Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard

the british bookworm hannah pittard visible empire book review

Buy Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard 

I first heard about Visible Empire on a podcast back in the second half of 2017. Waiting until the summer of 2018 to read it seemed unbearable.

It’s fair to say that Visible Empire was one of my most anticipated reads of this year, so I’m a bit confused as to how to even write this review. Looking back, it definitely didn’t live up to the high expectations I’d been setting myself up for, but then again, I can’t exactly pin down the one reason why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was expecting to. It’s readable, it’s a summer book for people who despise summer books, it’s <i>fine</i>, but that’s really it.

We follow various characters dealing with the repercussions of the 1962 Air France plane crash in Paris which killed 130 of Atlanta’s most elite residents. Several of the characters were right up my alley: unlikeable and wealthy (seriously, is there anything more satisfying than reading about rich people behaving badly?) and others felt like they were deliberately placed there to comment on the social change occurring in Atlanta at the time. The problem was, these characters just fell felt for me. I didn’t connect with a single one. I struggled to empathize with anyone, or even dislike anyone enough to stir any emotion.

In fact, I’m going to equate this book to a bad first kiss. You know what I’m talking about. You build up something so monumental in your head, you think it’s going to be one of your most treasured experiences, but when all is said and done, you’re left wondering, <i>”Was that it?”</i>.

<b>2.5/5 stars</b>

Upcoming Book to Movie Adaptations You Need to Check Out

With so many unread books sitting on my shelves, certain books just fall to the wayside and it can take months (okay, sometimes even years) before I eventually get to them. I have no problems with an expanding library, but nothing gets me more excited to read a backlist book than seeing a movie trailer for it. These upcoming three, being released later this summer and fall, have recently made it to the top of my reading list.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (17 August 2018)

Meg Wolitzer has been high on my radar recently after the release of her most recent novel, The Female Persuasion. I’ve had her other novel, The Interestings, sitting on my shelf for years. It’s one of those books I’m keeping for a rainy day because I already know I’m going to love it. I hadn’t heard much about Meg Wolitzer’s 2003 novel, The Wife, until the trailer caught my eye.
The story follows Joan Castleman (played by the great Glenn Close) as she grapples with her marriage on a flight to Helsinki with her husband, Joseph, who is the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. We go back in time to see the beginnings of Joan and Joseph’s relationship (fun fact: young Joan is played by Glenn Close’s daughter!) as Wolitzer explores the sexism within the publishing world, how men often dominate elite industries and the sacrifices that some women make as wives and as mothers. It’s a short novel, coming in at just over 200 pages, but one that certainly would seem to pack a punch, particularly in a year like 2018.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (31 August 2018) 

Honestly, I don’t know why more of Sarah Waters’ novels haven’t been adapted for the big screen yet. They’re so atmospheric and evocative of the Victorian era that they would make stunning films. I read and adored Tipping the Velvet last year and have been meaning to pick up more of Waters’ work. I typically think of Waters’ novels as being ‘winter reads’, the type of books you pick up when it’s chilly outside and you’re able to curl up under a blanket, but with the upcoming release of The Little Stranger, it seems high time I add her to my summer reading!
The Little Stranger, Waters’ fourth novel, breaks away from the Victorian era she’s known for and is instead set in a crumbling English manor in the 1940s, following Dr. Faraday (played by Domhall Gleeson) as he is called to visit the Ayres family as they struggle with their dwindling wealth and a haunting presence throughout the house. I think Domhnall Gleeson is such a talented and underrated actor so I’m excited to see him again. The trailer looks particularly eerie, and since I’m often more comfortable with knowing what lies ahead when I watch these type of movies, I’ll definitely be reading the book before watching this!

The Children Act by Ian McEwan (14 September 2018)

You just have to say the words “Emma Thompson” and “Stanley Tucci” and I was already sold on seeing this. Again, I’ve owned the book for a while (can you see a pattern here?) but watching the trailer for the upcoming film really gave me the push I need to finally pick it up.
Emma Thompson plays Fiona Maye, a high-powered High Court family judge. Her morals are tested when a case involving a seventeen-year-old boy is gravely ill and whose religious beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness prohibit him from receiving a blood transfusion. His status as a minor means it falls on the court’s shoulders to decide his fate. In the midst of this, Fiona’s own personal life is also tested when her marriage to her husband, Jack (played by Stanley Tucci), begins to disintegrate. I’ve heard great things about Ian McEwan and after looking into more of his work, I really admire the way he seems to tackle such heavy, morally ambiguous, subjects in his work that I’m sure will leave you with plenty of thoughts long after you’ve finished them.

Will you be reading any of these before the films are released? Are there any other upcoming book to movie adaptions I need to know about? Let me know! 

