“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern | By Florence G

The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it… It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Two magicians of indefinite but certainly magically long lifespan – one a public performer named Prospero the Enchanter, aka Hector Bowen; the other known only as ‘the man in the grey suit’ or ‘Mr. A. H—’ – are engaged in a profound rivalry, played out over many generations by appointed pupils. In the late 19th century, Bowen elects his six-year-old daughter Celia, while his counterpart chooses a nameless nine-year-old orphan who will be called Marco Alisdair. These two are bound into a lifelong challenge, the rules and limits of which are never fully explained to them; and for years they do not know their opponents.

There is one thing the opponents do know: they must choose a venue for their part of the game to take place. And that is The Night Circus. Also known as ‘Le Cirque des Reves’ the Night Circus is a place of magic and imagination. All the tents are black and white, all the performers wear black and white and yet nothing is the same. Each tent transports you to somewhere else and each is more confounding than the last. It is as magical as its characters and will bind you to it’s world forever. All its performers have something to hide.

The Night Circus is a dazzling and enchanting novel that you will not easily forget and nor should because it is truly amazing.

The book was first published in 2011 by Erin Morgenstern. It was Erin Morgenstern’s first big hit as a writer and she herself describes her writing as ‘a fairy-tale in one way or another’.

The only response that really sums up the novel is ‘wow’. It is so rich in description and intrigue, making you hunger for every word and where the book will take you next. It is a breathtaking feat of imagination that creates a strikingly beautiful world, in spite of its occasional darkness.

I recommend this book for anyone over the age of 12. It is a book for everyone and anyone; it will leave you spellbound.

Image Link: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/815D5sneiNL.jpg (28/03/21)

Paperbacks Vs EBooks | Lexy D

In 2011, it was feared paperback books would die out forever. However, in early 2017, the paperback made a comeback, outselling ebooks and e-readers. The sale of paperbacks grew by 4%, while ebook sales shrank by the same amount. This is believed to be down to an increase in price for ebooks, making them less affordable compared to paper books than they were when they first came out. In 2011, ebook downloads overtook paper book sales on Amazon, which developers had hoped would happen eventually, but never expected to happen so quickly.

Studies have shown that the paperback revival has been fuelled by the younger generations. Many children’s books, the kind that would typically be read to a toddler by their parent, just don’t have the same reading experience while on an e-reader as they do in physical form. 16 – 24 year olds have also said they prefer physical books to ebooks, saying they “like to hold the product”. It is also believed that, since teenagers live in a digitally dominated world, the opportunity to read a book in print instead of on a phone or e-reader gives them a chance to escape from the digital world. When a student’s eyes get tired, whether from revising or using social media, it is a lot more appealing to pick up a paperback instead of another screen. Paperback books provide downtime when people, and their eyes, get tired.

Books make an easy present for anyone. A book can be found and packaged up easily while staying a surprise to the recipient. A physical gift is much more satisfying to receive than a digital download code, saying that someone has bought you a book. Physical books also offer the ability for the reader to easily see how far through they are. Physically seeing how far through you are instead of just reading a percentage written in the corner of a screen appears to be much more satisfying to read. It gives a quick and easy idea of how much is left.

Reading comes with a whole experience, from going along the bookshelves to choose the book, sitting on the floor of a bookstore reading the first few pages, and then tearing a page as you turn it too quickly. You don’t get all of this with ebooks. And I may be alone in this, but books have a very special smell, which again just isn’t the same with ebooks.

So it would appear that paperback books are on the rise yet again. You‘ll be much more likely to see a paper book instead of an e-reader. However, fast readers and travellers may still prefer the ease of carrying many books at once in the form of an e-reader. So this won‘t be the end of e-readers, but it is definitely the resurrection of paperbacks.

Image Link: https://www.californialifehd.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/books.jpg (12/03/21)

Little Women TV Show Review | Lottie T

On the 26th, 27th and 28th December 2017, the BBC put on a TV series of the classic book Little Women. The television series was shown in three episodes based on the book by Louisa May Alcott. It is a tale about the March family, consisting of the March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, their father, who is away at war, and the mother who keeps control of the household. It shows the happy and difficult times of the family, the challenges of growing, that love is no silly game any more and the reality of life beyond the safe family house. Although sisters, the girls follow very different pathways, but will always be a close loving family, despite the sisterly arguments along the way.

The characters were all portrayed very well by actors sticking closely to the characters in the book. Aunt March (played by Angela Lansbury) definitely came across as the fearsome, strict Aunt that she came across as in the book. Beth (Annes Elwy) came across as the quiet, uncertain sister as portrayed in the book. The setting and costumes definitely brought the book to life, filling in all the gaps, and making it seem more realistic. In the final episode a large chunk of the book was missed out, skipping out quite a bit, although this was not a large drawback, as the storyline still made sense.

Overall Little Women was great viewing and I would definitely recommend for all to watch.

