Evolution // Behind the Scenes at the Museum Review

Most of the books I’ve been reading this year have been new books that have recently come out or books I’ve been intending to read and have never got round to it, but thanks to the previously mentioned book haul from my best friend, I’ve been reading a lot of books that came out years ago, or even decades ago.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum is one of them, having been published in the 90s (also it was published before I was born which automatically places it in the old category, I’m clinging onto my teenage years by a thread). I’m so used to a more modern style of writing that reading older books immediately makes them different somehow, because the words used are different, language has evolved since they’ve been written and the way they deal with situations has changed because of the fact that technology now would have been unfathomed previously. Here we can see the limbo between the traditions of the past and the older generations and the beginnings of new ideas and a sense of liberation. Witnessing the breakthrough of technology in the sense of iPhones, tablets, the internet and almost everything being wireless, I can somehow relate to the blurring of the lines and the transition into a new era.

This book follows not only the life of the protagonist, Ruby, but the lives of her ancestors. Parallels are a great way to use more than one protagonist, and it adds a new sense of depth to the story. In this case we were able to understand a lot more of Ruby’s present day situation and also gave us an insight into a completely different lifestyle and culture. Everything connects, and it was so satisfying to read when everything fell into place.

It almost reads like an autobiography but at the same time you could tell it was fiction thanks to the obvious use of foreshadowing due to the perspectives given. You could compare it to The Book Thief in the sense that death was present in a non subtle way, yet even though these spoilers are given throughout the book, it was almost there to tease you and to add anticipation as you were still left surprised as the plot unravels. It’s like playing 5 Nights at Freddie’s and knowing Freddie is going to attack you and kill you but you still scream when he suddenly pops up from nowhere.

You could also compare this book to Spectacles, a book I reviewed a while ago (you can check that out here). The blunt humour and the anecdotes about life reminded me of how much I enjoyed Sue Perkins’ memoir, and here we can see how the obliviousness of Ruby as a child and her lack of knowledge can be presented as comedic rather than cringeworthy.

In other words, books that were published a long time ago are still enjoyable now, also this book is great. It’s a heartfelt humorous read. Sweet. Cool. Ace. Alright.

PS: I’m starting my new job today. IN A BOOKSTORE. Talk about living the dream, right?

The Thing About Lisbon

Although Britain is a part of Europe (don’t talk to me about Brexit, or Breadxit for that matter), at the same time we’re so different as a country it seems unrealistic to say this. After spending a week in Lisbon, there are so many things about this part of the world that took me out of my comfort zone and placed me firmly in a new one. To an extent.

The thing about Lisbon is that there is no patience. There is a need for speed: the taxi driver that took us to our apartment for the first time at 3am (no thanks to EasyJet and 5 hour delays) was driving like life was a race and he needed to beat the world record.

Queueing is a myth, and the people are rude about it. Maybe it was because we were evidently British, or maybe it was because we weren’t aware of their system (or lack of it in their case). Consistent and frantic apologies definitely don’t cut it here.

The thing about Lisbon is that things are just manic in general. There was something about this madness that distracted me and gave me a sense of (however contradictory) peace. There’s something about riding an open top bus at top speed being attacked by sand and wind from the surrounding beaches that leaves you with a sense of manic ecstasy. There’s something about climbing one of the many giant-ass hills, admiring the views (and the wine) and feeling like you can do anything (except confront the aforementioned rude people of course, that would be pushing it). I could see the whole of Lisbon in front of me, with only a portion explored. It’s a pretty place, not conventionally beautiful but still a place to be admired and photographed. I was lucky enough to ride in many cable cars, swing from treetops in an adventure park and even see a 360 degree view of the place. It was unexpectedly breathtaking.

Continuing on from the unexpected, things that seemed unnatural and radical at home seemed normal and completely natural here. If a British shopkeeper suddenly came up behind me with a back massager and started rubbing my back I would have instantly felt startled and uncomfortable. However when it happened to me in a store in Portugal I didn’t bat an eyelid (Check out ALE-HOP┬áit is ace, bought the notebook and pen I used to write this blog post here).

Like pretty much every other European country, their English was often better than all our foreign languages put together (says the person doing a degree in Spanish). I can now proudly order custard tarts in Portuguese but that is where my knowledge ends, which is a shame. Why we are so lazy as a country when it comes to languages will always baffle me, I’m still a little ashamed that I struggle beyond the basics of Welsh when I live in Wales.

Lisbon is unique. Lisbon is historical. Lisbon is cultured. There are many things about Lisbon that I experienced, and have yet to experience. Comfort zones are comfortable for a reason, but sometimes stepping outside of it is worth it.

Stepping outside is sometimes worth it.

The Creation of Emotion // The Picture of Dorian Gray Review

I feel like this will be less of a review and more of a ramble, but I like my consistency needs to be maintained, so let’s just roll with it.

Remember when I said I was going to read more classics this summer? The Picture of Dorian Gray is the first. It’s also September so technically it’s not even summer anymore. Saying that, I’m currently sat in my armchair in Lisbon on holiday with some University friends, so swings and roundabouts.

Dorian Gray is strangely relatable. At the beginning he is at an age where he wants to cling onto his youth because he is on the brink of ageing, and like a lot of us he isn’t ready for the inevitable change. He is dramatic and obsessive, and things of the worst case scenario in almost any situation before completely discarding the issue five minutes later. He almost falls into a cycle of extremities to the point where he becomes the thing that he feared he would become.

As soon as people try to guess what is ahead and try to change it, everything goes tits up. This basically a Voldemort prophecy scenario. He then pushes people away or closer to suit him, and then wallows in his self pity when everything continues to fall apart like when you think you’ve got a lie in but it turns out you have a dentist appointment at 9am.

Another thing that is strangely relatable is the whole creativity process. Basil Hallward, the artist, does more than paint a picture. He captures feelings, sketches emotions and wholeheartedly pours himself into every piece of work he creates, even if he decides not to publish it (something I admire about my boyfriend, to be honest). The fact that he is then betrayed by the inspiration behind his work is almost heartbreaking. Dorian needed an outlet, like knitting or something.

It didn’t help that he was friends with two people on extreme ends of the spectrum of society. Basil was romantic and emotional, whereas Dorian’s other friend, Lord Henry, represents a more modern view (which would have been scandalous at the time) of freedom from marriage and religion. I can see how two characters who have such contrasting views can be seen as overwhelming to Dorian.

I was strangely hooked, normally a more old fashioned style of writing drags a little due to the abnormally wide use of vocabulary, but there’s something about the classics that make them special. They give us an insight into society at the time in a creative way, a way that can help us learn as well as enjoy a story.

Basically it’s poignant, thought provoking and worth a read.