WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys | Review

“Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.”   {Goodreads}

As discussed in a past Classic Couple post, I have finally read Jean Rhys’s famous prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. First published in 1966, Wide Sargasso Sea is the story of what happened to Antoinette–otherwise known as Bertha Mason–who we only ever meet as the “madwoman in the attic” in the classic Victorian novel. Here Rhys turns what we think we know about this story on its head, providing an alternative look at what may have really happened to the first wife of Mr. Rochester.

What I love about this novel is that it unabashedly exposes the layers of racism, colonialism, and sexism present in Jane Eyre. Rhys does this largely by playing around with perspective. The novel begins by focusing on the experience of Antoinette, showing the reader that she is an intelligent, rational, emotional human being with family, desires, and fears just like anyone else. Rhys then switches the focus to that of Rochester, revealing the inner workings of his prejudiced mind. Rochester openly admits to the reader that he hoped Antoinette would become “more English” through marriage to him and that he is disappointed when she doesn’t change in this way. By switching perspectives, we see that Antoinette is not the one who is “crazy”; rather, the real “madwoman in the attic” is the “Bertha” figure that Rochester portrays her as in order to get what he desires.

Another major strength of the novel is the way Rhys seamlessly ties it into Jane Eyre without being glaringly obvious or over-the-top about it. The final few pages of the novel place Antoinette in the attic of Thornfield Hall, yet she is not portrayed as Rochester would have her represented. Instead, she longs for the past that she used to have and the future that Rochester ripped away from her with this twist in their distorted marriage. Jane is presented as more of a ghost than Antoinette, the two-dimensional figure that we only hear about but don’t really know. Instead, the reader can’t help but empathize with this woman who was torn from everything she knew simply because Rochester didn’t like her non-English background and customs. In this way, Rhys connects her novel with that of Charlotte by suggesting an alternate reading of one of its characters rather than entirely changing the classic’s story. 

With that being said, it feels as though Wide Sargasso Sea does invite us to go back and read Jane Eyre with this new perspective in mind. In fact, I think it would be a great idea to teach these novels alongside each other in classroom settings rather than simply encouraging students to read Brontë’s novel on the basis that it is yet another classic. I believe that more can be learned from reading these two together rather than apart.

Overall, the only regret I have about reading Wide Sargasso Sea is not having read it sooner. This is a brilliant novel that everyone who reads Jane Eyre should absolutely pick up.

What are your thoughts on Wide Sargasso Sea? Have you read any of Jean Rhys’s other writing? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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A Classic Couple: The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I realized recently that I have never made a Classic Couple pairing of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999), I vowed to remedy that situation immediately. This classic/contemporary duo always reminds me of the start of the school year, which makes this the perfect time to write about them here. I’m sure this pairing has been done many times before, but I still think there are some interesting parallels worth discussing.

+ Lost souls. Both novels are narrated by protagonists who are unsure of their place or role in life. In the earlier book, the infamous Holden Caulfield who attends Pencey Preparatory Academy before deciding to roam around New York City for a while. Likewise, Charlie, a fifteen-year-old freshman, uncertainly navigates through his first year of high school as he simultaneously deals with a tumultuous home life. Both boys feel lost in a sea of people and just desperately want someone to understand what they’re going through.

+ Narration. Both novels are told through first person narration of their protagonists: Holden is telling his story from a mental institution, while Charlie writes his letters to an unknown audience. This particular similarity is what most closely connects these texts in my mind. The voices of the narrators are so distinct and clear that they feel as though they could certainly have been taken directly from a teenager’s mouth. Few readers may remember the specific events of these texts after reading them, but they surely will remember Holden’s incessant complaining and Charlie’s uncertain worrying.

+ School settings. This list would be incomplete without at least mentioning the school settings that make me associate these novels with this time of year. Holden begins his story at Pencey Preparatory Academy, a private boarding school, whereas Charlies begins his as a freshman at a public high school. Despite the differences between these two schools in terms of education styles and structures, they nevertheless evoke similar feelings of nostalgia and bittersweet fondness for those kinds of coming-of-age experiences.

