Hamlet: Globe to Globe by Dominic Dromgoole | Review

It is very rare for me to get excited about a non-fiction book but I have been itching to write this review since I first started reading Dominic Dromgoole’s ‘Hamlet: Globe to Globe’.* It was one of those magical moments when you see a book in a bookshop and you know you will not be able to leave the shop without buying that book.

After many years of studying English Literature and Drama, I have become something of a Shakespeare nerd. I could write a whole separate post on why I love Shakespeare so much and, spoiler alert, I probably will at some point. Whilst browsing through my local bookshop, I saw this book on the New Releases shelf and knew that I would not be able to leave the shop without buying that book.

2016 was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death so as part of the ‘celebrations’ (it seems a weird word to use to describe the anniversary of someone’s death) Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director at The Globe set about organising a tour of Hamlet which in which the company performed in every country of the world. This book tells the story of that journey whilst exploring one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays and the effect it has had on the world since it was first written. Dromgoole shares some of the funniest, scariest and most moving moments of the tour interspersed with analysis of the play and the reception the company received in each country. It really is a fascinating read for any fan of Shakespeare or even theatre in general. My only criticism is that, at times, Dromgoole’s praise for Hamlet and Shakespeare felt, to me at least, as though Dromgoole thought Shakespeare is immune from all critique just because he is The Bard, but I suppose that is quite common if you are a big fan of somebody.

My only regret about this book was that I didn’t have it when I was studying Hamlet for my English A-level. Dromgoole offers a fascinating insight into the play as well as different ways it has been portrayed over the years. I often highlight passages I enjoy or turn down page corners as I’m reading but this book took that to a whole new level.  I was particularly intrigued to read about Charlotte Cushman, who was among one of the first women to play Hamlet. Seriously, Google that woman, she is brilliant.

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If you’re reading this and you enjoy or are studying Shakespeare, I strongly recommend you pick this book up!

Have you read Hamlet: Globe to Globe? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

 

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter | Review

Dystopian fiction is a genre I’ve really been enjoying over the last couple of years, so when I read the blurb of ‘The End We Start From’ by Megan Hunter*, I was really excited to get my hands on it. The story follows a woman and her newborn baby, named Z, who are forced to flee London after the city is submerged in flood waters. Often dystopian novels are founded on the concept of a corrupt government so to read an apocalyptic style story focused on a natural disaster was a nice change.

The juxtaposition of a dystopian story being focused on a newborn was an interesting one. Birth and new life are usually used to represent hope and a fresh start and in this instance, we have the opposite effect. Throughout the novel, we see Z grow and develop despite London and the lives of all the characters slowly deteriorating. The woman (whose name is never mentioned) tracks her journey of new motherhood and highlights the worry that now her life has changed in such a drastic way, motherhood is all she has, “It is all I have”.

Each character is referred to by an initial rather than a name. It was unclear whether this was an element of their world or whether it was the narrator’s personal way of referring to everyone. As a technique, it was really effective in showing the anonymity and uniformity of each character in the story. Since fleeing their homes, all the characters have been stripped of their individuality. It was also reflective of the way we view and speak of people who are in similar situations in real life. When we see similar scenes on the TV, of people fleeing their homes due to war, or natural disaster, we reduce them to numbers and fail to see them as individual people. When the baby is born, there is a discussion about what they should be called, a few more traditional names are suggested before the characters settle on Z, as if they know the looming disaster will rob them of any personal identity they have.

What struck me the most about this novella was the paratactic writing style. At times it felt more like reading a poem than a piece of prose. There was very little detail about the characters and their lives before the disaster. However, this is not detrimental to the development of the story in any way apart from feeling a little detached from some of the characters. It allows the story to move along at a good pace without having to dwell on details, the story begins instantly rather than spending half the book on world building and character development.

 

Throughout the book, I kept thinking how interesting it would be to see the story adapted into a play so I was really excited to hear that Benedict Cumberbatch’s company are adapting it into a film!

Have you read The End We Start From? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

*An early copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley, however, all opinions are my own and I am not being paid for this review*

 

My Favourite Fictional Females

Happy International Women’s day! To celebrate this day, I wanted to share with you some of my literary heroines. The world is always in need of some strong leading ladies, here are just a few of mine.


1. Hermione Granger, ‘Harry Potter’ series by J. K. Rowling

We can’t talk about female characters without mentioning, the modern-day feminist icon that is Hermione Granger. She is smart, loyal, passionate and – most importantly, completely unapologetic in herself. There’s so much I could say about why Hermione is a brilliant character, and I’m particularly interested in the popular reading of Hermione as a woman of colour. I’m actually going to write a separate post about why I love Hermione, I can’t sum it all up in a couple of sentences. After all, she is the brightest witch of her age.

