Frankenstein- Mary Shelley [Review]

“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.” (Frankenstein, Mary Shelley)

 

13096261992What a masterpiece! I have been meaning to read Frankenstein for so long and finally I did it. I should have done it ages ago. Now my gothic literature trilogy is done; Dracula, Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (review to come).

Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, the son of a prominent Swiss family who seems to have everything: wealth, youth, family and friends. The novel begins in the bleak North Pole, on a boat trapped in ice with Captain Robert Walton’s crew. Captain Walton finds Victor Frankenstein who is near death and chasing after a monster. While recovering Frankenstein narrates his story to Captain Walton.

Victor Frankenstein starts by telling the reader about his family and origins. He always had a burning desire for knowledge which takes him to Ingolstadt University in Germany and studies science. There his passion leads him to perform a deed as terrible as it is marvellous. He finds the secret of life itself and builds a man, a monster of a man and gives him life.  Soon Frankenstein realises what he has done and he is disgusted by his creation. He thinks of it as an abomination, rejects him, runs and hides from it.

The monster is never given a name. He is referred to as the monster throughout the novel and Frankenstein calls him everything from demon to ogre to wretch. Shelley’s depiction of the creature is marvellous. She could have made him look like a zombie-like monster or a terrifying creature, ’alien-looking’, but she presented him with a brilliant mind and a heart, a complicated heart but still a heart. All the monster wants is love, acceptance and to be understood. He exclaims to his creator ”I am not a monster. I have feelings just like you”.  The agony he feels comes across so real that you cannot help but feel sorry for the monster and hate Frankenstein for what he has done. I am going to admit that I for one feel sorry and pity for the monster and I can see where he is coming from. I do not like Victor Frankenstein one bit. He is arrogant, self-righteous and selfish. The monster is more sympathetic than his creator. All he wants is acceptance and love.

The fact that the monster is more likeable or more sympathetic than Frankenstein is one of the reasons that make this novel so great. It is not a horror story; it is a tragedy, a sad story. It explores the emotions that one who is rejected goes through and the actions that result from that rejection. The novel appears simple; scientist creates monster, monster goes on rapid murderous spree, scientist tries to stop it. However, by the end of the book the reader realises it is not that simple and is left wondering who was really evil. It is a serious story that shows the implications of science, of the consequences of someone playing god.41wmhy-xrxl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

The book is written as a series of narratives in the first person. One of the narratives is the monster’s perspective. In the middle of the book, the monster takes over detailing his first steps into the world and the terror he stirs in people.  It is daring of Mary Shelley to do this, but by doing this she is giving the monster a human side. The monster having been rejected by his creator and by the world flees. He is ‘born’ into a frightening and hostile world that immediately banishes him from everyone. Even his creator, who he sees as a father, rejects him and is scared of him. The monster, alone, flees and lives in a forest nearby a cottage. There he observes the family (that live there) and through them learns the way of man; reading, writing, speaking amongst other skills. One day he feels brave enough to present himself to the family hoping for acceptance. He does not get it and from that the real monster emerges. First, he is sad, then, he is enraged. The real monster is created by the hatred and frivolity of other humans. Banished and angry with humanity, the monster seeks revenge. He who has not done anything is called a monster and is feared because he is different. The monster falls victim to humanity’s prejudice and cruelty. His innocence has been corrupted by man and becomes the monster everyone thinks him to be.

It can be said that the story would have been different if people were less judgmental, a little less scared and more understanding. But then we would not have Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. How was Frankenstein created? Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 18 years old. One evening, she along with Lord Byron, her husband and poet Percy Shelley and John Polidori, while staying in a cottage near Geneva, decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story.  Mary Shelley wanting to prove her worth to Lord Byron spent nights thinking of a story. Eventually she came up with Frankenstein, creating a masterpiece and introducing to the literary world the most important monster that will haunt us until today. Definitely give it a read. It will be worth it. Trust me.

 

”I am not a monster. I have feelings just like you” (Frankenstein, Mary Shelley)

Regeneration by Pat Barker [Review]

regenerationRegeneration. A brilliant, intense and subtle novel set in the First World War. The book is set at Craiglockhart War Hospital, 1917, a hospital for treating soldiers suffering from different forms of shell shock. It starts with anthropologist turned psychologist William Rivers waiting for the arrival of Siegfried Sassoon, who has been sent to Craiglockhart due to him protesting against the war, throwing his military cross in the Mersey River and writting a ‘letter of wilful defiance’. Robert Graves also makes an appearance in the book, a friend of Sassoon’s, who has actually sent Sassoon to Craiglockhart Hospital to spare him being court marshalled after his declaration against continuing fighting the Great War.

