‘Sing Unburied Sing’ by Jesmyn Ward Review

‘Sing Unburied Sing’ is the third novel by the American author Jesmyn Ward. It focuses on a mixed-race family in the American South and their family road trip to collect the father, Michael, from prison.

There is a buldingsroman in the story, focusing on the coming-of-age of the protagonist Jojo, who turns thirteen at the beginning of the novel. He has a lovely relationship with his younger sister Michaela and takes care of her throughout the novel. However, it becomes clear that he does not have a close relationship with his biological parents, not addressing them as mother or father but rather calling them by their first names, Leonie and Michael.

Jojo, Leonie and Michaela are able to see ghosts and while Jojo and Michaela can see Richie, Leonie sees the ghost of her deceased brother Given, whose death haunts Leonie’s family. The characterisation of Leonie is of a troubled, struggling mother who has worries about the future and her relationships with other characters are mostly negative. Meanwhile her children, Jojo and Michaela do not appreciate her very much and Jojo is critical of her.

Aside from Leonie, the story focuses on Jojo and his experience meeting Richie, a friend of his pop’s (grandfather) and his coming-of-age experience. The description of the characters such as their skin colour, height and hair texture are repeatedly mentioned. For example, Michaela has her father Michael’s green eye colour and Jojo has Leonie’s brown eyes, which he believes are similar to mam’s (his grandmother.)The family travel with a friend, Misty, upstate to Mississippi State to collect Michael from prison and on the way back Jojo is accompanied by a ghost Richie who wants to find out how he can go ‘home’. Jojo, Leonie and Richie take turns narrating the novel.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde Review

The Picture of Dorian Gray is by the author Oscar Wilde and was published in 1890.

The novel is philosophical fiction and discusses issues such as the purpose of art. A short novel, its page chapters are in roman numerals and are very short. The Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar Wilde’s only novel and was critical of Victorian society at the time. In the preface, Oscar Wilde remarks “all art is quite useless” because he didn’t believe that art needed to be educational or used for a moral purpose. There are also discussions of vanity and the importance of being youthful as the main character, Dorian Gray, makes a wish that he would not age.

Although Dorian Gray does not age, the portrait ages rapidly into an unattractive, horrifying reflection of Dorian Gray on the inside, although on the outside he is handsome and youthful. It is written in a third person narrative and the main character is Dorian Gray. The first character introduced is Basil Hallward and Lord Henry, who befriends Dorian and influences him negatively. Basil paints a picture of Dorian Gray and gives it to him, but Dorian Gray falls in love with the picture, similar to the story of Narcissus in Greek mythology and stops aging. His vanity has a negative affect on those around him and he loses many friends, he friends he makes are based on their attractiveness and he becomes very unhappy. The story culminates with him stabbing the portrait.

 “Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses” -Lord Henry

 Another theme of the novel is the importance of beauty and the regular references to Narcissus at the beginning. Durian Gray is described as being incredibly attractive and beautiful so he gets a lot of attention. He also mentions that he feels jealous of his own portrait Basil paints of him, because he will age whereas the portrait will not.

After being written, The Picture of Dorian Gray had about 500 pages removed by an editor, who believed it was too immoral. Oscar Wilde seemingly responds to this censorship in his preface “there is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”

“The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of the caliban seeing his own face in a glass.” – Oscar Wilde

Links

Plot overview of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

http://m.sparknotes.com/lit/doriangray/summary.html

Narcissus

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Narcissus-Greek-mythology

Classic Book Reviews

This is a compilation of all of the Classic Books I will be reading this Summer/Autumn. I have already written a review of Frankenstein so that is not pictured above.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)

This is one of the great American novels and has themes of race and identity. The author Mark Twain seemed critical of the racism that existed at the time of the books publishing. It is written from the perspective of a boy named Huckleberry Finn as he goes on lots of adventures in his youth.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens (1854)

This is the 10th novel of Charles Dickens. I am looking forward to reading Hard Times because Charles Dickens books sometimes had critical views of the social and economic conditions in 19th century England.

