The Fault in Our Stars quotes

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You do not immortalise the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect.

 

“Sure, I fear earthly oblivion. But, I mean, not to sound like my parents, but I believe humans have souls, and I believe in the conservation of souls. The oblivion fear is something else, fear that I won’t be able to give anything in exchange for my life. If you don’t live a life in service of a greater food, you’ve gotta at least die a death in service of a greater good, you know? And I fear that I won’t get either a life or a death that means anything.”

 

“What am I at war with? My cancer. And what is my cancer? My cancer is me. The tumours are made of me. They’re made of me as surely as my own brain and heart are made of me. It is a civil war, Hazel Grace, with a predetermined winner.”

 

I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am , living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it – or my observation of it – is temporary?

 

‘You are going to love a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!’

 

Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars  image

[E-book. First published 2012]

Every now and then, I read a book of young adult fiction that makes me wish I was a teenager again (yes, even squabbling with the librarian over an age restricted book – something every reader can identify with). ‘The Fault in our Stars’ is one of those books. I wish I had known Augustus Waters. I wish I had known Hazel – we would have been great friends.

But this is so much more than a simple work of YA fiction. This is a book that tackles some real issues – with teenage cancer patients as its protagonists, it was always going to have a serious side. It is a book about life and death and the meaning we attribute to both; it is about love and friendship, overcoming hardships, and showing appreciation. It is a captivating, moving story that will make anyone who can love a book openly cry in a coffee shop whilst reading it. It is a very special book – one I believe everyone should read.

John Green is a very talented man. There is nothing to criticise; every element of this book slots into place as if the characters wrote themselves and were brilliant in every respect. The clever banter and carefully crafted relationships between every person in the book is real and profound. If it sounds like I am being cagey about the plot, that is because I am – I don’t want to give anything away. It is as if I am holding a piece of work so intricate and delicate I could break it simply by looking at it.

More than anything, with ‘The Fault in our Stars’, John Green has transformed the YA novel for me. He has written a book that anyone could read and love and I can see the reason behind his fast-expanding popularity amongst readers and I am sure that this will especially continue to be so after the movie comes out a little later this year.

 

[Warning: the trailer below can be considered a spoiler in relation to this review. Watch with caution :)]

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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[E-book. First published 2013]

 

It seems like everywhere I go and everything I read leads to ‘The Goldfinch.’ I have read countless reviews and seen some rather mixed opinions on the book hailed as one of the best books of the year for 2013. Many people didn’t like the ending, others found the story a little contrived, but the more I read about the book, the more I wanted to read it. And, once I started, there was no turning back.

 

Theo survives a terrorist attack on an art museum. His mother dies, but a chance encounter with one injured patron sees him taking his mother’s favourite painting from the museum’s walls. Essentially orphaned, Theo moves from a friend’s apartment to his father in Las Vegas and back to New York with the painting as a comforting reminder of his mother and a source of anxiety at the same time. It is a work that holds all of the allure of an art heist drama. Yet the protagonist is, mostly, endearing and there is an emotional undertone that makes for gripping reading.

 

Donna Tartt doesn’t bring a character into her carefully detailed story without establishing a sense of continuity for each individual. This gives the book a holistic effect and makes for enjoyable reading. Although quite lengthy, I thoroughly enjoyed the focus on the details (for the most part. Admittedly, there were a few patches where I got slightly bored) and I am astounded at this carefully-woven story.

 

As Theo descends into the depths of the art underworld, I worried that the narrative would be too strongly focused on the hallucinogenic world of drugs and crime, but the end of the book was worth the perseverance; revealing the true art lover within the plot and giving the reader a taste of the relationship between art and life. I loved the end of ‘The Goldfinch’ – it made me want to tackle the book a second time with the end in mind. There were some elements of it that reminded me of ‘White Oleander’ and the two make for an interesting pair.

 

No matter the popularity of ‘The Goldfinch’ as a subject of review, none of the blogs or articles gave too much of the story away. I intend to do the same – leaving its passages open for discovery; giving it the air of mystery it deserves, yet celebrating it as a magnificent work of fiction that has captured the attention of readers around the world.

Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

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[Published by Abacus, 1991. First published 1975]

 

Doesn’t the name say it all? Heat and Dust.

 

A good work of ‘colonial fiction’ takes us back in time to a place where Europeans try and naturalise themselves into a foreign land. It captures the magic, the divide, the thrill of a new land; a sense of ownership and entitlement that always feels misplaced from our happy vantage point in the future. And many of these books show how the divide is breached, whether it is through the struggle for independence or the shock of scandal.

 

‘Heat and Dust’ is a very clever book for a number of reasons. Although the initial pace of the story may seem slow to many, I relished the alternation between India in the 1920s and its latter day counterpart. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala creates context superbly and I often felt like a hidden bystander silently observing Olivia and her step granddaughter from the corner of a room or the side of a dusty road.

 

Olivia is the wife of a civil servant in India, where British society finds refuge within its small confines, indulging in the Englishness of things in a land that couldn’t be further from the Isles in every sense. Although she loves her husband, she soon becomes bored within the confines of their apartment – away from the heat and the dust. It doesn’t take long for her to become enamored with an Indian prince – a character far from anyone she could ever have known. Through his courtship of her, he shows her the passion she yearns for and a scandal ensues as she finds herself pregnant.

 

Her step granddaughter, interested in the tale, makes the journey to India to research more about this controversial woman and in order to better understand her choices. In doing so, she has her own Indian adventures, many of which mirror those of Olivia, minus the restrictions of convention and duty.

 

This is a story of the pursuit of love and the love of a place – one that transcends time. It is tragic and beautiful and gives us a glimpse of the power of a destination to win us over, often with people as its representatives within our hearts. It is a story of being trapped within circumstance and how drastic our actions can be in the need to escape.

 

‘Heat and Dust’ is beautifully, wretchedly human and, in her genius, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala leaves a void in the storyline, forcing us to imagine, urging us to try. The happiness of the characters is bestowed on us and the lives we create for them beyond the pages; in a land beyond our reaches; in a place that repels and seduces.