Throughout the book we are met by different characters suffering from shell shock. Some are fictitious and some are based on real people. Despite the fact that some patients are fictitious, Barker seems to have based them on actual cases recorded by the real Dr. Rivers which makes them as real as the likes of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. When reading the book, you cannot help but feel a bit melancholy and sorry for the poor victims suffering from shell shock. While Dr. Rivers makes his rounds of Craiglockhart checking on his patients, you get the feel of a life surrounded by suffering and tragedy. A haunting life.

siegfried_sassoon_by_george_charles_beresford_1915

Siegfried Sassoon

Barker manages to mix fiction and fact so effortlessly. Most of her characters did actually exist. As already mention, there is Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, along with psychologists who actual did exist and treat numerous of shell shocked patients (even though in the book some are nameless). We, the reader, get to see the inside world of these magnificent characters. We meet young, idealistic Wilfred Owen shyly giving his poems to Sassoon to look at. Sassoon helps Wilfred Owen have more faith in himself and soon we experience the writing of one of Owen’s famous poems; ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’.

sidepic

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

They become good friends and eventually have a mutual respect for one another. Dr. Rivers is another factual character in Regenation and you cannot help but love him. He cares for his patients and tries to treat their shell shock with the most humane way possible as well as with something close to tenderness. He himself has never been in battle so there is a distance from the horrible experience his patients have gone through. He lives the experience of warfare through his patients while secretly, I believe, feels guilty that he could not fight alongside his fellow countrymen. He believes that ”the war must be fought to a finish, for the sake of the succeeding generations”.

As well as her factual characters, Baker’s fictional characters are also very interesting. Billy Prior, for example, has a working-class background and risen to become a second- lieutenant. He comes to Craiglockhart not being able to speak (due to his experiences) as well as suffering from severe asthma. He is intelligent, ambitious, awkward and, socially and sexually ambiguous. At first, I have to admit, I was not sure whether I liked Prior as he was rude, crude and just … unbearable at times. But I did grow to like him and I was happy to see his progress and his route to recovery. His relationship to factory worker Sarah Lamb shows his softer side (I believe). Other patients (who are fictional) are: David Burns who has ‘vomiting nightmares caused by a mouthful of decomposing German flesh’ (not pleasant at all!) and Anderson, who was once a surgeon, but due to his wartime experiences cannot continue practising due to the fact that he hates the sight of blood and experiencing mental breakdowns.

There is a particular scene in the book which actually made me feel uneasy. To be fair, there were a few scenes that made me feel uneasy and so sorry for the soldiers going through all that; however, this scene takes place in a London hospital. Dr Rivers visits this particular hospital one day and watches Dr Lewis Yealland administering frequent and agonising electrical shocks to a patient who has been mute by his wartime experiences. When you area reading you can feel the terrified soldier trying to utter one single word so that this inhuman torture can stop. Even Dr Rivers feels uneasy during this ‘treatment’. We find out at the end of the book, an author’s note telling us that Dr. Lewis Yealland actually existed and he did use those ghastly methods during wartime as detailed in his book. Not my favourite part of the book at all.

rivers2

W.H.R. Rivers outside of Craiglochart Hospital

Regeneration is a thoughtful, sombre and sometimes a intense read. It’s a book that explores the mental state of soldiers affected by the Great War. It is a really good read and you do get invested in the characters. You are supporting them through their treatment and hoping they get better. You feel sorry for those who probably will not get better but are still remaining hopeful for them. I would recommend it to anyone especially those who are history fanatics and are interested in the First World War, but also to anyone who wants to give it a try. I have to warn you though, it is a book about a hospital with soldiers suffering from shell-shocked, it will be upsetting at certain times.

Apparently Regeneration is the first book in a trilogy. The second book is ‘The Eye in the Door’. Might have to go and find a copy of that soon.  Enjoy!

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out these hasty orisons.

-From Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

The Bees by Laline Paull [Review]

 ‘Changes the way we see our world’  —SUNDAY TIMES

 ACCEPT. OBEY. SERVE.

