My current 5 favourite books

 

  1. The Little House in the Big Woods

 

Please don’t judge but this is not the only children’s book on this list. I guess I will forever be a child at heart which I don’t really see anything wrong with. I studied this book in my first year at a university which specialises in children’s literature and it was during this period that my passion for the genre blossomed. The simplicity of a story which tells the lives of a humble yet strong family unit seemed really appealing to me. A nice and welcome break from the dreary likes of Great Expectations or Shakespeare, I must say. It was also a lot quicker to finish which was nice! The big font and spaced out words was visually a lot more inviting especially alongside the sweet little illustrations to accompany the idyllic storytelling of detailed descriptions of how the Ingalls family would survive the harsh habitat of the Canadian wilderness. I would highly recommend to anyone who fancies a humble and refreshing read.

 

  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

A classic story by one of the most controversial authors in the history of literature, Oscar Wilde. A dark and mysterious tale following the handsome and wealthy Dorian who crosses paths with artist Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton who lead him down a dark path of vanity and pleasure. In his wild pursuit to remain as handsome as the moment that Hallward captured him in his portrait, Gray finds himself in a whirlwind of obsession, sex and murder. This thrilling tale taught me valuable lessons that money cannot buy happiness and that one should not prioritise appearances.

 

  1. Wuthering Heights  

 

Another classic by one of the most celebrated authors in literature, Jane Austen. A romance novel unlike no other which tells the story of Cathy and Heathcliffe whom are both driven to madness by their passion for each other that developed in their isolated country home, Wuthering Heights, located in the unforgiving surroundings of the Yorkshire moors. The harsh weather and location are tools cleverly used by Austen to reflect the nature of Cathy and Heathcliff’s love which is raw, passionate and transcends the realm of the living. Their story is reflected in another generation which is told in the second half of the novel which follows the lives of their children who suffer a similar fate thanks to the cruelty of Heathcliff, his insatiable lust for revenge and his inability to let go of his beloved. In all honesty, this is a challenging read which many suffer at some point of their education but it is indeed a powerful tale that tells the power of desire and love and teaches to pursue such with caution and reverence in order to avoid the torturous madness experienced by the characters in the novel.

 

  1. The Lord of the Flies

 

This too is a story that many experience in their school lives for its use of symbolism and allegories which portray the darkness of man and the consequences of different styles of leadership. The Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of schoolboys who find themselves washed up on a desert island. Although they are but children, they naturally coordinate themselves into establishing some sort of order through the use of a conch shell which only he who holds may voice their opinion. Through this clever device, things on the island start off nice and peachy but as always in this style of equalitarian government, the greed of man can not be subdued and so the group of choirboys form a rivalry which values having a single strong leader rather than everyone being treated equally. The book shows the darkness and faults in each of the two groups and leaves the reader stunned at the capacity of children, reminding us that humans too are animals with raw and primal instincts.

 

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale

 

Finally at number 1, my favourite book is Margaret Atwood’s novel entitled The Handmaid’s Tale which was written in response to the right-wing style of government run by Ronald Reagan who was in office at the time of the novel’s publication. This is a dystopian novel set in the nation of Gilead which is run under a strict military regime. Religion is favoured highly in Gilead and the puritan way of life in which women must conceal the bodies as much as possible is enforced by the government as law. A woman caught up in this military take over is Offred, a name given to her when she was assigned to a military commander named Fred as a handmaid. There are several roles in this regime which include military roles such as commanders, there are then commander’s wives, aunts who act as strict teachers and aid in enforcing the laws of Gilead in to the citizens and there are also handmaids which is in my opinion the worse role that one could possibly be assigned as your only function in life now is to be raped repeatedly by a commander until you bear a child. We follow Offred’s experience fulfilling this role and the encounters of hypocrisy and corruption that she witnesses alongside brief flashbacks to the time before Gilead which include memories of her mother who was a radical feminist and stood for everything which this totalitarian government is against. An insightful and thrilling read which really opened my eyes and sparked in me an interest for politics which is particularly thought-provoking now that Trump is in power. It is no surprise to me that this novel appears on so many lists of top books to read and I recommend this to pretty much every person I meet as I can honestly say it changed me and made me question a lot of my political views. It’s message of ‘Nolite te bastardes carborondorum’ (Don’t let the bastards grind you down) shall be forever engraved on my mind.

The fate of Ash Fete

Being an 18 year old who has just returned from a bustling life at university in which I would visit nightclubs and trendy bars on a weekly basis with large groups of my peers, I am sure you can imagine my enthusiasm at the prospect of having something, anything to do in my tiny home village of Ash at the end of last month. Although humbly beautiful, Ash does indeed lack in hang out spots for anyone under the age of 50 and so Ash Fete tends to be the only thing that it can offer which may slightly appeal to my demographic.

Oh how wrong I was. Upon stepping out of the car into the rainy field that I am all too familiar with, I felt somewhat embarrassed when greeted with the 3 cake stands, a charity stall and a single singer with pretty much nothing else. I can safely say that I had more fun at my University on any other day of the year than the day of Ash Fete. I remember it feeling much bigger as a child, with a large orchestra accompanying the now lonely singer, at least triple the amount of stalls and the May Queen parade, all of which had now vanished. What on Earth happened?

Well for starters, the neighbouring church (Ash Church) which has sat opposite the field in which the fete takes place for the best part of 1000 years had refused to take any part in the event in which it used to help fund. Instead, it decided to hold its own event which just so happened to take place on the very same day! Imagine, clashing events in the tiny village of Ash in which absolutely nothing happens all year round. So yes, the church decided to spend its extra funding that it received this year on its own flower show or something rather than the event which has been cherished by the community for generations.

So this year there was no sign of the friendly Vicar walking around who would usually integrate with the local community and make people feel welcome. The lack of funding from the church would most likely explain the lack of an orchestra and more stalls also. The general spirit of the fete which I had felt in previous years seemed to be missing which I felt was epitomised in the absolute non-existent response from the ‘crowd’ when the tug of war was announced, a tradition of Ash Fete in which the boys would compete against the girls and almost always triumph. With the sad, limp rope lying untouched on the ground for a following two hours, my family who made up around a third of the attendants of the event decided to humour them and due to the slight 

19424771_130138624236502_2984619516119482368_n(1)majority of females in the Collard family, we won!

 

Credit given where credit is due, I do enjoy archery and so the stall tucked away behind the remaining embarrassment was the only thing that prevented me from leaving earlier. That and the tiny beer table in which the guy poured three pints which were 90% foam for every one he managed to do right. The main cake tent I guess was alright but also not up to the standards of the years before, again due to lack of funding by the church and was left to the responsibility of the scouts, a group of youths who have no idea how to bake. Still, I bought a slice of banana bread out of politeness. This is why I went to any and every stall at the event really; out of kindness and embarrassment.

I was saddened by the lack of community spirit I must say. The rope was there to be tugged but no one came. The fete was there to be enjoyed but no one came. The fate of the fete is generally not looking great.