This Classic Couple may seem a bit obvious or overdone, but I think that’s what makes it so interesting to discuss. Was Chbosky inspired, either consciously or subconsciously, by Salinger’s novel? I think it’s a testament to the enduring quality of The Catcher in the Rye that we still discuss it alongside popular books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower today. After all, isn’t that part of what makes a classic a classic?

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What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with The Catcher in the Rye? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Romeo & Juliet and The Hunger Games

Sometimes it seems as though everyone is birthed from the womb with an inherent knowledge of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I have a feeling that a similar situation will happen with Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games in a few generations. Just as the mention of Shakespeare’s famous play immediately conjures up ideas of star-crossed lovers and family feuds, The Hunger Games may inevitably be associated with fights to the death, trust and betrayal, and forbidden love. Today, I’d like to discuss the many similarities between these books that make them more alike than one might initially expect.

+ Star-crossed lovers. Let’s get this one out of the way first since it’s probably the most obvious similarity. Both of these texts are rooted in romance, particularly relationships that are seemingly not supposed to happen. While Romeo and Juliet shouldn’t be together due to the clash between their families, Katniss and Peeta should be focused on killing each other rather than trying to seduce one another. These relationships occur rapidly yet are fueled by different motivations: love and lust vs. strategy and survival. The flawed natures of both of these relationships emphasize the far extent that people will stretch for romance.

+ Life and death: The dichotomy of living and dying plays a significant role in both texts. Each of their climactic scenes focuses on the tension between these two opposites and plays with the reader’s expectations of what should happen next. Romance becomes a life source for Katniss and Peeta as it helps them gain the popularity needed to ultimately survive the games; however, love becomes the downfall of Romeo and Juliet as it blinds them to realistic consequences and leads to their hasty deaths.

+ Youth: Part of the reason these texts are so remarkable is the age of the protagonists: Romeo and Juliet are in their early teen years, whereas Katniss and Peeta are in their later teen years. While this is often one of the more frustrating aspects of Romeo and Juliet for modern readers—they’re willing to commit suicide over someone they’ve known for three days when they’re thirteen?!—age plays a more positive role in Collins’ novel. Katniss and Peeta are able to fight back against an entire oppressive regime even though they are still teenagers.

+ Rebellion: Likewise, together these texts highlight the advantages and disadvantages of rebelling. While Shakespeare paints a rather bleak picture of what could happen when you go against the wishes of your elders, Collins seems to advocate standing up for what you believe in and opposing unjust authority figures. In this way, romance is used to make a very political statement in The Hunger Games. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at two very different, very similar texts!

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What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with Romeo and Juliet? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Middlemarch and Nervous Conditions

A few months ago I discussed Tsitsi Dangarembga’s 1988 novel Nervous Conditions in the context of feminist writing and postcolonial literature. Today, I’ll like to talk about this remarkable novel in a slightly different context: coupled with George Eliot’s classic 1871 novel Middlemarch. Published over a century apart and set against very different backdrops, these two novels are nevertheless tied together by many surprising similarities.

+ Multiplicity. Like the widely read classic Middlemarch, Nervous Conditions emphasizes the multiplicity of women’s voices and experiences. Dangarembga takes this a step further, demonstrating that so-called “Third World women” also possess a multiplicity that deserves to be recognized. Tambu’s (the narrator) mirror-like statements framing this novel remind the reader that although the story may be her own, it is also that of others. There is multiplicity in wholeness, just as it requires a plethora of women’s voices in order to establish and maintain a thriving tradition of women’s writing.

