The Liebster Award

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When I first started blogging, I wasn’t aware that there were such things as blogging awards, but apparently there are- and I’m chuffed to have been nominated for one thanks to the lovely and very interesting Yasmine over at http://ymulholland.wordpress.com.

For those of you who don’t know, blogging awards are a really great way of gaining exposure for relatively new bloggers, enabling them to reach new audiences of like-minded individuals. If you get nominated for the Liebster Award, all you have to do is follow the rules below:

·       Thank the blogger that nominated you and share a link back to their blog.

·       Display the award on your blog.

·       List 11 facts about yourself.

·       Answer 11 questions chosen by the blogger that nominated you.

·      Think of 11 new questions to ask your nominees.

·       Nominate 5-11 blogs that you think deserve the award and who have less than 1,000  followers. You can nominate blogs that have already received the award, but you can’t renominate the blog that nominated you.

·        Inform nominees of the award

11 Facts About Myself

  1. Growing up in a family of Huddersfield Town supporters meant that I used to have a season ticket when I was a child. I haven’t been for about 10 years, but I do still enjoy watching the odd football match- it’s the only sport I actually like!
  2.  I love animals and get really attached to pets. Although I was brought up to be a carnivore, I was also taught that all living things deserve to be treated with love and respect. When my 19 year old goldfish died I cried like a baby.
  3. I’ve always been really intrigued by magic and the supernatural. When I was a teenager, me and my best friend used to do spells, and my mum, brother, and I like to talk about anything relating to the supernatural.
  4.  I tried to be a vegetarian once, but failed- I just felt ill all the time! So now I eat chicken and fish. My dairy intake is also quite limited as I have a mild lactose intolerance.
  5. I’m a really emotional person and cry at everything- books, films (even Disney!), music, adverts…
  6.  I LOVE dancing, as I’m sure anyone who’s seen me on a night out will testify.    After reading it’s my favourite thing to do.
  7. I barely wear any make-up anyway, but I try to only buy cosmetics that are BUAV approved (not tested on animals). This can be quite difficult!
  8.  People always mention what a happy, positive person I am, but I can be really moody and stroppy when I want to be…generally when people don’t understand my need to be alone!
  9.  I’m not at all motivated by money- and I don’t have a lot of respect for people who are.
  10. Some of my favourite words are ‘rapture’, ‘melancholy’, ‘effervescent’, and ‘mellifluous’.
  11. I used to be obsessed with Emily Bronte and went through a phase of thinking I was her in a past life!  

11    Questions From http://ymulholland.wordpress.com :

  1. What was your favourite book as a child/teen?

My favourite books were The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Little Women, both of which I used to read on an annual basis. The magical elements of Narnia captivated my imagination and I really wanted an Aslan of my own. I loved Little Women so much because I identified with Jo March. Like me, she loved books and writing and didn’t really care what anyone thought about her. Both books still have the power to reduce me to tears!

  1. Who is/are your favourite author/s?

There are so many brilliant authors out there, but I generally sway towards those who have quite a poetic or exuberant writing style, like Ben Okri and Angela Carter, or those who write about the fragility and complexity of relationships, like Amy Tan, Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell, or Joanne Harris. I’m definitely not a style over substance person, but a writer’s prose style can make or break a book for me.

  1. Which book, or books, has had the most influence or impact on you?

Many books have had a big impact on me, but, in recent years, I’d say Kate Atkinson’s Behind The Scenes At The Museum really resonated with me in a way that I’d never experienced before. Besides being funny, poignant and intensely readable, it made me reflect on my own maternal family history, and made me think about writing my own family members into history so that they don’t become ‘lost in time’.

  1. What is your favourite literary era/time period?

I really enjoy gothic fiction, so the whole period of Victorian literature is wonderful. The idea that there was so much passion, superstition, and fear of social change lingering underneath/behind the stiff corsets and upper lips of the 1800s fascinates me!

  1. How would you describe yourself as a reader?

Involved. I find it difficult to extricate myself from what is going on and think of characters as friends (I also have real friends…honestly!). I often feel quite drained from all the emotion that I invest in books.

  1. What is the worst book you have ever read?

I really can’t think of one. By now, I think I’m quite a discerning reader- if I don’t like the look of it, I don’t read it! I’m sure they’re very enjoyable to some people, but I could never read the type of books that perpetuate the myth that women are only interested in clothes, makeup, and men. Books generally have to have some substance- some social, political, or literary value- for me to read them.

