Persuasion and Villette – Snapshot Book Reviews

Snapshot reviews are short book reviews of around 200-250 words.

Persuasion

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐

Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Classic
Publication year: 1817
Audience: All ages
Content warnings: Sexism.

Review

Persuasion is widely regarded as one of Jane Austen’s best novels and one her strongest works. It follows Anne Elliot, a 27-year-old unmarried woman whose life is thrown into a tailspin when her former lover, Captain Wentworth returns to her hometown. Characteristic of an Austen novel, it’s light on plot and very slow paced with a focus on characters and character dynamics.

Of the four Austen novels I’ve read (the others being Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey) this was my least favourite. Whilst I usually enjoy the slow pace, this was too slow. It was meandering and uneventful. I also found myself getting lost in the large cast of characters all of whom were indistinguishable from one another. As a protagonist Anne was bland and difficult to connect with in comparison to Emma and Lizzie.

The second-chance romance was a refreshing change from the other Austen romances. However, the romance wasn’t much of a focus until the end. My lack of connection to the characters also made it difficult for me to connect to the romance. The ending felt rushed and unearned.

Unfortunately, Persuasion was not an enjoyable reading experience for me. Although I’ve enjoyed all of the other novels I’ve read from Austen, I found it difficult to find redeemable qualities with this one. It lacks the fun, wit and lightheartedness that I have come to expect from Austen and the lack of plot paired with my inability to connect to the characters ultimately meant that it didn’t work for me.

I’d recommend Persuasion if:

You are an Austen fan that enjoys slow paced classics with large casts and a second chance romance.

Villette

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Author: Charlotte Brontë
Genre: Classic
Publication year: 1853
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Sexism, misogyny, depression, mental illness, paranoia, grief, verbal abuse, anti Catholicism.

Review

Villette is Charlotte Brontë’s third and final novel. It tells the story of orphan, Lucy Snowe as she moves to the fictional French town of Villette to pursue her independence and a new life. It’s a slow paced story which is primarily a character study of Lucy Snowe; a polarising and complex protagonist. My reading experience was very mixed, with some parts boring me to tears and others compelling me to read more.

The slow pacing was difficult to get through at times and the relentless passages of French repeatedly pulled me out of the story. Nonetheless, I was strangely enamoured by Lucy’s character, despite her being a generally unlikeable person. I particularly enjoyed the unreliable narration from Lucy and how her memories, biases and conscious decision to withold certain information provided insight into her character. It also prevented me from ever fully grasping the truth, leaving lots of room for interpretation and analysis.

Villette is destined to live in the shadow of Jane Eyre, and whilst generally readers are more likely to favour the latter, the former has a lot of merit. Charlotte’s writing style is encapsulating; her descriptions are wonderfully visual and her ability to capture emotion is fantastic. There was a fascinating exploration of mental health and despite the toxic love interest, I appreciated that there was a portrayal of unrequited love and an ending which didn’t fulfil the cliche “happily ever after” trope. Overall, this is a feminist tale of a young woman, alone in the world seeking purpose and belonging.

I’d recommend Villette if:

You’re looking for a slow paced classic set in France with a complex female protagonist and themes of feminism, love, loss, mental health and finding purpose.

Have you read Persuasion or Villette or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Everyday Sexism and Feminists Don’t Wear Pink – Snapshot Book Reviews

Snapshot reviews are short book reviews of around 200-250 words.

Everyday Sexism

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Laura Bates
Genre: Nonfiction/Feminism
Publication year: 2014
Audience: 18+
Content warnings: Sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, abortion and mental health.

Review

Everyday Sexism is a feminist book divided into 12 chapters, each focused on a specific topic from motherhood to women in politics, education, the media and the experiences of girls. Laura Bates draws on research from her project Everyday Sexism – a website where girls and women can anonymously submit their experiences of sexism – and combines the voices of these girls and women with statistics and personal commentary.

In some ways I consider this is a must read because it’s informative on topics around systemic sexism, sexual assault and consent. On the other hand, this book could be potentially harmful and misleading, particularly for young people that read it. Therefore, I’d be reluctant to recommend it to anybody under the age of 18 or those unfamiliar with feminist texts.

My main gripe with this book is that it makes sweeping generalisations, exaggerates and fear mongers by promoting the message that females cannot step outside their door without experiencing sexual harassment or assault. It bombards the reader with horrifying stories of women’s trauma from the harassment and abuse they’ve faced to make a point. This was not only unnecessary, but repetitive and exploitative.

Nonetheless, it is an eye-opening read which touches upon some key aspects of feminism. Bates’ feminism doesn’t match mine but I appreciated the argument that we need to tackle minor incidents of sexism if we ever expect to reduce more extreme cases of sexism which cause real harm to girls and women.

I’d recommend Everyday Sexism if:

You are interested in learning more about the inequalities and discrimination women face, specifically sexual harassment and abuse.

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies)

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Author: Scarlett Curtis (curator)
Genre: Nonfiction/Feminism
Publication year: 2018
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, mental health, strong language, graphic sexual imagery.

Review

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink is a curated selection of essays from a variety of public figures about their experiences, thoughts and feelings about being a woman and a feminist. It’s divided into three main categories (with a poetry section in the middle) – epiphany, anger and joy – which is supposed to represent the three parts of the journey to becoming a feminist. It’s a relatable and accessible read, which makes it ideal for younger readers or those that are just discovering feminism. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the collection of essays it was marketed as and more a collection of diary entries. The entries were informal and the contributors had too much creative freedom. This resulted in a lot of repetition and entries that varied hugely in quality. Each entry was short but many of them were also fairly pointless such as timelines or random lists. The curator, Scarlett Curtis, needed to take more creative control to resolve these issues and provide more of a template and structure for the book.

These minor issues aside, I found the book to be motivational and I appreciated the diversity of the contributors. There were women of colour, trans women, mothers, business owners, activists and LGBTQ+ women all telling their own stories in their own voices. In terms of accessibility, it’s ideal and is a good starting point for people looking to familiarise themselves with feminist history and issues.

I’d recommend Feminists Don’t Wear Pink if:

You’re interested in breaking into feminism with an accessible book with a diverse collection of voices on what being a woman/being a feminist means to them.

Have you read Everyday Sexism or Feminists Don’t Wear Pink or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

The Turn of the Screw and A Room of One’s Own – Snapshot Book Reviews

Snapshot reviews are short book reviews of around 200-250 words.

The Turn of the Screw

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Author: Henry James
Genre: Classic/Horror
Publication year: 1898
Audience: 10+
Content warnings: Absent parents, mental illness, child death and paranoia.

Review

The Turn of the Screw follows a young governess as she undertakes the care of two orphan children – Miles and Flora – at Bly, an isolated country home in England. Shortly after her arrival strange occurrences begin to plague the governess causing her to fear for the safety of the children she has been charged to care for.

This gothic novella is a well-known classic which has been highly acclaimed, debated and analysed. I’m a huge fan of gothic horror (it’s one of my favourite genres) and this captured that gothic tone, atmosphere and intrigue that I love so much. The atmosphere from the beginning was tense and eerie, complimented by the isolation of the setting, and it increased in intensity as the story progressed.

It provided a fascinating exploration of mental illness which was subtle and nuanced, yet also explicit. The relationship between the governess and the children was the core of the story for me. It was intense and at times questionable, but also the lens through which the narrative should be viewed through.

The ending felt abrupt, the ambiguities and mystery of the plot being left open to interpretation. Some readers will dislike that aspect of the book, others will like it. Personally, I’m in the latter crowd. I loved how abstract the plot was and how it enables readers to speculate and theorise. Despite enjoying the book, I feel that a re-read is necessary to fully appreciate the nuances of the story.

I’d recommend The Turn of the Screw if:

You are looking for an atmospheric gothic horror novella which abstractly explores complex issues such as mental health.

A Room of One’s Own

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Author: Virginia Woolf
Genre: Nonfiction/classic
Publication year: 1929
Audience: General
Content warnings: misogyny (discussed) and sexism (discussed).

Review

A Room of One’s Own is an essay examining the history of female writers and their success (or lack thereof) in the world of fiction. By tracing the origins of female authors, the portrayal of women in literature written by men and dissecting the barriers creative women have faced, it combined feminism and authorship to provide a critical analysis of the underrepresentation of female writers.

Despite being a short read, it packed a punch. Virginia Woolf’s passion and intellect dripped off every page. The focus on female writers was a fresh perspective that I hadn’t read about before. I found it particularly enjoyable and informative as a woman that loves to write and aspires to have a career in writing in the future.

The points made were well articulated and argued. Woolf highlighted that the absence of female writers from history was because of sexual inequalities. Women couldn’t own assets and were confined within the private sphere of the home where they were responsible for domestic duties and unable to indulge in creative pursuits. Her suggestion that the history of mental illness and witch hunts surrounding women might’ve been connected to the repression of women’s creativity was particularly interesting.

Whilst it was an illuminating and fascinating read which touched upon issues that resonated with me personally, I found Woolf’s writing style dry and meandering at points. I also would’ve preferred if Woolf had reduced the amount of content discussed and focused on specific topics in more detail.

I’d recommend A Room of One’s Own if:

You are interested in short, intellectual text which adopts feminism and gender analysis in the context of creative careers and authorship.

Have you read The Turn of the Screw or A Room of One’s Own or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you wonderful people that are celebrating 😊🍀

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.