I Still Dream by James Smythe

I Still Dream by James Smythe

I Still Dream by James Smythe 

In 1997, 17-year-old Laura Bow creates Organon, an artificial intelligence that acts as a virtual diary of sorts to document her every thought. As Laura grows and matures, so too does Organon. In the midst of this, another technology company named Bow (named after their founder, Laura’s missing father) are at work building their own intelligence named Scion.

Inevitably, things aren’t plain sailing. The novel spans decades as we find out how Laura grapples with the responsibilities of what Organon could become, ruminates on the decisions of her own life, and how these decisions affect those closest to her.

Throughout each chapter, we see Laura at different stages of her life and see just how rapidly Organon has grown into its own. It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking look at the tech world, from humble beginnings in the mid-90s into the all-encompassing automation of a not-so-distant future. This isn’t some far-flung work of science fiction that would never happen. At times, it feels eerily similar to a world that we seem to be heading to, and I still don’t know how I feel about that.

I know I’m going to be thinking of this one for a very long time, so for sheer imagination and staying power, this deserves all the stars.

Buy a copy of the book here.

 

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - The British Bookworm

 

For as long as I’ve been a bookworm, there has been one book which has continually cropped up time and time again, often heralded as a favorite book of all time. It’s none other than Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

There’s always an element of risk when reading such a universally beloved book. Would I like it too? Would I get it? Or would I feel out of the loop for the remainder of my reading life by not appreciating it? Thankfully, all of those fears were put to rest, because I can happily report that Rebecca lived up to the high expectations, even exceeding them in some parts.

If you’ve been living under a rock, or, like me, have managed to stay blissfully unaware of the plot of Rebecca in the 80 years since its publication, the novel is a gothic, psychological drama. My copy of the book refers to it as a “classic tale of romantic suspense”, but I don’t think that could be further from the truth.

The novel follows an unnamed narrator, who, when on a trip to the South of France with her employer, meets Maxim de Winter, a wealthy widower who proposes to the narrator and takes her back to his estate named Manderley. Once there, our narrator finds herself unable to shake off the presence of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca.

That’s really all you need to know. One of the big joys I had from reading this book was finding out little details on my own, being shocked by the various twists and turns, and contemplating on what du Maurier was trying to say in this book. It’s often said about classic authors from the past, but Daphne du Maurier really was ahead of her time, and there’s so much material in this book to discuss and consider even in 2018.

In case you hadn’t picked up on it, I absolutely loved this, and I’m so glad I finally took the plunge and read it when it’s been on my radar for so many years. It’s a worthy reminder to just devour those big, important books that we put off for so long. I can’t wait to explore more of Daphne du Maurier’s work. Let me know where I should head to next!

 

My Reading Resolutions for 2018

I know, I know. It’s only January 4th and we’re probably already sick of hearing the word resolution. I’m usually not one for making particular resolutions at the beginning of the year, as I think they often set people up for imminent failure, but I don’t think there’s any harm in reflecting on the previous year and thinking of some manageable, realistic ways to change or improve ourselves. Here are some thoughts I’ve been having on my reading resolutions for the upcoming year.

Slow Down and Savour 

In December, I only finished one book. One! I had plans for a relaxing Christmas and New Year thinking I would get numerous books finished, but that didn’t happen. I still relaxed, but instead of reading I was spending quality time with family, watching movies and playing board games. These are the moments I’ll remember and treasure rather than sitting in my room alone reading, so I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to sacrifice some reading time and slow things down when you want to.

I also only read 35 books in 2017. Some voracious readers who read hundreds of books a year may laugh at that. Others may be amazed that I managed over 12. The point is, it doesn’t matter. I never want to get hung up on the number of books I’m reading. Instead, I want to focus on the quality of the stuff I’m reading.

All About the Backlist 

I read a lot of new releases in 2017. In fact, if I was to hazard a guess at how much, I’d say over 50% of my reading in 2017 was new releases. Even though I found some gems that came out last year (ahem, Little Fires Everywhere and Tin Man), I also realized that so many of the backlisted books on my shelf took a backseat in 2017. There are some books on my shelves that I’ve had for literal years which I am so excited for, but which I keep putting off, almost like a fancy outfit that you only want to wear on special occasions. Why?! Life is short, I need to just pick up the damn Donna Tartt and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novels and be glad I did!

