Mis en avant

Little Women (1864)

cr: USF Libraries Special Collections

Incredible.

Just incredible.

This is the first time I am writing a review, and I am glad to give my opinion on this incredible work of art. Why have I waited 2020 to read Little Women

First of all, I’d like to mention that I am a French woman and that English is not my native tongue: I’ve chosen to read Little Women in English to fully appreciate Alcott’s style. I am not going to lie, I am not a very cultured person and I didn’t know who Louisa May Alcott was for a long time. When I mentioned the title to my mother, translated as Les Quatres Filles Du Docteur March, she immediately thought about the 1994’s adaptation of the book, but she never heard of Louisa May Alcott. 

When did I first heard of the novel itself? Well, ironically, it was on the TV series Friends. So, I had been spoiled a major element of Little Women before I even knew what the story was about: don’t worry Joey, I wanted to put the book in the freezer as well. As Rachel qualified the novel as a “classic” that she could read over and over again, I immediately wanted to read the book. Well, I didn’t read it immediately. Now again, I am not going to lie, when I saw that an adaptation of the book (starring Emma Watson, Lauren Dern, Meryl Streep, Thimothée Chalamet etc.) was in production, I was motivated again to finally start reading it. I wanted to read the novel, before seeing any adaptation. So here I am, I’ve finally finished the book. 

Now, what can I say about it? (spoiler alert starting from here, if you haven’t read the book yet)

These little women are extremely relatable, I think I identified myself with the four girls at the same time. This is the story of four girls, who had lived as rich girls, and who are trying to unlearn what they had been taught: the whole novel is a moral lesson. In the second part of the book, they are trying to find their places in the universe, which is a really hard: they are struggling to discover who they are, just like anybody when becoming adults. 

Meg, the eldest, found happiness in her new position as a housewife, although it was hard for her to adapt to her new life. I admire her, for she never gave up on John, and she defied Aunt March for the sake of true love. She had been used to luxury, and having friends who make a good living, makes you, sometimes, want more. However, it the end, she enjoys the simplicity of her life, just like she should. The lesson I’ve learned through Meg is that you should enjoy your life as it is, and not to envy others. Simplicity brings happiness, and that is how I relate to her.

Jo is the wild sister, I appreciated her very much throughout the novel. From her, I learned that you shouldn’t force yourself to love someone, just because society wants you to (as she rejected Laurie). The death of her sister was really hard on her, and she was the most relatable character concerning grief. Her true self, as far as writing is concerned, was revealed when she was grieving, and writing allowed her to express her sorrow: she was more inspired by her feelings than by money or fame. As Mr. March said “humour and pathos make it alive, and you have found your style at last. You wrote with no thought of fame or money, and put your heart into it, my daughter; you have had the bitter, now comes the sweet. Do your best, and grow as happy as we are in your success”. 

Beth. Oh my poor little Beth. I knew her fate, and yet, her death gave me chills. Her purity is so touching. “So the spring days came and went, the sky grew clearer, the earth greener, the flowers were up fair and early, and the birds came back in time to say goodbye to Beth, who, like a tired but trustful child, clung to the hands that had led her all her life, as Father and Mother guided her tenderly through the Valley of Shadow, and gave her up to God”. I was, however, disappointed in the other characters’ reactions concerning her death: I was expecting more, especially of Mr. Laurence. He already lost his first little girl, and then he lost another one. Nevertheless, Beth’s purity and kindness influenced everyone and made people want to be better persons. I know that I want to be a better person. I try everyday to be the kindest person I can be towards people around me, but I still have a long a way to go before achieving Beth’s kindness. 

Amy. How did I despised her in the first part of the novel. Why? Because I realized I am just like her. She is ambitious, and deep down, everybody has ambitions or dreams they want to achieve; and as said in the book, “the world is hard on ambitious girls”. It’s still is today, but we need to unlearn those things and be supportive of anybody’s dream(s) and ambition(s). In the end, Amy found herself, and she also found love, and did not marry for money but for love. I was reluctant, at first, of her relationship with Laurie as he was very fond of Jo. But, the truth is that no one should give up on love at the first heartbreak. It hurts, it’s true, but everybody can heal from it. Love is complex, and we can find it when we expect it the least. 

Now, I still wondering whether I should read Little Men and Jo’s Boys, as I read that it was not as great as Little Women and saw many critics about Jo as a character. I’ll think about it, but I am pretty sure that I eventually will read them someday.