Image Link: https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/1200×675/p05r3gt8.jpg (12/03/21)

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith | Florence G

Tom Ripley is far from a hero. In fact he’s probably more of a psychopath.

Thomas Ripley is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors and the law, when an unexpected acquaintance offers him a free trip to Europe and a chance to start over. Ripley wants money, success and the good life so much so he’s willing to kill for it. When his new-found happiness is threatened, his response is as swift as it is shocking.

His innate ability to charm, impersonate and subvert make him one of the most confusingly amazing and lovingly hated characters in modern writing. The constant threat and danger to everything he’s worked for make it near impossible not to root for him. Yet not to like him; not to want him to win, which is certainly unusual. Patricia Highsmith does an excellent job of ensuring he wheedles his way into our sympathies. It’s a classic story of someone who starts off with bad luck and is disregarded by society, but who, through force of personality, hard work and sheer determination, manages to make something of himself. He’s had a hard upbringing; he lost his parents and was brought up by an aunt who called him a “sissy”. And yet, he came out the other end polite, self-effacing and hard-working. He is endearingly shy in company and worried about the impression he makes on others. Not to mention always assessing himself, always trying to improve. In all aspects, Tom Ripley is a multi-faceted character that comes to life within the first few pages.

“He liked the fact that Venice had no cars. It made the city human. The streets were like veins, he thought, and the people were the blood, circulating everywhere.”

You can’t ever quite tell what’s going to happen. Patricia Highsmith balances the calm beauty of Italy with the violence of murder in such a way that you feel constantly on edge even though you’re enjoying yourself. It’s definitely one of the most interesting books you’ll ever read.

Thomas Ripley is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors and the law, when an unexpected acquaintance offers him a free trip to Europe and a chance to start over. Ripley wants money, success and the good life so much so he’s willing to kill for it. When his new-found happiness is threatened, his response is as swift as it is shocking. His innate ability to charm, impersonate and subvert make him one of the most confusingly amazing and lovingly hated characters in modern writing. The constant threat and danger to everything he’s worked for make it near impossible not to root for him. Yet not to like him; not to want him to win, which is certainly unusual. Patricia Highsmith does an excellent job of ensuring he wheedles his way into our sympathies. It’s a classic story of someone who starts off with bad luck and is disregarded by society, but who, through force of personality, hard work and sheer determination, manages to make something of himself. He’s had a hard upbringing; he lost his parents and was brought up by an aunt who called him a “sissy”. And yet, he came out the other end polite, self-effacing and hard-working. He is endearingly shy in company and worried about the impression he makes on others. Not to mention always assessing himself, always trying to improve. In all aspects, Tom Ripley is a multi-faceted character that comes to life within the first few pages.

You can’t ever quite tell what’s going to happen. Patricia Highsmith balances the calm beauty of Italy with the violence of murder in such a way that you feel constantly on edge even though you’re enjoying yourself. It’s definitely one of the most interesting books you’ll ever read.

Image Link: https://i.grassets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1540771547i/7853133.UY1520_SS1520.jpg (26/02/21)

The Crown Series 3 : A Review | Freya T

After discovering the recasting of the Crown on Netflix, many fans, including myself, were either delighted or anxious about how the brand new set of actors would portray the Royal Family. The answer: brilliantly. The fact that it now stars two GDST alumnae was a minor thought as I binged through 10 episodes, and became so engrossed I finished the series wondering what it would take to become a royal (for those interested: quite a lot), and became lost in the labyrinth that is YouTube, watching interviews with Olivia Coleman and Tobias Menzies, as well as Josh O’Connor and Erin Doherty, ending somehow with a five-minute crafts video (not so important for your viewing of the Crown).

One huge success of this season would be the likeness between Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman’s voice, when they portray Her Majesty. The similarity was incredible and for a split second I did wonder whether the recasting had been a very well executed reddit-ruse. Season 3 starts with Queen Elizabeth, now in the mid-sixties, looking at two stamps, one of herself as a young Queen (Foy) and as her current self (Coleman). I felt it was a nice bridge between the two casts and a quick, yet somehow in-depth scene, exploring new ideas of how the Queen had changed over the small amount of time that we had missed, other than, of course, physically.

Another triumph from Season 3 would be the chemistry between the cast. Focusing less on the relationship between Prince Philip and the Queen as a married couple, we now see development of the connection between Princess Margaret and the Queen instead. Helena Bonham-Carter and Olivia Coleman’s chemistry was immense, and the tension between the two sisters was portrayed wonderfully. We see Princess Margaret feeling overlooked and neglected, as she lacks royal duties. A holiday to America quickly changes to a political mission (not a spoiler) and we see the relationship between the sisters develop.

Throughout the series as ever, we see how the Royal Family, and the Prime Minister, deal with issues that happened in that era. I found interest in Episode 3 in the disaster of a mining slag heap collapsing on the small,Welsh village of Aberfan. Personally, I have always found that this show enlightens the viewers to the feelings of the Queen and her family, and I enjoyed seeing her response to this disaster in particular, as well as learning more about Aberfan itself.

