reviews

Review - The Invisible Man by HG Wells

A guest review by @bookspluscaffeine

If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

Pretty much every school kid has asked and answered this question. But rarely do we ask, what would it actually be like to have that superpower?

The #novelteabookclub September pick, The Invisible Man, 1897 science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, gives an insight into invisibility (pun intended).

What would it be like to be invisible? Maddening, isolating, fatal.

An obsessive ex-medical student, Griffin, devotes years of his life to discovering the secret to becoming invisible, and achieves the transformation, only to discover almost immediately it's actually utterly awful; you get knocked over in the street, you can't interact with anybody, you struggle to find places to eat and sleep safely. For Wells' invisible man, his body may be unseen, but the clothes he wears are visible (a significant issue in the cold of an English winter), and so is the food he eats until it has "assimilated" with his body (hmm... don't think about this too much).

We are dropped into the story as the invisible man is working away on a reversal to his predicament in a wintery quiet country town inn wearing his disguise - "muffling" - (covered from head to toe complete with fake nose, bandaging around his face, lots of scarves and big coat).

The people in the town become suspicious and soon realise something is a bit off with this guy, his secret is revealed, and all hell brakes loose. Tension builds to a brutal climax, then a pondersome prologue (I love those reader-gets-inside-view-to-what-happens-after-the-story bits).

This book is certainly not my usual genre, and don't go looking for a scientific formula to superpowers here, but I enjoyed the moral exploration into what happens after we push science too far.

(Side note - It also sparked great conversations with my mum who remembered hearing old radio recordings of another H.G. Wells story, The Wars of The Worlds. Apparently some people believed it as real news when it originally aired!)


The Invisible Man was featured in the September 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 - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A guest review by @lazypages

Have you ever revisited a novel that you read as a child and realised that there was so much more going on than you realised? Going back to this classic by Lewis Carroll was a little bit like watching a Disney film and realising that the humour operates on two levels to meet the needs of both child and adult viewers. My second foray into this weird and wonderful novel saw things that confused my younger self finally snap into focus. The fluffy cuteness of characters like the always-late white rabbit and the sleepy dormouse at the Hatter’s tea party seemed less important than unravelling the unsettling nature of Wonderland itself. Gone is my willingness to let the eccentric and the strange float past me in a haze of childhood imagination and suddenly I am seeing meaning in everything!

I’m not saying that now that I’m grown, my skills in technical analysis have been honed to laser sharp precision, rather I get the strangeness that underscores Carroll’s world. Far from making more sense, the adult world seems to be one where reason is more and more elusive. Over the past few years with multiple leadership spills under its belt, our government has seemed more like the court of the execution-obsessed Red Queen and the constant media spin paralleling the painting of the white roses by the long suffering cards. Indeed, international politics in general seems to be the stuff of our wildest imaginations, so crazy that we couldn’t in all seriousness believe we would be in a world where reason seems to be the least valuable commodity.

Rather than feeling like I’ve got my life together, I find myself more and  more like Alice, trying to follow ridiculous vague and ambiguous instructions to make my life more perfect, metaphorically growing and shrinking and never quite making the grade. So it’s probably no surprise that the most evocative moments in this novel are Alice’s mellow conversation with the hookah smoking caterpillar and her experiences with the Mad Hatter. Both situations are times when Alice has to learn to sit back and let the world around her just happen, without trying to control or direct it. She has to be an observer and really, isn’t that what reading does for us? It forces us to observe the world differently and reconsider our position in it. If we can be resilient like Alice and learn to work with the craziness that life and this world brings us, maybe we can find our way home again.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was featured in the August 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 - White Nights by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Guest post by @bookspluscaffeine

What do you read when you don’t have time to read? 

Short stories!

This pocket sized, one hundred odd page Penguin black classic included two Russian short stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: White Nights and Bobok. I’m new to short stories (and still pretty new to classics too if I’m honest), but I thoroughly enjoyed both.

White Nights:

White Nights, originally published in 1848, is a coming together of two lonely souls tinged with sadness. 

When the rest of the Petersburg is sleeping or already set off to their summer dachas, a chance encounter between the wandering, solitary narrator and a crying young woman, Nastenka, sparks an intense four nights in which the characters reveal themselves to each other in dramatic monologues. 

Our narrator is a lonely dreamer, desperate for connection; “…the soul longs and craves for something else! And in vain the dreamer rakes over his old dreams, as though seeking a spark among the embers, to fan them into flame, to warm his chilled heart by the rekindled fire…”

Nastenka lived a sheltered life dominated by her grandmother, until a new lodger arrived, showed her attention and kindness (he gave her books!!!), took her heart, then left. Now, one year later, she awaits his promised return.

The pair find some solace in each other, meeting each night at the same place. He helps her write letters to her love, whilst at the same time he thinks of little else but her. And although he promised not to fall in love with her, he cannot help but do exactly that…

Then Nastenka’s long lost lodger returns.

Many poignantly beautiful, poetic passages. My heart broke a little. So much emotion that it felt like an epic tale, an opera, not a short story. 

A bitter sweet love story that will stay with me.

“My God, a moment of bliss. Why, isn't that enough for a whole lifetime?” 

Bobok

Have you ever had the experience of fiction changing the way you see real life? Well, Bobok did it for me. (And in less than 50 pages!)

I don’t want to go into too much detail and give it away, but, wowee, I loved the concept.

I will never walk through a graveyard the same way. 

Read it (I want to discuss!!)

White Nights was featured in the July 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 - 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.