After I finished reading the novel, I immediately watched the 2020 adaptation of Little Women by Greta Gerwig. Of course, it is not as great as the book itself, but I loved how Gerwig justified the ending of Little Women. If you didn’t know, Alcott was, in some way, forced to write a different ending to her novel, which still causes a lot of debates nowadays. 

In Gerwig’s adaptation, Jo embodies Alcott: Jo becomes the writer of a book entitled Little Women. She had to change her ending, and make her main character marry somebody, so that she could keep the copyrights of her novel, of her own writing. That is what I love the most about Gerwig’s adaptation. 

I am not a cinematographic expert, but I think that, as a whole, I would definitely recommend this adaptation of Little Women; despite the small changes Gerwig had to make.

Thank you for taking your time to read my review, I hope you enjoyed reading it.

With love,

NANCEY Sophia.

Dracula (1897)

Who does not know the name of Dracula, the most famous vampire name in the world? Bram Stoker’s novel is part of the Gothic Revival in the late 19th century, and has become a classic in literature. Yet again, I had not read Dracula before even though I knew the name of the vampire, and could easily imagine him with the several adaptation that has been made of the novel: a pale man, with sharp teeth, red eyes, and with a cape. But I did not know the story as I did not see any of the adaptation, and as I love gothic literature, it was always on my to-read list. And I finally read it, and it has been a long time since I have been so interested in a novel.

Though Dracula was published in 1897, the level of horror in the novel is still the same in the 21st century. I really enjoyed Lucy’s plotline and the reader can feel the tension throughout their reading. I thought it was the most interesting part of the novel, but I still enjoyed the novel as a whole. But I felt the vampire hunters’ storyline was a little repetitive, and the ending was not what I expected. 

If you had not read the novel yet, it revolves around the device of intertextuality. The story is told through the diaries of different characters; through articles; through telegrams. But I really liked this device in Dracula as we are given different point of views, which at first we could think do not connect. But it is all connected. Yet I would have loved to see Dracula’s point of view.

I would like, however, to point out that I did not like the misogynism in Dracula, especially with Van Helsing. Men are supposed to be brave, while women are seen as fragile young girls who always need protection. There is also this motherly attitude that all women are supposed to have towards men through the character of Mina. “I suppose there is something in woman’s nature that makes a man free to break down before her and express his feelings on the tender or emotional side without feeling it derogatory to his manhood”. I will not go too further on this subject, but I think that this point of view on women is highly highlighted in the novel.

There are still some things that need answers, but it can leave place for imagination. Now if you have read the novel (or not), I have seen that Bram Stoker’s descendant, Dacre Stoker, wrote a prequel to Dracula called Dracul (2018) based on Bram Stoker’s notes and texts. The novel is about the origins of Dracula, and I would love to read Dacre Stoker’s novel.

Concerning cinematic adaptations, there are a lot of options for you to choose and I cannot recommend you one as I have seen none. However, if you like gothic classics, I would highly recommend you Penny Dreadful which is a mix of Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Frankenstein. And I have to say, the actor who played Dracula is very charming.

With love, 

NANCEY Sophia.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (1969)

I will not go in detail about racism, and how white people need to become anti-racists in order to overcome this evil. It would be too long, but it is my duty, as a white woman, to educate myself on the subject in order to fully understand racism, to fight alongside black people for equality, for justice. As you probably know, the death of George Floyd, an Afro-American, had shocked and traumatized millions of people around the world. It was a wake-up call for some white people, as they understood that black people cannot fight racism alone, as racism is a white problem. As a result, many books were recommended in order to educate ourselves; among them Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, but also I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou published several volumes of autobiography, and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is the first volume: it relates her life from her birth to her late teenage years.

This is, perhaps, one of the hardest book I ever read. As we know very early on in the book, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of 8. The description of the event, but also the guilt Angelou afterwards were awful to read. I had to stop myself from reading that day because of how disturbing it was. When I started I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, I thought I would only read about racial oppression, but this autobiography is also about sexual oppression. 

Concerning racial issues, Angelou depicts very well the first time she saw her grandmother, who was a strong and fierceful woman, being a victim of racism and not being able to do anything about it. Someone she had admired her entire life being mocked by a white man because of the color of her skin. And then, Angelou herself had to face racism with a white secretary, and one quote really struck me. “The incident was a recurring dream, concocted years before by stupid whites and it eternally came back to haunt us all. The Secretary and I were like Hamlet and Laertes in the final scene, where, because of harm done by one ancestor to another, we were bound to duel to the death.”

