I too was slightly apprehensive, and not just because of the Atticus rumours that were flying around. I couldn't help but think that if the draft that Harper Lee had written had been a literary wonder, a compelling story, then it would have been published all those years ago, before 'To Kill A Mockingbird' was written. I felt as if it was just some big shot publishing company trying to score a large profit, and neglecting the fact that this book may not actually be as good as 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. As if they were more concerned with riding on Harper Lee's previous success then her writing ability, and the love for the characters she created.
At first I thought that I could just ignore all the large posters and signs telling me to pre-order. I didn't what to read about a character I loved being so different to what I thought, I didn't want to succumb the big marketing push that the publishers had given the prequel. Yet I could not stop myself, after reading countless reviews, and seeming to see the book everywhere I turned, I knew that in order to make a fully informed opinion I would have to read the book myself.
The book starts with a grown up Jean Louise Finch, formerly known as Scout, returning to Maycomb on one of her annual visits from New York, where she now lives. We, the reader, instantly reconnect with Scout, seeing the little ruffian that we first envisaged when reading 'To Kill A Mockingbird', and comparing her to the Jean Louise that we read of now. In the first hundred pages of so we learn of what has happened not only to Jean Louise since the ending of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' but also of what has happened to Jem, Atticus, and the town of Maycomb itself.
In these first few chapters we clearly see that time has amassed since the days of Atticus's court case and Boo Radley. We see a mature Scout torn between Maycomb and New York, between the young women she has become and the town and everyone in it that she loves. Although not as well written as Harper Lee's other novel, it is still easy to immerse yourself into Maycomb life, to fall in love with Scout again, to really feel the South's stifling summer heat, and hear the porch swings creaking on a lazy evening.
From around the hundredth page we begin to learn more about the Atticus that all the rumours have been talking about. The rest of the book deals with this issue, the issue of Scout not only coming to terms with her changed opinion of her father, but also of her uncle, Dr. Finch, and her 'boyfriend' Hank. We see a Scout truly at odds with Maycomb, with a father she worshipped and with everything she thought about herself.
Upon finishing the book, I was left with an unsatisfying feeling. It wasn't necessarily he fact that the Atticus rumours had turned out to be somewhat true, for that was how Harper Lee had intended Atticus to be, that is how she first wrote about him. It was more that I felt that certain things were left untouched, certain things were left unexplained. Perhaps if 'Go Set A Watchmen' had been published first then this feeling would not be there, I honestly don't know.
Even with this unexplained and unsatisfactory feeling that I am left with, I am actually glad that I decided to read the book. It gave me not only more of an insight into the lives of some of my favourite characters, but also into Harper Lee's writing style, and how she progressed between the books. I would recommend anyone who is yet to read 'Go Set A Watchmen' or 'To Kill A Mockingbird' to read them, to immerse themselves into the life of Scout and of a Southerner in the early to mid twentieth century.
I would also love to know if anyone read 'Go Set A Watchmen' before they read 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and how you felt about the ending, and whether you too were left with a similar unsatisfactory feeling as I was.
Summer is pretty much over now, but Newcastle is still managing to squeeze out a couple of sunny days, even if they are rare. One busy Saturday I decided to don my favourite pair of summer shorts, a simple white tee, and explore some more of the city I know and love.
Newcastle is full of unexpected corners, beautiful gems in a bustling city known more for Geordies and a good night out than sculptures, or Edwardian Arcades. It is also home to Earl Grey, the very Early Grey who made a certain tea, we even have an entire monument devoted to him! On this particularly sunny day I thought I would try to capture some of these beautiful areas on Newcastle for everyone to see, it was also the perfect opportunity to try out my Dad's new camera. I'm on the hunt for a new one, so I'm attempting to try out as many as possible, to see which one I prefer before investing hundreds of pounds on it.
After visiting Nova Scotia for around the third time, I thought I would throw together a little photo diary embodying some of the most beautiful places I saw whilst on my holidays.
