“Poison” by Chris Wooding
A great gothic novella with a strong protagonist and an intense plot. The beginning is deceiving – moving a bit slow and seemingly simplistic. The structure you’ll recognize right away as a traditional fairy tale with generic characters, so I buckled up for something straightforward and lacking in complexity. But I was wrong. After the chapter entitled “Lamprey”, everything picks up pace and Poison becomes a full blown fantasy adventure. And it’s creepy. As in, put down the book and remind yourself, “It’s just a story! It’s just a story!” kind of creepy. I can’t resist a little suspense/horror in any novel 🙂 and Poison is no exception. Chris Wooding’s unlikely use of philosophy embedded smack dab in the middle of fairy tale serves as a very nice backdrop for some real heavy duty thought amidst bone-eating blind witches and multiple personality corpses. Under no conditions should you shun this book merely because of the YA label or fairy tale semblence. A good book is a good book no matter what genre it’s under, and I firmly believe that everyone will enjoy Poison. It reads very much like a movie; very visual. One scene that really strikes me is when Poison is traveling across a gigantic spider web that stretches over a deep ravine. Everytime she moves, the web vibrates, and a giant spider runs after the source of movement. It made me so tense. The end -I won’t give it away- is sort of surprising. So much of Poison is unpredictable, and while not everyone will be pleased with the untraditional finale, I love the bittersweet current and thought-provoking message.
Movie status: None.
“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.
Yes, you’ve all heard of it. No doubt you were forced to thumb through all 457 pages of it in highschool, all the while not understanding a word of the Victorian narrative or the dialogue oriented plot. Maybe you were spared the “torture” of such a task and looked up key points on Sparknotes…either way, you must have heard, at one time or another, about Charles Dickens’ famous coming of age novel. Unless you’re a classic lit nerd like me, you probably aren’t interested in a story about a boy in Victorian England falling into sudden fortune via mysterious benefector, all the while pursuing a heartless young woman who toys with him. You probably don’t read that sort of thing.
But just hear me out – this book is forever sick! From heroic Joe, to shifty Orlick…bitchy Mrs. Gargery…brutish Magwitch…ignorant Pumblechook…sweet Biddy…crooked Jaggers…optimistic Herbert…ice-queen Estella…and of course, eager young Pip, the main character, who narrates the whole tale…they all make up the meaty layers of Great Expectations. But the real reason for reading this book? Mrs. Havisham. Oh yes. The old woman has worn her wedding dress for years – her entire house is frozen in a state of traumatic waste. She wanders about the dump doing nothing, save indulging her “sick fancies” and re-living her long lost, tragic wedding day. The exact story behind that is fantastic, and I revel in her insanity, cruelty, and cryptic speeches.
Reading with Pip’s eyes, discovering twists when he does…well, it’s amazing. I can’t say too much without giving the best parts away, but rest assured that Great Expectations is one classic you don’t want to skip. Pip can get a little annoying at times (sometimes I want to punch him), but since he’s the main character and narrator, you’re kind of stuck with him. Look out for his dramatic confrontation with Estella and Mrs. Havisham in Chapter 44…it’s a winner. “O God bless you, God forgive you!” gets me every time. My heart literally breaks in two. Who could turn a deaf ear to such a speech? (Only Estella). Read this book.
Green light! Masterpiece Theatre did a version a while back, which features strong performances and accurate structure. The ending is not exactly the same, but I (almost) like it better than Dickens’ original one.
That’s all I have time for right now, but I hope you go check out these two gems hidden within the literature world.