This book had been on my shelf for quite a while. Recommended by a friend and selected to be part of Waterstones Book Club I finally decided to pick it up and read it. I have to say it was bizarrely amazing.

the bess laline paullWritten from the bee’s perspective we are introduced into the life within a bee hive. The book follows the story of Flora 717, a bee born a sanitation worker, the lowest on the hierarchy. She is only fit to clean the hive and dispose the dead bodies of her fellow sister bees . Flora is too big, too dark, she’s ugly by bee standards. However, she is strong, a quick learner, curious and can speak, while others of her caste are mute. Different is not usually allowed in Flora’s world. Any bee that is different or deformed is destroyed by the fertility police (Deformity is evil. Deformity is not permitted). A Sage, a high-ranking priestess, intervenes and saves Flora from death as she sees something in her, something different. Here is where the story of The Bees begins. From then Flora is moved to another ‘sector’ of the beehive, the Nursery.  Here, Flora is assigned to feed the newborns by producing Flow, royal jelly if you would like. From the Nursery, Flora moves on to become a forager, collecting pollen (food) for the hive.

Here Laline Paull gives us the wonderful scenes of the world outside the hive. We the readers can see the world through Flora and meet some interesting characters along the way; the wasps (the bees’ horrible cousins), the scheming spiders luring bees or any other insects to their beautiful woven silken webs, dirty flies who are not liked by anyone as they are seen as filthy and the lowest of the low of insects. Once Flora returns to the hives, she enters the dance hall where she explains to her fellow sisters of what she’s been up to, where she has been and what she has seen.

Flora lives to accept, obey and serve her beloved holy mother, the Queen. But, when her instinct to serve is overwhelmed by a fierce and deeply forbidden maternal love, she breaks the most sacred law of all…. only the Queen breeds! What happens to Flora next is an adventure you my fellow book lover will have to discover yourself.

Other than Flora and the rest of the female bees who dominate the beehive, we are introduced to the male bees who I believe add a bit of humour to the book. Preening, strutting drones who are hilarious; ”Think now of those foreign princesses waiting for us. How fatigued, how impatient for love must they be? Would you bind them in chastity a single moment longer? Or shall we fill our bellies with the strength of this hive, then free them with our swords?”.  I have to say the were interesting to say the least!

The Bees is a very strange good book. At first it was a bit weird reading a book from a bee’s point of view and being introduced to her world but slowly you get used to it and become part of that family praying you don’t get on the wrong side of the Sage priestesses. Laline Paull captures the suffocating and claustrophobic feel of the hive, as well as shows us how the bees are able to communicate with each other. The words ”Accept, Obey, and Serve” are echoed throughout the novel. It’s the guiding law and religion of the beehive.

Paull’s extensive research into the bees can be seen throughout the novel and you cannot help but be fascinated by the story and become engrossed with the life of a beehive, from feeding the newborns Flow to the dance hall where Forages dance their flight for their sisters.  After finishing the book I saw bees in a different light. I was sitting in the garden the other day and a bee was flying around, The Bees came instantly to mind and made me wonder whether I was looking at a forager. I definitely recommend this book to anyone. It is a very good read. Enjoy!

Demy no bleed.indd

 

 

The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini [Review]

“For you, a thousand times over.”

The Kite Runner. What a heartbreaking story.

It tells the story of Hassan and Amir, two friends who are as close as brothers and great at flying a kite. The two young boys live in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. The book starts with Amir, a grown man, living in America and through him we go back to when he and Hassan were 12 years old in Kabul. We get to know the way of life in Afghanistan, the local kite-tournament (a popular Afghan pastime) and how everything changes when war comes to Afghanistan and the country becomes a dangerous place. the kite runner

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant whereas Hassan is the son of their servant. Despite this, the boys are as close as brothers, both lost their mothers when babies and were nurtured by the same woman. Their fathers also grew up together and were as close as brothers. Hassan is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste, and usually gets a lot of abuse from other Afghan children especially Assef, a known bully amongst the children. Amir during this story commits an act of betrayal towards his friend Hassan, which will haunt him for the rest of his life and have to live with that guilt. During the war, Amir and his father are forced to flee Afghanistan for America. Thus The Kite Runner becomes the story of Amir’s journey for redemption and a way to ‘set things right’. He has to return to Afghanistan to make ‘things right’ as it were. On this journey Amir makes new friends, reunites with old friends but also with old enemies.