The first eight photos featured show the little area of Peggy's Cove, where people come to see the rocks and lighthouse that used to bean actual post office! There's a little restaurant and a couple of shops, but the thing that really draws people to Peggy's Cove is the view, which as you can see from the picture above is pretty spectacular, especially on a beautiful sunny day!
The last few photos feature the fishing town of Lunenburg, with its gorgeous rows of coloured houses, quaint shops, and beautiful coastal views. Lunenburg has a tonne of delicious places to eat (and thats not even including the ice cream and fudge shops), an interesting fishing museum, horse and carriage rides, and a vast array of other activities and amusements to keep tourists busy. But what I love most about Lunenburg is that is that it is still very much a lived in town, not a tourist attraction, with rows of residential houses interspersed between dentists and opticians. A lot of the houses also have plaques on them explaining who once lived in the house, or which captain built it, which helps to truly demonstrate how steeped in history the town really is.
I couldn't write a post on Nova Scotia without mentioning the city of Halifax, where the Nova Scotian Art Gallery is situated, along with the old fort and a bustling dock area. If you're ever in Nova Scotia then I also highly recommend a visit to the city of Halifax, you never know, you might even manage to bag yourself a sailor!
2. Black Skinhead- Kanye I may get more than a few dislikes for this one, but whether you love him or hate him, this controversial star sure knows how to make the perfect workout music. I'm pretty sure that's not his intention when producing, but after recently becoming exercise mad, I have found that this song has the perfect beat to do jumping obliques to (who would have thought that I would ever even know where my obliques are, never mind know how to tone them...)
3. Hounds of Love- The Futureheads A song that reminds me of my tween years, this version of Hounds of Love was one that was often played on my journeys to school, both by my Dad and the person we lift-shared with. This song is just perfect to dance to, so get up and get your air-guitar jive on!!
4. Green, Green Rocky Road- Oscar Isaac I was having a bad week, I was lonely and sad and had been crying myself to sleep. Then one day whilst tidying the kitchen (whilst simultaneously crying) I decided to open up my iTunes and via family sharing check out if my Dad or sister had bought any albums that could cheer me up, as all my music was associated with specific memories I didn't want to think about. And an album my Dad bought "Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of 'Inside Llewyn Davies" featured this song by one of the cast members. At first I just ignored it and carried on with my jobs, but as the song progressed I found myself perking up, just relaxing and letting a feeling of calm wash over me, and all I have to say is thanks Dad for buying this album and introducing me to this song.
5. Skin- Charlie Dancer It always amazes me when you see people you knew when you when you were younger doing amazing things, like becoming an MP, or a successful lawyer, when to you they were just that quiet guy at the back of chemistry, or the popular girl who got all the days. I'm not yet 20, so friends I went to school with aren't quite becoming MPs yet, but one guy I went to school with has recently been doing some amazing things in terms of music. I just can't see how he manages to tour, write and record music, and have time to work, when I can barely keep up with my degree alone! But his talent and dedication is sure paying off, and I thought it was about time I featured him on one of my monthly playlists. Charlie's track Skins has a somewhat folky, singer songwriter vibe and with a soft tranquil melody that creates the perfect atmosphere for a relaxed summer day or cozy evening in.
July's book feature is a little bit different to my usual type of book, and was actually something which was emailed to me via a press release. I usually don't go for a lot of the books that I read through press releases, but something about M.C. Browne's "Limerence: Losing You Saving Me"* grabbed my attention.
Centred around Juliet, a beautiful and accomplished women in her mid 20s, Limerence follows Juliet's struggle with her self-esteem, entangled love life, and the voices she's hears in her head, mainly belonging to her dead twin sister, Grace.
The first few chapters give us an insight into Juliet's life B.L. (before Luka), painting the picture of her difficult childhood, and the troubling events that shaped the career driven Juliet we get to know. It also gives us an insight into the reasons why Juliet falls for Luka, her first true love, and someone we're not sure she'll ever let go of.
