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Discussion Posts Misc.

Hamilton // An American Musical in London

Hello fellow bookworms! I was extremely lucky in January 2017 to get tickets to the one of the greatest musical of our generation! Yesterday, the day had finally arrived for my sister and me to journey up to London to see Hamilton! Leading up to the day, having had the tickets for almost a year, it still unbelievable that we were actually going. It wasn’t until we were outside the theatre that it really hit me that we were seeing it in a few hours! It was one of the best musical experiences of my life, and I wanted to share everything I loved about it with you (with minimal spoilers, of course)!

Listening to the recording vs. Seeing the musical

I’ve been a massive fan of Hamilton for a while now, and until yesterday, I only had the soundtrack to tell the story. In case you’re not that familiar with Hamilton, it is an all-music musical, which means there’s no scripted speech in between. This meant that I could get a pretty good grasp of the story without having seen it live. That said, going to see it, and having that soundtrack you know so well come to life, you really can’t compare it with any other feeling. All those times you wish you knew what that scene looked like, and now you can listen and visualise to your hearts content! The only real difference was the recording is Original Broadway cast, and we saw the Original West End cast. It was great to see how they kept it so close to the original songs, but still out their own spin on things!

The Actors and their Characters

Alexander Hamilton

We were lucky enough to see Jamael Westman as Hamilton, and I couldn’t find fault with his performance! He was on par with Lin-Manuel Miranda as the lead character, and it was such a pleasure to see someone take on this massive role, step into Lin’s shoes, and do a phenomenal job! (Also he was super tall so he towered above everyone else in the cast!)

Aaron Burr

Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir? We saw Sifiso Mazibuko, principle standby for Aaron Burr, and he was amazing! The power in his voice was incredible, and Wait For It, which is one of my favourites in the musical, was great. There was so much emotion in his character, and Dear Theodosia broke me as well!

John Laurens/Philip Hamilton

What can I say apart from the fact that Cleve September’s voice is incredible! It certainly belongs on stage, and he played Philip very, very well, I cried a lot in Stay Alive (Reprise)!

Lafayette/Jefferson

Jason Pennycooke was hilarious! Lafayette is such a character, and man, he can rap! I knew is would be difficult to follow in Daveed Diggs footsteps, and Pennycooke didn’t disappoint. His role as Jefferson was played just as well, Jefferson has a massive personality, and he really made the character his own, which made it special and unique for the audience as well!

Hercules Mulligan/James Madison

Wow, what a voice! Mulligan always had to have a powerful voice, and Tarinn Callender was made for this role! The visual representation of Madison was different to what I expected, but his relationship with Jefferson was great, and will change the way I listen to his character sing in a good way.

George Washington

Another extremely powerful voice, he really belted out every word! One Last Time was a lot more emotional than I thought it would be, and Right Hand Man was brilliant with the entire cast! Obioma Ugoala stepped up to the challenge of President and most certainly achieved the goal!

King George

Oh my gosh! King George has so much characterisation that the person playing can’t be afraid to make the songs their own! The best thing about Johnathon Groff on the recording is he is an American singing with a British accent, which made almost more accented and pronounced, and really funny. Michael Jibson did just that! He put a unique twist on all of King George’s songs, and the facial expression and little movements along with it absolutely made his role what it was! I couldn’t wait for him to reappear on stage each time, and he even appeared in a few songs towards the end in the background, which added a but of comedy to the performance! A magnificent performance! (He also singled out my sister and pointed at her at one point, my sister went mad!)

Eliza Hamilton

Rachelle Ann Go was such a great choice for Eliza! There was so much emotion behind everything she sung, which is definitely needed in a role like this. Burn was exceptional, and the Finale really got to me as well! Very well cast, brilliant vocals and acting!

Angelica Schuyler

Angelica needs both a sweet, musical voice, and a quick, witty voice. Rachel John delivered both! I was surprised how soft her voice was at times, but she really put power behind it when it was needed! Again, a lot of emotion, especially in It’s Quiet Uptown!

Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds

Even though Peggy is seen as a slightly smaller role, it was amazing to see it characterised, especially at the beginning of the Schuyler sisters! What was really special about Christine Allado’s performance was when she took on the role of Maria Reynolds. Say No To This is a pivotal song in the musical, detailing Hamilton’s cheating on Eliza, and this is the song that really showed off her voice! There are some very long, sustained and powerful notes in this song, and Allado definitely delivered!

The Ensemble

A lot of the time, you focus on where the action is, the main characters singing and doing whatever. However, the ensemble are so important in Hamilton, and I spent a lot of time actually watching them instead of what was going on! They are what really make the visualisation of the soundtrack real, and to be able to hold harmonies in the big group numbers was insane! The choreography was absolutely fantastic, I couldn’t fault a single one of them, they were always in character and always in perfect synchronisation when they had to be! I always wanted to play a main role when I did musical productions, but I would happily be in the ensemble of Hamilton over any main role, just for that choreography!

Summary

Overall, Hamilton makes my top 3 musicals of all time (it was up there before seeing it, but it just superglued it’s place)! I couldn’t fault it at all. It made me feel all of the emotions, it made me so happy, it made me laugh, it made me hysterically sob (pretty much from Burn onwards), but I cannot recommend seeing it enough (if you can get hold of tickets!), and I really can’t put into words how magnificent it is! If you have tickets to see it already, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did (just take plenty of tissues, you’ll need them!)

