Spinebreakers: Wreck This Journal

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Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

The returnedVerdict:
The idea of the dead rising back to life is one that has been targeted through many art forms. Our culture is currently obsessed with the ‘zombie’ genre, Brad Pitt’s latest endeavour ‘World War Z’ is a highlight of this. However, The Returned does not fall into this typical zombie category. Characters may be returning from the dead, but they are not brainless creatures with the sole ambition to kill the living; these ‘zombies’ have preserved the personalities of the bodies that they left one, ten or even fifty years ago. They can walk, talk and yes, they are on the hunt for their families.

Harold and Lucille have spent their breathing life stuck in a version of the living limbo since their eight year old son drowned in 1966. The couple receive a knock on the door one day and on their doorstep stands an agent, Martin Bellamy, and with him is a young boy, Jacob: their son. Although, Harold and Lucille aren’t the only ones experiencing a reunion with a deceased family member; the whole world is faced with the dead coming back to life.

This is not a novel of hows: How did Jacob die? How are the dead returning to Earth? How are some people coming back and others not? It is instead an experiment on how individuals will cope with seeing their loved ones, who they had accepted they would never look in the eye, again. It is a story about trying to do things differently when you thought that you had lost the chance. It is a poem about peace.

The reason why I was interested in reading The Returned was because I thought it resembled the French television show of the same name. Surprisingly it turned out to be different in many ways. The television show captures our imagination as a mystery, whilst Mott’s version fascinates our human psychology.

Mott gave hints to the way the novel could have gone down if his philosophy was different. We realistically see how those in power tried to take charge by locking the returned and supporters up. Yet the novel doesn’t bother to go to great lengths in showing how the Government’s plan unfolds. Similarly many returnees are given two page chapters on how this reliving experience is for them. One very interesting perspective illustrated that some NAZI supporters have returned. Yet these intriguing ideas are never really showcased as Mott doesn’t go into detail about these characters.

Instead Mott focused on the area of Arcadia Valle in Missouri. This real community was represented as somewhere extremely rural and backwards, making it work well with the less dramatic storyline. When Harold and Jacob are kept in confinement it does make you lose focus for a while. Although, it is necessary that the father and son are locked up as this allows them to bond in ways they were finding it difficult to do so outside.

Within the story the characters emotions would rightfully change drastically, but some I found more realistic than others. From the beginning I thought it would be Harold that I would gain a firm disliking to. His inability to be grateful that his son had returned was quite upsetting. Although, by the end it was him who I felt the most connected with and this was an extreme role reversal compared to Lucille. As her character progressed she becomes the only one who would challenge the new normal. But this crescendo in the book seemed unrealistic to her character. Also, I found her letter contradictory to her passion and happiness at the beginning of the book.

Furthermore Pastor Robert Peters was one I gathered a great disliking too. When the actions of God are questioned in a story it is common for there to be a Pastor whose beliefs are challenged as a consequence. This is always interesting to analyse, however, it was upsetting to look at Peters as almost a fraud in the end. We tend to put our hands in faith when something goes wrong in our life, but this just shows that Pastors are pure human and this can crumble our hopes to have someone to look up to in a bad situation.

The concept in itself has a lot it could have worked with. Some readers may not enjoy the route Mott has chosen to go down. However, I believe Mott has been successful in his debut novel in conveying the ideas he wished to emplace on the reader. Those ideas he confessed to us within his emotional Author’s Note.

The 2012 Costa Book of the Year

Logo for Costa Coffee

Logo for Costa Coffee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s nothing like snuggling up with a warm coffee inside the wooden walls of Costa whilst you sit at the window peering out at the people fighting with their umbrellas in the brewing storm. What makes this image even more blissful is having a book gripped in one hand. Ah, it’s the dream of all John Lewis adverts.

Tonight one novel will be voted as the 2012 Costa book of the year. The awards have been taking place since 1971 (who knew Costa had been going for that long?) and it involves a winner for each of these categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book, and the five books that win each of these individual categories then go on to compete in the final competition.

Here are the ones who are fighting for the final prize:

Biography winner: Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot

Novel winner : Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

First novel winner: The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Poetry winner: The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie

Children’s book winner: Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Who would get your vote?

Pride and Prejudice: A History in Pop Culture

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (film)

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s hard to believe that two centuries ago to this date Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy were first introduced to the public eye. Since then the entertainment industry has found ways to unravel the plot, characters and themes of the 1813 novel into various adaptations so Janeites can continuously fall in love with the worlds most wanted man. Here is a timeline of how Pride and Prejudice has influenced popular culture:

1995:

The most famous adaptation of the Jane Austen novel was BBC-One’s six episode drama, Pride and Prejudice. This was the miniseries which launched Colin Firth into the eyes of prying woman who would do anything necessary to find their own Mr Darcy.