Lucy was one of the first female characters that I felt a real connection to. She has a quiet strength and self-confidence about her. The youngest and smallest of her family she could have been easily overlooked but she was the heroine of these books. Time and time again, Lucy’s family doubted her, about the existence of Narnia in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and about her sighting of Aslan in ‘Prince Caspian’. Lucy held her own throughout the books. Her faith in Aslan, Narnia and most importantly, herself never wavered. She may not be physically strong but she is a heroine none the less. Strength comes in many forms.

I’ve mentioned ‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’ on this blog before. Muslim women are incredibly under-represented in literature so it was refreshing to read a realistic depiction of Muslim life in the 21st century. Sofia is hilarious, brutally honest and not afraid to stand up for herself (see: London Underground scene). It was also nice to read a book with a female character who did not have to change a single aspect of herself in order to find love. In fact, that was a very important element of the story, throughout the novel, Sofia remained fiercely determined to find a relationship on her own terms.

Hear me out! Believe me, I KNOW Shakespeare’s reputation falters when it comes to his writing of female characters but personally, I think Hermia is his best-written woman please correct me if you think I’m wrong). She openly defies her parents, yes, she runs away with a man but in those times, that would have been scandalous. She is summed up perfectly with the quote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Ever since I first saw the play performed live (at The Globe Theatre no less), I’ve made that line my life’s mantra. 

Who else would I wrap up this list with other than the Girl on Fire herself? She is fierce and strong yet kind and gentle in her own way. Katniss Everdeen is an all round badass. She risks her life to protect her younger sister and makes it her duty to protect Rue during the games. Not to mention the fact that she leads the resistance against a dystopian government, what else could you want in a woman?

Who are your favourite fictional women? Let me know in the comments!

I hope you all had a good International Women’s Day 2017 and remember… Who run the world? Girls!

My Favourite Books

It makes sense that my first post on this blog is a list of some of my favourite books. I read so much, it’s impossible to list all of my favourite books so here are five that I’ve read over the years. Some of these are childhood favourites, others are more recent discoveries. I should point out, Harry Potter is not included in this list, because it should go without saying, that is my favourite book series. I’ve included links to buy all of these books so be sure to have a look at the ones you don’t have!

  1. Matilda by Roald Dahl *

Like so many people, I loved Roald Dahl’s books as a child. The story that really stood out to me was Matilda. When I was younger, I was very quiet and constantly had my nose in a book, which wasn’t necessarily considered ‘cool’. When I first read Matilda, it was like I had finally met a friend who loved books and stories as much as I did. I wasn’t as good at Maths as Matilda was and I definitely didn’t have the power of telekinesis, but she made my younger self feel less weird and alone. Exactly as a good children’s book should. I’m so annoyed at my younger self for losing my copy of this book!

Favourite quote: “So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte *

This book is actually a rather recent discovery for me. It was part of my suggested reading list for my English Literature A-level and had been on my personal TBR for a long time. I have a bit of a love, hate relationship with the classics, but Jane Eyre very quickly became one of my favourite books. Jane is seen as very plain by the people around her and yet she behind that exterior she is strong and fierce. Of course, this book isn’t perfect, the treatment of Bertha Mason is troubling, and I do wish the ending had been different but Jane is a wonderful protagonist and the imagery in Bronte’s writing is beautiful.

Favourite quote: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

  1. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai *

I can remember watching the news in October 2012 and hearing that Malala Yousafzai had been shot for campaigning for girl’s education. In my very naïve and ignorant head, this was a shocking event that seemed to belong far better in a dystopian story. The reality is, thousands of women and girls around the world are banned from attending school and anyone who tries to speak out against this, is putting their life at risk. Malala’s book is about her childhood and life before the Taliban came to her home town. Her passion for her cause spills from every word. Her courage, determination and refusal to give in is remarkable. Reading this book was so inspiring and Malala’s story has stayed with me ever since.

Favourite quote: “If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?” 

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis *

This book was one of the first books I considered my favourite. I was six years old when I first read it and having recently reread it, I am still just as in love with the story now as I was back then. I’m just as attached to the physical book as I am the story inside. My friend bought me this beautiful anniversary addition for my sixth birthday, as you can see, it’s been well loved!

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Favourite quote: “Once a King and Queen in Narnia, always a King and Queen in Narnia”

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak *

The final book on my list is one that I stumbled across accidentally after browsing through a bookshop. I’d realised that I had fallen out of love with books and had found myself in the middle of a reading slump from which I seemed unable to escape. This book found me at exactly the right time. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, The Book Thief is set during the Second World War but is told from the perspective of a young girl living in Germany – a point of view we don’t get to see very often. This book reminded me of the power and importance books have. The film is just as beautiful, in fact, I think it’s one of the best book to film adaptations I’ve ever seen.

Favourite quote: “I am haunted by humans.”
Let me know what your favourite books are!