+ Challenges facing women. Both novels discuss rather taboo challenges facing women that are not often brought up in everyday conversation. Through Dorothea Brooke’s tense relationship with her husband Edward Casaubon, Eliot shows that marriage is not always inherently satisfying and gratifying for women. In Nervous Conditions, Dangarembga tackles the ominous topic of eating disorders. Rather than generalize disorders in the same way that women’s experiences of colonialism have been reduced to inaccurate stereotypes in literature, Dangarembga imbues Nyasha’s “nervous condition” with nuance. Like Nyasha, Dangarembga refuses to remain under the restrictive power of the patriarchy.

+ Opposing idealogical norms. Eliot strives to present a certain form of “moral realism” in her novel and is therefore much more concerned with representing fundamental truths than with recounting the minute details of daily life. One aim of her moral realism is to expose overlooked moments, as seen when Dorothea is disappointedly sobbing on her honeymoon with Casaubon in Rome. The belief that marriage must be flawless and fulfilling at all times is therefore dashed to pieces by Eliot’s realistic gaze, exposing the commonly held romanticized view of this life event. Disenchantment is a vital component of Eliot’s moral realism due to its emphasis on the true representation of an experience rather than one’s idealized, preconceived notions of a situation.

Similarly, Dangarembga opposes the notion that the literary sphere must be dominated by male voices. There is no singular experience of being a woman, meaning that there should be more than one woman’s voice being heard–and read–in the male-dominated literary sphere. In writing Nervous Conditions as a novel about African women and largely for African women, Dangarembga has indeed asserted the perspective of women into the otherwise male-dominated literary sphere of postcolonial writing. By engaging with the idea of multiplicity in the present, Dangarembga strives to ensure a multiplicity of African women’s voices being heard in the future.

While obviously very different, Middlemarch and Nervous Conditions still possess many similarities that may surprise unsuspecting readers. I highly recommend both of these novels, particularly if you’re looking for more literature that focuses on women’s experiences in different socioeconomic classes and cultures.

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What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with Middlemarch? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea

Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel Jane Eyre is one of the books that first made me fall in love with classic literature. I remember reading it on a family road trip before my senior year of high school, captivated by Jane’s independence and resilience. For years librarians, professors, and bookish friends who know that Jane Eyre is a favorite of mine have been recommending that I read Jean Rhys’s 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea. This famous response to Brontë’s classic tells the story of Antoinette–more well-known as Bertha, the “madwoman” that Mr. Rochester keeps hidden away in the attic of Thornfield Hall.

Although this Classic Couple is quite an obvious pairing due to the inherent connection between them, there are nevertheless plenty of interesting similarities and differences to discuss.

+ Protagonists. What I love about both of these novels is that they feature independent, determined, intelligent women as protagonists. While Jane must work against the systemic sexism of her society in terms of marriage and professions, Antoinette is forced to confront an even more paralyzing hurdle: being a Creole woman who is considered neither black nor white in a society dominated by a pervasive racial hierarchy. Although Antoinette is ultimately locked in the Thornfield Hall attic as a “madwoman,” she regains a sense of empowerment through setting the building on fire. In this way, Rhys subverts the “madwoman in the attic” trope by showing that Antoinette can be just as empowering a figure as Jane–if not more so.

+ Mr. Rochester. Both novels feature Mr. Rochester, albeit in very different contexts. While Brontë romanticizes him as an enigmatic love interest that ultimately redeems himself in the end, Rhys exposes the colonialism that runs through his veins. As soon as he hears rumors of the “madness” that runs in Antoinette’s family, Rochester no longer wants anything to do with the marriage. It is clear by his racist comments that he wishes his wife to be more “English” and is repeatedly disappointed to find that she remains connected to her family, her past, and her home. Rhys’s Rochester is someone to be avoided rather than desired, thereby turning Brontë’s characterization of such a man upside down.

+ The attic. It feels strange to read about Grace Poole and the attic of Thornfield Hall from the perspective of Antoinette rather than that of Jane. While Brontë portrays the attic as a space that protects the rest of the house from “madness,” Rhys exposes it as a form of confinement that promulgates this damaging, inaccurate, colonial trope. Antoinette’s brief encounter with Jane outside of the attic reduces the eponymous character of Brontë’s novel to a flat figure, just as the character of “Bertha” is portrayed in Jane Eyre. Escaping the attic is Antoinette’s only way to reclaim a sense of freedom, independence, and control in an England that does not even feel like reality.