The story is fast paced and never dull. When I started reading this story I could not put it down. I needed to know what will happen and will Amir ever find peace. I feel for Amir, love Hassan’s loyalty towards Amir and the sacrifices he makes for the family. I hate Assef and his horribleness. I want to shake Amir’s father and tell him that he needs to accept his son for who he is and to show him that he loves him. You get so much invested in the characters that you can’t do anything but read, read and read. We are introduced to the world of Afghan life, strange and fascinating and devastating when war breaks out.

The Kite Runner tells the unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant. It is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country torn by violence and war. A gripping and emotional story of betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. The Times have accurately stated that ”Khaled Hosseini  is a truly gifted teller of tales. He’s not afraid to pull every string in your heart to make it sing”. It is a powerful novel that has become one of my treasured books, one-of-a-kind classic as others have described it. Definitely give it a read and see for yourself. I won’t lie, you will be heartbroken by the end and it will stay with you for a few days/weeks BUT it is so worth it. I even cried while reading it. Do put it on your ‘To Read’ list!

‘The shattering first novel by Khaled Hosseini… a rich and soul-searching narrative … a sharp, unforgettable taste of the trauma and tumult experienced by Afghanis as their country buckled’ (Observer)

‘A gripping read and a haunting story of love, loss and betrayal. Guaranteed to move even the hardest heart’ (Independent)

George Paulopoulos- The statue and the sculptor [Review]

Γιώργης Παυλόπουλος «Το άγαλμα και ο τεχνίτης»

Σαν έκλεινε το μουσείο
αργά τη νύχτα η Δηιδάμεια
κατέβαινε από το αέτωμα.
Κουρασμένη από τους τουρίστες
έκανε το ζεστό λουτρό της και μετά
ώρα πολλή μπροστά στον καθρέφτη
χτένιζε τα χρυσά μαλλιά της.
Η ομορφιά της ήταν για πάντα
σταματημένη μες στο χρόνο.

Τότε τον έβλεπε πάλι εκεί
σε κάποια σκοτεινή γωνιά να την παραμονεύει.
Ερχόταν πίσω της αθόρυβα
της άρπαζε τη μέση και το στήθος
και μαγκώνοντας τα λαγόνια της
με το ένα του πόδι
έμπηγε τη δυνατή του φτέρνα
στο πλάι του εξαίσιου μηρού της.

Καθόλου δεν την ξάφνιαζε
κάθε φορά που της ριχνόταν.
Άλλωστε το περίμενε, το είχε συνηθίσει πια.
Αντιστεκόταν τάχα σπρώχνοντας
με τον αγκώνα το φιλήδονο κεφάλι του
και καθώς χανόταν όλη
μες στην αρπάγη του κορμιού του
τον ένιωθε να μεταμορφώνεται
σιγά σιγά σε κένταυρο.

Τώρα η αλογίσια οπλή του
την πόναγε κάπου εκεί
γλυκά στο κόκαλο
και τον ονειρευότανε παραδομένη
ανάμεσα στο φόβο της και τη λαγνεία του
να τη λαξεύει ακόμη.

_________

Translated by K.J.Koukas:

George Paulopoulos- The statue and the sculptor

As the museum was closing
late in the night Deidamia
came down from the pediment.
Tired from the tourists
she had her hot bath and then
hours in front of the mirror
she brushed her golden hair.
Her beauty was forever
‘trapped’ in time.

Then she saw him there again
in some dark corner lurking.
He came behind her silently
and grabbed her waist and breast
and ‘trapping’ her loins
with his one leg
he tamped his strong heel
and the side of her splendid thigh.

This did not surprise her at all
He threw himself at her all the time.
Besides she expected it, she was used to it by now.
She resisted as though she pushed
with her elbow his sensual head
and as her whole self got lost
in the gripping of his body
she felt him transforming
slowly slowly into a centaur.

Now his horse-like back
hurt her somewhat there
sweetly on the bone
and she dreamt of him  surrendered (to him)
between her fear and his lust
as he lusted after her still.

