The Crucible: Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a play written in the 1950s about the Salem witch trials in 1692. Miller uses real people from history but, as we don’t know much about their personailities or lives outside of the trials, he fictionalises certain aspects of the story. The witchcraft accusations begin when Parris (the Reverand) spies Tituba, Betty and Abigail dancing in the woods and trying to participate in witchcraft. 

We learn about an adulterous relationship between John Proctor and the young, unmarried Abigal. John denies any feelings for her and she becomes increasingly more upset and angered by it. She believes if John’s wife were out of the picture then she might have a chance of becoming his new wife. Abigail uses witchcraft accusations in an attempt to essentially murder Goody Proctor. We are also exposed to other people’s motives and what happens to them. The accusations lead to the imprisonment and death of many villagers. 

Miller wrote the play during the 1950s during the Red Scare where many Americans were paranoid and scared of the threat of communism. He used the paranoia of the witch trials to comment on society in the 1950s, suggesting that people were similarly paranoid about the threat of communism during the fifties as they were of witchcraft in the seventeenth century. 

I enjoyed reading The Crucible as the witch trials are a very interesting topic for me, and it was interesting – and scary! – to see the motives of the girls. I did, however, struggle with the format as I always wanted to know what was going to happen next and I often forgot to read who was saying what piece of dialogue!


The Vagina Monologues

Written by Eve Ensler and first performed in 1998, The Vagina Monologues is a shocking play about women, their bodies and acceptance of their bodies. As a feminist I feel some pressure to love this play. (I want to point out that I only read the script; I didn’t see the play being performed.) However, I didn’t. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.  

What I did love about VM is the consistent message to love and accept your body for what it is, as many women, I’m sure, are aware of a somewhat patriarchal aversion to discussing female genitalia and sexuality. Throughout the play we are constantly encouraged to love our bodies and it encourages people, both men and women, to become more comfortable with what is still generally seen as quite a taboo topic, and to not be embarrassed. 

The personal accounts were the best part of the script for me, because they were filled with emotion and the thought-provoking stories deserve to be told. I am sure a performance would contain even more emotion, and therefore be more impactful. 

I think the purpose of this piece is to shock, and it certainly achieves that. I can imagine that VM was the cultural phenomenon that it was in the 2000s largely due to this shock factor and therefore seen as quite groundbreaking. 

The writing is very poetic, and though I understand this makes it perhaps more impactful when being performed, I found the writing to be distracting from the personal accounts we hear. I found it thoroughly too spiritual and too abstract for me to take seriously throughout. I fail to understand why what my ‘vagina would wear’ is a relevant topic. I can however appreciate that these sections would encourage discussions on the topic, which is of course a good thing, but that for me just distracted from the experiences. 

I understand how important it is for both men and women to be aware of and comfortable with their bodies, but for me at times I felt like VM reduced women to merely a piece of anatomy, which is a trend we are surely trying to get away from? Of course it is different to patriarchal objectification of women’s bodies, but still of the same vein. 

I also think the text needs updating as it is almost twenty years old now, and really ought to be more inclusive of transgender women, and younger women who have perhaps grown up with different experiences. 

Finally, I do believe that this play (the script, anyway) has an overall positive impact on women’s acceptance of their bodies and making the vagina a less taboo topic, though perhaps it is a little outdated and the shock tactics and poeticism is not to everyone’s tastes.

Outlander: Week Seven and Final Thoughts!

We’ve done it! We’ve finished Outlander by Diana Gabaldon! I’m going to first talk about my thoughts on the final section, and then my thoughts on the book as a whole.

So this section was all about Jamie’s escape from Wentworth and his recovery. Claire manages to get into Wentworth and get inside information by posing as Jamie’s distant English relative concerned for the rest of his family and giving him a message. Claire is not allowed to see Jamie but she does gain some information that will be useful. Similarly, Rupert and friends get drunk with some of the guards at the prison and are able to find more information. 

