick read I would thoroughly recommend to all ages. 

Kathryn Morris

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy

Paul Auster, ‘The New York Trilogy’
Review by Lydia Mark

The ringing phone in the corner of his boxy New York apartment brought Daniel Quinn back to life. As a somewhat retired writer, he had lived so long as a ghost that everybody had forgotten he was there until the telephone penetrated his solitary world. Usually, I see through “the ringing phone” cliché that appears and sometimes begins detective stories. Yet, in the first book of the trilogy, ‘City of Glass’, Paul Auster strips away the familiarity of this sort of beginning as Quinn does not seem remotely bothered by the phone; Daniel Quinn is a man with absolutely nothing to hide or expect.
When the voice on the other end is finally heard, “it” was like a voice Quinn had never heard before, ‘mechanical and filled with feeling, hardly more than a whisper and yet perfectly audible’. It was asking for Paul Auster. Who is Paul Auster? Of course our award-winning novelist is Paul Auster. Elements like this make Auster’s 3 book-piece so intriguing because you enter the story in a state of confusion, which you really believe you can dispel if you just continue reading. A feature in the ‘1001 books you must read before you die’, The New York trilogy is an obscure comment on the mystery about mysteries. Effectively, Auster transforms the reader into the investigator in his take on the classic detective story.
‘City of Glass’ is ostensibly a film noir type with Quinn’s characterisation as the “cynical protagonist”, but as it unfolds Auster takes Quinn on a journey initiated by chance and the story becomes more than typical detective fiction. Though he is not a P.I, but a writer of crime fiction, Quinn laughably takes on a trail and report case but instead of facts all he is left with are meaningless stories from various characters. What I think differentiates ‘City of Glass’ from other detective stories and makes it so interesting is that it concentrates on the art of story itself, and not on whether the story does or is supposed to mean anything at all. Auster so seamlessly strings together the events of Quinn’s case that you find yourself flipping back the pages to find the link you missed. By this point you realise you are trapped in the mystery just like Quinn. 
However, I did not think ‘Ghosts’ was as successful in encouraging our natural instinct to explore and discover. ‘Ghosts’ is the second story about Blue who is asked by White to follow Black. While this story creates the same sense of confusion as the first, I felt that all the events were thrown together deliberately to confuse the reader and lacked the subtlety I admired so much about ‘City of Glass’. Evidently Auster is a fan of delayed gratification as I found myself racing to the last book, ‘The Locked Room’. This one is frustratingly good as by now the reader knows an open ending is inevitable, but as it’s the last book we’re still hanging on and hoping for that satisfactory ending that, of course, never comes.
So, would I read this novel again? Yes and no. Part of the thrill is the unexpected, so in a second reading this feeling would be eliminated. However the open endings, twisted plots and characters hopping from one book to another are great devices that create a circular nature in the novel. Essentially, the only way to uncover the mystery that pervades ‘The New York Trilogy’ is to go back to the start…       



After Dark, by Haruki Murakami

I have come across a book in which the writing is so hauntingly beautiful that it terrifies me. 

Let me elaborate. 

Haruki Murakami’s After Dark is written in such a way that, after I had finished reading it, I realised that I lost all comprehension of when reality stops and dreaming begins. We've all been at that awkward hour of the night when you lose focus on what is and isn't happening (regardless of whether or not you've been drinking). The more I thought about it, the more it scared me. It's like when somebody asks you what time you went to sleep and you reply, "oh, it must have been about 2", how can you  know the time when your conscious switches off and the subconscious takes over? In true Murakami fashion, he blurs the lines between the physical and the metaphysical to create a confusing, yet comforting sensation in the reader. 

The story is split into two worlds; nineteen year old Mari’s conscious world and her sister, Eri’s unconscious one. 

We meet Murakami’s young protagonist, Mari, at 11.56pm in a diner. 
After a quick survey of the interior, our eyes come to rest on a girl sitting by the front window. Why her? Why not someone else?
She is immersed in her book, chain smoking, and occasionally sipping her coffee. She does not want to be disturbed. But like the narrator, people are drawn to her. First a young trombonist with whom she had double dated with her sister years earlier; an ex-wrestler who is now the manager of a ‘Love Hotel’; and a Chinese prostitute, battered by a client.