 

COMMENTS/MY VIEWS:

I recently decided to go back in time and revisit some poems I looked at during my school years. I grew up in Greece and studied a lot of Greek poets. We would always focus on Greek authors, Greek poets, Greek history… etc. By the time I got to university I wanted something different so I disregarded anything to do with Greece. I had already discovered authors such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and poets such as Robert Browning but wanted to find more. Despite my ‘stand against’ anything Greek related it was inevitable for me to revisit a bit of my schooling. I will admit that I did like some of the poetry we studied and had to learn. Some have stuck with me and for the past few months I have been going through them. I have rediscovered poets such as; K.P. Kavafi, Odysseas Elitis, Giannis Ritsos and many more. While I was at home (over Christmas) I found my old text books from school, I was looking through them and found more poems, some that I had completely forgotten about.

This particular poem ‘The statue and the sculptor’ by George Paulopoulos is one of those that have just stuck with me. I could not remember who the poet was, but I did remember that the poem was about a statue coming alive after the museum closed for the day. (something like Night at the museum I guess!) When I was looking through my text book I found the title and I knew instantly that this was it. I have no clue why this particular one stuck with me. Is it because of my interest in Ancient history? Due to my degree? Who knows.

I have tried my best to translate this poem and I hope it works for the non-speaking-

Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs. Temple of Zeus

West Pediment- Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs. Temple of Zeus. (found online)

Greek-poetry-fanatics out there.  Before I start rambling about the poem let me give you some background to who the statue is meant to be and the mythology behind her. The statue is the nymph Deidamia and the whole story is the one depicted on the west pediment of Zeus’ temple in Olympia. It tells the story of the battle between the centaurs and the Lapiths. According to mythology the Lapiths were a people in Thessaly who lived near Pelion. The centaurs were creatures with the upper body of humans and the lower body of horses. The king of the Lapiths was getting married to the nymph Deidamia and amongst the guests were the centaurs. It is said that at the wedding celebration the king of the centaurs, Euripion, had a bit too much to drink and sexually attacked Deidamia. As you can imagine that did not go down well and a battle between the Lapiths and the centaurs commenced. This particular poem depicts the centaur Euripion violently embracing Deidamia.

As far as I remember from my school years and what I gather from reading it again after so many years is that the depiction of the battle depicts the battle between ‘spirit and animalistic passion’ towards something or someone who is god-like beautiful.

Life, the beauty of youth and the precious emotion of love remain for eternity, protected by the harsh passing of time.  Deidamia waking up and becoming alive after the museum closes shows that her beauty has been ‘shielded’ and ‘preserved’ in the manner of being a statue. The sculptor, who is anonymous, made sure to preserve her beauty  and offers her the possibility of immortality.  He gives her the possibility to harness this youth for eternity, giving her a life away from the discreet eyes of the public.

Deidamia every night, after the closure of the museum,  is able to release herself from the centaur’s tight embrace and is free to enjoy moments of peace, freedom and quietness. She is able to relax by having a bath and brush her golden hair… or does she? It can be argued that even though the night bathing and brushing of her hair might seem as means of relaxation, they are in fact a  means of preparation for his reception. It is believed by some (according to my notes) that the centaur’s lust for our beloved nymph plays a key role to her immortal beauty and preservation. The sculptor, the man who carved the beauty of this young woman, is the one that is lurking in the dark corner, waiting for the opportune moment to grab her and lay his hands on his beautiful creation. He is the one who slowly turns into a centaur. He imitates the centaur from the myth and the scene on the pediment. He wants nothing more than to hold this beauty close to him. The sculptor’s passion for his creation is thus shown.

It is shown that she is used to his attacks, does this mean that she knows she belongs in his violent embrace? Her return to the Centaur is inevitable. She knows that she was created in his embrace and according to the story of the battle between Lapiths and Centaurs she eventually ends aggressively attacked by the Centaur. Her place is with the Centaur and in the end she will be in his tight embrace. Thus her freedom is brief, enough for her to have a bath and brush her hair. Her return to the Centaur’s embrace is immortal and repetitive as this happens every night. Both the Centaur and the sculptor want to be by her side.

Now according to my notes and from what I remember from my readings and research of this poem, the element of love and passion can be witnessed in this poem. The love and passion between the sculptor and his creation and between Deidamia and the Centaur.  Some say that without passion and love there would be no meaning in life. As already mentioned it could be said that the sculptor and the Centaur are linked and both want to have Deidamia’s love. In addition,  if the Centaur owns her body for eternity (by claiming it through his lust), then the sculptor owns her soul which he claimed with his creation of her and shielding her beauty forever.

I have no clue whether any of my rambling makes any sense to you. But I thought I should share this poem and my thoughts and ‘old school notes’. It is a good poem and it has stuck with me for a long time. I hope you enjoy it as much I do.

Battle-Between-the-Lapiths-and-Centaurs- Luca Giordano

Battle between the Lapiths and Centaurs. Painting created by Luca Giordano

 

[any information about background and comments for the poem I consulted with my old school reports/notes from my-then-teacher and some little facts online]

Dracula- Bram Stoker [Review]

Was he beast, man, or Vampire?

I decided to finally pick up my copy of Dracula as I was in a gothic mood. What a read! A book of letters and journal entries, you get to read and experience every character’s thoughts, views, emotions and perspective … apart from maybe Dracula himself.

Dracula begins with Jonathan Harker travelling through Transylvania to Dracula’s castle. On his way there, Harker is warned by many locals that Dracula is not someone you want to visit after dark. The entire first part of the book is ”an exercise in dread” as Jonathan Harker slowly finds out that his host is something inhuman and utterly evil. The book is filled with scenes of horror that could freak you out. For me, there is a particular scene in the first part of the book where Harker sees three women who have been recently turned into vampires and are in search for blood to satisfy their thirst. It definitely sent chills 20150830_150407throughout my body.

The whole book as already mentioned is held via diaries. Through Jonathan Harker’s diary entries we look into his psyche and paranoia as he starts to connect the dots regarding the horrors of the night and the Count. The reader becomes part of the story, he or she is experiencing the fear and paranoia that Harker is experiencing. The build up to the meeting with Dracula and throughout the book to be honest is quite scary and tense. You cannot help but continue reading.

Other than Harker making his way to Dracula’s castle, not much happens in the first section of the story. However, the reader is introduced to Count Dracula and you get the feeling that things are about to get better and more interesting. In the second section of Dracula you’re introduced to Harker’s fiancé Mina Murray and her friend Lucy Westerna, our two female heroes.  While reading the correspondence between Lucy and Mina as well as their diary entries you cannot help but think of Jonathan Harker and what has happened to him, as his fate is left on a stand still at the end of the first section and does not appear in the second. Soon the characters of Dr Seward, Quincy Morris and Arthur Holmwood, the three of which are suitors to Lucy are introduced.  For me, Dr Seward’s entry was perhaps the most interesting as we read about a certain mental patient of his, Renfield. Renfield is an irksome zoophagous mentally unstable. At first you don’t know what relevance he has in the story, but he keeps you on your toes. You find yourself turning page after page and all of a sudden everything clicks. He does have a part in the story. He does have a purpose.

Another character comes into the story, that of Dr. Van Helsing. A Dutch professor, an expert in pretty much everything but most importantly for this story, in vampirism. What a character. He did make me laugh. He is the one who knows all about medicine, superstitions, and religions. He comes to our rescue regarding our ‘beloved’ Count Dracula. All the characters are well portrayed, each with their own unique personality, characteristics and role to the story as they attempt to destroy the inherent evil, Count Dracula.

For someone who did not know the story before and not watching any of the films (I know- I have already been told off for not seeing the classic film of Dracula) I could not stop turning the page. I wanted to know who this Dracula was. I did not know who survives and who doesn’t. Will anyone be turned into a vampire or not? Will they manage to destroy Dracula once and for all? Before Dracula, the only other good vampire book that I had read and really enjoyed was Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. Now I have two added to my library. Many comment that old classic books such as Dracula are not as captivating or gripping as modern books. I disagree. The horrors of the night and the various warnings of ‘things’ that come in the night are described in such a way that grabs you and makes you worry about the safety of the characters. The language is captivating, the atmosphere gothic and the story itself is heartbreaking, full of emotion. Also the fact that the story is portrayed through diary entries makes it easier to read, I find.

I read somewhere that Dracula ”touches on many themes, savagery, love, religion, technology and xenophobia”, it leaves you thinking. Dracula is a genuine horror story and I would recommend it to anyone.

Trade Wind- M.M Kaye [Review]

”An enthralling blend of history, adventure and romance”

Not so long ago, I wrote a review about M.M. Kaye’s Shadow of the Moon. I did love that book, still do. After reading that my mum suggested Trade Wind. She guaranteed that I would love it also. By god she was right. Now I don’t know which one is better, Shadow of the Moon or Trade Wind? I cannot decide, they are both equally as good.

