Cheerio 2013 – A Yearly Round Up!

Best Book of the YearThe Island by Victoria Hislop. A brilliant, heart warming beach read spanning decades and following generations of a family on Crete affected by leprosy.


Worst Book of the Year – <em>In Darknessby Nick Lake. I read this as it was on The Carnegie Medal Shortlist and I hated it. It was a real struggle to get to the end of the book, but I persevered, sadly it didn’t change my mind.

Disappointment of the Year Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner. I was disappointed when this won The Carnegie Medal as it wasn’t anywhere near my top of the Shortlist and the enrichment group I shadowed the awards with agreed.

Most Surprising Book of the YearCall the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. I received this as a Christmas present from a good friend last year. I had never really given it much thought and I hadn’t been watching the TV programme at all, but I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Call the Midwife and I think I will read the other books in the series at some point. For Christmas this year I gave my friend a Persephone Book so hopefully she enjoys it as much as I enjoyed her present.


Book I would recommend to othersCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wien – I feel I should balance out the negativity towards teenage fiction and this was certainly the best book in that genre I have read all year. I feel it should have won The Carnegie Medal, but since it didn’t I greatly look forward to reading the next book by this author.


Best SeriesGame of Thrones series by George R.R.Martin, both books and the TV programme. I have been good for the second series and read the book before I watched it and I received the next two books for Christmas so I’m very happy.


Most memorable character – Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones; I just find whenever I have read the books it is him and his role I am most interested in and eager to return to.

Can’t believe I waited until this year Life of Pi by Yann Martel. This had been recommended to me on a few occasions, but I always thought it was something I wouldn’t really be interested in. I was completely wrong. It is an amazing novel and I loved the twist.


Newest Addiction – any Persephone Book. I have fallen in love with them as publisher over the past year and their books frequently appear on my birthday and Christmas lists.

Number of Books Read – approximately 42. I’m not sure of the exact number as I haven’t blogged about some of my reads.

The Classics Club Challenge Update – 5 reads, taking me up to 12/50

2014 Challenges – I am continuing with my Classics Club Reading and I am going to try and be a little bit better with the Classics Club Spins that I take part in; I did well for the first two and went awry at the third. I am also taking part in RoofBeamReader’s TBR Challenge.

Overall I am happy with my reading over 2013 and it has been lovely to look back on some books I had almost forgotten about. Thank you to everyone who reads my blog and I hope you all have a lovely New Year and a happy 2014 with lots of time for reading!


Tess of the D’Urbervilles


Contains spoilers

After what felt like the longest wait ever, I finally arrived back home for Christmas yesterday afternoon. As I drove past the countryside I was reminded of my recent reading and in particular the last chapters of the novel I finished that morning: Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I am lucky to have grown up along the Somerset/Dorset border and I currently live in Wiltshire, a mere stone’s throw away from Stonehenge, the setting for the final dramatic climax of Tess Durbeyfield’s life.

The first time I read Tess was in the summer between my second and third year of university; I was pretty certain I wanted to focus on female criminals in Victorian literature for my dissertation and my research led me to Hardy and ultimately to Tess. Having focused on and analysed Tess’ life in great detail during my third year, I put the novel aside and picked it up for the first time since back in November, again because I wanted to study/teach it.

Tess’ is a life of sheer hardship and sorrow. Encouraged by her parents to seek the help of an apparent wealthy ‘relative’ Tess soon becomes a ‘fallen’ woman and from that moment on she faces difficulty upon difficulty until her death at the end of the novel. It is fair to say that the catalyst and ultimately the route of all her troubles lies at the hands of Alec D’Urberville, the apparent wealthy ‘relative’. It is Alec’ persistent hunting of Tess and the ambiguous rape that leave Tess pregnant and alone; an event that haunts her and ruins her one chance at love and happiness in her marriage to Angel Clare.

I loved rereading Tess (especially seeing the notes I made the first time I read it) and I have so much I want to share about this novel, but I am going to narrow it down to a few things in particular. As I mentioned I am teaching this at the moment, focusing in particular on the difficulties Tess faces. There are many, but what I found amazing as I read the novel is how much I hated Alec D’Urberville; he truly is a vile character and I imagine the type of man who was not uncommon in the late 1800s. Having raped Tess in a dark and foggy woodland clearing, his shock and sheer audacity when she leaves seems very stereotypical of the time period and the patriarchal society Tess has the misfortune to live in.
“I didn’t understand your meaning until it was too late”
“that’s what every woman says.”‘

How easily Alec turns his actions onto the innocent victim, showing no remorse or guilt, as though it was his birthright to act as he pleased. This mysogonistic attitude is displayed later in the novel when Alec again blames his downfall from religion on Tess, showing how quick he is to pass the blame and ignore the consequences of his actions.

