Review: Radio Silence

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Hello.

I hope somebody is listening.

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Frances has always lived as “School Frances”- the perfect headgirl, the robotic high achiever devoid of personality. But when she meets Aled, the ingenius creator behind her favourite podcast, she feels free to be herself for the first time. But when the fragile trust between them is broken, Frances is forced to confront the past. She has to confess why Carys, Aled’s twin, disappeared. And she has to rescue Aled from Universe City before it’s too late.

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A fast paced, contemporary YA novel that explores relationships in a digital age. On one hand, Radio Silence revolves around an Internet mystery- an anonymous Youtuber who creates a popular podcast series called “Universe City”, and on the other hand, it follows a group of stressed and tired sixth-form students who are about to make the most important step in their lives- go to university (or so they think). When these two worlds collide,  everything explodes: fandom, the effects of fame, friendship & trust, sexuality, the thin veil between reality and fiction, the ‘real’ person vs how they appear, expectations vs staying true to your self.

At the heart of the book is two things: Alice Oseman’s wonderfully diverse and fascinating characters, and a discussion about going to university- something that’s become a rite of passage for British teenagers (or should I say, new adults?). Alice Oseman has no difficulty getting her message across, doing it succinctly and with style.

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Review: Tess of the D’Urbevilles

Neither fully a woman, nor aware of the dangers of the outside world, Tess is driven by her family’s poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbevilles. However, her ‘cousin’ Alec is more interested in her body than her desperate poverty. Tess is raped. Despite Tess’ moral purity, she is stained by her sexual impurity, through no fault of her own. Tess struggles against social convention and finds comfort in Angel- a son of a clergyman who preaches against tradition, yet his own ideals of Tess as a perfect woman, a pure “daughter of nature”, will endanger their relationship, and Tess must decide whether or not to reveal her unfortunate past.

Tess of the D’Urbevilles is ultimately s “tragedy of those who escaped the imprisonment of the established convention”, as D.H Lawrence put it. Hardy portrays the Victorian convention that condemns Tess to isolation and hardship as unnatural, and the desire between two loving individuals as natural. Hardy challenges the Victorian idea of “purity” in a woman, he illustrates that purity is found not in the outcome- her sexual purity, but in the intention of a woman- her moral integrity. By narrating the life and exploring the psychology of an individual in detail, Hardy uses a microcosm of society  to comment on the cruelty of a godless world- for Tess is a tragedy which cannot be fixed by divine power-, and the forces of the fates- “heredity and environment, character and society” on the destiny of the individual.

Hardy’s long and beautiful prose describes the changing landscape of the rural community and the unstoppable arrival of modernity. He captures a sympathetic photograph of rural life, the hardships and joys of rural folk, as well as the dying rural traditions. The decline of old rural life is paralleled with the decline of Tess’ ancient D’Urbeville family and Tess as an individual, which makes Tess both a personal and greater social tragedy.

Tess is a great read for anyone who enjoys Victorian literature, beautiful descriptions of landscapes, and bleak tragedies.

Review: Nights at the Circus

Audiences clamour for her arrival, which will coincide with that of the new century.

For we are at the fag-end, the smouldering cigar-butt, of a nineteenth century, which is just about to be ground in the ashtray of history.

Sophie Fevvers, a woman with wings- the Venus Cockney, fact or fiction?

Sophie Fevvers is an aerialiste– with wings! She retells her own tale to Walser- hatching as an egg, an adolescent with wings- who becomes so enthralled in her tale that he becomes a clown to follow her. This is a story about breaking from the gilded cage, the egg– of individuals discovering their true identities and love beyond which they were prescribed.

Angela Carter’s tale knits together her magical prose with a magical plot and magical characters: dancing tigers, prophetic pigs and a flying woman. An interwoven set of stories about a cast of colourful characters at the end of a century. It captures a sense of transformation that takes place in the last moments of the nineteenth century (fictional or real)- women who think for themselves, men who see beyond their physical strength, anarchists and socialists who dream of a better world.

A fantastical read for anyone who wants to lose themselves in a hurricane of a mythic history.