Whereas Shadow of the Moon was based in India during the Indian Revolution in 1856-7, Trade Wind is based in Zanzibar in 1859. Zanzibar was the last and largest centre of the slave trade. Hero Hollis, our main protagonist, is the niece of the American consul in Zanzibar and a passionate opponent of slavery. Her main mission is to travel from America to Zanzibar and try and stop the slave trade. Soon she involves herself in a revolt that sweeps the island, and then cholera breaks out.Trade Wind

A story full of action and drama. A book that I could not put down. Hero Athena Hollis is a handsome, courageous, wealthy American who travels to Zanzibar after her father’s death. Her journey to Zanzibar was anything but smooth. She finds herself caught in a storm and soon is thrown overboard, thought to be  dead by her fellow companions. She is then fished out from the harsh sea by a Captain Emory Frost. Rory Frost is scandalous, gun-runner and slave trader; everything Hero stands against. You want to hate him but you can’t. Rory delivers Hero to Zanzibar without realising what a beauty he has had on his ship, as Hero was battered, bruised and sick from her fall in the ocean. Probably for the best really! Once in Zanzibar, Hero finds herself joining a plot against the Sultan (with the best intentions as far as she is concerned)in order to throw him off the throne and his younger brother, Yabid Bargash, to take over.

M.M. Kaye’s story is rich in historical detail and background, the storylines have depth and scope. Kaye’s description of Zanzibar is just magical and so colourful. Images of an exotic paradise  of shimmering sand beaches, crystal waters, and perfumed with the scents of blooms and trees. But, there is also the horrible side of Zanzibar, that of squalor, filth and disease. When Hero arrives to Zanzibar she comes across with the sight of slaves being thrown overboard , being sold or just transported. She is horrified, and cannot believe a place as beautiful as this can be at the same time horrible and barbaric. The contrast between the eastern and western cultures is interesting and thought provoking. Hero soon comes to the conclusion that her noble mission to stop slavery might not be as simple as she hoped.

Hero can be seen as naive and spoilt. She thinks that she can change the world despite Rory Frost telling her it is not that easy. She soon realises that everything is not black and white as she originally thought and you get to see Hero mature throughout the book and gain a perspective that is more realistic. She becomes more open and warm. We also get to know Rory Frost’s background and the reasons that led him to be who he is and do what he does. Hero and Rory’s relationship is intriguing, and despite the fact that when you began reading the book, you could see their differences, slowly but steady you understand their attraction for each other and can see it developing into something more.

There is a particular scene in the book that a lot of readers were appalled by and in a way ruined the book for them. I am not going to say what the scene was in case I spoil it for anyone who wants to read this book but I will say this. I will acknowledge that this particular incident is very controversial, but for myself, I can see why M.M. Kaye put it in the story. If you think the context of the plotline, the time period  and maybe the motivation of the lead male character, I believe the action was well justified. I will be honest and say that when I first read this particular scene I was angry, frustrated and shocked. I did not know whether it would make me change my appreciation for the main male character. After thinking about it and when I read his reasons for doing so I could see the importance of ‘building of character’ and the necessity of it later in the story. However, I do understand if other readers will not agree with me.

The characters in Trade Wind are well drawn and some you hate and some you love. From the beginning of the book you know there is something strange with Hero’s fiancé, her uncle’s stepson, Clayton Mayo. He turns out to be exactly what you think and in some certain circumstances he will surprise you. Like in Shadow of the Moon there is always another female character who you dislike at the beginning but in the end turns out to be a respectable woman and a great friend to the main female character. After Rory Frost and Hero I think my favourite character would be Batty, a sailor on Captain Rory’s ship, who was a rogue through and through, but also has a heart. He is the loving uncle who would protect Rory as best as he could and tell him when he is being a scoundrel and wrong. The Sultan is also an interesting character. Rory Frost is his confidant and great friend and can manage to get away with a lot because of his connection with the Sultan.

M.M. Kaye has a beautiful way with words. Her knowledge of the far East shines throughout the book. She stays as historically accurate as she can and she does not hold back when it comes to the customs of Zanzibar, the slave trade and the cholera epidemic. Once again, just as she did in Shadow of the Moon, M.M. Kaye shows us how different the west and east are. How they both have completely different cultures and traditions and will probably never see things the same way. Trade Wind is a beautiful tale that will get you hooked from the first page. I would recommend to any historical fiction lovers, any M.M. Kaye lovers or to anyone who wants to try something new.