During an unsuccessful attempt to free Jamie, Claire is caught by Black Jack Randall and Jamie is forced to sacrifice his body to Randall in order for him to set Claire free. We know that Randall is a sadist and will rape Jamie when Claire leaves. When she leaves she is then attacked by wolves. She kills one and we continue to see this more ruthless side to Claire, before she is helped by a man and his wife, and she again meets Rupert and Murtagh.

Together, the form a plan to get their cattle to stampede the prison. Luckily, they were successful and they free Jamie, though by now he is a broken man. They take him back to the house and first tend to his physical wounds. Realising that they cannot stay for long, they pack up their things, making sure Jamie is in good enough physical condition to sit on a horse, and leave. Though of course they run into some bad luck, and again are approached by redcoats. Claire again is forced to kill for the sake of Jamie’s life, and she kills a young boy of around seventeen. Claire is certainly not a damsel in distress!

They then make it to the coast and take a boat to Normandy, France. Here they stay in an abbey and are helped through Jamie’s recovery by clergymen. Though Jamie’s physical wounds seem to be slowly improving, his mental state is in a terrible condition. He is having regular nightmares, and is scared of all forms of intimacy. He believes that Randall broke him.

There is an excellent analogy that Jamie uses about privacy, and how everyone needs some part of themself to keep to themself, but that his had been destroyed by Randall. Gradually, he begins to rebuild a fortress around it again.

Over time, and a critical infection in Jamie’s hand, Claire and Jamie are able to make plans for the future and be intimate once more. Though not fully recovered, Jamie is getting better each day, both mentally and physically, and we are left wondering where the next adventure will take them.
Final Thoughts

If it’s not clear from my previous six Outlander blogs, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As far as I can tell, it is historically correct, and covers so many aspects of life in Scotland during the eighteenth century, I also felt like I was learning a lot as I was reading it. 

I love having Claire, as a modern woman, tell this story, because in many ways she views the eighteenth century lifestyle in a similar way to how we would. She is a tough character, and I think she’s really well written and a complex character I’d love to read more about. 

Jamie. Jamie displays unbelievable amounts of mental and physical strength and goes above and beyond for his wife. He’s such an interesting character, and the perfectly written romantic hero of any historical fiction novel I have ever read. 

Their relationship is wonderful, and Gabaldon makes sure to include the extreme highs, the extreme lows, the humour and even the mundane. 

My only small complaint with this book is about the scene where Jamie beats Claire for disobedience. I understand that such things were a regular occurrence in the eighteenth century, and that it wasn’t taboo to beat your wife at that time. I don’t have a problem with reading about such things in historical fiction. I do however have a problem with the suggestion that Jamie got some kind of enjoyment from it, as Randall turns out to be a terrible sadist. I didn’t enjoy the parallels between the two characters. 

My favourite thing about this novel is that I believed everything. There was no character or event that I didn’t find believable, and I found myself wishing it did all really happen and that these characters really did exist. 

I’m looking forward to Dragonfly in Amber!

Bangkok’s Big Bad Wolf Book Sale

This week, until August 21st, Bangkok’s Impact Arena is hosting an enormous book sale. There are over three million English books, mostly being sold for around 150tbh (only 3gbp!), available and, luckily for me, it’s right by my work.

It was very easy to find the Impact Arena because it’s very well-known and my taxi driver knew exactly where to go. However, it wasn’t so easy to find the sale once I arrived. I met a couple of Thai ladies also looking for the sale and together we found the right hall but it was absolutely empty. If you’re in Bangkok and thinking of going, here’s some advice: go through the car park. 

I’m not sure how long I was there for but I walked around and around that arena for a long time, just enjoying looking at all the books. As I’m leaving the country in five weeks, it didn’t make sense to buy a lot of new books, so I had to limit myself. I bought three books and a travel journal. 

Here’s what I bought:

So that’s Plague in the Mirrors by Deborah Noyes, Hallowed by Tonya Hurley and, the one I’m most excited for, Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

I’m excited to delve into these and I’ll have to get started soon so they’re finished before my trip next month!