  1. Why did you start blogging about books?

I needed a creative outlet, so I decided to start blogging about all the things that I love or am interested in- though it seems to have become pretty literature-concentrated! Writing about literature at MA level was fab, but you have to remain fairly neutral; feelings and opinions aren’t relevant unless they contribute to an academic theory/debate. I wanted to write about books in a way that everyone who loves literature could relate to.

  1. What is the most rewarding or challenging aspect of blogging?

It’s always great when someone says that you’ve inspired them to read something, but, if I’m honest, I just enjoy the writing process- it’s so cathartic.

  1. Can you pinpoint the exact moment where you discovered your love of/interest in books?

I think I was born to love stories and reading! Apparently as a baby I used to pick up the newspaper and babble away to myself as if I was reading it. It’s quite strange actually; nobody else in my family likes books- I’m the anomaly!

  1. How often do you read, and for how long?

I try to read a little bit every day, even if it’s only a poem or two on the bus, but it’s very difficult to do when you have a job, active social life, and lots of other interests! Once I’ve started a book I tend to plough through it quite quickly. I can read a book in a few hours if I put my mind to it.

  1. Do you watch TV/movie adaptations of books, if so what is your favourite adaptation and why?

Although I always endeavour to read the book first, I do love a good adaptation! It’s great to be able to see the visual representation of someone else’s imagination, even when it isn’t always consistent with the book. As a period drama lover, the film version of Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet is a particular favourite of mine, but I’ll happily watch any.

 My 11 Questions For Nominees

  1. If you could be any literary character, which one would you be and why?
  2. What’s your favourite opening line to a book?
  3. Which fictional character would you marry and why?
  4. What’s the most emotionally draining book you’ve ever read?
  5. If you could have written any book, which would it be and why?
  6. Which book would you adapt for the big screen and which actors would you choose to star in it?
  7. Who is your literary idol?
  8. If you could have a dinner party with five writers, dead or alive, who would you choose?
  9. Which fictional world would you like to live in?
  10. What do you enjoy most about reading?
  11. What three books would you take on a desert island?

Nominees

If you enjoy reading about all things book-related, check out these blogs:

The Literary Bunny http://christinarosendahl.wordpress.com

Too Fond  http://toofond.wordpress.com

What Amy Read Next http://raininglilies.wordpress.com

Blunts Book Blog  http://bluntsbookblog.wordpress.com

The Literary Sisters http://theliterarysisters.wordpress.com

 

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30 Before 30: Jamaica Inn

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When I first heard Tori Amos sing of pirates, trust, and cliffs of rock in her song ‘Jamaica Inn’ from The Beekeeper album, I was instantly filled with a desire to read Daphne Du Maurier’s book of the same name. Though I knew very little about the book, other than that it was based on the history of a centuries old inn on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, I’d heard many glowing reviews of it. Imagining a dark tale of gothic romance, I was pleased to discover (about eight years later!) that my theory was correct. From the first page I was completely enthralled, swept into the bleak and desolate nineteenth century landscape of the Cornish moors and the literary territory of the gothic novel through Du Maurier’s use of compelling imagery.  Descriptions of the ‘granite sky and a mizzling rain’ and a coach ‘rocking between the high wheels like a drunken man’ propelled me into a story of darkly dramatic proportions, immediately creating the tone of gothic intrigue that permeates the entire novel.

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To summarise, Jamaica Inn is the story of a young woman, Mary Yellan, who obediently complies with her dying mother’s wish that she goes to live with her Aunt Patience and her husband, the landlord of Jamaica Inn, after her death. Arriving to find that her once happy Aunt Patience has become a nervous and almost childlike woman, scared of her violent husband, and that Jamaica Inn is a place feared by the locals, Mary begins to suspect that something is amiss. Unable to depend on her feeble aunt, Mary determines to discover the secrets of Jamaica Inn and her uncle, Joss Merlyn, but soon finds that it is impossible to bear the terrible burden alone. Finding herself drawn to two very different men, Joss’ brother Jem, a magnetic but roguish horse thief, and Francis Davey, a strange and distant vicar, Mary must decide who to trust as events begin to unfold outside of her control.

