My Monday Message – 16/07/18

Welcome to another of my Monday Message posts! Our quote for this week comes from what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest books that has ever been written, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.  –  J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

My Monday Message 3I have always adored this quote, and not only because it comes at the end of such a wonderful book. Albus Dumbledore says these words in front of the entirety of Hogwarts school as he announces that Neville Longbottom has won the house cup for Gryffindor. It’s a moment where the underdog truly succeeds and is incredibly uplifting.

Yet these words promote a positive message, too. It may often seem all too easy to follow the crowds; after all, if no one else gives money to the homeless man on the corner, then why should you? This quote suggests that this way of thinking is completely wrong. We should do what’s right, regardless of what everyone else is doing. So, that’s my message for the week: do the right thing, even if you’re the only one doing it.


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My Monday Message – 09/07/18

Welcome to another of my Monday Message posts! Our quote for this week comes from a book that I am currently reading (not for the first time): Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

“I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul”  –  Bram Stoker, “Dracula”.

My Monday Message 3When looking for a motivational quote, most people wouldn’t turn to Dracula. It’s a gothic text and, as a result of this, it’s pretty gruesome. Nevertheless, there are some really beautiful quotes in this book, some of which I really admire. This particular quote appears very early on, when Jonathan Harker first begins to suspect that the mysterious Count Dracula may not be quite… normal.

This isn’t exactly a positive moment in Dracula, but I really love this quote, so I’ve decided to turn it into a source of motivation. So, here’s my message for the week: stop thinking that everything has to be black and white! Harker can’t understand what is happening around him, and although that terrifies him, it also seems to excite him. The unknown can be terrifying, but it can also be wonderful. When we “think strange things”, we’re allowing our imagination to take over, and our imagination is everything – especially if you’re a writer! So, that’s my message for the week: remember that it’s okay to not know everything. Embrace the unknown, and relax.

321 Quote Me Challenge

I need to thank the very kind Tales from the Mind of Kristian for nominating me for another quote challenge! Please do check out his blog – he’s one of my favourite bloggers and posts some wonderful content.

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What is it?

The 321 Quote Me challenge was created by A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip. The idea is that you post a couple of quotes inspired by a given theme.

Rules:

  1. Thank whoever nominated you.
  2. Post two quotes inspired by your given theme.
  3. Select three bloggers to take part in the 321 Quote Me challenge.

The chosen theme for these quotes is an interesting one. It is

Tomorrow!

My Quotes:

My first quote comes from the French writer and feminist, Simone de Beauviour. It’s not specifically about the word “tomorrow”, but it is about the future, and is pretty inspirational:

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.
–  Simone de Beauvoir.

My next quote is a little more famous but, again, is one that I consider to be very inspirational:

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning  –  Albert Einstein.

My Nominees:

  1. Pensivity101.
  2. Sync with Deep.
  3. The Haunted Wordsmith.

Thanks for reading!

To my nominees: as always, there is no obligation to take part in this challenge – if nothing else, just see it as an appreciation of your work!

My Monday Message – 02/07/18

Welcome to another of my Monday Message posts! Our quote for this week is another one from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which I recently finished reading.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  –  Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”.

My Monday Message 3A Christmas Carol is an extremely moral novel, and just one of the many lessons that it teaches, is that we should always keep Christmas in our hearts. This doesn’t mean that we should be spending ridiculous amounts of money all year round, but rather that we should be just as charitable, and just as happy.

So, that’s the message for the week: so what if Christmas is still half a year away? Remember to keep it in your heart, which means that you should not let the little things get to you. Put a smile on your face and be kind to those around you. The world would be a much brighter place if Christmas lasted all year round!

Three-Day Quote Challenge #3

Over the past few days I have been taking part in the three-day quote challenge and am now on my third and final day! Thank you very much to the very kind Tales from the Mind of Kristian for this nomination.

THE THREE DAY QUOTE CHALLENGE – DAY 3

Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Post one quote per day over three days.
  3. Nominate three blogs per day to take part in the challenge.

