Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adichie

After reading Americanah, an unputdownable book full of wit and vigour- I was itching to read another one of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works and this anthology of twelve short stories did not disappoint. Coming up with twelve different stories, ensuring their plots don’t clash and their characters vary in their personalities all the while, sticking to the common theme of ‘the thing around your neck’ is hard to do but she has executed that effectively. In this book she’s given us some poignant and touching stories which stay with you long after you read their last lines. You can’t help but take a break after each one to ponder upon its lessons and meaning and really read between the lines.

The Thing Around Your Neck features the tales of various Nigerian women, all from different walks of life and varying in age. The stories are set in a range of time periods from the mid-1900s to the 2000s and the protagonists are from every strata of society and some are placed in the U.S.A as well. We see one thing common to all stories and that is the essence and culture of Nigeria which is alive in all of the protagonists. Despite being in different times and situations, the women are subjected to the same repression and orthodoxy, but remain empowered nonetheless. From exploring corruption in Nigerian authorities to the terrors of immigration to the oppression caused by gender roles, making us accomplice to ethnic-wars and riots and of course, her compelling feminist epiphanies, Adichie really takes us full circle.

Although this book included themes common to Adichie’s work, something I found unique to this book and what I believe she excels at writing is grief. Devoting certain stories to the aftermath of losing a loved one and the toll it takes on human beings, she’s given us an insight into a rather complex feeling well and told the tale with understanding and sensitivity. Such stories in the book resonate with you and are truly heartrending. One thing I recommend if you’re curious to know more about any story is to read its analysis and symbolism, I found a great site for this and I’ve linked it at the end.

I don’t want to disclose any plots or characters because I’d be revealing too much, but just know that this book has some intricate and gripping storylines. For those of you who’ve read the book, I wanted to reveal some of my favourite stories from the collection. Don’t get me wrong all of them moved me but some simply resonated with me more and were real page-turners. In particular, A Private Experience, Jumping Monkey Hill, Tomorrow Is Too Far and The Headstrong Historian.

The Thing Around Your Neck is one of the stories in the anthology, but it raises the question, why is it the title of the book? What is the ‘thing around your neck’? In my opinion, it’s the characters’ discontent, their past, culture or even grief and loneliness in some cases which is almost like a prison that doesn’t seem to leave them. The ‘thing around your neck’ is always lingering and casting its shadow.

Final thoughts~ Overall, this collection is a vivid and powerful one. It focuses on everyday aspects of life and relationship that are painful yet considered normal because everyone goes through them at some point. If anything, this book is a good reference for anyone looking to read short stories because the ones in The Thing Around Your Neck are great examples of what a sequence and build-up of a short story should be like.

“He said “see” as if it meant something more than what one did with one’s eyes”

~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck

REFERENCE:

The Thing Around Your Neck Guide

Is It Over Yet?

To all of those people that said, ”it will be over in no time, we’ll all be back to normal soon and you can go back to school!” Well, it’s 2021 and I’m still here. At home, still on Zoom and so are teachers and students in many parts of the world. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming anyone nor do I wish to re-open schools and universities when it would be irresponsible to in rising COVID cases. But, on a lighter note, as an introvert, I never thought I’d want to leave my house. Yesterday, I was looking back at some blog posts from March 2020 about ‘things to do in quarantine/ a lockdown’ and I was surprised to find that I had tried most of them. Take a look!

Above we have the quintessential lockdown list. At the very beginning, we have the WordPress blog (by far my best idea and a delight to tick off the list). It seems like a lot but I swear I tried the Pinterest Board, the journal, the foreign language (not my cup of tea I quit in two weeks), the baking, the organizing, the board games, the podcasts, a lot of the music and sleep, some sketching and which lockdown experience is complete without the video calls? So, I did all the steps, why am I still here?!

It isn’t entirely without its positives though, I’ll admit re-discovering some of these activities I loved was great. I’ve found some incredible authors, movies, content creators and bloggers in this past year, I’ll give this lockdown that. Am I proud of myself for being productive even at times when I felt overwhelmed? Yes. But I have been demotivated lately. Especially when it comes to writing, which I look forward to doing, I find myself without any inspiration, yet grasping at straws for ideas. This is a very common dilemma that I’m sure most writers have faced at some point which is being full of amazing article/story/blog post ideas, but sitting at your laptop only to find yourself blank.

