Flush Book Review

 

Author: Virginia Woolf

Genre: Satirical Biography, Victorian

Read: April, 2016

 

 

 

Review: 

I’m not going to lie – I bought this as part of another on-line book order purely so my basket cost enough to warrant free postage. In fact, that is the origin story of all of my Penguin Little Black Classics (I  have a tidy collection of eight of them, loathe as I am to pay postage fees).

However, I have found that these miniature books are great introductions to a lot of classic authors – their small size makes them a less intimidating endeavour. I haven’t read anything by Woolf before, but reading Flush has certainly made me want to; her style is witty,  insightful, and easily enjoyable.

The narrative is told from the perspective of the pet spaniel Flush, a unique and often humorous view point that I personally found very endearing, and follows the course of his life from puppy-hood to old age. Flush the spaniel actually belonged to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, famous poet/writer. What I liked best about this book was the way it analysed love and the human condition with the honesty and intuition we have all long expected dogs to be in possession of.

Best Quote:

“Things are not simple but complex. If he bit Mr. Browning he bit her too. Hatred is not hatred; hatred is also love.”

If you like this, try:

This felt like the Victorian version of John Grogan’s Marley and Me. Areas of commonality include dogs being dogs and humans being humans.

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Salt to the Sea Book Review

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: YA Historical (WWII)

Review:

Set in war-torn Germany, the novel follows the journey of four main characters – Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred – as they attempt to flee the advancing Russian army and reach safety. These characters’ stories intertwine as they, along with thousands of other refugees, attempt to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship set to carry them across the Baltic Sea and away from the dangers of war.

Part of what I love about Sepetys’ books is how they introduce me to aspects of history I have little knowledge of, and Salt to the Sea is no exception. The Wilhelm Gustloff was in fact a real ship, and, more shockingly, it was also responsible for the “worst disaster in maritime history”, but hardly anyone has ever heard of it. Sepetys talks about this here:  http://www.npr.org/2016/02/17/466924137/more-died-on-this-wwii-ship-than-on-the-titanic-and-lusitania-combined. 

Another reason why I adore her books are the characters, and once again Salt to the Sea does not disappoint. The book is comprised of four different POVs, resulting in the chapters being very short and fast-paced. This does not detract from the story; if anything it adds to the well-developed atmosphere of panic and emergency that permeates the novel. I finished the whole thing in one intense, emotional sitting.  Out of the four characters Florian was my favourite, but each POV offers a unique perspective on the war, in part because each of the characters is from a different country embroiled in the conflict. Sepetys takes great care to build each character’s back story, revealing details carefully as the story gradually progresses.

Overall, the novel deals with the consequences of war in a really compelling manner, simultaneously shedding light on a little known tragedy, culminating to create an emotionally tumultuous book that lingers long after you finish reading it.

Best Quotes:

“Per aspera ad astra, Papa,’ I whispered. Through hardship to the stars.”

“I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

If you like this book, try:

Ruta Sepetys’ other books, Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Remembrance by Theresa Breslin.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.