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Categories
Discussion Posts

How I Make Time For Reading…

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Hello fellow bookworms! It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. To be quite honest with you, I felt my previous discussion topics for this month wasn’t really exciting me to write, so I’m just winging it for now until I find my feet. I’m back at uni, and being in my final year means I’m already drowning in work, so I thought today’s post should be something I’m thinking about a lot lately… how am I going to find time to read? People often say ‘how to you find the time to read that many books?’, but I don’t find time, I make time. I AM THE CREATOR OF TIME! Honestly though, if you want to be reading 50+ books in a year, you have to make time to sit and read, and not just read as a last resort. Here are some of the ways I make time in my busy schedule for the all important literature in my life…

Read During Breakfast

I know a lot of people don’t eat breakfast, but I wake up hungry, so eating is one of the first things I do in the morning. While I’m having my morning toast and cup of tea, I like to immerse myself in a book. I wake up slightly earlier than I need to, so I can make sure I have plenty of time to do this, even if it’s just a few pages. Some people I’ve spoken to don’t like reading and eating because they get crumbs in their book, but I have become skilled at avoiding this. Practice makes perfect (I’ve learnt this after staining several books with Marmite!) It’s also great for when you’re home alone and don’t really have anything else to do during meal times (I used to read whilst eating lunch and dinner as well when I was living away from home).

Read in the Bath

I tend to only bath once a week now (and before you say it, yes, I do shower every day, I don’t just wash once a week!) but it provides great time for reading! What else are you going to do sitting in a bath? If I’m really into a book, and don’t really have a lot else going on, I can allow myself 40 mins to 1 hour just chilling in the water with a novel. Doing this once a week is great for some alone time as well, and time away from any work/school worries you may have. Grab some nice bath oils or take a trip to Lush for a bath bomb, and immerse yourself in bubbles and a really good book!

Be Early

I leave for uni in the morning at 7:30AM, and arrive between 8:30 and 8:45, depending on traffic. My classes don’t start until 10AM, but if I don’t get there early, I can wave goodbye to any chance of getting a parking space! This is perfect for me though, because it means I can either go to the library to get some work done, or spend and hour and a half sitting in my car catching up on some reading. Pack a pillow and spread out on the back seat, cherish the peacefulness of your vehicle, and get reading! This is the same being early for anything. If I’m early for work, I can chill in the staff room with my book, or meeting a friend, there will always be time for a few pages if they’re running late!

AudioBooks

A few months ago, this heading would never have made an appearance in a post like this, but I have recently come to the conclusion that audiobooks are remarkable things. I found I could never really concentrate on them if I was doing something else, and this is still partly true. However, walking to work takes about half an hour (perfect for a chapter or two), and as I said earlier, it takes me a good hour, if not longer, to drive to uni. That’s an extra 2 hours of ‘reading’ a day that I’m getting through, without having to pick up a book! Some people don’t count it towards actual reading, and I never used to, but it’s pretty much exactly the same, instead of reading the words, your listening to someone else read them for you. It’s just like to listening to your own voice reading them in your head… kind of! I know my way to uni like the back of my hand now, so apart from concentrating on traffic and what’s going on on the road, I can still pay attention to the story playing through my radio. It’s also much more preferable to listening to music I’ve heard several thousand times over (apart from Hamilton, no one gets sick of listening to Hamilton!)

Read in the Evening

Dedicate your day to working. Get all of your school work done during the day, and commit to as little or as much time as you want, so then, when it comes to the evening, you don’t feel guilty about snuggling down in bed early with your current read. Don’t laugh at me, but most days, I can be in bed by 8PM, which gives me a good 2 hours before I have to think about going to sleep. I know that I’ve worked my socks off during the day, and this is my treat at the end of it!

So all in all, let’s break down how much potential reading time I have in my day, as well as keeping up with uni work (not counting the bath, I’m not lucky enough to have the luxury of time every day!):

Breakfast- 30 mins

Being Early- 1 hour

Car Journey- 2 hours

Evening- 2 hours

So even with my packed schedule, I can still have a good 5 and half hours of reading in the day. I’m not saying I get that every day, because life gets in the way sometimes, and I’m sure I’m not the first to admit I get addicted to YouTube from time to time, or have TV binges once in a while, but this is a good aim for me to have, and of course, weekends sometimes open up the possibility to get more reading done!

I hope you have found this post somewhat insightful, and maybe thought about some new ways you can incorporate more reading time into your day. Would love to know if you have any extra tips for me on how you fit reading into your daily routine; let me know in the comments below!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Categories
Discussion Posts

Armchair Reading… Furniture in Bookish Spaces

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… a sneak peak into where we acquire our books and what makes us keep going back!

Hello fellow bookworms! It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This month, I will be trying to dig deeper into why we choose to buy our books from certain places, and what, besides the books(!) makes us keep going back. Today’s post will look at how furniture is used in full-price and second-hand bookstores and libraries, and why it might make a difference as to whether we visit again…

Waterstones

I’m using Waterstones as my representative for full-price bookstores because it is the one I am the most familiar with, but you can always imagine this as your local Barnes and Noble, or local independent bookstore. When I walk into Waterstones, besides being awed by the number of books available to me, I also see the comfort of a squishy armchair or sofa. This is great (because we can all agree that book shopping can hard work and heavy lifting!) as it allows customers to relax and makes for a more comfortable and homely atmosphere. Also, a lot of Waterstones shops have the addition of a cafe, so, after making a purchase, or if you’ve bought your own book along with you, you can sit back and enjoy your book with a nice cup of tea, while still being surrounded by all of those wonderful books. It it also a great chance to socialise with other book lovers (and perfect for book club meetings)!

Second-hand Bookstores

If you go to a charity shop in hope of a book bargain, you may see a lack of seating. It is, like many second-hand stores, just like a regular shop. You wouldn’t expect many places to have somewhere you can just sit down and have a cuppa, like Waterstones. Just like thrift stores dedicated to books, it is unusual to find places with adequate seating, because they are usually s crammed with books! This can be a good thing, because come on, loads of books, but after you’ve spent hours upon hours rooting through the jumble, there’s no where to have a perch! It comes across as a less relaxed style of shopping, and a more hectic, bargain hunting process. You’ve come to find cheap books, not to spend hours at your leisure browsing the beautiful bookshelves. Of course, I’m not saying that this applies to every second-hand bookstore, but this is just my experience with them. And don’t get me wrong, I do love a good rummage through the old stacks!