I need inspiration, I need a change. Back in October, when I started this blog I had one idea after another because there was so much going on! I still have ideas, I just don’t have the right idea, you know what I mean? Well, except this one.

Every morning I check my phone hoping to read that I can stop wearing my mask now or I can get back to school. I know that can’t happen that quick, but till then, fingers crossed!

Shakespeare wrote some of his best works during a plague, so are so many of you on WordPress and other authors out there. I too have some book reviews lined up but I’m constantly looking for that one-in-a-millionth idea. I’d love to hear from my readers, what do you all want to read on the blog next?

Review: Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Number The Stars is an eye-opening novel reminding us of the most tragic period in human history. It is a story of bravery and courage, showing us how every human being has the right to make a choice and live with it. This book highlights the fact that, however hard you try, you can’t run away from your fears and will have to face them. Thus, the author poses the question, ‘if you’re faced with your biggest fear, will you rise to the challenge?’. The author takes us through wartime Copenhagen, a bustling and vibrant city torn apart by war. She subtly highlights the destruction and suffering war causes and the catastrophic damage done to people of all ages. This book tells the story of children who were forced to grow up early when they were faced with life and death situations and the world suddenly became a scary place for them.

The protagonist of the book, Annemarie Johansen is a thoughtful ten-year-old. She’s bold and very much aware of how the war is taking everything from her, including her Jewish best friend- Ellen. Annemarie tells us about the food shortages, power cuts and the German soldiers at every corner who ruin her beloved Denmark. The book is set in the very beginning of the Holocaust and it isn’t a typical WW2 novel because instead of focusing on the rather dark aspects, it chooses themes like bravery and friendship which truly withstand destruction and war. Annemarie is such an inspiring protagonist. She’s rather fearless for her age, willing to risk her life to save her friends but of course, she didn’t become that way overnight! The author shows us her progress from being a shy girl reluctant to stand up to Nazi soldiers to one confidently sticking up to them. You could say that this is a coming of age story because the entire book leads up to her summoning enough courage to help Ellen and her family escape and she gains so many qualities and skills in the process.

Final thoughts~ You will probably finish Number The Stars in one sitting- it’s a short book, sadly so, but it’s a heartwarming book that stays with you long after you put it down. I knew little of Denmark’s history of resistance during WW2 before this book and overall it does a good job telling less celebrated and well-known stories of heroism. If anything it is a remembrance of the courage, kindness and sacrifices we’re all capable of.

“The whole world had changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same.”

~ Lois Lowry, Number The Stars.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Book Review: Number The Stars

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

What’s Trending?

From boxed braids to messy buns, from tie-dye shirts to ripped jeans and from hoop earrings to mismatched ones, fashion has truly seen it all. Since its origin fashion has really evolved. It now has the power to make a statement and is often significant of your beliefs. How you dress defines who you are and even though we may not like it, we are deemed a certain way by what we wear. If you’re a celebrity or someone who’s in the public eye where every move you make is scrutinized, the right outfit can get you to the highest places. However, the wrong outfit can put you on the front page of a gossip magazine. Either way, fashion is a huge part of our lives, of how society perceives us.

Essentially, fashion comes down to clothes and materialistic items, but nothing can be as simple as that. Everything has layers, doesn’t it? Similarly, designers, influencers and other flagbearers of fashion keep us on edge with various new styles and trends. ‘Trends’ especially fuel the fashion industry and are the reason for so much of the waste that it produces daily. Trends have been around since the invention of magazines and digital media which connected the world. It’s a fact universally known that human beings are drawn to fitting in. We would rather dress like the rest than stick out like a sore thumb with an individual style. Most brands veer towards keeping what’s in trend in their stores because it’s what sells!

The word ‘trend’ itself originally meant a ‘general course or direction’ in the 1800s and slowly became used to describe ‘a prevailing new tendency in popular fashion or culture’ in the 1950s. So, trends are incredibly restricting and boring if you come to think about them. For instance, when imitating trends of the 2000s or 90s, only particular items of clothing are taken into consideration and bunched together under the term ‘trends’ when there could be so many diverse and unique styles that aren’t looked at because they aren’t featured in movies, tv shows or magazines because again, they only looked at what was trending.

