Review - Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Guest review by @bookspluscaffeine

Why do I like book subscriptions?

Because it means I pick up things I otherwise would not.

In the June NovelTea Book Club Classic parcel, I recieved Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, and I'm so glad I've now read it.

This sci-fi / satire follows the narrator, John as he attempts to write a book titled "The day the world ended" about the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He gets tangled up with the father of the atomic bomb, Dr Felix Hoenikker and his family, leading him to a remote island with a mad dictator, a bizzare religion founded on "harmless untruths" to placate the people (because the truth is too awful) , and the discovery of "ice-nine" - Dr Felix Hoenikker's next destructive chemical weapon capable of freezing the entire world. The religion, Bokononism has sacred texts in the form of calypsos which are jarring in their whimsy, and yet sometimes profound,

"Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why?'
Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand."

The characters are so grossly overplayed they more resemble caricatures (though not so dissimilar to current prominent world figures). Told with dry wit and irony, it's a glimpse into the end of the world. I read this book and felt chills- some bits were a little too close to the bone!

Cat’s Cradle was featured in the June 2019 Classic parcel from the NovelTea Book Club. If you’d like to learn more, or sign up to receive one of our monthly book & tea subscription parcels, please feel free to check out the rest of our website.


Subscriber Interview - Jill

This month’s interview is with Jill from Sydney, who subscribes to the Classic/Tea parcel.

Describe your life in a sentence:

I enjoy living in Sydney's inner west with all its great foodie spots; I work for the federal government and go to a local church.

What’s your favourite way to relax and recharge?

Catching up with friends over a meal.

Which fictional character would you like to be friends with?

I'd love to be friends with Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

How do you drink your tea (or coffee)?

If I'm at home, lightly flavoured black teas with milk during the day, and herbal tea before bed. If I'm out, I'll drink a macchiato or skim latte, depending on the quality of the barista!

Do you have a favourite NovelTea Book Club parcel so far?

I'm a bit of a Francophile so I was thrilled to receive the parcel with 'My Year in Provence'.

Review - A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

I’m not sure what it says about my feminism and/or my bookworm-ery that I made it to my 30s without reading A Room of One’s Own. I don’t think I was even particularly interested in reading it… until…

About a year ago, I heard a dramatic reading by an incredibly compelling actress. She sat, in casual clothes, on a stool on an otherwise bare stage, and had the audience (myself included) absolutely enthralled. Before the reading was over, I’d decided that we would definitely be featuring this book in a NovelTea parcel!

A Room of One’s Own is an essay based on two lectures that Virginia Woolf gave in 1928. The title based on Woolf’s premise that in order to write, a woman must have two things; a room of her own, and money to support herself. The essay explores some of the history of female authors and ideas around how women have been excluded from literary culture. Woolf imagines a sister of William Shakespeare, equally talented with words, and how her life may have run differently to her famous brother.

This book was thought-provoking. Predominantly, it reminded me that writing was, and still is, a privilege. To have the time to sit and to think and to craft words. To have access to pen and paper, or a laptop. To have a steady income from elsewhere. To be educated even. These things haunted women through history, and they still haunt many people today.

I think that Woolf’s conclusions are somewhat limited - both by her own privilege and the time in which she was writing - but I still think this book is a worthwhile read.

A Room of One’s Own was featured in the March 2019 Classic parcel from the NovelTea Book Club. If you’d like to learn more, or sign up to receive one of our monthly book & tea subscription parcels, please feel free to check out the rest of our website.


Review - Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

This book went places I wasn’t necessarily expecting.

It all starts out nicely enough - a group of school girls and their teachers go on a Valentine’s Day picnic luncheon at Hanging Rock. The young ladies are dressed in their white frocks and gloves, it is 1900 after all. I knew that the story was a mystery, and so I was not surprised when several of the students, and one teacher, were discovered missing when the party was packing up to leave.

What I was not expecting was that this novel also has an element of horror/thriller. And the end is… very weird. I’m not sure that I can talk much about it without ruining the experience!

Picnic at Hanging Rock is deftly written. The characters are sketched out quickly, but so well that they don’t feel at all two dimensional. The settings, both the school and the Australian bush are vivid, especially the contrasts between them. The bush feels like a character all of its own, with history and agency. I am now quite keen to watch the screen adaptation, because I am so curious to see how the feel of this story has been translated.

Picnic at Hanging Rock was featured in the February 2019 Classic parcel from the NovelTea Book Club. If you’d like to learn more, or sign up to receive one of our monthly book & tea subscription parcels, please feel free to check out the rest of our website.