Besides some beautifully atmospheric descriptions that make the novel immensely readable, what I loved most about Jamaica Inn was Du Maurier’s characterisation of its central protagonist, Mary Yellan. Spirited and courageous, Mary is an extremely likeable character- in fact, I’d even go as far as saying that she is my new favourite fictional heroine (though I still love Elizabeth Bennett)! As someone who has been raised on a working farm, she is hardy and practical, preferring the idea of independently running a farm to the notion of marriage. Moreover, she seems to understand, beyond the conventions of the age in which she lives, the restrictions that are imposed on most married women, recognising her Aunt Patience as an embodiment of the married woman’s metamorphosis from autonomous individual to voiceless shadow of her former self. That is not to say that she is strictly anti-men, however. Despite her revulsion for her uncle’s treatment of her Aunt Patience, Mary understands and experiences desire and the complications that arise from it. Although she enjoys solitary wanderings and relishes the idea of returning to her former home to live a life of independence, Mary’s ambivalent feelings towards the mysterious Jem Merlyn mark her out as a character of complexity. The reader is never quite sure what she will do next, yet there is no doubt that Mary Yellan will continue to remain true to herself, executing her plans with good judgement, resolve and integrity.

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Mary Yellan is not the only complex character in the book, however. In Joss Merlyn, Du Maurier carves out an extremely flawed character- who is both detestable and fascinating at the same time. Finding myself sympathising with Joss on more than one occasion, I viewed him as an alternative Heathcliff. Whereas Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff denies his roots to climb the social ladder, ultimately becoming a self-made man, Joss seems to use his as a justification for his depraved behaviour, blaming his father and grandfather’s genetic influence for his own misdemeanours on his path to self-destruction. Though he is guilty of heinous crimes, Joss’ humanity emerges through drunken revelations and the dreams that haunt him, reminding the reader that, despite his seemingly evil personality, he is, after all, merely human. I don’t think anyone could describe Joss Merlyn as a likeable character, yet I found that there is something quite pitiful about this ‘great husk of a man’  which almost helps to mitigate the severity of his crimes.

To say that Du Maurier’s novel isn’t predictable would be untrue; I was able to guess some of the outcomes halfway through the book. This never diminished the enjoyment of Jamaica Inn for me, however, as I was far more interested in the psychology of the characters than the actual plot. Whilst many readers have drawn comparisons with Du Maurier’s most famous work, Rebecca, suggesting that Jamaica Inn is a much weaker novel, I personally found Jamaica Inn to be a much more enthralling read. With all the elements of a traditional Gothic novel, including a suitably dreary landscape and the archetypal Gothic building, Du Maurier’s story never failed to excite me. In fact, if I didn’t still have another 24 books to read, I’d start reading it again!

Now that I at least partly understand Tori Amos’ song, I think it may be time to plan a literary pilgrimage to the real Jamaica Inn so that I can truly understand its significance in Cornish and cultural history. Hopefully there’ll be no bands of criminals to contend with, but, like Mary Yellan, I’d be more than happy to stumble upon a real-life Jem Merlyn!

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30 Before 30: Norwegian Wood

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Many of Haruki Murakami’s readers were disappointed by Norwegian Wood when it was first published in 1987, believing it to be a ‘betrayal’ of what his work stood for. In a departure from his usual form, Murakami seemed to be embracing Japanese mainstream autobiographical fiction and a conventional love theme, his narrative uncharacteristically simple and realistic. As a newcomer to Murakami, I can, of course, only judge Norwegian Wood on its own merits- and far from being just a simple love story, I would describe it as a lyrical and evocative example of modern Japanese literature.

When 37 year old Toru Watanabe hears the opening bars of an orchestral version of the Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ during a flight, he instantly feels pain. The favourite song of Naoko, his first love, transports him back to a time during his adolescence when love and grief were painful yet necessary rites of passage. Though Toru ‘often tried to write’ about his experiences, he ‘couldn’t produce a line’. It is only with the passing of time and the fading of memories that the novel’s main character is able to truly reflect upon and start to understand his experiences as a young man.

The rest of the novel takes the reader on an interesting linear journey into Toru’s past. Set against the backdrop of late 1960s Tokyo, Norwegian Wood tells the story of a young student who is seemingly torn between the emotional ties of the past and the possibilities of the future, as embodied by two women- fragile Naoko, the girlfriend of his dead best friend Kizuki, and vivacious Midori, who he meets at uni. While one woman is mentally unstable and sexually reticent, the other represents modern woman- sexually free and unconventional. Whether Murakami was intending to make a political point about the social and historical evolution of Japan through these two characters is unclear, but the Japan of his novel is certainly one that is undergoing a period of turbulence and transformation.