The psychology of trends comes down to something appropriately described by the phrase: ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. According to research, in the Elizabethan era and the 1600s: a trend often began when a king or queen dressed a certain way. Then, following a trend meant you were loyal to royalty and were well informed of your King/Queen’s words. We see the same pattern today, as following a trend means you know what’s ‘in’ or what’s ‘out’. It reflects upon the fact that you are someone who is up to date on pop culture and ‘keeps up with the Kardashians’.

Trends were also mostly followed by those at the very top of society that is, royals and nobles. There remains to this day in the 21st century, a similar class divide, where your clothes are seen as a symbol of which strata of society you belong to. Royals translate to celebrities, fashion bloggers, people in politics and others who are seen wearing a trend on the front page. Meanwhile, the nobles watch them and follow in their Prada- adorned footsteps.

Trends not only condemn innovation but stifle an individual’s creativity and dictate their self-worth on superficial lines. They also create so much waste in terms of resources and wealth. Trends literally originate from a sense of general direction and change overnight. Trends often make people feel bad about what they don’t have or who they aren’t like. They gave rise to terms like ‘fast fashion’ and ‘conspicuous consumption’. Obsessively keeping up with what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ is letting fashion own you when it should be you dictating what you want to wear. Do you know the saying, ”a human being is a single being. Unique and unrepeatable.”? Trends oppose that in every manner.

Read more about fashion trends and their influence in the links below.

SOURCES:

What Fashion Trends Really Represent

Fashion Trends and the Psychology behind them

Theories Of Fashion

Review: Honour by Elif Shafak

Honour is an inter-generational saga set in 1970s London which highlights the narrow-minded and dangerous opinion of some cultures when it comes to a woman’s ‘honour’. Written by an author who excels in narrating domestic settings and struggles, Honour is yet another work of fiction where Elif Shafak does not fail to leave us speechless, retrospective and entranced with her words. This is a book which shows us the importance of communication and how we as human beings lack the ability to share our troubles and thoughts with one another. How falling short of this ability often costs us relationships and how understanding and communication could possibly save a life. It highlights the impact someone’s actions have on those around them, along with other aspects of the immigrant life all the while, subtly reflecting on the clash of cultures and traditions.

A theme I find common to Shafak’s books is the realization that everyone in your life has their stories, their struggles and are very often absorbed by them. In Honour, this theme is brought to life by the focus of the book- the Topraks, a Turkish family disconnected from each other most of the time and broken by their individual experiences. Pembe and Adem Toprak leave for London from Istanbul to start a new life for their family and try to keep their Turkish and Islamic traditions alive in their three children- knowing they will be influenced by Western ways of life. The children find themselves torn between tradition and modernity, further troubled by the stifling situation at home.

By telling us the stories of Pembe and Adem, who had tough childhoods, absentee parents and dysfunctional families the author shows us that however hard you try, you cannot escape or erase the past. For it will find a way to catch up with you and seep into your present. This is another trademark theme of Shafak’s books- expressed here through Pembe and Adem’s past affecting their lives in London as well as those of their children who suffer its consequences.

The basis of the book is of course the concept of ‘honour’ and its varying perceptions in Turkish and Western culture. In the case of the Topraks, honour is more of a code consisting of the chastity, fidelity and modesty of a woman and a man’s ability to lead and assert his power over his family and ‘act like a man’. Thus we see how breaking of this oppressive code leads to shame and disgrace of various members specifically women of the Toprak’s past and unbelievably, their death. Honour killings, which Western culture would think of as a brutal crime is somewhat normalized in the minds of certain characters in the book.

In Honour, Elif Shafak brings light to a topic that isn’t talked about enough- honour killings. She lays emphasis on what I would assume is the reader’s perspective, that is the dark and wrong side of honour killings but provides insight into the mindset which fuels it as well. This is done through the characters for instance, two of the Toprak children- Iskender and Esma. Esma is the outspoken and confident feminist daughter (one of my personal favourites) who questions her mother’s old-fashioned traditions. Esma is juxtaposed with her brother Iskender, a product of the expectations of men. He finds himself shaped by bullying and conservative friends and family. So, you disagree with his opinions but can’t help empathize with him as well for what he’s gone through.