Murakami paints a succession of dark, Hopper-esque tableaux's in a gallery of the night as Mari moves from diner, to hotel, to bar. The reader can see that she doesn’t really belong to that world. She wants to, why else would she wander aimlessly, refusing sleep? But Murakami’s night belongs to the misfits who choose to inhabit it. Mari merely serves as the go-between for these creatures of the underworld; they divulge their secrets to her, they know they can trust her because she doesn’t belong there.

Murakami peppers the book with images of Eri, the delicate model, sleeping in her empty room. We learn that she has been asleep for two months, it is hinted at that this is helped by some sort of prescription drug addiction, although it is never specified. It should be boring just reading about a literal sleeping beauty but it is in these chapters that Murakami paints his most nightmarish scenes. For example (in a 'The Ring' style of Japanese horror) as Eri slumbers, her unplugged TV turns itself on and displays a man sitting in a chair, wearing a cling-film mask, staring at her. The reader is left questioning whether they are seeing reality or Eri’s dreams. 

In fact, throughout the book, Murakami causes us to question everything we have considered to be normality; even with Mari’s character who we assume is living in the world of the conscious has these creepy dream-like experiences that raise discomforting questions in the reader. Is Mari awake because her sister is asleep? Can the two not coexist? Are they intimately connected as two half of the same whole?

Murakami’s magical and bewildering story of Tokyo after midnight blends the comfort of familiarity with the uncertainty of the uncanny so fluidly that you feel yourself wondering if the world truly becomes a different place after dark; whether everything that you considered to be normality disappears.

Rosie Beard

L'etranger, Albert Camus

L’etranger delves into the complexities of human nature through Meursault’s strikingly simplistic view of the world. We are thrown into his cold life, devoid of any real care for anyone or anything, and are given a glimpse into the notions of existentialism, nihilism and absurdism – sound a bit too heavy for your liking? Admittedly, the happiest reader may finish this book questioning the meaning of their own existence, but Camus’ writing of Meursault’s bleak outlook is so hauntingly beautiful, it’s one not to miss.

 Albert Camus has been deemed by many as a proponent of existentialism and L’etranger particularly as an existentialist piece. However as Camus himself rejected this idea, I must raise the question as to whether this novel, famed for its links to existentialism, is in fact linked at all. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of this rather depressing concept, existentialism is based on the idea that human life is irrational and purposeless. This idea is indeed present throughout L’etranger, for example in Meursault’s brash rejection of the crucifix (and therefore Christianity). Christianity depicts a rational order and reason for the universe, and invests human life with higher meaning – pretty much the other side of the spectrum in terms of existentialism. As well as this, Meursault’s focus on the physical world follows the existentialist idea that there is nothing more than physical existence to life, most strikingly his almost comedic attempt at justification for killing a man: “it was because of the sun”. Although these and other elements of L’etranger do support certain existentialist ideas, I feel it is important to note that whilst Camus was writing the novel, he had also begun writing The Myth of Sisyphus, a philosophical essay in which Camus introduces absurdism, which in my eyes, the character of Meursault embodies perfectly. Absurdism focuses not so specifically on life’s lack of higher meaning, but on the conflict between man’s tendency to look for a higher meaning – yet inability to find any. Therefore, instead of reading the character of Meursault as the cold, inhuman character that depresses us all and reminds us our existence is futile (standard existentialism), look at Meursault in a different way. Meursault’s actions highlight the absurd ways of humans, he is criticised for his attitude because we do not understand him, as we continue our absurd chase to find the meaning of life. Many people approach L’etranger looking for answers for these great philosophical questions, but the true beauty of this novel is the realisation that there are none.

Emma Hodgkinson

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Creative Writing Book Review of Anita Brookner – The Bay of Angels

The Bay of Angels tells the story of a woman’s journey to adulthood, with particular focus on her relationship with her mother.  Having been brought up single-handedly by a lonely and isolated mother, Zoe finds herself similarly secluded.  With her mother’s remarriage, their consequent move to France and the sudden death of her new Stepfather, Zoe is left caring for her ill mother and struggling to establish a home or identity for herself.  