A large part of the book is devoted to Juliet's attempts to discover herself, as she takes the ever stereotypical around the world trip. At times this section of the book can be quite monotonous and tedious, with a lack of action or an aspect of the "psychological thriller" described in the synopsis. However, the following chapters do provide us with plenty of details about the characters that are to crop up again and again in the rest of the novel, from the ever present Luka, girlfriends Olivia and Michaela, and the lesser, yet still important characters of Chris, Craig and Angie.
As stated above, a large proportion of the book seems to be devoted to Juliet's travels, and her relationships with people in Sydney, where she meets and dates Luka. But upon returning to London the book begins to pick up in pace, as we are introduced to Mark, creating the love triangle promised in the blurb. Juliet's behaviour also becomes erratic and we begin to get a feel of the psychological thriller we have been promised.
The latter quarter of the book is where we see most of the action, from a psychotic breakdown, to Juliet's persistent sabotage to her own and Luka's lives. The reader can't help but feel sympathy towards characters such as Mark and even to a certain extent Luka, and unlike a lot of protagonists, Juliet is someone who you can easily dislike. Yet she is also highly relatable, particularly if you live in a modern relationship. We may not all hear voices in our head like Juliet, but each of us can admit to stalking or clinging onto an ex, not recognising a good thing when it happens and being career crazy. That is partly why Juliet can be so easily disliked, we can recognise a part of ourselves in her that we wish wasn't there, that we don't wish to acknowledge.
If you are looking for a light and easy read, perhaps to read on the beach or when you just want to relax and switch off after work then I would definitely give Limerence: Losing You Saving Me a look, you'd be surprised at how often you'll find yourself shouting at Juliet's stupidity and self-destructing nature.
One of the great things about living in the North East is the amount of large country houses that are around to visit. Since I was a little girl I have explored a wide range of exciting homes with huge manicured lawns and beautiful antique furniture and ornaments. Wellington Hall, located in Northumberland, is one such place, with colourful kitchen gardens and an amazing range of old fashioned kitchenware, books, and a wealth of family history.
Wallington Hall, as well as being a fantastic day out, also provided the perfect backdrop for my new favourite dress. I recently picked up this dress in the H&M sale for a mere £10, as I just couldn't resist the slightly 70s pattern. The shift style of the dress makes it a key transitional piece, enabling you to keep cool and free flowing during hot summer sticky days, and paired with tights, enabling you to look chic whilst carrying you through towards those colder winter months. The shape is also perfect for hiding the food baby you get from eating too much ice cream!!
Keeping with the 70s "boho" vibe I paired the dress with my trusty Kurt Geiger boots and favourite New Look bag. The Kurt Geiger style cowboy boots were extremely comfy, and allowed me to walk and run around all day, making them the ideal investment piece for any active lady.
If you are ever in the North East, I highly recommend a visit to Wellington, steeped in history and beauty, its such a wonderful place to visit.
I'm always afraid. Fear is something which bares down on me constantly. Every day a new fear presents itself and becomes an obstacle for me to overcome.
I never thought of myself as brave or strong, in fact I'm pretty sure that if you asked most people who knew me they would tell you that I was a big ol' scaredy cat, and I would agree. I've always thought of myself as weak, and not just physically. I'm afraid of a lot of things, from the dark and the sea to eyes and melon seeds. But these aren't the fears that control me, that have plagued me from around the age of twelve, if anything, these fears are trivial. It just means that if I'm alone and want melon, I can't cut it. It just means that I don't often walk on piers or go on boats unless forced. But my real fears, the fears that live deep within the pit of my belly, that make my heart race, my palms sweat, and even make me throw up, are much more difficult to bare.