There is so, so much more I could discuss about these two novels, but I’ll save that for later posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little scratch on the surface of a much larger discussion, and I highly recommend reading both of these brilliant novels.

Click here to check out other Classic Couples from past posts.

What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with Jane Eyre? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Festive 4th Covers {Bookstagram Edition!}

Happy Tuesday! And for all of my fellow Americans, happy Fourth of July Eve! (That’s a holiday, right?!?) Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is Fourth of July themed, which means it’s time to break out those red, white, and blue book covers. This week I’ve set myself a little challenge of only using photos from my bookstagram. Let’s see how many I can find!

What are your favorite red, white, and blue books? What do you think of the ones on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Happy Fourth!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: The Lost World and Jurassic Park

Today I bring you a very specie edition of A Classic Couple featuring two remarkable books: The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1912) and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990). You may be wondering what a novel by the creator of Sherlock Holmes has to do with the book that inspired my favorite movie. The answer? The Lost World has EVERYTHING to do with Jurassic Park because it’s the classic novel that the contemporary book is based on. 

Just in case you’re anything like me and this fact has completely blown your mind, I’ll give you a few moments to recover.

I discovered this connection just a few weeks ago when I was browsing the shelves of Blackwell’s in Oxford and stumbled upon Conan Doyle’s book. I picked it up because I thought it was a funny coincidence that it shares the same title as the sequel to Jurassic Park. My jaw literally dropped when I read the back cover and learned that this was the inspiration for a book that I hold near and dear to my heart. What are the chances?!?!

Usually in this feature I focus on the similarities between classics and their contemporary pairings; however, these two books share so many obvious elements that I actually think comparing them would be rather dull. Instead, today I’ll be discussing the differences between the two novels.

+ Setting. If you’ve read or seen the film Jurassic Park then you know that it takes place on the fictional Isla Nublar. Not only does this allow Crichton to write without worrying about being geographically accurate, but it also eliminates the need to discuss any inhabitants of the island. Unfortunately, the fact that The Lost World takes place in the Amazon basin of South America  means that the novel is riddled with prejudiced colonial ideology. There is little to distinguish Conan Doyle’s descriptions of the natives that the professors meet and the ape-creatures that violently attack them later on in the novel. This racist view didn’t necessarily surprise me given the publication date of the novel, but it certainly disappointed me.

+ Women. Yet another disappointment in the earlier novel is the near complete absence of women from the story. The only woman we meet is Gladys, who appears at the beginning and end of the novel for the sole purpose of being the narrator’s love interest. While Crichton’s novel could also benefit from a boost of women characters, at least we have Ellie Sattler as an intelligent, brave, complex woman to look up to.

+ Endings. I was surprised and delighted to see how different the conclusions of these two novels are despite their numerous similarities. I don’t want to spoil the endings for anyone, so I won’t share any specific plot details; however, it is enough to say that these two novels present very different views on the relationship between science and nature. While the earlier novel celebrates this scientific expedition as a glorious conquest that should be continued and used as a means of profit, the later novel condemns Jurassic Park as a dangerous yet futile attempt by humans to control nature. Perhaps this contrast can give us important insights into how we viewed scientific advancements at the beginning and end of the twentieth century.

Despite its problematic elements, I still very much enjoyed reading The Lost World and seeing how it compares to its contemporary counterpart. While I appreciate the earlier novel for its originality, I nevertheless must admit that Crichton’s Jurassic Park will always come first for me.

Click here to check out other Classic Couples from past posts.