My journey with Maya Angelou is not done yet, as I decided that I would read the other volumes of her autobiography. She is an inspiring woman, and she deserves the popularity that she has. In 2016, a documentary called And Still I Rise about Angelou was released, recalling Angelou’s life.

Now if you are interested, a cinematic adaptation of the book had also been made in 1979, also called I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I have not seen it yet, but from what I heard, it is very faithful adaptation of the book. If you watch it, I would gladly like to hear what you thought about it.

With love, 

NANCEY Sophia.

The Bell Jar (1963)

It has been a long time since I have written a review. I have to say that during the lockdown in France, I did not have much time to read with online classes. But here I am, as I just finished The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and I wanted to give my opinion on the novel. 

As I began the book, I did not know what to expect. The only thing I knew about the novel was that Sylvia Plath had committed suicide a month after the publication of The Bell Jar. That was the only thing I had in mind when I started reading it. I did not expect to read about a young and beautiful girl winning an internship on a New York fashion magazine. As I continued reading the book, I started to see the links between the author and Esther, the main character. Esther went downhill as everything she had hoped for did not turn the way she wanted. Although this coming-of-age novel was published almost sixty years ago, it is still relevant nowadays for young adults who are torn between pursuing their dreams, or settle for something that feels safer. 

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet”. 

cr: apothecium.tumblr.com

Depression is well-depicted in The Bell Jar, and it felt very personal. This mental illness was not as accepted as it is today, and people had some prejudices about it as the reader can see through Esther’s mother. I would also like to mention some part of the novel can be triggering for some people because of the several suicide attempts, dark thoughts, and death. This semi-autobiographical novel also depicts a treatment that I totally forgot that it existed: shock treatment. It also feels very personal as I knew someone who went through shock treatment because of depression. In The Bell Jar, Plath described what it felt like to go through it as she also experienced it in her personal life. Also, if you have not read the book yet, do not expect an happy ending where everything go back to normal. I did not search about it, but I do believe that the ending reflected where Plath was in her life when she finished writing The Bell Jar.

The novel is also a great criticism of the 1950s society in the United States, with the pression put on middle-class women to find the perfect husband, to have children and to become housewives. The myth of virginity is also criticized in The Bell Jar, as women were supposed to be “pure” before their marriage whereas men could go and fool around. Though I really liked the novel as a whole, I could not help to be bothered by the use of the n-word, mostly in chapter fourteen. I do not care about the historical period or context, I still condemn the use of the n-word by white people. This detail prevented me to give five stars to the novel on Goodreads.

I hope you enjoyed my review on The Bell Jar.

With love,

NANCEY Sophia.

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race (2017)

cr: agurnerwrites.com

“A revelation… Undoubtedly essential” – Spectator.

I wanted to read Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race for a long time. I first heard about the book on Instagram, when Emma Watson shared the book as the monthly pick for Our Shared Shelf.

As a white woman, I always wanted to educate myself on racism. And this book really opened my eyes, even though I was already aware of racism, there are still many things I need to learn about the topic. 

The first chapter was already a slap in the face because I realized that I barely knew anything about black history in Britain, or even in France. There is a real emphasis on American black history, and everyone knows about Rosa Park or Martin Luther King Jr. But few people know the names of British or French black activists. When I studied British history, the transatlantic slave trade was never mentioned (I only knew about it because of my French history class in 8th grade), nor the lynching and racism in the 20th century: the focus was on the different monarchs, on the creation of the different political parties and on the industrial revolution. I knew everything about American black history, and nothing about British black history. But as Reni Eddo-Lodge said, “[racism] is embedded in British society” and that “we convince ourselves that Britain never had a problem with race”.

As the author said, racism is a white problem and we need to acknowledge that. Color-blindness won’t help. White people need to acknowledge their privilege, and need to deconstruct the system they had been raised in. We had been raised in a society where whiteness is the norm: as white people, when we read a book, we immediately think that the characters are white, except when the ethnicity of a character is mentioned. We need to work on that, we need to deconstruct that perception of the world.

There are way too many things I learned from Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, but I can only suggest you to read it. It is important to understand what non-whites may feel on their daily life. This is the kind of book that needs to be read by everybody, it is essential. I do hope that you will take the time to read it.