Final thoughts~ Overall, Elif Shafak’s Honour is a powerful read. It shows us that honour is but a social construct which can ruin lives. The same honour which determines someone’s reputation in Turkish society does not hold the same importance in Western culture. We see how ‘shame’ is considered almost a punishable crime in the eyes of Pembe, but is used lightly by the Londoners around her. Even if the ending is a hopeful one, the devastating events described throughout the book still leave your heart heavy. This book takes you places whether it be a nameless Kurdish village or a building of squatters in London. Elif Shafak’s books take something esoteric, such as an honour killing and make it something approachable. She is such an underrated author.

“Everything in the universe, no matter how little or insignificant, was meant to be an answer to something else.”

~Elif Shafak, Honour.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Honour by Elif Shafak

Honour- Elif Shafak

Honour| #bookreview

Enjoy not Endure

Why are we so blatantly obsessed with getting our hands on the unattainable? With being the unattainable? Let’s face it, when something’s inherently hard to achieve, it automatically goes higher on the scale of achievements, or when a product is less in number, it automatically becomes expensive and in demand. Like in March 2020, when everyone rushed to hoard essential supplies before the lockdown, and when stores were empty the price of things like toilet paper increased online. But, this isn’t true only to essentials. Take uber-luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci for example; because they’re expensive, few people have them and as a result, they’re put on a pedestal.

The thing is, most brands work this way. Having year-end or 24-hour long sales, or selling limited editions of a product is a great way for brands to draw customers as crowds form endless lines to attain the unattainable. It is because of this obsession, that the economy even works. There’s even a name for the theory- it’s called ‘The Scarcity Principle’. The principle means that humans place a higher value on objects that are scarce and a lower value on those that are abundant. Diamonds are more valuable than rocks because diamonds aren’t as abundant. Not only value but our perception of anything changes with it being scarce as well.

The principle works because we’re wired to think that way, nurtured in a society that lives on this principle. The education system is an example of this: the schools that take only the best of the best and have limited seats, are most people’s first choice. Even in terms of grades, few kids get the highest score and so of course, we all want it. This attitude is what creates the rat race, that never-ending need to get to the top and working to stay there.

If you think about it, the trope in fiction of the ‘popular boy’ going for the ‘only girl that doesn’t fall at his feet’ or even the one where the most eligible bachelor is the one that doesn’t want company in the first place is sort of a product of the scarcity principle mindset. I’d be rich if I had a penny for every time I heard the male lead in a movie talk about his longing for the female lead that’s playing ‘hard to get’.

So, there’s a thought process behind why a ‘one-time-only’ event seems more valuable than an event that happens every week. But, don’t get me wrong I am not condemning once in a lifetime opportunities. Working towards being a part of the crème de la crème and achieving your goal, is a wonderful feeling! However, once you’re at the top your worst fear is going back down. So, you’re doing everything in your power to stay there even when nothing is threatening your position.

Having said that, the mindset has its pros. It keeps a person driven. So, enjoy your accomplishments and keep alive that hope and drive for your goals.

I am of course, no expert and haven’t covered everything in this blog post. Definitely do your own research and you’ll surely learn a lot more about the principle. I’ve provided some helpful links at the end!

SOURCES/ MORE ON THE TOPIC:

What Is The Scarcity Principle?

The Scarcity Mindset

The Psychology of Scarcity

Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah is a note-worthy work of fiction featuring two journeys that are both extremely different yet similar in some ways. Although the main focus is a love-story, it branches into so much more giving us well-rounded, brilliant but flawed characters. It shows us what finding your place in the world looks like and that it isn’t the destination, rather the journey. This is peppered with insights on racism, immigration and politics which are narrated through the characters’ experiences. The book is centered around Ifemelu and Obinze, who meet and fall in love in high school in Nigeria.