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

A gothic horror by the Irish author Bram Stoker. He created ‘Count Dracula’ in a story of vampirism and horror fiction. Many books on vampires have been successful since, for example, Twilight based on the vampire myth. This was a landmark vampire novel and I am excited to read it.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

This  is a romance novel and is a popular novel in English literature. I do not read many romance novels but I find Pride and Prejudice to be appealing.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

Emily Brontë was part of the Brontë family and Wuthering Heights was her only novel. This book is a classic in English literature and is part of the period of Romanticism in Europe.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856)

This was the debut novel of French author Gustave Flaubert and he began the artistic movement of literary realism in France. It depicts ordinary circumstances as they are.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

This is another American classic that is set in the puritan era in 17th century Massachusetts. This is also considered a romance novel and revolves around legalism and sin.

Gullivers’ Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)

This is the oldest of the novels I have compiled so far and it is a satire on human nature. This one is also by an Irish author.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Marquez (1967)

This is a modern classic by a Colombian author and is a multi-generational story with a magic realist style. I hope to read more literature from other ethnic authors as part of the next collection of classic books I review.

Review of Everything, Everything 

*No spoilers*

Everything, Everything was the first book written by Nicola Yoon before The Sun Is Also a Star.

Image: Moviefone (2018)

I enjoyed the book very much and read it within a few days as I was busy but found time to read around an hour a day this week. The story had similar themes such as love, exploration and family. 

It had illustrations by the authors husband David Yoon, which were nice because it has been a long time since I read a book with illustrations. I initially thought there were just lots of chapters, but the headings on the pages became more and more frequent. I also liked that the main character Madeline was widely read and had book spoilers to help support what she was saying. 

These were some very memorable quotes that I particularly enjoyed: 

“Life is a gift. Don’t forget to live it”

“A butterfly flaps its wings now and a hurricane forms in the future”

“Me in love would be like being a food critic with no taste buds. It would be like being a colour-blind painter”

“Love is worth everything. Everything”

This book has an interesting perspective on family and it centres around Madeline, the protagonist, who turns 18 at the beginning. As she suffers from SCID she is not allowed to leave the house at all and essentially lives in a bubble.

This book also features an interracial relationship and this is mentioned in the story. Moreover,to a film is now being released of the book fairly soon. I read the version with pictures from the film and the mother character is described as a 3rd generation Japanese woman while Madeline’s father is African-American, however the film has a black woman acting as the mother. I have not yet seen the film so I am not sure whether the father portrayed as Asian but the film has cast Amandla Stenberg as the Madeline, who is not of Asian descent.

Personally I don’t think that this change matters to the actual story as the father character is just background he is not in the book, he is deceased along with Maddy’s brother.

There was an insight into different family issues such as Domestic violence and it’s effects. However, nothing particularly graphic occurs in the book.

Above all, it was a moving love story between the two characters Olly and Maddy, with references to Chaos theory, the Butterfly effect and the idea of Change.

Other reviews:

Book Review of Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything Review | The Guardian

Film Review of Everything, Everything: the motion picture

Everything, Everything film review by Variety 
The film trailer and background

Film Trailer on nicolayoon.com

Review of The Sun is Also a Star

*no spoilers

Although it didn’t end the way I thought it would, it showed some interesting perspectives of love, life, being an immigrant and having your future decided for you.

Image: Suloshini Jahanath via Star2.com (2018)

Everything takes place within a day or two and the two main characters dialogue makes up a large part of the story. Between the story itself, there are chapters with additional information on cultural aspects of the characters, which adds context to what they are saying. With an interracial relationship as the focus of the story, there is Korean written in italics which is later explained in English.

Some of my favourite quotes from the book:

“The Sun is also a star, and it’s our most important one”

“Dark matter is love, it’s the attracting force”

It has humour but also deep discussions of fate, destiny, science and the meaning of family.

I enjoyed the book very much and would recommend it if you like love stories, or even just a good read while on the train.

  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon