reviews

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.


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.


Review - Going Solo by Roald Dahl

Going Solo is the continuation of Roald Dahl’s memoir, picking up around about where Boy left off. Dahl relates stories from his time working for Shell in Africa and later as a fighter pilot in WWII. This book is packed with adventure and fantastical-sounding tales!

I love Roald Dahl’s fiction - his wit and imagination filled my childhood with absolute delight. I even memorised his take on Cinderella from Revolting Rhymes: “I bet you think you know this story. You don’t, the real one’s much more gory…” So it’s no surprise that I also enjoyed Going Solo. Written with the same wit (and maybe a little of the same imagination?), the nostalgia was strong.

It’s interesting though, to read this book with the perspective of the 21st century. I couldn’t help but narrow my eyes at some of Dahl’s tales, and at the way he described life, particularly in Africa. Dahl is a product of the English colonial attitudes of the time, and reading about his interactions with African people gave me pause to reflect on what has changed, and what has not.

All in all, this was an enjoyable adventure to read, and a perfect start to the new year.

Going Solo was featured in the January 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 the website.