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Haunted by the suicides of both Kizuki and, it later emerges, her older sister, Naoko is unable to survive in the world of student uprisings and casual sex that the Japan of the Sixties has become, entering a mental ‘retreat’ in an attempt to remedy her problems. Just as Kizuki died at 17, Naoko seems to undergo a metaphorical death which prevents her from maturing into adulthood- failing to progress, and actually becoming increasingly rooted in the past. Although Toru tries to support her through this with regular letters and visits to the retreat, Naoko eventually takes her own life, hanging herself in the surrounding woods- the place where she last walked with Toru. Finally, the bird has flown (those Beatles fans among you should understand that reference!), leaving Toru free to continue his journey into adulthood.

While Naoko’s death is the catalyst for a bleak period in Toru’s life, you can’t help but feel a sense of relief that he has finally been released from a romantic purgatory to pursue a future with the unconventional Midori, whose love for him is obvious from the very beginning. In contrast to the dark and dismal presence of beautiful but troubled Naoko, Midori, whose name means ‘green’, brings colour to the story with her lively exuberance and overt sexuality. From the moment she was introduced to the story, I couldn’t help but hope that Naoko would somehow ‘disappear’ to make way for a blossoming relationship between Toru and Midori!

In typical literary fashion, however, Murakami doesn’t provide a clear-cut ending; there is no certainty of a ‘happy ever after’ following the death of Naoko. Ringing Midori from a phone box in the final paragraph of the novel, Toru is left confused and bewildered when she asks ‘Where are you now?’ Unsure of where he is, the novel ends with Toru calling out for Midori ‘from the dead centre of this place that was no place’. Like Naoko, it seems that the grief he has suffered through the suicides of two of the people closest to him threatens to engulf him. While we know that Toru reaches adulthood, Murakami never clarifies whether he embraces the future through a relationship with Midori, or remains stuck in the past, metaphorically walking in the snowy woods where he spent his last moments with Naoko.

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This is part of the book’s ultimate appeal, however. Philosophical in its exploration of grief and the way that the past affects us, Norwegian Wood raises ideas that adolescents and adults alike can relate to, provoking questions about the nature of love and life. Intensely readable and emotionally engaging, it never disappointed me. In fact, quite the opposite; I loved it! Though I am aware that most of his work is very different to this, reading Norwegian Wood has definitely instilled a desire within me to read more of Murakami’s books. I’m just not sure when I’m going to find the time…

30 Before 30: The Odyssey

Poseidon calling up the winds to destroy Odysseus

As I’m hoping to go on my own Greek Odyssey this year, starting my 30 Before 30 book challenge and New Year with Homer’s The Odyssey seemed pretty apt. Whilst I’m hoping that I don’t encounter any monsters, sea-gods or amorous females along the way (although if I happen to venture to Lesbos there’s a slight possibility that the latter may be plausible!), a journey to the Greek islands will certainly allow me to appreciate the full beauty of Homer’s poetic descriptions.

Generally hailed as the basis of all Western literature, The Odyssey is, despite its literary prestige, a story that many modern readers can relate to. In its simplest form, it’s the story of a war hero’s journey home from the battlefield of Troy; the perils he faces along the way; and the miseries his family endure during his absence.

Not all soldiers have to face the challenges that Odysseus is presented with on his trip home, however. Having incurred the wrath of the sea god Poseidon after blinding his son, a cyclops, Odysseus’s journey across the sea is no easy ride. Braving, among other things, tempestuous winds, cannibals and a seductive witch-goddess who turns half his crew into swine, Odysseus goes to hell and back, quite literally. From the depths of the underworld to the lofty heights of Mount Olympus, residence of the gods, Homer’s epic poem (which, in the translation I read, had been converted into prose) takes the reader through virtually every geographical area associated with the Ancient Greeks. Repetitious phrases like ‘When tender Dawn had brushed the sky with her rose-tinted hands’  help to root you in that ancient world, and the beauty of beginning many chapters with a description of the morning lies in reminding the reader that, despite his mortal condition, Odysseus has lived to see another day.