Happy reading 🙂

The Cursed Child

The Cursed Child. Where do I start? 
My first thought was that, for the most part, the characters didn’t sound like the characters we know from all seven novels and eight films. If I didn’t pay attention to who was saying which line, I couldn’t identify who was speaking. The characters did have distinctive voices, but they were not the voices they had in the books. For example, Ron. I started off enjoying Ron’s character, but as the play continued it became obvious that his character was nothing more than a way of providing some comic relief. Sure in the books Ron can be funny, but he’s also so brave and integral to the story. It’s as though we are supposed to forget this Ron and just accept now that he is a bit of a buffoon. I felt similarly about a lot of the older characters and thought that they were quite one-dimensional. 

The plot. The plot was so exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I had some issues with it, but it was certainly an adventure and I didn’t want to put it down once this action really kicked off. 
Time turners. They brought back time turners. Why? I really enjoyed Prisoner of Azkaban originally, and still do now, but we all know that introducing time travel into the mix was a mistake. If they were giving time turners to third year students to take extra classes, surely someone earlier on would’ve thought to stick Voldemort in Azkaban years ago, before he really started to gain any power or following? We have had to accept this plot flaw, and for the most part we have, and we have accepted that they were all destroyed during book five. But why then bring them back? They cause so much trouble! 

We know from book three how the time turners work. The reality that they are living exists because when they were in the past they were merely another person in the past, unable to change the future. Time turners don’t change the future, the make the future possible. In book three everything Hermione and Harry did in the past was to make their present possible, not to change it. That’s how time travel works in this world. But that’s not how it worked in The Cursed Child. 

If you can accept that flaw then the plot really is great. It’s exciting, and fast-paced. I liked how it referred to specific events from the original books, though if they were going to do that then they were going to have to do it exactly right. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t remember Goblet of Fire well enough, but I had difficulty believing that when Albus and Scorpius were at the events of the Triwizard Tournament that they were the same events I’d already read about. They didn’t have the same feel to them, and the dialogue was a bit off. But then perhaps that is because of the format and it would feel more real to actually watch the play.

Some old characters’ pieces of dialogue were just all wrong for me. For example, Bane didn’t sound like the Bane I remembered. Petunia (in Harry’s dream) wouldn’t have said some of the things she said. Myrtle was so disappointing. Myrtle is one of my favourite characters from the books, but she was nothing like book Myrtle in the script. However, I do think they really captured Dumbledore’s voice, and I really enjoyed the scene with Harry and Dumbledore, and I’m glad Harry finally got that bit of closure. 

Can we talk about some of the alternate history sections? I enjoyed the scenes with Ron and Hermione in the timelines where they weren’t married, because it felt like the characters we know, and it took me back to reading about them the first time. Saying that, I didn’t like Hermione’s character when she was a professor. Was she really so bitter because she didn’t have Ron? Presumably there’s a lot more to it than that but unfortunately it wasn’t explored. 

One other thing that I don’t think was explained well was how they were able to successfully transfigure Harry into Voldemort. This was way back in 1981 – did any of them even know what Voldemort looked like then? How could the successfully transfigure something they can’t accurately picture in their minds? 

I also didn’t understand how Albus and Scoprpius were able to find the Polyjuice potion they needed. We know from Chamber of Secrets that it takes a month to make, and yet Albus and Scorpius had some to hand. Perhaps Delphi provided it, but even if she did how did she obtain hair from Ron, Hermione and Harry?

Speaking of Delphi, I was so suspicious of her from the start. Nothing was explained, everything she did was strangely convenient, and then we find out that she is Voldemort’s child. What?! That is so out of character. I know that Bellatrix was infatuated with him, so I can believe her character wanting to mother his child. But Voldemort? Is he even physically capable of creating a child? He’s really old and has lived for a long time without a body. If he’s lacking a nose, what else might he be lacking? It’s just so out of character and so unbelievable to me. We know Delphi was born just before the Battle of Hogwarts, but we see Bellatrix in Deathly Hallows and she’s definitely not visibly pregnant at least and there are absolutely no hints that she might be or might have been. 

Sadly, we never get to see either Teddy or Neville in the script, and that’s really sad. I was interested to see if Teddy grew up to be at all like his parents, and see how Neville is getting on as a Hogwarts professor. 

I did really like the relationship between Albus and Scorpius. It was nice to see some good guys in Slytherin, though they didn’t at all feel like Slytherins to me. But I enjoyed that aspect regardless, and their friendship was wonderful. At times I felt as though I was reading Carry On and I was almost routing for a Albus/Scorpius (Simon/Baz) romantic relationship. It felt so much like fan fiction. Though if it were fan fiction, they’d have become an established couple by the end.

In summary? This play was all about relationships: between Scorpius and Albus, Harry and Albus, Harry and Draco, Ron and Hermione, and more. You have to see it this way because if not all you will see are plot holes. Plot holes everywhere. The relationships were great, but it is impossible to see this script as a whole without the glaring plot holes. Though I enjoyed some aspects of this book, in the future I’d much rather reread one of the original novels, or even Carry On. 

Perhaps this story would’ve worked better as a nine hundred page novel, and not a three hour long play. Perhaps all of the plot holes would have been filled if there were pages and pages used to explain them.

Outlander: Week Six

This week Becky and I read parts five and six of Outlander. Part five was about Lallybroch, Jamie reuniting with his family and friends, and Claire coming to terms with life at Lallybroch, understanding that it is likely where she and Jamie will end up living once Jamie is in the clear. Part six is then mostly setting up the final section and what is likely to be the most traumatic section of the book.

My first thoughts on this section are about how much I love Jenny’s character. She’s so strong-willed and such a powerful lady, not to mention a female Jamie. The scenes between her and Jamie were so fantastically written, I almost felt as though I grew up with them too, and was also reminiscing about the same events from our shared childhood!

Their argument when they first meet is so well done. We really feel the emotion from both characters and see that their love for one another is expressed through the anger and passion in this initial argument. Jamie is angry because he believes that he caused Jenny to be raped by Randall and forced into bringing up his bastard son. Jenny is furious that he would jump to that conclusion without first asking who the child is, as Jamie is unaware that young Jamie is in fact her legitimate child with her husband. My favourite line of Jenny’s is definitely “And if your life is a suitable exchange for my honour, tell me why my honour is not a suitable exchange for your life?” Yes, Jamie, why? Their love for each other is evident throughout. 

This is also the first time that we hear that Jamie in fact married Claire for love. We know that Claire married Jamie for both necessity and convenience, but Jamie in fact married her for her. Of course, Claire’s love for Jamie developed. They are also a very funny couple to read about. Often in romance novels we read about couple’s romantic lives, and passion, but less about their humour, and humour is so important in a relationship it’s refreshing to see them connect in that way. 

Speaking of humour, when Jamie hid from the redcoats under the water while one tried to fixed the wheel, it was hilarious to see his shorts attached to the top of the wheel, and know that Jamie was under the water the whole time, holding his breath, stripping off his shorts and fixing the wheel.

But then Jamie is captured and sent to Wentworth prison. Claire and Jenny set off to find him, though Jenny has to turn back after a short while and Claire gets to spend some time with Murtagh as they search for Jamie together. Eventually they learn of his capture because they find Dougal hiding in the woods. Dougal shows a darker side to his character, as he declares it impossible to save Jamie, and how much he wants Claire. Her husband isn’t dead yet, Dougal, leave the poor girl alone! We also learn that he did in fact father Colum’s child. As Claire puts it, he is Colum’s arms, legs and cock. He also tells Claire that Geilis had given birth to his child before being burned as a witch. Her son was placed in what Dougal calls a good home, so perhaps we will hear more about the child when he is older. Dougal also gives Claire the message ‘one nine six seven’ – 1967! We learn that Geilis has come from 1967! She tells Claire that she thinks it is possible but she’s not sure, and Claire thinks she is referring to returning to the future. 