My real fears, the fears that plague me everyday are that of crowds, rejection, socialising and one to one confrontation, along with someone leaving me. I don't fear people dying, I don't fear people leaving me in that way, although it sounds horrible to say, if someone close to me dies, I can reassure myself that they are not choosing to leave me, that they didn't want to. Someone choosing to walk out of my life, now that's a constant fear.
My fear of people, of rejection and crowds has caused problems throughout my teens. It makes me scared to talk to people, let alone have friendships, it makes me scared to ask for anything or ask anyone to hang out in case they say no. For in my head that no isn't a 'No I'm generally busy' or a 'I really wish I could but I have a family commitment' it's a 'No I hate you' or 'No you're worthless'.
The fact is I very rarely get to this stage. I struggle to be in a crowded place without being drunk. On my Open Day at University I lasted two minutes on campus before I had to leave for open spaces. My heart beats faster and my palms get sweaty every time I go to a seminar or lecture, its as if the people in my classes are right next to me, pushing against me, not on the other side of the room, unaware I exist.
It wasn't as if my fears weren't unjustified. I'd had friends ditch me for no reason, the excuse 'Oh no I''m busy' turning out to be a lie and genuinely being 'I don't want to go christmas shopping with you but I'm going to go on the exact same day with the same people, just not you'. I've got my hopes up and been rejected so many time that during my teenage years I really had no greater fear, I still don't. And I still can't take the plunge when it comes to friendships and relationships.
All this left me thinking that I was worthless, someone weak and scared who didn't try enough, and then I met this guy at Uni. This guy who had never met anyone like me before, and not in the corny way it sounds. He'd gone to an all boys boarding school for the rich and privileged. The boys there had the world at their fingertips, were confident, and knew how to command a room. Sure he had other friends, but again these were friends he'd known from pre prep, friends who'd gone to private school and had socialising go getter London parents and siblings. Their confidence is everything you'd expect from a Made in Chelsea, Cameron esque upbringing.
Even when he came to Uni his flatmates, although not as extravert as he was, still knew how to socialise, to talk to people and have a laugh. Then he met me. The girl he'd been thrown together with for a presentation in our first ever seminar of Uni. It had happened that way because we'd both been late, and therefore hadn't had the chance to say hello at the door whilst waiting for the professor like everyone else had. He'd been severely hung over, and therefore quiet, in fact other than his name he hadn't said a word to me, nor I to he, and as soon as we were dismissed he got up and left. I followed him out, and plucked up the courage to say hi, sweaty palms, sickly feeling and all.
As you've probably guessed one thing led to another, a few drunken club nights, and the rest they say is history. Now that he really knows me, now that he knows all my fears and struggles, has seen me try to socialise then run to hide in the toilet, he knows how big of a thing it was for me to say hi to him that first day.
He's watched my social anxiety and fear of rejection leave me a crumpled crying mess on the floor. He's watched me cry as if in agony at the rejection I've recently experienced from someone I never thought I'd loose. He's watched me throw stuff around my room in anger and frustration at myself. And yet when we go to sleep at night, or in the morning before we head out to those lectures and seminars that are such a struggle for me, he tells me how brave I am. When I'm feeling dejected, for instance if I've tried to go on a night out and lasted all but five minutes before the crowds were too much, he'll remind me that it was I who said hi to him first, and that I've already done so many things that I'm scared of.
And do you know what? I'm starting to believe him. I'm starting to see that although I don't fight lions or jump off buildings, that I am brave. Everyday I overcome my fears. Just going outside and being around lots of people, or talking to someone is an achievement. And the more and more I do it, the more and more I'm starting to see it for myself. He's made me see just how brave I am, and made me realise that although compared to others what I have achieved seems small, in comparison to my life last year, or even last month, I've done something I never could of dreamed of.
I'm determined to keep battling my fears, to try each and everyday to overcome them, to not let them dictate my life. I won't always succeed, but at least now I realise what I can overcome.
I am brave.
I am strong.
And Jasper, if you're reading this, thanks for making me realise it.