Overall, two things ensure Odysseus’s survival: the protection and intervention of Athene, goddess of ‘the flashing eyes’, and the cunning of Odysseus himself. While most soldiers who have spent the best part of twenty years endeavouring to get home would want to embrace their wife and son on returning to their homeland, Odysseus decides on another course of action. Having heard of the intrusion of many rich suitors vying for the hand of his wife, Penelope, he, with the help of Athene, tricks his entire household into believing he is a beggar, and executes a bloodthirsty plan to kill the men and some of the maids who’ve dallied with them. Although I can see why Odysseus may have been a little vexed, I’m not entirely sure I agree with the gratuitous violence. Couldn’t he have just threatened to let the dogs loose and sent them packing?!

Apparently not. Throughout The Odyssey, there is an overriding concern with men attaining fame through ‘brave’ (a.k.a violent) means, and Odysseus is no exception. Although my attitude towards the character is ambivalent, the death of Nelson Mandela during my reading of The Odyssey made me realise how many parallels there are between him and Odysseus. Both men were perceived to be great by most people of their generation; both could be described as being ‘favoured by the gods’ to some extent; both were radical in their actions (at least by today’s standards). Yet, despite my admiration and respect for Nelson Mandela, the jury’s still out on Odysseus. His pride and cunning may mark him out as a mere mortal, but, try as I might, I can’t overlook his failings. Perhaps the feminist within me is outraged by his brutal murder of twelve of Penelope’s maids. Or perhaps I just don’t like glory hunters. Either way, I can’t say that Odysseus will ever be included on my list of favourite fictional characters.

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That is not to diminish the greatness of The Odyssey as a piece of literature. Yes, Odysseus is not a particularly likeable character (or at least not to me). Yes, it is very dense, and can be quite a tedious and laborious read. Some of Homer’s descriptions are enchanting though. What word-lover could fail to be enthralled by ‘From the flowing waters of the River of Ocean, my ship passed into the wide spaces of the open sea, and so reached the Island of the Rising Sun, where tender Dawn has her home and her dancing-lawns.’?

What’s truly beautiful about it, however, is the way it speaks to all of us of the human condition, reminding us of what it is to be mortal: the trials and tribulations we have to endure in life, and the spirit and resilience we must all find within us to overcome them. If nothing else, I recommend The Odyssey as a thought-provoking and mentally stimulating read.

30 Before 30!

As my 29th birthday is imminent, I’ve recently been wondering how to make the last year of my twenties significant. There’s an abundance of things I’d love to do before reaching my thirties- seeing the Northern Lights being a prime example- but, given my current precarious financial situation, it’s highly implausible I’d attain any of them!

As a self-confessed bookworm, my thoughts immediately turned to books. Having already completed the challenge of reading the equivalent of a book a week during 2012, achieving (a quite laudable, I think) 50 out of 52, I decided that a challenge of a literary nature would be more attainable, far cheaper, and notably less scandalous than some of the ideas I was contemplating! Although I’ve probably consumed hundreds of amazing books through the years, there are many great ones that I still haven’t read, either because the subject matter doesn’t appeal to me, or I’ve just ‘not got round to it’ yet. Thus, I decided that my challenge would involve reading books that I feel I ought to have read before reaching 30. And so, ‘30 Before 30’ was born…

Selecting 30 books to read in a year was actually more difficult than I’d envisaged- many contemporary works, the majority of classics, and a lot of seminal texts have already formed part of my degrees. Whilst I managed to compile a list of around 15, I was struggling to think of others; the Guardian’s 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read list is good as a checklist, but involves seemingly endless research! In the end, Facebook friends came to my rescue. After requesting book recommendations, I received a fair few ideas to help me complete the first stage of my challenge. Unfortunately, not everyone’s recommendation made it onto the list (sorry to anyone whose suggestion didn’t- I will endeavour to read them at some point, even the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades…!), but I did try to use as many as possible, concentrating on just fiction in order to make it easier.

As a result, my final list consists of a combination of fiction I really want to read before reaching the big 3-0, and other people’s recommendations. There’s a decent variety of books, from classical literature to teenage fiction, and I intend to blog about every single one!