What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with Jurassic Park? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Orlando and Every Day

It’s time for another Classic Couple! I love this feature so much but for some reason it tends to be the last thing on my mind when scheduling posts. In an effort to be more regular about it in the future, today I’d like to share an interesting and unexpected pair: Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando (1928) and David Levithan’s novel Every Day (2012). While reading the former novel for my Virginia Woolf in Modernist Contexts tutorial, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Levithan’s young adult novel that I read a few years ago. Although very different in setting, style, tone, and audience, both novels nevertheless discuss similar themes that many books shy away from.

Changing Bodies || Both novels involve the rather fantastical concept of suddenly, inexplicably, unexpectedly changing bodies. In Orlando, the eponymous protagonist wakes up one day to discover that her body has changed from male to female. Once this change occurs, Orlando remains in this female body for centuries until the novel ends in Woolf’s contemporary time. In Every Day, the protagonist A wakes up in a new body each day, thereby taking on different identities, lifestyles, and physical attributes.

Gender || Due to the emphasis on changing bodies of different sexes, gender is  a major aspect of these novels. Although Orlando’s biological sex has changed, she struggles with the fact that she often feels the same way in regard to her personality as she did when she was a man. In this way, Woolf not only suggests that biological sex has little bearing on one’s gender, but she also asserts that gender is a socially constructed, performed choice that one should be able to make about one’s own identity. A’s gender is even more fluid due to the fact that they seem to be genderless (or all genders at once??) and go by the neutral “they” pronoun.

Identity || As you can probably tell, identity is an important and essential overarching theme in these two novels. Although one’s personal identity is often viewed as something that is stable and changes gradually over time, Woolf and Levithan suggest that it can be more fluid than one may expect. They also stress that identity frequently defies categorization or even description, as language can fail to encompass all aspects of one’s personality due to its narrowing tendencies. It’s difficult to describe Orlando and A without stopping to think about who exactly they are and what their identities are composed of. In a world obsessed with naming and labelling seemingly everything in sight, these novels offer a refreshingly open way of thinking about one’s identity.

I never thought I would be comparing a Woolf novel with a Levithan novel, but Orlando and Every Day go together incredibly well. If you’re interested in either of these novels, I highly recommend checking them out!

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What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with Orlando or Every Day? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

BETWEEN THE ACTS by Virginia Woolf | Review

In Woolf’s final novel, villagers present their annual pageant, made up of scenes from the history of England, at a house in the heart of the country as personal dramas simmer.

Between the Acts is also a striking evocation of English experience in the months leading up to the Second World War. Through dialogue, humour and the passionate musings of the characters, Virginia Woolf explores how a community is formed (and scattered) over time. The tableau, a series of scenes from English history, and the private dramas that go on between the acts are closely interlinked. Through the figure of Miss La Trobe, author of the pageant, Virginia Woolf questions imperialist assumptions and, at the same time, re-creates the elusive role of the artist. {Goodreads}

I think it’s safe to say that Virginia Woolf is most popularly known today for three particular works: Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927)and A Room of One’s Own (1929). These are the works I hoped to branch out from through taking a class solely about Woolf’s writing in modernist contexts this term, simply because I rarely hear any of her other writing being discussed. Among the titles on my reading list is Between the Acts, published posthumously after Woolf’s suicide in 1941. From letters with her editor and husband we have gleaned that she thought this to be perhaps her best work yet, although critics have often disagreed and have found it to be rather lackluster. After all, modern reception speaks for itself: How many people not studying literature today have actually read Between the Acts? Clearly, history has not favored it.

Yet I adore this novel.

A key component to understanding and appreciating the brilliance of Between the Acts is knowing about its context. Although the setting of the novel seems peaceful, it is actually set in 1939 against the backdrop of the start of World War II. A sense of terror, despair, and uncertainty lurks beneath the surface of the seemingly whimsical, humorous play that Mrs. Manresa organizes and gradually comes forth to the center stage as the novel goes on. There is a clear feeling of uneasiness in the audience as their ordinary lives continue on in the intervals of the play–literally between the acts (can I just say how much I love the title?). The juxtaposition between the violent context of the novel and the events of the novel itself could easily be overlooked by a reader without knowledge of the time period but are glaringly obvious and rather unsettling to a reader aware of life in England during Woolf’s time.