1996:

Ah, the beginning of the Bridget Jones era. Helen Fielding used the general plot base of the novel for her hilarious chic-lit Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) and its follow up, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1999). The books were then transformed into movies starring Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant and most interestingly Colin Firth, who ironically played Mr Darcy. The next novel is set to be released in 2013 with a film also on the way.

2004:

Bollywood felt it was time to give its British counterparts a run for their money by bring  a bit of dance and colour to Austen’s writing in Bride and Prejudice.

2005:

The lady who loves her period dramas, Keira Knightley, was able to play literatures most famous heroine in this successful film adaptation.

2008:

Imagine if you could travel back in in time to the fictional land of Austen? That was the idea behind ITV’s fantasy four part drama, Lost in Austen. Here we have huge Jane Austen fan, Amanda Price, who would rather spend her time reading Pride and Prejudice and romanticising about Mr Darcy than being with her husband-to-be. Luckily she finds a portal in her bathroom which transports her into the Bennet family household. However, the course of the novel doesn’t run smoothly when Mr Bingley is more attracted to Amanda than Jane.

2009:

Seth Grahame-Smith believed it wasn’t enough for Elizabeth Bennet to be tormented by early 19th century customs, so he decided to add some zombies. The obsession with vampires and werewolves and other equally gruesome entities in society today only makes it feel right for Austen’s most famous novel to be given a parody twist in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

2012:

2012 saw Pride and Prejudice be transformed for the modernised 21st century audience through YouTube. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a series of vlogs based on the novel, created from the mind of vlogbrother, Hank Green and Bernie Su.

What is your favourite adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?

Adorkable: The Influential Generation

dork

Sarra Manning is one of the best young adult writers on our radar. Fact. What makes her different from the other writers in the crowd is her ability to eradicate plot structures by making ideas go into complete tangents. Take Nobody’s Girl for instance, it seems the book is going to be about Bea having fun in Paris with her new found friends; this idea quickly disintegrates. I recently finished her latest novel, Adorkable, and although it wasn’t as good as the other books, it still offers a fresh storyline and focuses on realistic themes which I feel are important for teenagers.

My inevitable envy towards Jeane irritated my reading of Adorkable. Basically, Jeane, like me, is a seventeen year old blogger; unlike me she has her own trademark brand, Adorkable, over 500,000 Twitter followers, she writes for such newspapers as the Guardian and she is paid to travel to New York and Stockholm. Unrealistic, I know, but it’s difficult to not be jealous when that would be your dream way to live.

Although Jeane is make-believe, there are teenagers out there who are fighting for world domination and who are doing a pretty decent job at it. Here are four of my favourite picks from the teens who are changing the world, one dork at a time:

The Entrepreneur:

iPad apps are the latest trend of the nation. They can become exceptionally obsessive when you realise that your battery is almost dead after playing four hours of nonstop Temple Run. Have you ever thought about who creates our wee pleasures of amusements? One of these tech savvy wizards is 18-year-old Spencer Costanzo who is the founder of Malibu Apps, who have created 40 iPhone apps, with eight ranking high on the iTunes top 200. Spencer decided to skip University in order to work alongside his nine developers and designers to continue making some of our most beloved apps.

The Inspiration:

Malala Yousafzai hit the headlines last year when she was shockingly shot by the Taliban gunmen in the head on the 9th of October. Despite this gruesome attack the fifteen year old is making her way to recovery. In 2009 Malala began writing for the BBC, under a pseudonym, to detail her life under the Taliban militants, who were taking over the Swat Valley banning such entertainments outputs as television and music, which we take for granted, and most importantly, girls’ education. Malala is an empowering female activist, fighting for educational rights and she has won many awards, including being one of the four runners-up for Time magazine‘s Person of the Year 2012.

The Foodie:

Last year Scottish school girl, Martha Payne reviewed and took photographs of her school lunches for her NeverSeconds blog. The site gained much attention and within a week it had a staggering 100,000 page hits. It became so popular that the local council, Argyll and Bute, forced Martha to stop using her blog. The ten-year-old has raised more than £120,000 for Mary’s Meals and she hopes to raise more money for the charity with her biography, Never Seconds.

The Fashionista:

The blogosphere is buckling with the amount of fashion blogs there are out there and the one which launched the trend was Rookie. When she was eleven-years-old Chicago born, Tavi Gevinson, would buy clothes from thrift stores, particularly the Salvation Army, and would upload photos of her outfits, discussing what movies, books and music had inspired her look of the day, to her blog. Five years on and she now has her own web magazine, RookieMag.com, which makes her the boss of four editors and 40 writers, illustrators and photographers.

Which youngster do you most idolise? Are you a teenager who is too trying to lead the way for our generation?