The characters are deep and multifaceted for they’re predictable yet unpredictable. They i.e the author expresses things that seem profound but you realize that these observations are so obviously visible in our world. The characters are my favorite part. Ifemelu, our opinionated ‘Americanah’ is a Nigerian woman who is uncomfortably frank at times and dares to question everything. We then have Obinze, her first love, sort of the only one who could stand Ifemelu’s hotheadedness and pushed her to think ahead. Both characters are very similar in terms of their ideologies and most of all their aspirations. Growing up in Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze are happy but always longing for more. They talk about how it wasn’t only them but everyone in Nigeria who was conditioned to believe that prosperity, happiness and ‘the good life’ is found outside of Nigeria. However, both set out only to find that even outside of Nigeria ‘the good life’ isn’t found easily. Halfway through college, Ifemelu has enough of the protests and political instability in Nigeria and applies to a university in America. Obinze sets out years later but to the UK instead, unable to get a visa he lives an undocumented life.

There’s a consecutive struggle and depressing period for both characters on eventually settling in and it’s inspiring to see them fight through it. Ifemelu’s life in America is filled with self-discovery, great people with interesting personalities and her uncovering truths about racism. She talks a lot about the difference between being an American Black and a Non-American Black in America. These parts were truly eye-opening and brought light to a phenomenon so relevant to today’s America. These insights have been woven into the story seamlessly so don’t seem educational or preachy but a mere thought of the character. I enjoyed seeing America through Ifemelu’s eyes.

Another focus of the book is immigration in both America and England. Both places have different histories and reputations which leads to the two characters’ having contrasting experiences as well. In America, Ifemelu’s story mainly deals with racism. Her race is seen as a barrier in everything she wants to accomplish. She acknowledges Black hair politics, the Obama administration and in general America’s race divide. Obinze in London on the other hand, lives in constant fear of being deported. The author also describes the saddening lengths he has to go to in order to get his papers. Apart from them, the many terrors of immigration are shown in the form of other characters like friends and family members. The book really highlights how immigration begins to define you and remains a sword hanging above your head.

The main storyline however, is that Ifemelu and Obinze eventually return to Nigeria. Both are altered by what they’ve faced. We see how Nigeria to them is a symbol of comfort, of one another and a place where they finally find what they were looking for.

Americanah is a story of discovery, of facing your fears and of staying true to your roots. Some say it’s a classic immigrant story and maybe it is, but I think it is more of a modern take on it. Even if the characters struggled and faced what might seem like things you’ve read about before, isn’t that a sign that there needs to be change?

Final thoughts~ With reference to the name, ‘Americanah’ is what people call Ifemelu when she returns to Nigeria. It’s a reference to the fact that her persona is now Americanized and her perspective has changed. But, Ifemelu proudly takes on the title. I think it’s also a reference to the fact that America not only impacted her, but changed those around her for the better. That being said, this book is full of witty remarks and strong-willed characters with lots to say. It’s the kind of book which asks the hard questions and pushes you to ask them. After this, I’m looking forward to reading more of Chimamanda Adichie’s work!

“Why did people ask, ‘What is it about?’ as if a novel had to be about only one thing.”

~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Pages Feature: “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Thoughts on Americanah

Book Review- Americanah

Dwell in Possibilities

Last blog post of the year! Usually, at the end of a year I recount the things I’m thankful for, so this time I want to emphasize one of the things that got me through this nightmare of a year- nostalgia. When I think of nostalgia, buzzwords like memories and dreams come to mind. I once read that being nostalgic means you’re stuck in the past. I’ve even read that nostalgia is a form of day-dreaming! However, this year, I’ve realized that it is anything but. I realized what being nostalgic truly feels like. As the world came crashing down, nostalgia was my getaway. Thinking of good times from 2019 or earlier became a coping mechanism.

To some, nostalgia is a picture, a memory, a book. To me, music is what unlocks nostalgia, is what unlocks that overflow of bitter-sweet memories that you can’t help but smile at. This year, I think we all needed an escape sometimes and that’s okay. Recounting memories isn’t living in the past, but is cherishing it. When I’m nostalgic, I find myself thinking how fast something went by and it makes me all the more intent on enjoying the present. Nostalgia also has more of a motivating factor for me. It gives me that rush of adrenaline I need to finish that last bit of work or read that last chapter as my eyes get heavy. Sometimes you need that boost from the past to enjoy the present.

This post doesn’t really have a lesson, rather I want to bring to light an underrated emotion. Think about it, in every book or movie, when nothing seems to work out for the main character or they lost the love of their life or their idea didn’t go as planned- what helps? They flashback to a better time in their lives and they are inspired to continue, to start anew. Then follows the happy ending.