The plot is touching yet a little simple, in fact nothing truly groundbreaking ever happens.  However, the reassurance of honesty in the sleepy daily events of Brookner’s narrative makes for a relaxed and comfortable read.  For those wanting action and excitement this book would undoubtedly disappoint but I was surprisingly content to amble along with Zoe as she progressed on her unremarkable journey.  There is a focus on routine and the mundane features of daily life, thus portraying the protagonist as a female contemporary Robinson Crusoe.  Due to the lack of overly dramatic action, the plot is entirely believable, which on the one hand allowed me to become fully immersed in the events that were slowly taking place, yet also left me feeling somewhat drained by the end of the novel; I felt like I had also endured her tedious and unfortunate life and was therefore left emotionally spent and a little depressed.  Thus, the missing element in The Bay of Angels is certainly escapism.  When reading a novel I want to be looking down upon the unfortunate lives of characters from an external platform, (fully appreciating that it isn’t me!) and not feeling as if I need psychological support for my social seclusion, the death of my step-father and the slow, painful deterioration of my Mother’s sanity.  I suppose this can be seen from two extremes;  Brookner has been entirely successful in leading the reader to emphasise and relate to poor Zoe’s turmoil, however sometimes a few exciting yet unrealistic events work wonders in instilling a sense of schadenfreude!

Much like the plot, Brookner has kept things simple with her choice of character.  She focuses on Zoe and the few staple figures in her life, largely her mother, stepfather and Dr Balbi (her mothers doctor and Zoe’s potential love interest.)  Other characters are mentioned in passing but we are given little insight in to background, characteristics or physical appearance; perhaps this reflects Zoe’s distanced state of mind.  It is refreshing to not be bombarded with the names and details of many pointless characters as it allows the reader to emotionally connect with those few that are truly significant.   

Brookner has a fluid style with little ambiguity or superfluous vocabulary, allowing for an easy and straightforward read.  However, in terms of sentence content and allocation there is definitely too much focus on emotion.  Whenever anything significant happens (which it rarely does!) Zoe tells us how she feels about it, which is to be expected of the main protagonist.  Yet she then continues to describe why she feels this way, what significance these feelings have and then in a bizarre twist, ends up talking herself in to feeling another way about the original event.  So in the space of a few pages Zoe’s view on a rather inconsequential incident will have altered dramatically, merely because of some emotional rambling.  Maybe Brookner intentionally created an over-sensitive and indecisive character to highlight her vulnerability, however I just found it to be highly tedious and frustrating.  Further irritating aspects are the many long sentences, which could easily be made more succinct and the rejection of grammatical conventions such as starting a sentence with ‘And.’  These sentences are randomly placed with no particular relevance or reason and are therefore just annoying.  One final criticism falls on Zoe’s frequent moral questioning, which suggests Brookner is trying to promote a sense of improvement in the reader, much like the 19th Century Bildungsroman.  However, this does not seem to fit the contemporary setting  and the modern readers requirement.  As previously stated, I want to externally view the misfortune of others rather than work on my own self-conduct, morals and love life. 

In conclusion, The Bay of Angels is neither offensive, nor exciting: it is somewhere in the middle and for this reason I cannot strongly recommend it.  In my opinion, you would not miss out on anything if you didn’t read it and you would not gain much if you did!

