The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher | Review

Of all the celebrity deaths that occurred last year, one of the most heartbreaking for me was Carrie Fisher’s. The day before I heard of her passing I had ordered her new book ‘The Princess Diarist’* having recently rekindled my love for Star Wars. It’s taken me this long to pick up the book because I just haven’t felt ready to read such a personal book by someone who had recently passed away. After many recommendations from friends, I finally picked this book up…

As the title may suggest, the book is, largely, extracts from diaries Carrie Fisher kept whilst filming Star Wars. It is the very personal and direct insight into Carrie’s experiences that make this one of the most accurate descriptions of mental health I have ever read. One sentence was almost exactly the same as one I remember writing in one of my own diaries a few years ago! So many passages had me reaching for my trusty highlighter because they perfectly summarised the way I’ve felt but not known how to articulate. Being unaware of Carrie Fisher’s struggles with mental health, the emotions I experienced whilst reading this book came as a complete surprise to me, however, because I was able to connect so strongly to Carrie’s words, I can already tell this book will stay with me for a long time.

The timing of the release of this book and Carrie’s death gives the whole book a bitter sweet kind of feeling. It perfectly encapsulates the kind, funny, intelligent and badass woman she was but there is always the underlying sadness of knowing that she is no longer with us. At several points throughout the book, Carrie talks, often very casually, about death. One review I’ve heard said this gives the sense that she knew her time was coming and I have to agree. It’s as if Carrie wanted to say everything she had been holding on to, particularly about her affair with Harrison Ford, before she passed away and these stories were leaked and twisted into fabricated scandals.

Running through this book like a woven thread is Carrie’s trademark dark humour and scathing sarcasm. This, for me, is what brings this book to life. As a reader, you are constantly aware of whose words you are reading. Carrie’s character shines through these ink stained pages, not just in the sections taken straight from her diary but in the chapters in which she is reflecting on her life.

Have you read ‘The Princess Diarist’? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Advertisements

August 2017

August is always a strange time for me. When I was at school it seemed to drag on, I’d count down the 31 days until it was time to start school, get my new books and timetable and start fresh. That underlying excitement that quietly simmered under everything I did kept me energised throughout the Summer holiday.  The past two years August has felt very different.

Last year, August symbolised the end of a very difficult time at college and the start of a gap year. A whole year to myself, to get a job and earn money, write a book, meet up with friends and prepare myself for the move to university in a year’s time. It was a month of relief and hope – two of my favourite human emotions. Yes, there was a little anxiety at the thought of not knowing where the year would take me, but after two years of feeling sick at the thought of college and having to ‘just get on with it’ every day, this new, more distant anxiety was much more manageable.

Cut to: One year later. Tomorrow is the last day of August and in nineteen days, I’ll be moving out of the house I have lived in with my Mum since I was four and into my university accommodation with people, I do not know and have never met before. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to get out of my town, it is far too small to hold me anymore but there’s still something holding me back, mainly fear. I can not wait to start studying again, my inner nerd is jumping for joy at the mere thought of writing essays and going to lectures. I’ve missed being excited about school. However, that excitement is currently being outweighed by the hundreds of ‘What ifs?’ that are running through my mind at a mile a minute, every second of the day. What if nobody likes me? What if the university isn’t the right one for me? What if I don’t get on with my roommates? What if I fall behind on my course? What if I end up dropping out? These questions are the first thing I think about each morning and the last thing every night. They just won’t let up. Deep down I know the only way to answer all these is to just do it but, as I’m writing this, something, in the back of my mind is resisting and I am scared that voice will win and after a year of psyching myself up to leave, I will give it all up at the last minute.

This was supposed to be a little summary of my month but it suddenly got very personal, although, it wouldn’t be an honest summary if I hadn’t because it seems as though university as been literally all I’ve thought about. This time next month, I will be living in a new city with new people and some of my ‘What ifs?’ may or may not have happened, I’ll be back in a month to let you know my answers to those questions.