With love, 

NANCEY Sophia.

Devenir (2018)

Première critique littéraire écrite en français. Pourquoi avoir fait ce choix-là ? Tout simplement parce que j’ai lu le mémoire de Michelle Obama en français.

Il y a tant de choses à retenir de ce livre que je ne sais par où commencer. Avant de lire son mémoire, je savais très peu de choses de l’ancienne première dame des États-Unis. Je savais qu’elle était la première femme noire à recevoir le titre First Lady of the United States, qu’elle était très engagée, mais qu’elle savait être « chill ». J’étais encore jeune lorsqu’elle et son mari se sont installés à la Maison Blanche, et je n’avais pas le recul nécessaire pour comprendre les différents enjeux de leur place au sein de cette maison.

Michelle Obama, née Robinson, fait partie de ces femmes qui ont réussi à se forger un nom dans l’Histoire. Issue d’une famille peu aisée du quartier South Side dans la ville de Chicago, son caractère et son envie d’apprendre lui ont permis d’avoir accès à une bonne éducation. Mais il ne faut pas sous-estimer les sacrifices de ses parents afin qu’elle et son grand frère, Craig, aient toutes les clés en main pour réussir.

Dans ce mémoire, Michelle Obama nous montre qu’elle connaît très bien les problèmes liés à la pauvreté, la difficulté de trouver sa place dans le monde, ou encore de devoir trouver l’équilibre entre vie professionnelle et vie personnelle. Il est facile de se reconnaître en cette femme puisqu’elle a un parcours commun à n’importe qui.

Bien évidemment, elle parle de sa rencontre avec son mari, Barack Obama, et des sacrifices qu’elle a dû faire lorsque ce dernier a décidé de se lancer dans la politique. Contrairement à ce qu’on pourrait croire, Michelle Obama n’est pas une adepte de la politique : c’est une femme engagée, certes, mais elle ne se présentera jamais comme candidate lors d’une élection présidentielle.

Il y a tant de choses que j’ai appris durant ma lecture. Étant étudiante en LLCER (Langues, Littératures, Civilisations Étrangères et Régionales), je connais assez bien l’histoire du pays pour comprendre certains points de ce mémoire, l’un d’eux étant le racisme. Comme je suis une jeune femme blanche, je ne peux pas me permettre de parler d’un sujet qui ne me concerne pas personnellement, et que je ne maîtrise pas. Cependant, j’aime me cultiver et en apprendre davantage sur ce sujet. Michelle Obama souligne clairement que l’arrivée de sa famille à la Maison Blanche n’était pas sans conséquences, qu’elles soient positives ou négatives. Cela a donné de l’espoir aux personnes noires du pays, mais cela a également enragé d’autres personnes qui croient encore en un raisonnement raciste, enraciné au sein du pays. Il est vrai que les deux mandats de Barack Obama ont donné plus de visibilité à certaines communautés, mais les personnes noires restent les plus touchées lorsqu’il s’agit de fusillades ou de violences policières. 

J’ai beaucoup de choses à dire sur Devenir, mais je pense que prendre le temps de lire ce mémoire est mieux que de lire un simple article. Ce que je retiens majoritairement est que Michelle Obama est une femme extraordinaire, et que je ne cesserai jamais de l’admirer. Bien qu’elle ne veuille pas être impliquée dans la politique, elle continue à mener des projets pour le bien de son pays. J’invite toute personne qui, dès le départ, admire Michelle Obama à lire Devenir.

Bien chaleureusement,

NANCEY Sophia.

Circe (2018)

cr: Corey Corcoran on Dribbble

Yes, another Miller’s novel. What can I say? She is awesome, and I love Greek mythology.

Circe is different from The Song of Achilles. First of all, Circe is not as “emblematic” as Achilles; most people know the story of Achilles, but not a lot of them actually know the story of Circe.

So, who is Circe? Circe appears in The Odyssey by Homer; she is one of Odysseus’ “obstacles” in the epic poem. In The Odyssey, Odysseus, also known as Ulysses, arrives to Circe’s island (Aeaea) while he is trying to go back to Ithaca, and where he would stay, with his men, for a year. 

Circe is known for drugging men, and for changing them into swines. But that is basically what some people know about her. Madeline Miller tried to give a backstory to this character, and gave a feminist value to her novel. As the author said herself, you don’t have to read Homer’s poems to read her novels.