Essentially, by the end of the section, Claire and Murtagh have found some men willing to help them and they set off on their journey to Wentworth to save Jamie. Having seen the TV series I know what will happen and I’m so nervous to read it! Though I am intrigued to see how Gabaldon approaches the topic, I am also aware that it will be a difficult and uncomfortable read. 

Off we go, to the final section!

The Outlander Book Tag

I’m currently reading – and loving – Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and when I saw this book tag I knew I had to do it. My friend, Becky, and I are currently co-reading the first book, after having watched the first two series of the TV series. Outlander is essentially about a woman called Claire who is accidentally sent back in time from the 1940s to the 1740s, and has to come to terms with leaving her old life behind and understanding and dealing with her new life in the Scottish highlands. If you want to know more about our co-read, information is linked here:

We still have another two weeks to go but all of our thoughts from the last five weeks are also published, so check out my recent posts if you want to know how I’m finding the book.
You touch some standing stones and get transported back in time; what year would you hope to land in?

I actually have a degree in history and love learning about history, but for me this is such an easy question: 1920s New York City. I absolutely love this time period; the glamour, the glitz, the flappers, the parties, the music, the literature. I’d cut my hair short, and I’d befriend F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I’d have an all-round great time. You know, until the Great Depression and World War Two.
Claire is a very good nurse; what type of skill would you want to have that a fictional character excels at?

Hand-to-hand combat. Essentially I want to be Celaena Sardothien from the Throne of Glass series. My physical prowess has never been one to envy, so I would love to excel at something like Celaena. She is the coolest, sassiest assassin I know of.
Claire and Jamie are ultimate relationship goals; who is your favourite fictional couple?

Claire and Jamie? Perhaps that’s cheating! In that case, Simon and Baz from Carry On. I love these two! They’re so sassy, and mean. It’s definitely a relationship that develops from hatred, and their feelings are no less intense now they love one another. 
The ending of Outlander was shocking; what is one book you read that totally blew your mind?

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. This was mind-blowing in a different sense. Malala is an autobiographical account of a young girl who was shot by the Taliban, but miraculously survived and now fights for education for girls everywhere. She is an absolutely spectacular young woman, and so inspiring. 
Scotland has lots of castles and we see quite a few of them in Outlander; what fictional kingdom would you want as your own?

This is quite a tricky question. Many of the fictional world’s I read about are not places I’d want to live in! Saying that, I think I’d be pretty happy living in the Emerald City and ruling Oz! Now the witch has gone, I feel like I’d have a great time!
Outlander has some very steamy scenes; what’s your favourite romance novel?

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. This book is about a young man from Poland who wrote a book about his love for Alma, and a young girl trying to help her mother through her loneliness. It all centres around a book unsurprisingly called The History of Love. It’s a beautiful story about love in all kinds of forms.
The Jacobite Rising is a huge plot point in the Outlander series; what book has your favourite battle in it?

The Battle of Hogwarts in the final Harry Potter instalment, the highlight of course being “not my daughter, you bitch!”
Jamie and Claire get married very unexpectedly; what fictional character would you want to marry on a whim?

Jamie Fraser! But I think maybe that’s cheating. I don’t care. Jamie Fraser, Jamie Fraser, Jamie Fraser. My name is Claire, I’m 23 year years old, and I’m also from the future. It’s perfect.
Scotland is a beautiful place; what fictional world would you love to visit?

Wonderland. Easy peasy. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in Wonderland, but I would absolutely love to visit. I could have all kinds of crazy adventures in Wonderland!
If you could change the past, would you?

Absolutely not. Have you never seen Back to the Future? It doesn’t end well. If you’re not convinced, read Stephen Fry’s Making History. It’s a great read, and it will definitely make it clear how dangerous time travel could be.