Writer’s Block | The Write Track #3

Ironically, I meant to post this at the end of last month but I didn’t know what to say… My writer’s block was so bad I couldn’t even write about having it! Thankfully, I managed to get myself out of the slump and am tapping away at my keyboard once more but I am painfully aware that writer’s block can strike anyone at anytime. So I’ve made a list of some things that help me when I just can’t find the words

  1. Stop.

I should point out, I’m not saying give up on your writing altogether! Definitely, do not do that. But, sometimes when you’re suddenly hit with a bout of writer’s block you can end up staring mindlessly at your computer screen for hours on end without actually doing anything. All this accomplishes is that it makes you feel unmotivated and like a bit of a failure. So, when the words just aren’t flowing, try closing your laptop for a few hours and go for a walk, do some housework, or take a nap. Anything but staring at that blank page!

2. Listen to music

This might sound very basic but finding the right song or album by an artist that you really love can be exactly what you need to get your creative juices flowing again. It could be any kind of music, something that makes you want to get up and dance to really motivate you or something slower to calm yourself down. My personal favourites are Taylor Swift’s RED or Lorde’s Melodrama. They both have a great mix of slow and fast paced lyrics with some really cutting lyrics that make me want to write something that’s equally brilliant. Alternatively, you could compose a playlist of songs that motivate you and help you focus.

3. Read (obviously)

Chances are, if you have a pssion for writing, you also love reading, so for some people reading this, it might seem obvious. Reading is kind of my go to solution for anything, if I’m stressed, bored, can’t sleep, can’t stay awake, scared – you name it! Therefore it’s hardly a surprise that I would turn to books when I’m struggling to write my own. Reading somebody else’s work can have the same effect on me as a really clever song lyric in that it makes me desperate to write something similar. Sometimes going to a book shop and seeing all the beautiful, finished books on the shelves can be enough to motivate me. Knowing that all those authors poured their hearts into those pages and probably suffered from writer’s block too but still made it to the finish line, is enough to spur me on.

4. Watch your favourite TV show/film

I don’t necessarily mean your favourite show/film (As brilliant as Jack Black is, I don’t think School of Rock is going to help me write my novel) but the one that inspires you the most. Whether that’s for the storyline or one particular line. Personally, I recommend Not Another Happy Ending about a struggling author who’s characters start coming to life. Although I have to admit, I’m currently addicted to Jane the Virgin and Jane’s love for writing and determination to become a published author is very motivating.

5. Keep writing…

So, this completely contradicts my first tip but hear me out. It’s important to stop sometimes, to help gather your thoughts and reevaluate your ideas, make sure you’re on the right track with your work. BUT sometimes writer’s block can drag on and the only solution is to keep pushing through. If you’re stuck on one particular chapter, skip to the next one. If you know how you want the story to end but don’t know how to get there, write the ending and work backwards. If you are completley stuck on your current just write anything, write a personal journal entry. Go to a pulic place and write about the people you can see. Your words can be as simple as you like, bullet points even, then bit by bit, you can flesh out your work and slowly but surely, the writer’s block will start to drift away – trust me!

Writer’s block can be very annoying and sometimes it feels permanent but it never is. If you have any other tips please let me know in the comments. Just remember the pride, happiness and relief you feel when you write that final word is worth all the stress of getting there!

All Kinds of Wonderful – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical | Theatre Review

Apart from books, the great love of my life is theatre. I have secret dreams of one day performing at Shakespeare’s Globe. As I’m painfully aware, that’s one of those dreams that is very unlikely to ever come true so, in the meantime, I’m sticking to going to the theatre as much as I can (or at least as much as my bank account will allow).

Back in March 2016, I went with my Mum to see ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ at London’s Aldwych theatre. My Mum has been a fan of Carole King’s for as long as I can remember and it’s definitely a love that has been inherited by me. That day came in the middle of a very difficult and stressful time and it has always stuck in my mind as being one of my happiest days in a very long time.

IMG_0073

A few months ago, whilst mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, I saw that ‘Beautiful’ was going on tour and would, therefore, be ending its run in London. Mum and I had loved the show so much the first time that we were desperate to see it one last time before it closed. We were lucky enough to get tickets for the matinee performance on 5th August. The penultimate performance. Waiting in our seats for the show to start, we both said we had a pretty good memory, but, Mum and I were both surprised by how much we had forgotten. I had forgotten how funny the show was!