The Library

And finally, the place we all adored as young bookworms, and still have a fondness for today (because, hello, free books)! The library is not there to attract book buyers, but rather a relaxed browser who can be set to spend the whole day there (I have lost count of how many times I have spent the entire day in the library). And the reason this can be the case is because of the furniture and why it is there. The library offers a wide range of books, fiction and non fiction alike. They are free for you to browse at will and take home for a few weeks with the presentation of your library card. However, sometimes it’s nice to not have to take books home. With beanbags for the children, chairs for the adults, and desks for the students, anyone can set themselves up for a day at the library. As long as I have everything I need, I am more than happy to sit and work while surrounded by books!

So there you have it, an examination of furniture is bookish places. I bet you’ve never really thought about it much, but here it is in writing, and you may think of it every time you visit the bookstore or the library from now on. I’d love to know what you thought about this post, and if you think the soft furnishings of your local bookstore impact your decision to go back (besides the books, of course!) Also, if you’ve come across any second-hand bookstores with an ample amount of armchairs, I’d love to hear about them!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Categories
Discussion Posts

Where on Earth Did You Get All Those Books?

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… a sneak peak into where we acquire our books and what makes us keep going back!

Hello fellow bookworms! It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. Here we are again, at the beginning of a new month, bringing you a new topic for my September discussions. For the next few weeks, I will be trying to dig deeper into why we choose to buy our books from certain places, and what, besides the books(!) makes us keep going back. Today’s post will look at the four main places I, and many others, tend to acquire books, and the pros and cons for each!

‘Full-Priced’ Bookstores

So I’m talking about your local Waterstones or Barnes and Noble, but also the indie bookstores that are scattered about as well.

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Pros

  • Staff that know what they are talking about
  • Books perfectly organised into categories
  • Gorgeous smell of new books!
  • Almost always have the book you are looking for

Cons

  • Full-priced books are expensive
  • You will probably be tempted into buying one anyway
  • The bigger ones you can easily spend hours in and lose track of time
  • They’re just so damn expensive

Second-hand Bookstores

I love a good second hand store, especially the ones that are entirely dedicated to books, but also the ones that give back and raise money for charity! However, there are some issues…

Pros

  • Your purchase tends to go to a good cause
  • You can usually donate books you unhaul as well as buying them
  • Books are cheaper
  • You can come across some gems and hidden treasures sometimes!
  • Old book smell!

Cons

  • The books aren’t brand new (usually)
  • There isn’t a wide selection, it’s just what’s been donated
  • It’s less organised and you have to really rummage sometimes
  • Can be crammed and packed-full, making it difficult to move

Online Stores

Amazon, Book Depository, the websites we love and know our way around too well, the ones that are bookmarked on our browsers! Online is such a convenient way to shop without having to leave the house (big hooray for introverts like me!)

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Pros

  • Books are usually cheaper than the recommended retail price
  • They are still brand new, despite being cheaper
  • There seems to be an endless supply
  • You don’t have to leave the house
  • Finding a book is easier than ever!
  • You can eBooks and Audiobooks if that’s your thing

Cons

  • No book smell at all!
  • You have to wait for the book to be delivered (even with Amazon Prime, the wait can be excruciating!)
  • No staff to talk about books
  • It’s easy to get carried away with online shopping…

The Library

Ah yes, the library! The place where books of all shapes, sizes and genres, are free! I can’t think of anything better than a free book (or 5…)

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Pros

  • You don’t have to pay for the books
  • Depending on the size of the library, there is a wide range to choose from
  • Organised so well it makes me want to marry the Dewey Decimal System!
  • Librarians are so helpful
  • You can access more than just books (many libraries now offer online audiobook and eBook services, as well as DVDs and CDs)

Cons

  • You can only borrow books for a limited amount of time
  • LATE FEES!
  • Your local library might be small and not have everything you want 😦

So that’s it for the start of this month’s bookish discussion! Please feel free to add to my pros and cons list as you wish, there are probably plenty that I have missed! Next week I’ll be talking about how furniture is used in the 3 physical stores mentioned here and why it might tempt you back again and again…

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

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Discussion Posts Quotations in Literature

A Few Favourites…Discussing Quotes in Literature

 

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Hello fellow bookworms! It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives.

Throughout August, I will be talking about quotations in literature, focusing on why they are so important to us as readers, and what we can do to make the most of these small snippets of literature in our everyday lives. Today’s post will be focused on some of my favourite quotes in literature and why they stand out to me so much, referring to what I've been discussing over the past couple of weeks.

"Before I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."

 

To Kill A Mockingbird

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If anyone asks me, this is my favourite quote from all literature I've read. Ever! From the moment I read it for the first time, it took my breath away, I was so struck by such a beautifully written quote. The last part of the quote really embodies what I love about reading. Books and reading are part of and a natural part of what I do. Without books, I don't know where I would be. However, I wouldn't go as far as to say I've never loved to read, but you get the gist!

"To really be a nerd, she'd decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one."

 

Fangirl

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I feel like this quote isn't talking about stereotypical of nerds collectively, but book nerds in particular. A lot of people read to escape, so it's key to prefer the worlds you're reading about to feel the true effects of escapism. Another reason I love this quote is because it reminds me I fictional worlds I can go to if I'm not keen of reality at times. I have another quote in a bit which has a similar affect.

"My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations."

 

The Fault in Our Stars

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As a creative person, this quote is very important to me. I often have a brain full of whirring thoughts and ideas I can't quite put together, and this helps me to realise that the feeling is quite normal. It's also really nice to think of thoughts as stars, far away from being physically tangible, but still a spark of an idea in the darkness, especially when those thoughts are few and far between, as they often can be.

"Whether you come back page by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."

 

J.K. Rowling

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This quote isn't necessarily from literature, but it is an important quote for me, I couldn't not include it! Like the Fangirl quote, it reminds me I have a second home and, if I'm not really enjoying reality, I have somewhere else to go. I can visit Hogwarts whenever I feel the need to. As readers, I think we are all very grateful to authors to have such an incredible world to escape to and be welcomed into.

