Over the last few weeks I have been avidly trying to catch up on the ‘fun’ reading that had been sorely missed out on while I was studying/working/basically having no life whatsoever. Recently I have finished two books that have been on my to-read list for quite some time.
The first: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Now, in my defence, I have read this before but a long time ago, so long in fact that I barely remembered it at all. I had planned to read it before the film came out, because of a silly little rule I have about reading the book before watching the film/tv show, but for some reason never managed to find enough time to just sit down and read. When I did finally get manage to do so, the book surprised me. For one thing, the writing style was nothing like I had expected. Tolkien has a reputation for long winded passages of description. But The Hobbit had hardly any. In fact, it was very different to how I remembered both it and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (which is my reading for the Summer). I found The Hobbit to be almost child-like in its prose, but then again it is children’s literature rather than adults, and was very conversational with the narrator speaking directly to the reader on occasion. It was primarily plot driven, with very little character development in the characters who weren’t Thorin or Bilbo. What I did like about it though was that every chapter could have been a story in itself. Each was clearly defined segment in the journey that both the characters and the reader were on. It was a great way to relax the mind and delve into another world. And the film is incredibly close to the book as well, I was very impressed.
Secondly, something very different, I read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This has been on my reading list for the fact that I have long been interested in mental disorders, particularly on their connection with creativity. Sylvia Plath suffered from severe depression before committing suicide, and The Bell Jar draws from many aspects of her life. The principle character, Esther, is a talented writer who gradually succumbs to depression and struggles to escape its clutches, the book is essentially about this struggle. It provides a fascinating insight into the mind of someone suffering from depression, though in some places was quite hard to read for the simple fact that it does get quite dark. The prose reads in a detached manner, mirroring the disconnectedness that Esther feels from the world as she is trapped beneath the bell jar. Other characters come and go; indeed only two other characters are recurring throughout the entire book – Esther’s mother and her friend Buddy – so giving the sense that life is moving around Esther, and by extension us, while she is a solitary being, unable to move with it. I enjoyed this book as well, but for very different reasons to The Hobbit. I found this one informative and emotional at the same time. The story is driven by the character of Esther, and so shows us the fragility of the human psyche, as well as the development of self.
Both books are great reads, and I would recommend them to anyone who is looking for something else to try. Let me know what you’ve been reading in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for more books to add to my list. And keep reading!