Waiting in our seats for the show to start, we both said we had a pretty good memory, but, Mum and I were both surprised by how much we had forgotten. I had forgotten how funny the show was! I’ve seen criticisms of the show, saying that it isn’t very dramatic, that audiences would be left wanting more detail about Carole King’s later life, her other marriages and the further success of her career. To me, this was precisely what I loved about it. Besides Carole tumultuous marriage to her high school boyfriend, there is no over the top drama. It’s the story of a young girl trying to pursue a career in the music industry whilst raising her children.

Cassidy Janson, who played Carole King in both performances that I saw, captured how shy Carole is but with a quiet confidence about her. In one of the most moving scenes of the show, she confronts her husband saying, “The girls deserve better… and so do I”, every woman in the audience applauded. As an audience member, you feel very protective of her, there was a real sense of wanting to see this young woman achieve everything she had been working so hard for. When Carole plays the first few notes of ‘Beautiful’ on the piano, stops and says “I can’t believe I’m performing at Carnegie Hall!” the only way to describe how I felt was proud.

An image that will always stay with me when I think about ‘Beautiful’ is the look on Cassidy Janson’s face during her curtain call. She looked like she had tears in her eyes. Maybe it was because she knew there was only one more show left, maybe it was the standing ovation she, and the rest of the cast were receiving. It reminded me how much theatre, acting and performance means to me and so many others. I left feeling inspired by the talent, passion and life of Carole King and every member of the cast. It was all kinds of wonderful!

Graffiti (and other poems) by Savannah Brown | Review

One day a few weeks ago I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw that Savannah Brown, whose YouTube videos I’ve dipped in and out of over the past few years, was re-releasing her self-published poetry collection ‘Graffiti (and other poems)’. It’s the same as the edition she released last year, but with a few extra poems and a brand new cover design. Savannah described it in a recent video as the deluxe version of an album. Although I don’t know a lot about Savannah Brown, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve heard of her poetry, so, because I can’t resist a pretty book or a brand new poetry collection, I bought it.

Always a sucker for a good poetry collection, I devoured this book. It arrived around midday one fairly quiet Friday and an hour later I was finished. Usually, with poetry collections, I pick them up, read a couple and put it back down again. I couldn’t do that this time. When I finished reading, I had to set the book down again and sit in silence while I thought about what I’d just read. I knew instantly it was one of those books that will stay with me for a long time.

Much of the poetry I’ve in the past has been love poetry. There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, Savannah has written some beautiful poems about love – but what was nice about reading this collection was the wide range of poems about growing up, mental illness, insecurities and moles (yes, you read that correctly).

There’s not much I can say which will explain how much I love Savannah’s poetry. You know that gut punching feeling when you listen to a song, watch a TV show or read a book/poem and you just think “Yes, that’s everything I’ve been feeling but haven’t known how to explain.”? That’s how I felt after reading almost every single poem. Generally, when it comes to poetry collections, I turn down page corners of the poems I really like. If I carried on doing that this time around, I probably would have folded down every single page corner – twice!

I struggle to critique because there are no rules. I can say whether I like or dislike a poem but I find it very difficult to declare poetry as good or bad. Reading poetry can often be a very personal thing so a poem could change one person’s life whilst having no effect on somebody else  With that being said ‘Graffiti’ is a wonderful collection and many of the poems will stay with me for years to come.

The Handmaid’s Tale | Page to Screen

A few weeks ago I reread Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in preparation for the new serialisation on Channel 4. I say “in preparation for” but, truthfully, nothing can prepare you for such a harrowing viewing experience. The book is written in such a way that many of the more graphic details are left to the reader’s imagination but the ten part drama forces viewers to take in every single detail. It is an uncomfortable watch – far removed from the rose tinted nostalgia fests of Call the Midwife that I’m used to on a Sunday evening – it certainly wasn’t enjoyable, yet every Sunday night, there I was, glued to my television screen.