"One must always be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us."

 

Clockwork Angel

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This final quote proves that books really do have a lot of influence over what we do, how we act, and how we conduct ourselves in society. I don't know about you, but I often take on small traits from characters I love in a book (*cough* Hermione Granger *cough*). We can sometimes underestimate the immense power that words have over us, and how much they can affect us emotionally. Book appear to just be words of a page, but they can be so much more (scientifically proven when we sob over fictional character's deaths!)

I'd love to know what your favourite quotes from book are, and why you love them so much!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

P.S I have hand cut paper bookmarks with the first two quotes on available in my Etsy shop!

Categories
Discussion Posts Stories

Stories: How to Study a Story and Why We Do It

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. Today is the final installment in the Stories collection, which aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. This week I wanted to discuss how we study stories and why it is important for us to practice it whilst reading, along with a few of my experiences…

How to Study a Story

Reading a novel is one thing. Studying a novel is completely different. You can take in the story and understand what is happening, but to study a story is to find learn how literature techniques have been used and how to they contribute to the overall meaning. When reading a story to study it, you need to read carefully, and be attentive to the smaller details in the writing, taking notes on what is happening, what has been spotted, so they can be referred back to a linked to other parts of the story. The question is what notes should be made? Character appearances and personalities are important for the understanding of relationships, recurring themes help us to understand what the book is telling us about the underlying meaning of the story, and author’s writing style helps to identify key features throughout the book. Also note key details and quotes in the story, which will help when recalling the chronology later on, or write chapter summaries. Note down any links found between events, characters or plot as they are found, and what is important about them.

This is just the surface of what notes need to be taken. When studying a story, we also need to think about close reading. This includes four stages in the process of understanding what the story is trying to tell us. These four stages are: Linguistic, Semantic, Structural and Cultural. Linguistic is making notes about aspects of the vocabulary and syntax, and how the dialogue in the book is written. Semantic is thinking about what the words actually mean, and finding connotations within them. Structural is the relationships between the words and other words used in the same context, or in relation to characters or plot points. Cultural is thinking outside the text itself, and how it relates to other writing by the same author, or within the same genre, or points in history.

My Experience

When completing this project, I wanted to try and record my feelings towards certain parts of the books, as well as researching them in a more academic sense. This was a lot more difficult to do, as I find myself really getting into why the author has written in a certain way. I started with reading The Fault in Our Stars, and the amount of notes I took in the first chapter was extraordinary! I found myself picking apart every sentence and trying to figure out why John Green had structured his sentences in certain ways, and why he had chosen that particular vocabulary. Once I had narrowed down my field of research to character relationships and symbols, it was so much easier to pick bits out and find relevant information that I could use. I continued to do this selective method of research, while still paying to attention to the overall story for context, and it made a massive difference, as I was able to easily look back over my notes and find what I was looking for, without having to read through tons of irrelevant findings.

Why is it important to study literature?

My biggest regret in life is not continuing English Lit after GCSE level, because literature is such a passion of mine now, and looking back, I know my reasonings were pathetic. However, I still practice the study of literature through reading my own books, when I review them, and when I discuss them with other people. There is a surface level you can read a book on, and that is understanding the plot and the characters. For me, this just isn’t enough to satisfy my bookworm cravings. I think it’s so important to look for symbolism, character relationships, atmosphere and dialogue (to name a few!) because as soon as you do, the story comes to life even more than it did before. I have read The Fault in Our Stars a total of 5 times, and I am still amazed at what I learn when I try and think a little bit deeper about what is happening on a particular page. Going back to literature that we’ve already read, and just reading a little bit closer, can really open up a brand new perspective. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was another book I read for about the 5th time, and I was shocked that there were some pieces of dialogue that had never caught my attention, but supplied crucial foreshadowing to the final few books.
To wrap this post, and the Stories post collection up, I wanted to send a message to all of you who read for pleasure, and devour your books in one sitting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, I often enjoy partaking myself, but next time you really want to have a reread of your favourite novel, just sit and cherish the words and what the author is trying to say to you. Think about recurring symbolism, the relationships between characters, and what they mean, because you may just uncover something new!

Until next time…
Jade 🙂

Categories
Discussion Posts Stories

Stories: To Kill a Mockingbird

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. Today is the last essay installment in the Stories collection, which aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. I will have a final post to wrap the collection up next week, but for now, here is the final essay in the Stories series…

To Kill a Mockingbird

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In which we explore Scout and Boo’s relationship with regards to The Radley House

Scout and Boo’s relationship differs slightly from others in this collection, because Boo doesn’t make a physical appearance until the end of the book. However, there are ways we can see their relationship developing without being fully introduced to Boo. Scout Finch is our narrator throughout the story. She lives with her brother, Jem, her father, Atticus, and their nurse and cook, Calpurnia. She is a young girl, the story beginning aged 6, and ending aged 9, and she is very independent in how she thinks and feels about certain things, such as racism and gender tradition. Boo Radley is a neighbour of the Finches and is known for never leaving his house, and is often described as a hermit. He is assumed to be mentally unstable, and goes out only at nights to hunt and eat squirrels and cats. Most blame him for unexplainable happenings in the county of Maycomb, where the novel is set. Boo and Scout are neighbours. Scout develops, to some extent, an obsession with Boo Radley, and her and Jem often try and get him to leave his house. The Radley House is an important symbol in this relationship. It symbolises fear and mystery, particularly through the depth of description, paired with character assumptions of Boo. The house has a tree on it’s threshold, which comes into play later in the novel.
Boo and Scout don’t actually meet until the end of the book, but their relationship is prominent from the very beginning. Despite not ever meeting, Scout is infatuated with the man who never leaves his house, and with the rumours floating around about him. Deep down, she wants to know if he is truly as others say he is. They describe him as an ‘unknown entity’ and a ‘malevolent phantom’, but they do not know his honest character. The Radley House is introduced in the first chapter, being described as ‘jutted’, ‘darkened’ and ‘drunkenly guarded’. This gives it a very gothic vibe, not unlike a haunted house. The idea of Boo being a ghostly figure supports this. This shows that Boo’s personality is supposedly reflected through the house’s appearance. Scout trusting other’s opinions about Boo and his house also brings in the theme of innocence, and how Scout has not matured enough to fully form her own opinions at the beginning of the book. The children are scared of the Radley House, because they believe terrible things happen to people who cross the threshold, which is why Boo Radley is the way he is. The main connection between Scout and Boo here is the house, as it is the only physical representation of Boo as a character. This is the only thing that Scout has to judge Boo on, and because of the way the house is described, the judgement is not a good one, but neither is it fair. The idea of prejudice shines through here, which becomes a main theme through the later trial of Tom Robinson, but it is clear that Scout is judging Boo solely on appearance. However, instead of this being a case of black and white, it is the appearance of a physical object, rather than a person.