Nostalgia also gave me hope. Hope that things will get better, hope that the next day won’t be as bad. Hope is always followed by something good. If anything, 2020 was a year filled with hope. Even if it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, we had our good moments. I certainly did, and nostalgia got me there. Even now, as the year ends and we say ‘I hope 2021 is better’ that’s hope. That’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever came our way, we never stopped hoping. For me, a part of that hope came from nostalgia. From the bitter aspect of it, which reminded me of all my blue days, and how they didn’t last.

So, thanks nostalgia. You can keep collecting my memories and letting them out when someone asks me ‘What’s a memory that you cherish?’ or ‘What’s a time you’d wish to relive?’ and then, follows the sudden rush of joy and a dash of longing I like to call nostalgia.

As 2020 ends, there are some moments I’d like to remember but overall, I think this year will be a reminder to me, that disaster struck but we went on, times changed but we slowly adapted, and that no matter what happens you have to keep going.

PS.- Of all things, I’ll remember this as the year I started this blog:)

Happy New Year!

Review: Miss Austen by Gill Hornby (Birthday Bookshelf #1)

Series Alert! I am so excited to start my first series on the blog. Since my birthday just went by on Christmas Eve, I received several books as gifts (which is honestly the best gift you can give me) and, reading them and reviewing them feels a lot more special than it normally would. So, let this review mark the beginning of the series- Birthday Bookshelf! Shoutout to my dad for this book:)

At first glance, my brain automatically thought of Jane on reading Austen. But, the book is in fact about Jane’s sister- Cassandra Austen: The dutiful, compassionate, often undermined eldest daughter of the Austen clan. I love reading about the sidekicks of history’s heroes- the shaping factors and often only supporters in the idols’ lives. Like Patroclus for Achilles and in the case of this book, Cassandra for Jane. The book is told from Cassandra’s point of view. Cassandra and Jane were very close, they had the kind of bond that even reading about makes you smile, they were each the other’s confidante and best friend. So, it was pretty much decided that Cassandra was to be the executor of Jane’s literary estate.

The basis of the book was one of Cassandra’s doings as executor, which was that she burned some of Jane Austen’s letters. This is something that has set historians and scholars against her for years because those letters would be priceless in this day and age. The book revolves around a few months in Cassandra’s life as an old woman, where she comes to her (and Jane’s) best friend’s home to find the letters. As she reads them, they take her back to her youth and bring back fond memories of her life and her sister as well as some painful memories she’d wished to forget. Towards the end of the book, it’s understandable why Cassy chose to burn those letters. You resonate with her as she simply performed her duties as executor and chose to maintain her sister’s perfect image at a time when her novels were just beginning to flourish and a lot of vengeful folks would do anything to bring her down using somewhat controversial aspects of her life.

That being said, this book is an ode to the Jane Austen style of writing and the setting and way of life described was exactly like the kind in her novels. Throughout the book, I drew many parallels between the happenings of the life of Jane Austen and that of her characters. For instance, Cassy and Jane Austen’s relationship and their personalities seemed immensely similar to Jane and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. It goes to show how she took inspiration from her world and expressed it so well.

The main focus of the book is Cassy though, and I adored her. Cassandra Austen was the more popular sister in society. She was ever-ready to help anyone who needed it and being dutiful and loyal towards her family was what she took pride in. She did have her share of difficulties though and there was this phase in the book where it felt like nothing seemed to work out in her favor and she became a pushover of sorts. It saddened me to see that even though she helped everyone, she never received any gratitude in return. However, things did pick up towards the end and I could not put the book down. The best part of the book was seeing the situation through the hopeful perspective of Cassandra. Making the reader feel what you’re writing about is hard, so kudos to the author for making me nostalgic when Cassy thought of her family and pensive when she described what women, especially unmarried women went through and how she wished people understood that she was happy even without a husband.

The book dwells upon themes of family, love, faith- which we often forget how simple yet fulfilling can be. Another theme that the book often mentioned but didn’t entirely focus on was that of women, especially in the Austen sisters’ time being ignored. Cassandra talks of how she read novels of men and their terrible lives but never of the difficulties in society or even in their homes that women went through. To an extent, I think the popularity of Jane Austen’s novels increased for that reason. Women longed to be represented, to see main characters they relate to. Jane Austen gave them that, she told their story for a change.