What makes ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ so disturbing is how little imagination is required for audiences to piece together how a society like Gilead came to be. It starts small, women can no longer use their credit cards, and somehow it ends in fertile women being sold and traded. This is not the latest sci-fi blockbuster nor is a rejected plot line from the newest season of Game of Thrones, the events of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ are a result of the actions of humans, on Earth. In both the book and the series, the most striking thing was how everybody seemed to accept what was happening, nothing was shocking or upsetting to any of the characters, they had all become immune to the horrors they were facing.

A ten episode drama was always going to deviate from a three hundred and eleven page book. In the first two or episodes I found the deviations from the plot to be distracting but as the series continued these additions to the story became more prominent and yet at the same time felt more like a natural progression of the story. Most of the book’s content was covered in the first two episodes, with a few minor plot lines being reserved for the finale. I know Margaret Atwood herself was involved in the making of the series, making sure everything was true to her vision of the story. Book and adaptation meet again at the end when Offred is taken out of the house and put in a van, to be saved or punished, it is not known. For readers, it never will be, but the show has been commissioned for a second series and we will discover Offred’s fate next year. Personally, I don’t know how to feel about the prospect of a second series. I have no doubt in my mind that it would be just as brilliant as the first but, what stayed with me about the ending of the novel was that we never learn Offred’s fate. She becomes a story of one person in the dystopian society, one nameless member of the revolution.

I’m always sceptical of TV/film adaptations of books I really enjoyed, particularly this time around. The events of the book were so disturbing and shocking, I didn’t want them to ruin that atmosphere or to change the story too much. It was handled with the up most respect for Atwood’s writing and any scenes written for the series were fitting additions to the story. The final episode was by far one of the most harrowing pieces of drama I have ever watched. Despite that, there was, at times, a stronger sense of unity and triumph amongst the Handmaid’s which does not come across in the book. One scene shows all the Handmaid’s walking, in their assigned pairs, in a line down the street staring straight down the camera, it is in this moment that you feel an almost undetectable shift in Gilead, the scene concludes with the standout line of the series, “They should never have given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army.”.

If you haven’t watched ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, I urge you to. It’s not an enjoyable watch in any way but, I promise, it’s a necessary one.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith | Review

For the past year, it’s seemed almost impossible to have a bookish discussion without somebody mentioning ‘Swing Time’ by Zadie Smith.  Once again, I’m the last person to arrive at this party!

Every review I have read or heard of this novel has been nothing short of glowing, it was just recently announced as being on the long list for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. With that in mind, forgive me if my review seems a little subdued. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book, I just don’t seem to have had the same life changing experience as everybody else who read it. Perhaps, I’m just naive, this is a book that’s bursting at the seams with a lifetime of experiences, some of which I can relate to, others that I have yet to experience. If I were to read this book again in a few years, or maybe even one, I have no doubt that I would take something completely different away from it. Already, after only one reading, it’s clear that this is the kind of novel that you can read again and again, each time finding something new.

It is also important to note, at this point, that the story follows the lives of two women of colour, their friendship at a young age and their bond changes, bends and breaks as they grow up. As a white woman, I will never understand the experiences of people of colour, so this book wasn’t written for me.

Zadie Smith’s writing is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Somehow, her writing is simple yet so vivid. She captures the atmosphere of earlier childhood beautifully and the excitement, apprehension and delicacy that comes with new friendships. Swing Time takes place in London, New York and West Africa and Smith captures each place in a way that makes the distinct and separate from one another but when weaved together form a rich and vibrant narrative.

The thing I will take away from this book is the portrayal of friendship as a non-linear thing. As young children, we seem to expect that the friends we make in primary school will stay with us for life when for many people this isn’t the case. Many friendships are not constant, just like everything in life, they ebb and flow. The dynamic between two people changes as their lives do. Sometimes, life events bring them closer, others, it breaks all ties they have for good. Only last week, I realised that I am no longer in contact with anyone I considered a friend before the age of fifteen. In the beginning of the novel, Smith captures that sometimes uneasy relationship that comes from the friendship between young children, the constant impluse to lie to one another and the desperate need to be liked by the other person. Smith really hones in on the role that lying and dishonesty have to play in young friendships and how that can travel through life.

There are aspects of this book that have really stayed with me and inspired me. In a year’s time, I will reread it and hopefully, I will take something new from it.

Have you read ‘Swing Time’? Let me know what you thought in the comments.