Spring in Queen’s Park, and it’s time to turn over a new leaf…
The Flame Alphabet
Haunting literary novel of plague & language (Full Review Here…)
Wonderful environmental fable, Prize-shortlisted (Full Review Here…)
Captivating young reader’s fantasy sequel (Full Review Here…)
It struck us recently just how many of our recent staff recommendations could be described as either dark or depressing. So, Prozac at the ready, here are a few more suggestions to get you in the mood.
And bring Churchill’s black dog with you by all means, just as long as it’s well-behaved.
£7.99 / Canongate
Do you ever suffer from feelings of elation? Experience long periods of happiness? Well, I’ve got the perfect prescription to cure you of that…
Hunger by Knut Hamsun
To be taken three times a day (preferably with alcohol)
…and you’ll soon be immersed in the all-pervasive Nordic gloom of Nobel Prize Winner Hamsun’s first novel.
It’s (anti-)hero narrator seems to be engaged in a daily Catch-22 struggle against hunger: he can’t eat until he’s made some money from his writing, but he can’t write on an empty stomach.
Trapped in an endless cycle of poverty and hunger on the streets of Christiania (present-day Oslo), his every effort to escape appears to be thwarted by circumstance. Despair and disillusionment rapidly replace any optimism he may muster.
While he starves, we lucky readers can devour every word of this short novel (hardly more than a novella) and gorge on his depression and bleak outlook.
But if all this sounds too negative, let me just add that Hunger still ranks in my top 20 favourite novels of all time.
Penguin/ £8.99 / 9780141182896
Frequently described as a savage critique of bourgeouis society, Nobel-prize winner Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf has repeatedly been misunderstood by the literary community. The novel follows the inner pyschological journey of a depressive and highly disillusioned intellectual (it is often unclear whether the events have happened in reality or are simply a series of metaphors depicting his state of mind), whose quest for enlightenment, and release from his physical and mental ailments lead him into a dark, surreal world of debauchery and moral abandon.
In contrast to his more uplifting, yet equally engrossing novel, Siddartha, it is at the moment of imminent catharsis that the protaganist, Harry Haller (or wolf of the steps, as he refers to himself) is plunged into an abyss of ultra-confusion. Faced with the complete mingling of good and evil, the intellectually pure and the morally corrupt, Haller, and more importantly the reader, is left feeling utterly detached from the very notion of hope versus hopelessness.
‘What’s the point, then?’ you may ask, perhaps justifiably: Steppenwolf is the ultimate journey into the tortured spirit of a man who has tried desperately to find peace and understanding in the arts, music and literature, moral behaviour and honesty. Yet he is fully aware all the while that a ferocious, cynical beast lurks deep within him, snarling at any who look upon him. Such a beast dwells inside a great many of us; it howls at night in a voice that only the individual can hear, and yearns for utter seclusion, darkness, continuous melancholy, and last but not least, revelry in bitter pain.
(Or something like that… It could also be my stomach groaning, yearning for some relief from this horrific hangover…)
£8.99 / 9780141186887
Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a book depicting the desruction of one culture in order for another to take its place. The idea of the usurpation of African culture by white Christian values is the focal point of the book which is shown form the narrative point of view of Okonkwo, who many believe is a characterisation of Achebe himself. The book is hailed a mile stone for African literature due to its portrayal of a realistic, functioning society slowly taken over by a dominant society. The novel shows the clashes of generations, the opposing ideas of masculinity and femininity and how these clashes within a society can lead it to its downfall. The book has a cyclicar quality to it, the clashes between Okonkwo and his father are repeated once again when Okonkwo’s son goes against his wishes. The feelings of self deprecation and guilt within Okonkwo mirror the While outwardly book is about race and the plight of African people the themes of family and betrayal make the book more than a historical piece of writing. The frank, provocative and poignant descriptions make Things Fall Apart a deeply moving novel.