Book Review winners.
World Book Day has a simple yet fundamental aim of ‘Changing lives through a love of books and shared reading’. Encouraging and celebrating our love of reading is something that RSFC has been doing for several years with the ‘RSFC book recommendations’.
Given the current lockdown restrictions we cannot celebrate the event as we would normally however, according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan, 2020 was a bumper year with more than 200m print books sold in the UK for the first time since 2012. Nielsen has estimated that the volume of print books sold grew by 5.2% compared with 2019.
The RSFC World Book Day 2021 challenge was to submit a book review of no more than 200 words on a book of their choice and the quality of the entries was outstanding.
The winner, Ella Gaskell reviewed ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller and submitted this eloquent review:
“With all Greek myths, the endings never bode well for the main characters. And while The Song of Achilles is no exception to this, my God you wish it were. This retelling of the Iliad is not a mindless, senseless representation of Achilles’ genocidal rage- it’s soft, exponentially beautiful, and heart wrenchingly lyrical. The portrayal of Patroclus’ universe crossing all-consuming love for a man chosen by the Gods is irrefutably scintillating. Miller’s ability to display the intimacies of childhood romance, the exploration of sexuality, and destined doomed fate is spectacular; her writing style is masterful and emotive and truly captivates everything you would want and need in an epic show of love, passion, and loss. The reading experience of this Classics tale requires a warning label for tears of sadness and joy, as well as a box of tissues. Miller’s captivating writing style ensures that The Song of Achilles is a work which is certain to endure and inspire a whole generation of new writers and readers and maintains a feeling of inclusivity and belonging to all LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing this beautiful show of perpetual, unfaltering love between Patroclus and Achilles- this book is undoubtedly the peak of literary acclaim.”
There were two runners up: Matt Deakin who reviewed ‘House of Leaves’ by Mark Z Danielewski, and Umme Hussain Shah who chose ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi.
Highlights from Matt’s review the ‘House of Leaves’: “‘This is not for you.’ Reads the opening line of Mark Z Danielewski’s acclaimed debut novel, House of Leaves. This postmodern cult classic has baffled readers and critics alike since it was first published in 2000. The novel’s abstract nature makes it difficult to categorise, having been variously described as a Horror, Romance, and a Satire of academia, it remains, however, both unique and intriguing. Impossible to produce as an audiobook, the novel’s interweaving stories, communicated by multiple narrators, within copious footnotes and appendices, disorient the reader (in addition to the already bewildering frame narrative) …. This creative amalgamation of the literary and the aesthetic serves to enhance the already evocative language, conveying ideas that the words alone cannot… Dismissed as gimmicky by some but hailed as innovative and ground-breaking by others, House of Leaves aims to challenge its reader’s preconceived notions of what a novel can be. With a growing disconnect in our relationship with books, Danielewski provides a reading experience like no other. Maybe, House of Leaves could be for you after all.
Umme’s review of ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ highlights how “I was fortunate enough to encounter a book that is not just mere pages, but a legacy. Final thoughts, epiphanies and emotions are left behind as a statement-piece, stressing the fragility of life and highlighting the empty space left behind by the dead… Admirably, Kalanithi gave life to his death – he achieved immortality – for he lives a million times over in the mind of each reader; his raw talent and honesty bringing about a realisation that we should all accept: ‘you can’t ever achieve perfection, but you can always believe in an asymptote towards which you are ceaselessly striving. As a society we are forever chasing after time, worrying too much about the meaningless and too little about the meaningful. Kalanithi makes you confront the harsher truths: life is neither predictable, nor fair, so appreciate every second- before our breath becomes air.”
Congratulations to our winner and runners up, your book vouchers are on their way. Thank you to everyone who entered the competition, and we hope that you find time, especially on World Book Day, to relax and enjoy a book and escape.