Boo begins to leave presents in a hole in the tree of the Radley House threshold. These gifts include chewing gum, coins and medals. Through this, the Radley House continues to be a part of Scout’s life, but instead of just through her figurative imaginings of Boo inside the house, there is now a physical connection. The gifts are one of the main things that connect Boo and Scout in the book. It brings Boo to life, rather than just being a ‘phantom’ in a house, by representing himself in the objects. Miss Maudie, another neighbour of the Finches, tells the story of Boo’s childhood, and how he was under the strict supervision of his father, which led people to believe Boo became crazy being honed up inside. Again, this brings Boo’s character to life more, and the house becomes a device for why people think of Boo as crazy. Scout is excluded from the fun when Jem and a friend, Dill, plan to try and touch the Radley House. She isn’t involved because she is seen as too young. This turns the house into a symbol of maturity, and how it shows the difference in the innocence of Scout, and the slightly more mature nature of Jem and Dill. This idea is extended later in the novel. After the thrill that comes from touching the Radley House, Scout and Jem find carved soap figures in the tree as a final gift. This shows the house continuing to be bought to life through the personalised soap figures, as they are carved into the shape of the two children, and again makes Boo seem more human and connected to the world, and Scout in particular.

After the gifts in the tree cease to appear, Boo is hardly mentioned, as the story turns it’s attention to the trial of Tom Robinson, the main plot point in the book. After the trial, Scout points out that her fear of the Radley Hosue has decreased, or ceased to exist entirely. This shows that Scout is growing up and becoming more mature, particularly after being exposed to a more adult world through the trial. This also goes back to a point made earlier about how the Radley House, or fear of the Radley House, can be an indicator of innocence developing into maturity, especially in Scout’s character. Her lack of interest in the house could also show that she as begun to respect Boo’s privacy, another way of showing she has matured through what she has experienced in the trial. In the final chapters of the book, Jem and Scout are attacked by Bob Ewell, who is the father of the young girl who Tom Robinson is accused of raping. Boo rescues the children from Mr Ewell, and takes them home. When in the Finch’s home, he is described as a fragile man with a ‘thin frame’, meaning it must have taken great strength for him to save the children. This shows he is a kind and courageous man, and nothing like anyone described him to be. With the appearance of Boo Radley, and Scout coming to a full understanding of who he is, her decreased fear of the Radley House is suddenly explainable. She is growing up, and has come to respect Boo a lot more. After everything settles down after the attack, Scout walks Boo home. She stands on the threshold of the house, but instead of looking towards it like she used to, she looks out from it, onto the street. She is finally found a moral connection with Boo, seeing things from his eyes. As her father once said, “you can never really understand person until you consider things from his point of view” (Lee, 31). Scout now understands why Boo liked to stay inside, because she has experienced the prejudice in the town, and understands why he wouldn’t want to be a part of that.

To conclude, Boo and the Radley House help the reader to realise the growth in Scout’s maturity throughout the novel. Scout’s relationship is always there in the background of the story, and is occasionally mentioned, the majority of the time in relation to her growing up. Despite not being fully introduced to Boo’s character, we see a major development, from what he was assumed to be at the beginning, to what he ends up actually being in the end. This is the perfect way to show prejudice, and how people assume to be something because of the way they live. This is how Scout sees Boo, and as she matures, and is faced with the problem of prejudice, so does her opinion of Boo. The Radley House, and Scout’s relationship with Boo, develops from being a symbol of fear, to a way of measuring Scout’s maturity levels.

If anyone has any thoughts on anything written here, then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, as it will be very interesting to see what others have found when reading this particular book.

Seeing as this is the final installment in this (very exciting) collection of essays, here is a small conclusion to round up everything I’ve spoken about over the past four weeks.

Conclusion

This essay collection was comprised to explore character relationships, and how they can be developed over the course of the novel, as well as looking closer at narrative theories and symbolism. They successfully communicate how each of the separate character connections are formed, developed and closed, through the use of one main physical symbol.

If each of these essays can prove that physical symbols play an important part in character relationships, then we can track this across a wider range of literature. This is just a small selection of books, part of a much larger collection. Each of the stories referenced in these essays are from a different genre; modern classic, children’s fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult fiction. Even in this wide group of genres, the formula can still be applied. How characters come together can be tracked back to something physical in their lives, that plays a big part in the overall narrative. But what does this tell us about other books? Surely if this is proof, we can start to see the formula in action in every book we read. For example, Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester’s relationship can be symbolised by the chestnut tree, or how Gatsby and Daisy’ relationship can be symbolised by the green light across the water.

Each of these separate essays tell a story; the story of a relationship developing. The importance is how they come together to communicate a broader narrative. Collaboratively, they show how readers can begin to find links in the books that are part of their own reading journey, and teaches about the importance of using symbolism in literature.

Next week I will be discussing how I went about studying the stories I read for this project, what I have learnt from my experience, and how I want to apply it to my reading in the future.

Until next time…
Jade 🙂

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Discussion Posts Stories

Stories: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This collection of discussion posts is called Stories, and aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. Here is the next installment in the Stories series…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

In which we explore Harry and Voldemort’s relationship with regards to Harry’s Scar

Harry and Voldemort’s relationship is probably the most complex relationship in this collection, as it has the chance to fully develop over a series of 7 books. However, how their relationship first comes to existence is crucial to the story of the first book, and can be explored in it’s own way. Harry is an orphan, who grows up in the Muggle (non-wizarding) world, until, on his 11th birthday, he is informed by half-giant Hagrid that he is a wizard. He has been accepted to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he meets fellow wizard Ron, and witch Hermione, who stay with him and form a strong bond together over the 7 books. Voldemort is known as one of the darkest wizards of all time. He was the one responsible for the death of both James and Lily Potter; Harry’s parents. Voldemort attempted to kill Harry, but failed when the killing curse rebounded and he supposedly died. We find out later that he is just without his body, and his soul has to latch on to another live being to continue surviving. Of course, Harry and Voldemort are arch enemies. We find out later in the series that there was a prophecy spoken about them, which explains that neither can live while the other survives. The main challenge that each face throughout the series is trying to kill the other. However, in the first book, Harry is only just beginning his journey to find out everything about this new world, and is presented with his nemesis that he must eventually defeat. There are several things that connect these two enemies across the series, but the main symbol we are introduced to in Philosopher’s Stone is Harry’s scar. It remains throughout the 7 books as a representation of Harry’s fame, and how he is recognisable as the only known wizard to survive a killing curse, making him somewhat of a celebrity. However, there are deeper meanings and problems behind the scar that are further explored as the story progresses.

At the beginning of the novel, we learn about the murder of Harry’s parents, committed by Voldemort. When he then tries to kill Harry, Voldemort unintentionally marks Harry with a lightning bolt shaped scar, not truly understand why the curse didn’t kill Harry, and what happened when it rebounded. The scar here is believed to create a connection between the two characters, which is unknown to either of them until a lot later in the series. Voldemort doesn’t make a full appearance until further into the novel, because of what happened to him on the night his curse failed, and some believe him to be dead. Before starting at Hogwarts, Harry journeys to Diagon Alley to get his wand, where he finds that the wand that has chosen him has a core similar with only one other wand, which belonged to Voldemort. This was the wand that gave Harry his scar, which helps us as the reader to start to see the connection between them forming. Harry doesn’t encounter any problems with his scar until he starts at Hogwarts. On the night of the start of term feast, Harry gets a burning sensation in his scar when Professor Quirrell has his back to him. We learn later that Voldemort is living in Quirrell, and Quirrell’s turban is hiding Voldemort’s face on the back of his head. This is the first time Harry feels pain in his scar, showing how Harry will come to experience pain whenever Voldemort is close or particularly powerful at the time, the fact of which is fully uncovered later in the series. Knowing this, it foreshadows the end of the first book when we find out about Voldemort’s soul latched on to Quirrell. That night, Harry has a dream about Quirrell’s turban, which foreshadows what it is hiding underneath. This could also suggest development later in the series when Harry starts having dreams connected to what Voldemort is doing, and find his dreams being somewhat controlled. This begins to show their connection through using the idea in the first book, and also points to why the scar provides the connection it does, which is the Horcrux that Voldemort accidentally left in Harry when he cast the killing curse.

As the novel continues, there are only subtle mentions of Voldemort, but the story mainly focuses on Harry and his first year adventures. However, when Harry, Hermione, Draco and Neville are taken into the Forbidden Forest on detention, a discovery is made. Voldemort is using Quirrell and going into the forest to kill unicorns and drink their blood, which offers you eternal life, albeit a cursed one. Harry experiences intense pain in his scar when they encounter Voldemort hovering over a dead unicorn, showing the connection between them whenever Voldemort is close to Harry. It also shows that Voldemort is getting stronger through drinking the unicorn blood, and therefore become more powerful. The pain in Harry’s scar continues even when Quirrell isn’t around, such as when Harry is sitting his exams, which further supports how Voldemort has gotten stronger through Quirrell and drinking the unicorn blood. Harry states that he thinks “it’s a warning… it means dangers coming” (Rowling, 192), showing Harry beginning to understand the severity of the situation he and his fellow wizards and witches face if Voldemort were to return. This takes us to the final chapter of the first book, when Harry faces Voldemort for the second time in his life.

Harry meets Quirrell when he is attempting to steal the Philosopher’s Stone for Voldemort, which would provide him with eternal life that is not cursed from unicorn blood. Quirrell asks Harry where the stone is, and after using the Mirror of Erised, a magical mirror provided by Dumbledore as a barrier to the stone, it appears in Harry’s pocket. When Harry is questioned, he insists he doesn’t know where the stone is, but Voldemort can tell he is lying. This could be through the connection they have through the scar. When Voldemort instructs Quirrell to attack Harry, and they come into contact, it causes Harry extreme pain, which solidifies that the connection was definitely between him and Voldemort, and the pain is caused when he is close, and is increased in severity the closer or more powerful he gets. However, Voldemort is unable to have Harry touch him, because of a protection Harry has from his mother, something that Voldemort will never understand. Love. This becomes an extremely important protective shield through the first half of the series.

In summary, the first novel in the Harry Potter series builds a strong foundation for Harry and Voldemort’s relationship to continue growth and development. The introduction of the scar is imperative in understanding how the two characters have a more magical connection, and how Harry will learn how to develop that connection over the rest of the series. The most important part of this first book is establishing the relationship between these two long term enemies and learning how they are connected, as well as showing how Harry’s scar will become a key symbol throughout the following 6 books, particularly with it’s clear link to one of the darkest wizards of all time.

If anyone has any thoughts on anything written here, then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, as it will be very interesting to see what others have found when reading this particular book.

Until next time…
Jade 🙂

Categories
Discussion Posts Stories

Stories: The Book Thief

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This new collection of discussion posts is called Stories, and aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. Here is the next installment in the Stories series…

The Book Thief

In which we explore Liesel and Hans’ relationship with regards to the Accordion

 Liesel and Hans have an important relationship, although it is one that takes a while to come into full fruition. Liesel is a young girl, who loses her parents and is taken away with her brother to live with her new foster family, the Hubermanns. Her brother, however, does not survive the journey. Liesel continues to grow up in Germany during the time of Hitler’s dictatorship. Hans is a Hubermann, and end up being Liesel’s adoptive father. He is very much against the Nazi Party and everything Hitler stands for. Hans paints houses for a living, and plays the accordion. The accordion is symbolic throughout the novel for many reasons, and is part of many character relationships. For the benefit of Liesel’s relationship with Hans, it symbolises comfort, and is a form of distraction in tough times. As the book progresses, the relationship between Liesel and Hans develops, as does the symbolism of the accordion. Not only does it represent comfort, but it also becomes a representation of Hans himself, particularly in the later parts of the book when Liesel is older, and Hans goes off to war. Whatever the accordion symbolises, it plays a crucial part in the development of Liesel and Han’ relationship.

Hans is first introduced when Liesel refuses to get out the car when she arrives on Himmel Street. He is the only one who seems to get through to Liesel, and manages to persuade her to join them, establishing an immediate trust between the two characters. Shortly after arriving, Liesel has nightmares about her brother who dies on the journey to Himmel Street, and Hans comes to her side to comfort her with his accordion, which is when this instrument is first introduced into their relationship. Hans learns of a book she acquired at her brother’s funeral, The Gravedigger’s Handbook, but finds she cannot read. Hans himself isn’t the best reader, so they begin to learn together. As their relationship develops in it’s earlier stages, Hans continues to play the accordion for Liesel in particularly distressing moments, such as when she realises her mother is not going to answer the letters she writes. 
We learn how Hans came about owning the accordion, through a friend during World War I. Hans brings Max- his friend’s son, and a Jew- to Himmel Street, and him and Liesel form a very strong bond. Due to Hans’ possession of the accordion, Liesel gains a loving friend in Max and, in a way, Hans gave Liesel someone who would always be there for her as long as he remained hidden.

The accordion, in these first steps of Hans and Liesel’s relationship, is when it keeps it’s surface symbolism of comfort established in the introductory paragraph. 

Over the course of the novel, Hans and Liesel’s relationship grows ever stronger. Hans is called to paint windows to create blackouts for residents when the air raids come to Himmel Street. Liesel goes to work with him, and he takes his accordion to have easy access to a form of entertainment, especially during these darker times. The music brings Liesel and Hans closer, giving them something to bond over. Liesel has developed a particular fondness for books by this point in the novel, and can understand what music means to Hans through her love of books, and how reading makes her feel. When the air raids begin in Himmel Street, they have to relocate to closest shelter on the street. Hans leaves his beloved accordion behind, possibly for Max to have some comfort when he is left behind, not being able to leave the house. It could also be because Hans has come to trust Liesel to create her own distractions though reading. Again, this shows how the two have managed to translate each others feelings through their own sources of comfort. Liesel has learnt how to appreciate having her own source of serenity through Hans and his accordion.

Hans is eventually called off to war, leaving Liesel and Rosa, Liesel’s adopt mother, behind. He leaves his accordion, to provide them both with a memory of him. The accordion begins to act as a symbol of him, as well as a symbol of comfort. Hans asks Liesel to take care of his accordion, as a way of telling her to stay positive and strong. Liesel “lifted the accordion from it’s case and polished it…she placed her finger on one of the keys and softly pumped the bellows…It only made the room feel emptier.” (Zusak, 444), showing Hans is there in spirit, but the instrument cannot fully resurrect his presence, and they cannot play it with the expertise that Hans does.

Hans returns from the war, which is closely followed by an unannounced air raid on Himmel Street, in which Hans and Rosa both die. Liesel is protected as she is down in the basement writing. Despite it being deemed too shallow to be a proper shelter, it seemed to be enough for her to survive. Hans’ death draws a close to Liesel and Han’s relationship. Hans leaves his accordion behind when he dies, almost like a reminder of him for Liesel. This continues to support the idea from when Hans went to war, and the instrument came to symbolise him directly. The accordion is described as “an unhappy-looking accordion, peering through it’s eaten case” (Zusak 502), which could translate to how Hans has died, therefore so has the accordion. The novel uses a flashback to take the reader through the events leading up to the deadly bombing on Himmel Street. Hans sits with Liesel and plays the accordion as she writes in her notebook. She describes the accordion as ‘breathing’, giving it a final lease of life before it is destroyed, just like Hans spending those last moments with her before he dies. The flashback also solidifies the idea of the accordion appearing as a symbol of Hans, when Liesel says “sometimes I think my papa is an accordion” (Zusak, 531). The ultimate destruction of the accordion symbolises not just the death of Hans, but also the comfort ceasing to exist in Liesel’s life as her foster parents are taken from her in death, and expressing the end of Liesel and Hans’ relationship.
In conclusion, the accordion is extremely important, particular it’s symbolic meaning through the later parts of the story. The accordion provides comfort for Liesel and Hans, especially in times of need, and this feeling is transferred later into Liesel’s love of books and reading. Later, it comes to be a symbol of Hans, and stands in his place as somewhat of a father figure for Liesel, not necessarily as a person, but what it represents in her life. When Hans dies, the accordion follows in his footsteps, stripping Liesel of all happiness and comfort in a cruel way. Being constantly personified throughout the novel, described as ‘breathing’ and ‘having teeth’, the instrument becomes like a third character in a relationship built on belief and trust.

If anyone has any thoughts on anything written here, then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, as it will be very interesting to see what others have found when reading this particular book.

Until next time…
Jade 🙂

Categories
Discussion Posts Stories

Stories: The Fault in Our Stars

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It’s the first Sunday of July, which means it’s time for a new discussion series. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This new collection of discussion posts is called Stories, and aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. Here is the first official installment to the Stories series…

The Fault in Our Stars

In which we explore Hazel and Augustus’ relationship with regards to An Imperial Affliction

Hazel and Augustus have what one might call a ‘love at first sight’ relationship, but it consists of so much more than their love for each other. Hazel is a teenage girl suffering from leukemia, and is our narrator throughout the novel. Augustus, or Gus, is a teenage boy who is introduced to us as being in remission after suffering with osteosarcoma. They meet at a cancer support group, and it is clear that they instantly have a connection. They begin dating, and become each other’s support during tough times throughout their lives, particularly Hazel’s terminal illness, and eventually Gus’ as well. Gus relapses and eventually dies after a lot of suffering and termination of chemotherapy. As for the ultimate binding of their relationship, that is all thanks to An Imperial Affliction, the metanovel in The Fault in Our Stars, that Hazel sees as her ‘personal bible’. It accurately translates her life- how she feels about her illness and how it will affect the people around her- into a relatable story. Soon after they meet, she shares this novel with Augustus, as a way of describing her ‘story’, not the story of her diagnosis, but her ‘real story’, what she really enjoys in life. Augustus is determined to read An Imperial Affliction, and after doing so, Hazel and Gus bond over the sincere messages and important themes throughout the book, and how they have come to work in both of their lives. They decide to contact, and eventually get the chance to meet, the author of the novel for answers about how the characters continue with their lives after the book. This becomes extremely important for how An Imperial Affliction works as a symbol that is in constant motion throughout Hazel and Gus’ relationship.

Hazel and Gus connect instantly when they meet at support group. After some smooth yet somehow awkward seduction on Gus’ part, they both go back to his house and end up swapping their favourite books, which means Hazel has to tell Gus about An Imperial Affliction. Through this, while Gus gets a taste of Hazel’s world, Hazel gets a taste of Gus’, through reading his favourite series ‘Counterinsurgence’. Once Gus has finished reading AIA, he completely understands how it reflects a life ridden with illness, and shows his affection for the novel by discussing it in great depth with Hazel. It is here that they realise they share the same, and some contrasting, beliefs about life philosophies. After the realisation that they both want answers to some things in the novel, Gus manages to email the assistant of Peter Van Houten, who is the author of AIA. This shows how much he cares not just for the book, but also for Hazel, because she previously mentions not being able to contact him in any way.

An Imperial Affliction begins, and in a way remains, as a form of comfort and support for Hazel. Putting it in this role not only means Hazel can draw real value from what is written in the book, but also means it becomes a guide to another source of support which we see in Augustus. In a way, having someone to share AIA with makes her beliefs in the content, and it’s value, stronger for her. Most people understand fiction as just a story, but we can see that AIA definitely has more value, through how Hazel uses it as some sort of ‘personal bible’ for living with her illness, but also showing how fiction can bring people together and bring joy to people’s lives. The value of the fiction becomes stronger in these circumstances because Hazel and Gus both have limited time with each other.

Hazel and Gus journey to Amsterdam to meet Peter Van Houten in hope of answers about what happens to the characters at the end of An Imperial Affliction, particularly to those who are left behind after the protagonist dies. Unfortunately for Hazel, who has been longing for these answers for years, Van Houten turns out to be very unhelpful and quite rude. The summary of his discussion with Hazel and Gus is that AIA is ultimately a work of fiction, and that the characters cease to exist when the novel ends. Gus agrees to write Hazel a sequel, which he declares will be better than anything Van Houten could write. He then later reveals to Hazel that his cancer has come back quite seriously, and will be undergoing chemotherapy when they return from Amsterdam.

An Imperial Affliction is what brings Hazel and Gus to Amsterdam, which makes up quite a large chunk of the middle part of the novel. Their discussion with Van Houten is, on the surface, a failure, as they do not receive the answers they seek. However, the philosophies he speaks of helps them appreciate their life as an infinity, and how “some infinities are bigger than other infinities” (Green, 189). They learn that their relationships and, further from that, their lives, are just one personal infinity within and among larger ones. The ultimate reason why An Imperial Affliction is so important during the development of their relationship is because they want to get answers not just about the characters in the story, but the people in their story, and what will happen to them when Hazel and Gus die. An Imperial Affliction brings them closer through their shared interest of this, and also their awareness of how one death will affect the other person.

Gus begins to undergo treatment for his cancer as soon as they return from Amsterdam. Hazel stays by his side the entire time, and is one of the only people in his life who can truly sympathise with what he is going through, having gone through it herself, and continues to do so. Towards the end of Gus’ life, he asks Hazel to write him a eulogy. He wants to be able to read it before he dies, to know he has made a difference in her life. Her eulogy talks about how their relationship and their lives were infinities, and references how Van Houten was influential to what she has written. Her eulogy is weighted heavily with what Van Houten was trying to communicate to them, in a way which Hazel understands. We understand that An Imperial Affliction is a work of fiction, but clearly the value of fiction is tested again, through how Hazel talks about Gus’ life, and their relationship. We know now that the book has led them to Van Houten who gave them the answers they didn’t realise they wanted. Eight days after Gus hears what Hazel wrote, he dies. From this, Hazel gets the answers she has always been looking for, but not in the way she expected. She comes to learn what happens to your loved ones when you die, through first hand experience.

To summarise, An Imperial Affliction plays a very crucial role in Hazel and Gus’ relationship, and ultimately drives their storyline. It takes them on a journey for answers, and brings them closer together in the process. It leads Hazel to Augustus, and continues to be her guide through their relationship. An Imperial Affliction gives Gus to Hazel as it’s way of saying ‘everything you want answers to, you will get through Augustus’. It begins as a guide to Hazel’s life specifically, and ends as something that has led her to a life where she will find out what will happen when she dies, which is Hazel’s main goal in the story. The novel brings Hazel and Gus together, and helps them to realise how important their lives are, despite having less time than most others. As Hazel says, Gus ‘gave me forever within numbered days’.

If anyone has any thoughts on anything written here, then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, as it will be very interesting to see what others have found when reading this particular book.

Until next time…

Jade 🙂