My Quote:

But little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far it extendeth. For a crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures; and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love  –  Francis Bacon.

The first time that I read these lines, I had to write them down somewhere, so carried them with me on a note on my phone for a number of weeks until I rediscovered them. What Bacon is saying is completely true; this quote all about friendship and the importance of love. It’s also another statement that’s particularly relevant in today’s society. We can have thousands of followers and Facebook friends, but if we don’t really know them, or they don’t really care, we’re still in solitude.

My Nominees:

  1. Nothing to Infinite.
  2. Samantha the Reader.
  3. Cleopatra Loves Books.

Thank you ever so much for reading! My exam period is still ongoing so my posts might be quite irregular for a little while. I’ll be back with you soon enough, though!

To my nominees: as always, there is no obligation to take part in this challenge; if nothing else, see it as an appreciation of your wonderful work.

Three-Day Quote Challenge #2

Yesterday I was nominated for the three-day quote challenge by the very kind Tales from the Mind of Kristian; please do check out his blog. He posts some really great stuff!

THE THREE DAY QUOTE CHALLENGE – DAY 2

Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Post one quote per day over three days.
  3. Nominate three blogs per day to take part in the challenge.

My Quote:

When I like people immensely I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them  –  Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a very thought-provoking book. It’s all about selfhood and morality, but there’s something really interesting about this quote. It suggests that a person’s name is not only a part of the person but a part of who they are. This is especially relevant today, as in this information era we’re putting a lot of our ‘self’ online. The Picture of Dorian Gray suggests that we should be doing the complete opposite. Or, at the very least, we shouldn’t reveal others’ selves to the world.

My Nominees:

  1. This is Another Story.
  2. The Past Due Review.
  3. The Undomestic Writer.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed today’s quote. I will be back tomorrow for the third day of the challenge!

To my nominees: as always, there is no obligation to take part in this challenge; if nothing else, just see it as an appreciation of your wonderful work.

“The Penelopiad”: Book Review

Last week, I wrote a book review for Life Before Man, a Margaret Atwood novel that, to say the least, I didn’t exactly get on with. I also mentioned that I had started reading The Penelopiad, another Atwood novel that I have wanted to read for a long time now.

For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, running a kingdom while her husband is off fighting the Trojan war is not a simple business. As if it isn’t bad enough that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must also bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep more than one hundred lustful, greedy, bloodthirsty suitors at bay… Perhaps not surprising then that it all ends in murder.

Margaret Atwood has given Penelope her own voice so that she can tell her story at last and set the record straight for good.  –  The Penelopiad, blurb

FullSizeRender (4)I’ve read The Odyssey twice now (if you’re unfamiliar with the epic, check out my review here), once during my A-Levels, and once during my first year of university. Both times, one of the most apparent things that I noticed, was that it would be almost impossible to apply modern values and ideals to the narrative, as it depicts events that supposedly took place around 1200BC. So, when Homer talks of rape, murder and sacrifice, I didn’t judge the acts too harshly; in Ancient Greece, these brutal events were just a part of the culture, unquestioned and unrivalled.

Margaret Atwood, however, does just this, placing not only a contemporary lens around the events of The Odyssey, but also a feminist lens, as she makes Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, her story’s primary narrator. The Penelopiad is part of The Myths series, which unites several authors, including Atwood, as they retell notable myths in a contemporary way, changing perspectives as they unpick some of the more complex ideas within the myths. This text clearly does this, as Penelope, merely a minor character in the original epic, reveals her own thoughts behind her marriage to and relationship with the king of Ithaca.

‘Oh, that’s only Odysseus,’ said one of the maids. He was not considered – by the maids at least – to be a serious candidate for my hand. His father’s palace was on Ithaca, a goat-strewn rock; his clothes were rustic; he had the manners of a small-town big shot, and had already expressed several complicated ideas the others considered peculiar.  –  My Marriage

One of the main strengths of Atwood’s writing, is how the story is actually told; I get the impression that Atwood herself acts as a vehicle for Penelope, as she speaks to us today, from the underworld; indeed, her main narrative is interjected with not only songs and dances from her maids, but with her descriptions of the underworld, as she wanders about the asphodel, still fighting with her infamous cousin, Helen.