The letters included in the book are fictional and written by Gill Hornby. This was a fact I did not know until I read the Author’s Note at the end and I was surprised that Jane’s essence was captured so well, the words felt real. I adored the Austens as a family, they supported Jane and Cassandra in every way and were in general a vibrant family. I will admit though, that at some points this book was slow and there wasn’t anything interesting happening. Some parts just seemed unnecessary.

There have been many retellings about Jane Austen’s life but this was a fresh perspective because Cassandra saw Jane’s mistakes, saw everyone’s mistakes but remained admiring of them. They don’t become lesser in her eyes, or yours instead you resonate with them. That’s what I found unique about Cassy’s character.

Final thoughts- This book answered many questions about the misses Austen’s lives. It showed us why Cassy burned some of her sister’s letters, it showed us how Jane became what she became and who got her there. Cassy was defined (back then) by the fact that she never married, so were a lot of the other characters we read about. The book shows us that there was so much more to her, to them than that. Lastly, Miss Austen shows us why Jane called Cassandra the sunshine of her life. It also highlights how you can find perfection in imperfection, happiness in mundanity. Even if this book, doesn’t scream a strong message, it makes you smile and is the perfect light and winter read. If you’re looking for a book to snuggle up with, this one’s for you!

“Happy endings are there for us somewhere, woven into the mix of life’s fabric. We just have to search the detail, follow the pattern, to find the one that should be our own. ”

~ Gill Hornby, Miss Austen.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Book Review: Miss Austen

Book Review: Miss Austen

Cassandra Austen, Clergyman’s Daughter: Miss Austen, Gill Hornby

Is That The Only Question?

There seems to be this big, apparently defining question, to which I am always looking for an answer. Or rather everyone around me is. I don’t know if it comes with being a student, or if the question continues to follow you around until you have an answer! You’re probably wondering what the question is. It’s a question that I ask myself every day and each day I seem to have a different answer. This overwhelming question is: Who do you want to be? Have you thought about your career? Why is that the first question we ask a student at any stage of their education? From a young age we’re led to believe that our happiness lies in finding the perfect career path. Why is finding a job equivalent to everlasting happiness and stability?

The question may not seem that scary at first, but the minute the test(s) that will apparently determine your future come close, or you’re about to graduate, it can get pretty stressful. Academic stress is a major reason for suicide, anxiety, and mental health illnesses among a lot of students. It is common to see students stressed and under pressure in a society that believes in keeping students in check by pushing them beyond their limits. Students follow draconian rules and study schedules that leave them feeling depleted and depressed.

Now I may not be the first person telling you this, but it’s okay to not know. Everyone around you might be urging you to find that one perfect job. That if you fall short of this perfection, you are depriving yourself of happiness and not living up to your true potential. ‘’Make the right choice and achieve the ideal grades now and you’re set!’’ they say. I may be wrong but I don’t recall any interview in which a retiree says, ‘’I wish I had achieved a 98% grade point average instead of a 97.5% because that has made all the difference in my life.’’ No, they always seem to say something on the lines of, ‘’enjoy life because it goes by quickly.’’

So, today I am answering this ‘giant’ question, for myself and all my well-wishers. ‘Who do I want to be?’ Well, I choose to be happy! Take each day as it comes, make spontaneous decisions, be amazed by every little surprise that life throws at me and basically, just go with the flow!

Maybe next time you meet me, you can ask me another question. After all, there is more to me, to all of us than what we want to be in the future!

Moreover, as my mom once told me during a ‘what am I going to be!’ panic attack- Nobody has it all figured out, and you certainly can’t figure it out in a day, or a month. The future’s a long time away and of course, nothing ever goes according to plan. (she’s one of the few unique people who lives in the present and doesn’t care about the future) So, relax! Even though this question feels like an ultimatum, I’ve learned from those around me that it isn’t. There are more questions to ask, more to answer. Let’s start the conversation!

OTHER BLOG POSTS ON THE TOPIC:

It’s OK To Not Have It All Figured Out

HELP!!! I’M PRESSURED!

Do You Also Have No Idea What You Want To Do In Life?