As always, Woolf’s writing style significantly contributes to the brilliance of her work. Not only is her writing beautiful, lyrical, and captivating, but she also writes in a way that pulls you in and keeps you reading. Woolf is well-known for her stream of consciousness writing, yet I think the main strength of this novel is her ability to provide snapshots of thoughts and scenes involving numerous different characters. While some characters are followed more closely than others by the narration, she takes care to dip in and out of a variety of minds. This novel is also quite different from her other works in that it suddenly takes on the format of a script partway through and continues to alternate between prose and script going forward. The result is a collage of a novel that feels much like the collage of scenes performed in Mrs. Manresa’s play.

My favorite part of the novel is the ending, both of the novel itself as well as the play performed within it. At the end of the play the audience has their reflections revealed through a display of mirrors, forcing them to look at themselves and see each other for who they really are. Is this Woolf urging England to evaluate and reflect on its own position in the world at the outbreak of yet another world war? As the audience disperses after the play concludes, the characters must decide how they will move forward. The last few lines of the novel tie everything together and make you think about the book in an entirely new light. Are we living our own play? If so, who has written it? Is it already written, or is it yet to be created? Whether or not Woolf intended these questions to be asked, I am grateful that this novel brings them to mind.

Overall, Between the Acts completely exceeded all of my initial expectations and has become–dare I say?– perhaps my favorite Virginia Woolf novel thus far? (I know, I know. It’s a bold statement.) If you’ve read the usual To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway and are looking for more remarkable Woolf writing, I highly recommend adding Between the Acts to the top of your list!

What are your thoughts on Between the Acts? Do you have a favorite novel or text by Virginia Woolf? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Chronicle of a Death Foretold and The Secret History

I don’t often enjoy reading books that are really dark, unsettling, and morbid, but this week’s Classic Couple is certainly an exception. Published a little over a decade apart, Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez (1981) and The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992) both have similar structures as murder mystery novels with a twist.

Answers your question before it is even asked || Both of these novels waste no time telling the reader exactly what death will occur by the end of the story. Rather than reading to see who has died, you’re reading to learn under what circumstances they died. When I first started reading The Secret History a few years ago I was a bit dubious about this format– after all, how interesting could it be if you already know who is going to die? Well, I stand corrected. Tartt’s attention to detail as well as the convoluted, bizarre plot and intriguing characters made the novel even more engaging and interesting than I had initially anticipated. Chronicle of a Death Foretold definitely confirms the effectiveness of this inside-out format with its suspense and ability to pull readers in from the very first page.

Complicates the notion of blame || One of the most interesting aspects of these books is the way they complicate the notion of blame. To a certain extent, one could argue that numerous people are involved with the deaths of Bunny and Santiago Nasar alongside those who literally, physically killed them. A sense of communal blame is especially prominent in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, in which basically the entire community knows that the two Vicario brothers plan to murder Nasar but no one actually tells him. Should these people also be held responsible for the death of Nasar? Should they be considered accomplices in this crime? Or are they simply bystanders trying to do their best to stay out of trouble? These are the sort of questions that make these kinds of novels so difficult to put down.

Still surprising and suspenseful || Despite the large amount of information presented in the beginning, these novels still manage to be surprising and suspenseful. In particular, I was taken aback by how unexpected the deaths felt at the end even though I had plenty of warning ahead of time that they were coming. I think convoluted plots play a role in this surprising feeling (particularly in the case of The Secret History, in which many bizarre events occur), as do the gory details and the suddenness of the event after so much leading up to it. All at once what was a mere story for so long abruptly becomes reality, and the brutal force of the death is hard to swallow.

If you’re ever in the mood for a different kind of murder mystery, definitely check out these haunting, dark, lyrically written novels!

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What are your thoughts on these books? What other books could they be paired with? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY