• Isabelle Osborne

A Year of Reading: February 22

And another month passes us by! This year, I'm tracking my reading on a monthly basis here on my blog, sharing my thoughts and reflections from the month.

I had a varied month of reading in February; I didn't finish all that many books, but I started quite a few that I'll be finishing over the next few months. All the following texts are for university, and as I come ever closer to my final examinations and to the end of my degree, I'll be tackling more uni-related books than 'personal' books until the end of May.

Short Stories from The Pit and the Pendulum: The Essential Poe, Edgar Allan Poe

Trigger warnings: violence, murder.

I plunged into the weird and (sometimes) wonderful world of Edgar Allan Poe this month for my 'American Literature to 1900' module, The short stories in the collection are:

- ‘The Balloon-Hoax.’

- ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.’

- ‘The Descent Into The Maelström.’

- ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue.’

- ‘The Purloined Letter.’

- ‘The Black Cat.’

- ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’

- ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’

- ‘The Masque of the Red Death.’

- ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’

- ‘William Wilson.’

- ‘Berenice.’

- ‘Ligeia.’

- ‘The Man of the Crowd.’

I thought ‘The Black Cat’, ‘William Wilson' and ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ were the front runners of this collection, with ‘The Masque of the Red Death' and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart' ranking highly too. However, I would not be inclined to say I loved any of these stories; often they were rather mind-boggling and not particularly enjoyable. That being said, Poe is a canonical author and a mastermind of the Gothic genre, so I was glad to have a reason to dive into his work.

'How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.'

Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

Trigger warnings: racism, violence, murder, suicide.

Behold - a stunning work of literature. This is my fourth Morrison novel (Beloved is one of my all-time favourite novels, whilst The Bluest Eye and Jazz are two I'm eager to return to), and it is an absolute masterpiece.

The novel follows the life and experiences of Macon 'Milkman' Dead III, and is set in 1930s America. Familial tensions and unanswered questions spark Milkman's quest to understand more about himself, his family and his heritage. Morrison commands control of her narrative and introduces us to different times and spaces with fleeting yet detailed energy. The temporal techniques deployed in this novel resonate with Baldwin's Go Tell It On The Mountain, and it remains ever unique in its ability to navigate the experiences and voices of a whole cast of characters so beautifully. This one is not my favourite Morrison (Beloved still holds the top spot), but it was an incredible experience and one I am so privileged to have had the opportunity to study as part of my degree. Morrison remains a force to be reckoned with.

"I wish I’d a knowed more people. I would a loved ‘em all. If I’d knowed more, I would a loved more."

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

Trigger warnings: violence, murder, suicide.

One of two novels that captured my creative attention and inspired me to journey on to study English at university, Wilde's only novel remains one of the most captivating and terrifying works of the English language. We follow the charismatic and curious Dorian Gray, who, after being exposed to Lord Henry's theories, wishes that he would stay young forever. Here after, Dorian's infamous portrait hosts his conscience and 'degradation of sin', and so unfolds a plot of corruption, crime and the demise of an innocent young man.

In both style and plot, Wilde created a work that will never, ever stop entertaining and intriguing readers across the world. His prose is careful yet flamboyant, his characters are expertly constructed, and the story is brilliantly twisted and detailed. Exceptional!

“I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose?"

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