Right from the beginning, Circe doesn’t fit in: she’s an outcast, even in her own family. She is exiled on an island, where she is forced to live alone. However, she manages to master her own craft by using the herbs on the island; she befriends the animals on the island and she learns to find her true self. I would like to mention that the story of Circe can, sometimes, be difficult to read (trigger warnings: rape, abuse, blood). In Circe, we learn how the character became who she is, and why she is often depicted the way she is.

Circe And The Companions Of Ulysses, Briton Riviere (2018)

I read Circe after The Song of Achilles, and I devoured it. Yet, I have less to say about Circe than I have about The Song of Achilles. Why is that so? Because there are so much things in the book, and I don’t want to spoil anything; especially as Circe’s story is less known as Achilles’ story, which makes it even more interesting to read. I will definitely reread Circe someday soon because I loved the storyline, and Circe is such a strong woman. 

Then I learned that I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow”. I would have done that toil a thousand times to keep such power in my hands.

I apologize for the short review, but I hope that you liked it anyway. 

With love, 

NANCEY Sophia.

The Song of Achilles (2011)

Statue of Achilles in Corfu, Greece (cr: Daniel Webb on Flickr)

When I think about The Song of Achilles, the only word that comes in my mind is “masterpiece”.

Madeline Miller recounts the story of the greatest Greek hero, Achilles, from The Iliad by Homer. Miller’s depicts the story of Achilles through the eyes of Patroclus, his best friend. The relationship between the two characters has always been ambiguous, and there had been a lot of debates for centuries on whether Achilles and Patroclus were only friends, or something more.

Miller chose her side. For her, Achilles and Patroclus were soulmates. In The Song of Achilles, Patroclus has a backstory, and the reader follows this character while he experiences failures, friendships, romances etc. The novel shows the mortal side of Achilles: he has flaws, just like any human being. Their relationship is complex, but they have deep feelings for one another. 

Most people know the story of Trojan War, either because people have read The Iliad, because they have seen the movie Troy, or just because it is a famous story. Miller’s The Song of Achilles is basically a retelling of the story, but with a different point of view, and with a lighter writing. You don’t have to be a huge fan of Greek mythology to appreciate the novel; you don’t even need to know about the story of The Iliad.

The novel mainly shows the cruelty of men, and how it can impact the life of other people. 

I’ve heard about the novel a few years ago. I followed lots of Greek mythology’s fans on Twitter, and I remember someone who tweeted that she didn’t sleep, one night, just because she couldn’t put the book down: it was THE novel. It intrigued me, and I’ve bought the book immediately. But as usual, I didn’t read it right away. I don’t know why. I finally decided to read it in September 2019. And WOW. I knew the end, but I didn’t know it would affect me that much. 

But then I see the tomb, and the marks she has made on the stone. ACHILLES, it reads. And beside it, PATROCLUS […] In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.” 

Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus, Gavin Hamilton (1760/1763)

I have no cinematic adaptation to compare the book with. But how did I despise the movie Troy. The only good thing that I remember from was the hotness of Brad Pitt as Achilles. I am really picky in terms of cinematic adaptations of Greek mythology, but I would really like to see a cinematic adaptation of The Song of Achilles.

Thank you for taking your time to read my review, and I hope you liked it.

With love,

NANCEY Sophia.

Qui suis-je ?

Il est difficile pour moi de définir qui je suis puisque je cherche, moi-même, toujours à savoir qui je suis. Ce que je peux dire de façon certaine est que je suis une jeune étudiante de 21 ans, qui a terminé 3ème année de licence d’anglais (Langues, Littératures, et Civilisations Étrangères et Régionales), et qui adore lire.

Grâce à l’influence d’une amie, j’ai décidé de créer ce blog afin de partager certains de mes avis sur les livres que je lis dans mon quotidien. Puisque je pense bien maîtriser la langue anglaise, j’ai décidé que la plupart de mes avis, de mes critiques, seront en anglais. De plus, certaines causes me tiennent grandement à cœur, et ce blog me servira également à m’exprimer, à donner mon avis, sur des sujets pas très « fun ».

Je m’excuse pour cette courte introduction qui n’en dit pas long sur moi. J’espère qui vous apprendrez à me connaître au travers de mes différents articles, et que, par la même occasion, je découvre enfin qui je suis. Je vous remercie d’avoir pris le temps de me lire, et en vous souhaitant une agréable journée/soirée.

Bien chaleureusement,

NANCEY Sophia.

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