Atwood keeps the story contemporary by making subtle references to the modern day, such as through her descriptions of museums:

Some of it [her people’s possessions] made its way to enormous palaces that have – strangely – no kings or queens in them. Endless processions of people in graceless clothing file through these palaces, staring at the gold cups and the silver bowls, which are not even used any more. Then they go to a sort of market inside the palace and buy pictures of these things, or minute versions of them that are not real silver or gold.”  –  My Marriage

Yet one of the key differences between The Odyssey and The Penelopiad lies in how a female protagonist is able to highlight the faults of other women. In the original epic, Helen of Troy (or Sparta, depending on the moment in time) was always presented as a mere object to be passed around between men – the Trojan war was Paris’ fault, not Helen’s, yet Penelope reveals the rivalry between herself and her beautiful cousin, placing almost the entirety of the blame on the woman, not the man. Here, she is actually capable of having started the war.

The sad fact is that people had praised her so often and lavished her with so many gifts and adjectives that it had turned her head. She thought she could do anything she wanted, just like the gods from whom – she was convinced – she was descended. I’ve often wondered whether, if Helen hadn’t been so puffed up with vanity, we might all have been spared the sufferings and sorrows she brought down on our heads by her selfishness and her deranged lust.  –  Helen Ruins My Life

FullSizeRender (5)However, it is my opinion that, despite the novel’s title, narrator and story, it’s not really about Penelope, at all. I mentioned earlier that Penelope’s narrative is interjected by the songs and dances from her maids. In this, Atwood alludes to a very small scene in The Odyssey, where Odysseus, after slaughtering Penelope’s suitors, proceeds to punish the maids. In The Penelopiad, Penelope asks these maids to see to her suitors’ every need so she can gain secret information from them.

She “even instructed them to say rude and disrespectful things about me [Penelope] and Telemachus [her son], and about Odysseus as well, in order to further the illusion” (The Shroud), yet Odysseys doesn’t know this, and so, when he finds out that the maids betrayed his honour by sleeping with the suitors (although many of them were raped), he first makes them clear up the massacre, dragging dead bodies from his courtyard, scrub up all the blood, and then has Telemachus hang them.

Penelope has a famous dream in The Odyssey that depicts her beloved geese being slaughtered by a powerful eagle. Odysseus, in both stories, interprets the dream to mean that he is going to slaughter her suitors. Penelope, however, argues that he’s got it wrong – the dream wasn’t about him killing the suitors at all, because she didn’t love the suitors. In reality, it was about him murdering her maids.

I can still remember reading the scene in The Odyssey about the maids, and feeling absolutely horrified, even when I didn’t think them innocent. I didn’t believe Odysseus would treat women that way, as, in these ancient myths, women are not generally murdered – they’re kept for rape and abuse, instead. Atwood does, however, leave her readers with some satisfaction over these deaths. Penelope explains how, once a person has died, they may be reborn into a new body, to live a new life. Whilst she has never done such a thing, she tells of how Odysseus has, many times, and how, each time, the spirits of the maids find him, and punish him.

He’s been a French general, he’s been a Mongolian invader, he’s been a tycoon in America, he’s been a headhunter in Borneo. He’s been a film star, an inventor, an advertising man. It’s always ended badly, with a suicide or an accident or a death in battle or an assassination, and then he’s back here again.  –  Home Life in Hades

Overall, The Penelopiad exceeded my expectations. I’ve always loved stories like The Odyssey and The Aeneid, and to view one of these stories in such a new, individual way, made me love it all over again. I enjoyed the story, adoring Atwood’s writing style and the way that she interjected such different opinions into such a classic tale.

It’s not a long book, and it won’t take you long to read, so if you’re a fan of The Odyssey, why not check it out? In the meantime, I might try out some of the other stories from The Myths series.


I have also written a review for Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, which you can read here.