Fear not, however, as this season has a bit of everything in there: love triangles (or in some cases squares), but also a variety of drama, with an underlying sincerity as the audience see deeper into the functioning of the Royal Family, following them through the swinging sixties. It is probable that many people find it difficult to relate to the Royals as they are in such a unique position, but I think a mention to the actors playing the newer royals is very much needed, as they seemed to create a relatability to the Windsor family.

I first came across Josh O’Connor as Larry in ITV’s the Durrells and found his portrayal very funny and was desperate to see this up and coming actor in more films. As a result, I watched the Riot Club, another of O’Connor’s projects, and quickly became a fan, as I watched his appearance in the TV version of Les Misérables, as well. Upon hearing about his new role in Season 3 of the Crown, I became excited to see his acting skills flourish in the role of the Prince of Wales. Many a heartfelt scene in Season 3, the audience grow to sympathise with Charles, especially in his inauguration speech, and I think this is due to excellent writing but also O’Connor’s excellent portrayal, as he captures all the supposed traits of Prince Charles. Adding to this, another actress who deserves a mention would be Erin Doherty as Princess Anne. The last two seasons of the Crown had never properly focused on the Queen’s children, let alone the young princess, but Season 3 was the time for a change, which was executed perfectly. Doherty’s performance as the private and defiant princess was superb, and she quickly became my favourite character. The chemistry between her and O’Connor as siblings, but also friends, was terrific, and their combined roles have caused much anticipation among many families, especially mine, as we wait to see what will happen next between the two siblings.

If you take nothing from this review but a desire to watch the trailers for the show, my job will be done, as I think you will instantly be hooked. This brilliant show deserves many a positive review, but whilst watching it, it is important to remember that it is a dramatization, and not everything is quite as it seems, as with most docu-dramas. A quick disclaimer, if you’re in Upper Five and are wanting to start your viewing of all three seasons of the Crown, maybe wait until after mocks, because I can assure you it will be difficult to get any revision done.

Image Link: https://tommygirard.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/the-crown-season-3-poster.jpg (20/02/21)

The 10 Best Films of All Time | Katie G

Memento

This is a much less well known film but one of my personal favourites. It is the story of an insurance investigator who sets out to find the murderer of his wife but in the same incident he received short term memory loss. So he is able to remember everything before the accident but not make new memories. Half the film is told chronologically providing the backstory of the characters, and in the other half the scenes run in reverse order helping the viewer unravel the mystery the same way as the main character. Directed by Christopher Nolan, it is one of the most cunning film ideas I have ever seen.

Rating – 15

Arrival

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, this film truly expresses how the pen is mightier than the sword. When 12 alien spaceships land across the world, a linguist is called on to help understand why these creatures have landed on earth. Another film that uses non-linear storytelling, it displays how language forms the bridges of society.

Rating – 12A

Terminator

Terminator In 2029 an artificial intelligence system called sky net tries to launch the nuclear apocalypse; a cyborg assassin known as a Terminator travels from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor the mother of the man who will grow up to lead the human resistance against the machines. It is one of the most creative and iconic films in movie history, directed by James Cameron.

Rating – 15

Groundhog Day

A cynical TV weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over again when he goes on location to the small town of Punxsutawney to film a report about their annual Groundhog Day. Directed by Harold Ramis it is another classic loved by all.

Rating – PG

Back to the Future (Trilogy)

Films that don’t require an introduction. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Back to the Future is the timeless classic of Marty Mcfly’s adventures of travelling through time.

Rating – PG

WALL-E

WALL-E In 2805 when humans have been forced to leave their dying planet and leave robots to clean up the mess. Wall-E the heartwarming story of a robot falling in love is adored across all generations.

Rating -U

Inception

This thought-provoking film directed by Christopher Nolan involves nonlinear storytelling. It is the story of a group of thieves who steal secrets from subconscious people as they sleep. But 5 minutes in the real world is an hour in the dream. It is a mind-boggling film that is seems to change each time you watch it.

Rating – 12

Jurassic Park

In Steven Spielberg’s massive blockbuster, a select group are chosen to tour an island theme park populated by dinosaurs created from prehistoric DNA. It is another timeless classic for anyone to enjoy. ”an adventure 65 million years in the making.”

Rating – PG

The Shawshank Redemption

Arguably one of the best films ever made. Directed by Frank Darabont and based on the story by Stephen King, it is the tale of two men’s time on the inside. “when those bars slam home, that’s when you know it’s for real. A whole life is blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it.”

Rating – 15

Harry Potter (Film series)

Although this isn’t a film directly related to the time, I felt the need to include it as they are films that are just as magical rewatching as it was when you first watched it as a child. And I’m sure they are a staple of many people’s childhood. So they will,in my eyes, forever be timeless.

Rating – PG/12