Unfortunately for Tess, Alec’s attitude is not out of character for men of the era, with Angel quick to cast Tess aside as soon as he learns of her past. The irony of this lies in how Tess willingly forgives Angel for a similar discretion, highlighting the clear double standards of the Victorian age. Before we started studying Tess we looked at the context of the period and my students were shocked by how few rights women had, how their husband essentially owned her the second he married her, taking all her belongings and beating her whenever he wished. It is unbelievable to think that this was happening a little over a century ago.

There is a part of me that feels as though I have been ploughing through Tess for months and whilst I have been reading it for a fair few weeks it has not felt like a burden. It truly is an enjoyable and engaging read and I love reading about the surrounding countryside, trying to pinpoint the real life counterparts of the villages and towns mentioned in the novel. Tess’ plight is heart wrenching and it is hard not to feel great sympathy for her as a character and how her life would have been different if she had been born into different circumstances or a decade or two later.


I feel as though I have become slightly Tess obsessed as alongside my reading of the novel I have been watching an excellent BBC adaptation from 2008starring Gemma Arterton and Eddie Redmayne. It is a fantastic version and every time Alec appears I want to boo at the screen, so I highly recommend it. I have also been dipping into The Connell’s Guide to Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which is another great aide to support a reading of Tess and has certainly made me think about things I hadn’t noticed myself.

Rereading Tess has sparked an urge to reread several books I studied at university and hopefully I will find the time for a few more rereads in 2014-I especially look forward to seeing more comments and quotations I highlighted during my original reading.

Not snowed in…

…just snowed under!

I feel as though I haven’t caught up with the blogging world for weeks and when I look back through my posts I can see that this is the case. I haven’t completely disappeared from the blogging world, I have just been crazy busy with work the past few weeks and I have been a tad here, there and everywhere. I am currently holding out for Friday when I break up for the holidays and can FINALLY relax and start fully getting into the Christmas spirit.

It has not all been work, work, work for me though; I have managed to have enjoyable weekends, with a roller disco party (amazing!), visits from family and a trip to London to visit one of my best friends last weekend. And the best bit about a London trip…I finally got to visit the Persephone Bookshop!


Of course a visit to a bookshop is never complete without at least one purchase and it was tricky to choose a book which wasn’t on my Christmas list.


All this work has left little time for reading, but I am hoping to be back with a post on Tess of the D’Urbervilles at the weekend.

2014 TBR Challenge

It is scary to think that we are uber close to 2014 and with that in mind, as always, my brain starts thinking about reading and book piles, hence the reason behind joining this Challenge. The TBR Challenge is hosted by Adam at RoofBeamReader and the rules are simple, compile a list of twelve books that have been gathering dust on your bookcase for at least a year and aim to read them other the course of 2014. I hold my hands up in confession that I am pretty terrible at sticking to reading challenges, however I feel this one might be a tad more realistic than some of the others, mainly because I already own all of the books on the list. So here goes!


1. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier (Kindle)
2. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
3. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
4. Regeneration by Pat Barker
5. The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst (Kindle)
6. The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier (this isn’t in the picture as it is currently at the bottom of a very large pile of books and I can’t reach it)
7. World Without End by Ken Follett
8. Charlotte Grey by Sebastian Faulks
9. The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
10. Patience by John Coates
11. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H.Lawrence
12. Elizabeth Taylor Short Stories (this might be cheating as it is short stories, but I am aiming to read at least half of them).

I’m quite excited now I look at my list, but it have some feelings of trepediation! I think I am most apprehensive about reading The Six Wives of Henry VIII mainly because it is quite a dense read, but I might try and space it out, or save it for a holiday. It is much harder to choose the book I am most excited about as I like the look of all of them, otherwise why would I have bought them? Maybe the Nancy Mitford or Evelyn Waugh as I do love their writing and it has been a whole since I have read any of their work.