Here’s the definitive ’30 before 30′ List:

1. The Odyssey- Homer

2. The Master and Margarita- Mikhail Bulgakov

3. The Secret History- Donna Tartt

4. Murder on the Orient Express- Agatha Christie

5. Song of Solomon-Toni Morrison

6. Possession- AS Byatt

7. The Shining- Stephen King

8. Norwegian Wood- Haruki Murakami

9. Anna Karenina- Leo Tolstoy

10. Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

11. The Satanic Verses- Salman Rushdie

12. Fingersmith- Sarah Waters

13. Lady Chatterley’s Lover- DH Lawrence

14. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy- Helen Fielding

15. The Old Man and the Sea- Ernest Hemingway

16. The Color Purple- Alice Walker

17. 1984- George Orwell

18. The View from Castle Rock- Alice Munro

19. The Famished Road- Ben Okri

20. The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver

21. The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

22. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared- Jonas Jonasson

23. Jamaica Inn- Daphne du Maurier

24. Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle – Vladimir Nabokov

25. Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafon

26. House of Leaves- Mark Z.Danielewzi

27. The Wasp Factory- Ian Banks

28. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece- Annabelle Pitcher

29. The Cuckoos Calling – Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

30. The Name of the Rose- Umberto Eco

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Wish me luck!

Eating Fairy Fruit and Other Stories

To say that I have always loved reading would be a slight understatement. From the moment I entered the realm of literature, books have been my primary passion, the very air that I breathe. Coming from a family who always encouraged but never truly understood my reverence for the written word, I always felt like I was a bit of an oddity. The magnetic allure of other worlds, however, was too strong for me to care much about my difference in this one.

Of course, the older and more educated I became, the more like-minded people I met- people who had grown up on a diet of Narnia and the Famous Five, consuming stories of adventure as if they were Smarties. Like me, the world that they most enjoyed inhabiting was the one contained in their imagination. Whilst this fantastical sanctuary proved to be a source of wonder and comfort to us all as children and teenagers, it didn’t always prove to be the best preparation for the often mundane reality of adult existence.

In Neil Gaiman’s recent lecture on libraries, books and daydreaming, published in The Guardian, one sentence particularly resonated with me. Speaking of the virtues of reading, Gaiman expressed an idea that I’ve often thought:

 ‘Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in.’

The fact is, in our fast-paced and ever-changing real world, discontentment is rife. In the last few years alone, the relentless doom and gloom resulting from the recession has dominated our TV screens, causing widespread disenchantment. Unfortunately, as we are only too aware, life in the real world doesn’t automatically result in a clear-cut denouement- the ‘happy ever after’ we romanticised as children.  There are no magical cures lovingly administered by beautiful maidens (the service provided by the NHS, needless to say, doesn’t count); doorways to other lands don’t exist (at least not literally); and Mr Darcy failed to materialise at any party I’ve ever been to (to my great and utter dismay). Life is tough. And often pretty boring. But, the truth is, it doesn’t have to be.

Although my love of reading may have caused me to become a bit of a dreamer, it has also provided me with a yearning for adventure that is only satiated by actually doing exciting things. A few years ago, for example, having just spit up with my boyfriend and feeling dissatisfied with my job, I made the decision to go inter-railing for two weeks… alone. Some people might not think this is a particularly adventurous thing to do, yet it was certainly something quite liberating for me, and helped me to feel as though I was regaining some kind of control over my existence during a negative period of my life.

More recently, I made the brave/stupid (*delete as applicable) decision to quit my job in education in pursuit of a more creatively fulfilling career. Whilst my job wasn’t particularly mentally demanding, I felt perpetually devoid of energy and creativity, and knew I had to take action in order to avoid slipping into a work-induced coma for the rest of my days. With the guidance and support of a few lovely individuals, and a lot of determination and foresight on my part, I have managed to make an exciting transition from fed-up full-timer to proactive pursuer. Having already had another poem published; volunteered at a literature festival; started a blog; and been offered an unpaid internship at a theatre, I finally feel as though my life is starting to resemble the adventure I always pictured myself having.

I appreciate that not everyone has the opportunity to do such things. People with the financial responsibilities of children, mortgages, and forthcoming weddings, like many people of my generation, aren’t at liberty to quit their jobs in search of the life they want to lead. This is not what I am trying to say, however. The point that I’m making is that, regardless of circumstance, everyone has the power to alter their life to some extent; to break up the monotony of working life by indulging in something they enjoy, or following a long-held dream.

Whether you decide to take up a new hobby, plan an amazing holiday, or donate some of your time to helping others, we are all capable of taking charge of our own existence, and, ultimately, enhancing our own happiness. Life may not be always be quite as interesting outside the margins of a book, but we can at least try to live a fulfilling existence. Sometimes we just need a little imagination to make our small fantasies tangible. After all, as Einstein famously said, ‘Logic will get you from A- Z. Imagination will get you everywhere.’.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming