Hey guys! So today’s book review is actually books I read for an English class I took in university! I liked English in high school, but was always scared to take it in university. After talking to a few English majors, I decided to try it out! The class was longer genres, so they were actual novels versus poetry or short stories. In the end I really enjoyed the class, and there are a few books I would recommend from the class!
The first book we read was Klee Wyck by Emily Carr. Carr is more well-known as being a Canadian landscape painter, but she also did write a few novels. Klee Wyck is an extremely interesting novel because it’s a memoir of sorts that won many awards after Carr’s death. The novel was censored, removing any parts that was critical of European missionaries. It wasn’t until 2004 that the original text was published again. Klee Wyck is a series of stories about Carr, British Columbia and the Indigenous people of the region. Carr explores the idea of how she, as a white women, can oppose the horrible treatment of the Indigenous people yet also profit from it at the same time. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants to learn more about the relationship between colonization and the Indigenous people of Canada.
The second novel I read was another Canadian classic. Generals Die in Bed by Charles Yale Harrison was highly criticized at the time of being published because it doesn’t glorify war. It tries to show the reader how war isn’t like the romantic version people had heard back home. I really liked this book, especially the style of writing. The details about the narrator are very minimal, allowing the reader to better put themselves into the narrator’s shoes. The writing is also very simple and easy to read. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in World War 2, especially the darker/gritter side of war.
Probably my favourite book from my class was Animal Farm by George Orwell. This book is a classic for a reason. Animal Farm is a satirical novel, using animals to critic Stalin and the Soviet Union. The references are strong enough that anyone who knows some modern history can get them, but they are not so strong that they get in the way of enjoying the story. This is the perfect book for an English class, because it is rich enough to write about but still enjoyable to read. I think this would also be a good book for pleasure reading as well. While the writing is a little dated, it is meant to be read as a children’s book, so the language is quite simple. After reading Animal Farm, I am quite interested in now reading 1984.
My least favourite piece was a play called Endgame by Samuel Beckett. This play is apart of the genre theatre of the absurd, which is basically the theatre version of surrealism or dadaism. Basically nothing makes sense. The play is supposed to be a comment on existentialism, but like I didn’t get it. The play was very cyclical, just repeating the same things over and over again without ever really making a point. I don’t even know how to describe or critique this play because it makes no sense. Save yourself the headache and don’t read this.
The next book is July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. Written in the 1980s, this novel was Gordimer’s prediction of what a post-Apartheid South Africa would look like. Unlike the past four novels, where I knew a decent amount about the subject matter, at the time I didn’t know much about South Africa. I have since made some South African friends (shoutout to Contiki for being us together) and now I feel more conflicted about this novel. I do think it some ways it reflects on identity in an interesting way, and it worked nicely with the other novels were studied in our class. I just think there are better novels about this subject out there. Also the writing is outdated and full of South African slang that I had no idea about. Very hard to read, wouldn’t recommend.
The final novel I read was Obasan by Joy Kogawa. The novel is about the interment and persecution of Japanese-Canadians during the second world war. While I didn’t know much about this subject going into this book, I felt like by the end I knew more about the topic. The story is a girl named Naomi, and switches between her experiences as a child and an adult. The story is simply and beautifully written. They are some more lyrical passages, which would be helpful to use if analyzing the novel. Overall I found the story very compelling, and I really enjoyed the novel!
And those were the books that I read for my English class! I just finished the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series recently, so expect another book review real soon!