- Chloë Wallis

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky

Review by: Harpreet Scott

F. Scott Fitzgerald once referred to the beauty of literature as being that moment when ‘you discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.Charlie, the fifteen year old protagonist in Stephen Chbosky’s epistolary novel ‘The Perks of being a Wallflower’ seeks comfort in literature when he finds himself unable to relate or conform to the social cliques of his high school. With the encouragement from the extroverted characters of Patrick and Sam, Charlie makes the transition from shy introverted freshman to a person who is respected for embodying the quality that initially made him different; ‘He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.’                                                         The anonymity of the friend whom Charlie addresses his letters to and confides in is a deliberate device perhaps chosen by Chobsky as a way to connect the reader to Charlie. It seems fitting that Charlie can tell his story in his own words rather than in a third person narrative, as he is often consoled by the words used in his beloved novels and is even told by his teacher Bill that he ‘would make a great writer one day.’ Moreover, the absence of replies from the addressee makes the novel take on a confessional tone which corresponds with the twist which is later revealed.  The epistolary form enables the reader to understand a character that is having trouble understanding himself; ‘Just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense.’
Chobsky somewhat submits to the conventional situation: outcast is befriended by the cool kids and then becomes popular. Whilst the first part of that stereotype is true, Chobsky ensures that ‘Perks of a Wallflower’ is more than just that age old story. Instead of the protagonist changing into a confident, popular, universally loved character, Charlie maintains his awkwardness and naive honesty throughout, which makes the reader love him even more (in a protective grown up sibling kind of way) and makes his character all the more believable. To end with Charlie becoming the popular kid at school and submitting to the norm, would go against the very foundations of Charlie’s persona and would make him less relatable to the reader. Chobsky ensures that his characters do not undergo any radical changes to their persona’s and remain true to themselves, whilst making them experience the changes that only time and age bring. Patrick and Sam are two characters that stand on their own against Charlie and all three are drawn together through their self proclaimed oddities with Sam embracing Charlie with the line; ‘welcome to the island of misfit toys.’ Along with Charlie, Sam is the character who undergoes the obligatory change that comes with a coming of age story. As Charlie’s letters progress the same movement is seen in Sam’s character, transforming her from one who is seen to be idealised by all; to one who exposes her own vulnerability- a secret which binds her and Charlie closer together. Sam is more than just Charlie’s love interest, she is a character that voices the desires and insecurities felt by both genders; ‘If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am.’
Patrick is seen to be the foil of Charlie, yet both are united with the animosity they receive in regards to their extroverted and introverted personalities. Although Patrick embodies the role of comic relief in quite a ‘deep’ (down with the kids type language) story, seen when he receives his grade; ‘C minus, ladies and gentlemen! I am below average!’ he is also at the centre of another taboo subject- homosexuality. As a 21st century reader, I am not shocked or unnerved by the topic of homosexuality. However, in the novel Patrick is faced with prejudice as a result of his sexuality, reflecting the attitude of society at the time in which the novel was set and written in.  The inclusion of Patricks character is to show that beneath the confidence people sometimes exude, vulnerability is universal. Moreover, everyone faces obstacles in their lives and it is the way in which we get through them which define us, after all ‘Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it’s no excuse.’
The novel centres on the idea of conflicts- both internal and external. Whilst Charlie questions his surroundings and his personal development or lack thereof, external conflicts are constantly present. The violence between Charlie’s sister and her boyfriend brings the two siblings together, a unity which is tested by the end of the novel. The fight between Patrick and the boys at school showcases Charlie’s loyalty and brings an end to the animosity between his new found friends. Violence is shown to be an extension of the internal conflicts felt by the characters and whilst Chobsky does not condone it he does make the reader understand why it is happening.
Whilst some may say that ‘Perks of being a Wallflower’ is nothing more than an endless show of cheesy quotations, it is for this very fact that I and many others have fallen in love with the novel. The novel does not try and portray itself to be a form of literary greatness, the informal language and easy to read narrative differentiates it with some of the greater works in literature associated with that level of genius. No, the novel embodies the carpe di um mantra as ‘this moment will just be another story one day.’ ‘Just one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive’ is a line that resonates with me, as it brings the hope and the realisation that you are more than just your past. Chobsky’s novel is one which you will be quoting long after you have finished the final page which is further testament to Chobsky’s genius.
The novel covers a wide range of topics, such as introversion, violence, sexuality and drugs but the underlying theme is the one Charlie often reverts back to: life. Charlie goes from just surviving, remaining on the edge of society to actually living ‘Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique experience, but there's a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.’ Chobsky succeeds in articulating the feelings that many people feel yet are unable to describe in a simplistic way; ‘So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.’ ‘Perks of being a Wallflower’ is not directed towards one gender, yet I feel boys would probably steer clear of such a philosophical story which is an absolute shame as both sexes can learn something from the novel. The intended reader? One who is open minded and willing to not prejudge or categorise Charlie, before the end of the story.
What makes this novel so great is the way in which it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is. It’s a story which can take place anywhere to anyone in the world. It’s a story centred on the phase of life every person goes through- adolescence. The inclusion of Charlie’s wayward family answers some questions to his ambiguous background yet Charlie is hesitant to place blame on those who deserve it. The dynamics between Charlie and his siblings is strained due to Charlie’s ‘odd’ behaviour; ‘you’re such a freak!’ but without this, the novel would lack the realism it needs to support a story such as this. Brad, Patrick’s secret boyfriend is a textbook example of a young boy struggling to accept his sexuality; a task which the modern day reader would be aware of. Just as Sam tells Charlie that ‘you can’t just sit there and put everyone’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things’, I implore you to go out there and read this novel. The novel wants the reader to ‘participate in life’ just as Bill told Charlie to do so and I implore you to do the same. If you want a novel that will change your outlook on life and make you emphasise with the strangers around you, then this novel is for you. The subject matter is not light as Chobsky renders a world full of ‘imperfections’- which is a perfect representation of teenage life and thus a brilliant read.