Three Audiobooks: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Pride and Prejudice, The Girl With All The Gifts

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

After listening to Neil Gaiman give a reading of the first chapter of The Ocean at the End of the Lane,  and thoroughly enjoying it, it only made sense to continue where I left off. This was my first Gaiman! I have seen the Coraline and Stardust adaptations, but I've somehow managed to avoid his writing up until now. In short, I was very impressed with it. 

This is a curious story. In my goodreads review I mentioned that there was a quote in the novel that I found somewhat emblematic of my reading experience. That quote was:
“I wondered if that was true: if they were all really children wrapped up in adult bodies, like children's books hidden in the middle of dull, long adult books, the kind with no pictures or conversations.”
I felt like this was a children's book hidden within an adult book - although, fortunately one that was neither dull nor very long. 

Reading this book reminded me of something that I find a lot in fantasy: evil that seeps in due to openings between worlds, as well as openings between childhood and adulthood. It is ultimately about childhood/adulthood, innocence/knowledge - all those big things. But it doesn't feel so big while reading it. I suppose that's what I meant about it being one kind of story being hidden within the other. 


 Pride and Prejudice

A re-read, although it's been so long that I barely remember it. However, what I do remember very clearly, having watched it upwards of ten times, is the 2005 adaptation - the Keira Knightley one, directed by Joe Wright. It's easily one of my favourite films purely because of how utterly joyful it makes me feel. There is no other film that makes me smile more. So while reading P&P, I found myself not only intensely picturing the actors and settings and so on, but also inserting scenes and moments that exist only in the film into my textual head canon. Prime example: the Darcy hand-flex.

Most of my thoughts on P&P are inevitably focused on how the film diverges from the text (or, in my case, the opposite). I was actually quite surprised to remember that Bingley really has no awkwardness about him at all - he's just the loveliest, most unassuming guy in the world. He really won me over. I also liked the extended interactions between Elizabeth and Wickham, especially when they moved into "he knows that I know" territory, which is always fun.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Rosamund Pike, who plays Jane in the Wright adaptation. It was a great listen. I think any Jane Austen book would make a great audiobook. The soothing, comforting quality of her writing is just so lovely to listen to. That said, my assorted Jane Austen physical book collection is still in the works, so perhaps I shouldn't listen to them all just yet.


The Girl with All the Gifts

This was a surprising one. I chose it for a few reasons, the first being that it's actually on the reading list for one of my upcoming classes next year; the second being that the premise just sounded far too mysterious for me to postpone; and the third and final reason being that I saw the lovely Mari from mynameismarines fame had given it a glowing review on goodreads. Since finding Mari on booktube I've found that we have extremely similar tastes, so her stamp of approval is definitely one that I value quite a lot.

I quickly found myself in love with this book. However, once the reality of the zombie apocalypse narrative set in, I have to admit that I did become a little less enthusiastic, even somewhat disenchanted with the story. Zombies aren't my thing. I really did have to stop myself from rolling my eyes every time the narrator pulled a "Ever since the breakdown...".

One thing that truly astonished me was how masculine the style of writing was. Once the initial conflict broke out, the narrative dove headfirst into an expletive-heavy, punch-happy, fuck-yeah language. I think this might have had something to do with the fact in these moments that we switch focus from Melanie to Parks, but I'm not sure. What was really interesting was that I assumed M. R. Carey to be a woman - perhaps because the story is about a young girl, with a woman, Justineau, being the follow-up main character. But once the zombies (or "hungries") and the accompanying narration set in, I immediately changed course. I felt like it couldn't have been written by a woman - and I was right. It's not. This is definitely more an insight into me and my gender biases (because of course a woman can write about zombies in a violent and expletive-filled way), but I just found it interesting that my mind moved so quickly from decidedly female to indisputably male.

Despite my anti-Zombie feelings, I still really enjoyed this novel. I loved that it was calling back to Pandora. I loved the inevitability of that. It made the ending so strange but also so fitting. The ending is certainly very original, even if much of the story is clearly built on top of zombie culture.

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