Buy Less, Choose Well 

I’ve been toying with the idea of not buying any books in 2018. Right now, it’s only January 4th and I’m still on a high from the huge stack of books I kindly received from Christmas, so I can’t guarantee I’ll be feeling the same during the summer and autumn when all of the year’s big releases are coming out. Nevertheless, it’s time I realized that I do, in fact, spend a lot of money on books. Rather than immediately order books I’ve heard about through a video or blog post, I’m going to take advantage of my city’s wonderful library or wait a few months until I’ve made a dent in my growing TBR pile. At the very least, I don’t want to buy any hardcover books in 2018. I’ve bought so many in the past that sit on my shelves unread for months when I could have saved money and opted for the paperback version instead. Last year, I also bought an additional bookshelf and moved all of my books into an open space in my living room to feature them all. I now love the idea of having my own personal library that I can browse and pick from at any time. I plan to be taking full advantage of this personal library in 2018!

Remember That Reading is Fun 

There’s been a lot of discussions online recently about reader fatigue, falling out of love with reading, and generally just questioning our role and happiness surrounding reading. I’ve found these discussions really interesting and can relate to a lot of them, but overall I want to take the work out of reading in 2018 and remember that it’s my hobby and my passion. I’m hoping that the above resolutions will help me with that.

What are your reading resolutions for 2018?

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere opens with, you guessed it, a fire. The Richardson family, made up of Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, look on with horror along with their three kids: Moody, Trip, and Lexie. Their fourth child, and the black sheep of the family, Izzy, is nowhere to be seen, and thus is assumed to be the culprit of starting these little fires. 

As with Celeste Ng’s previous novel, Everything I Never Told You, the book opens with a climactic event before pulling you back in time and revealing all of the little moments that led up to this one catastrophe. Ng did this so brilliantly with her first book, and it’s no different with her sophomore attempt here.

Taking place in Shaker Heights, a progressive, cookie-cutter type suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, we meet the Richardson family. They are your typical run-of-the-mill, ‘perfect’ All-American family. As with most, we soon learn that things aren’t as rosy as they appear for the Richardson’s. In keeping with their upper-middle-class niche, the Richardson’s own a second property nearby in Shaker Heights. This soon becomes the home of Mia, a vagabond artist, and her daughter, Pearl. Mrs. Richardson is quick to pat herself on the back, giving Mia and Pearl a place to live and employing Mia as the family cleaner, allowing her to earn some extra money while still focusing on her artistic pursuits.

In the meantime, there’s also a custody battle brewing when Bebe, a young Chinese immigrant, abandons her young daughter out of desperation, only for Mrs. Richardson’s longtime best friend, Mrs. Mucullogh, to adopt her.

I’d hate for anyone to think that this is your typical mother-daughter story, because it’s so much more than that. There is so much to unpack in this short but powerful novel: The secrets of mothers and daughters, what it means to be a mother, class divides, and the experiences of first-generation immigrants in the seemingly utopian setting of an American suburb. Celeste Ng is able to create such nuanced, multi-dimensional characters that you will loathe yet sympathize with, and admire yet shake your head at their messy decisions.

An outstanding sophomore effort from Ng, who has proven she is at the top of her game and not just a one-hit wonder. I’ll be eagerly anticipating her next release.

Buy a copy of the book here.

Book Review: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

“You are the only person I’d like to say goodbye to when I die because only then will this thing I call life make any sense.” – André Aciman

I have some strict rules regarding my books and reading. I never dog-ear pages, I absolutely refuse to crack a book’s spine, and for all of my reading life so far, I’ve never once been compelled to write in the margins of my books or highlight passages. That all changed when I read Call Me By Your Name.

Although this is a seemingly short novel, coming in at only 248 pages, it hits you with the intensity of a 900-page chunkster. Truly, there were paragraphs in this book that I repeated over and over because they were so beautiful. Never let it be said that short books are “easier” to write than long novels or less thought-provoking. Aciman effectively puts those myths to rest and has achieved something remarkable with his first novel.

The novel follows Elio Perlman, a 17-year-old Jewish American living at his parents’ summer home on the Italian Riviera. Each summer, his parents host a young academic to assist his father’s work and to also receive guidance on their own manuscripts. This particular summer in the 1980s, an older student named Oliver comes to stay. Oliver’s confident yet detached character is a stark contrast to Elio’s introverted and quiet demeanor. Despite this, it isn’t long before both men have a life-changing effect on each other that will stay with both of them for decades to come.

It was such a pleasure to read something that is, admittedly, a completely new perspective for me. Of course, I’ve read my fair share of summer romance novels over the years, but reading from the perspective of two young men combined with Aciman’s poetic writing gave the novel such an intense, urgent feeling that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from. Considering the novel was also written 10 years ago, I’m so glad to see it is now a major motion picture that will be hitting theatres next month and getting the national recognition it deserves. This is certainly a novel to savor over long, warm lazy afternoons (ideally in the Italian Riviera) and I hope to see it in many more people’s hands before the movie’s release date on November 24, 2017. It is by far a new favorite of mine.

Buy a copy of the book here.