#Bookmas: 3 Books To Give, Read or Ignore

by - December 20, 2016

Last minute Christmas shopping? Why not give a book! Everyone likes a book, right? I mean, there ar so many different kinds of books out there. For instance...

by Emily Brontë

This year I've been on a roll when it comes to reading books. I found that reading during train rides calms me down. Although it heightens the fear of missing the right stop. Although, to be fair, the right stop for me is Amsterdam Central Station. I mean, that isn't your 'where are we again?' stop it's more your 'oh my giddy giddy gosh does the whole world need to be here too?!!??' kind of stop. Anyway, this year I've been on a roll when it comes to reading a book, but then Wuthering Heights happened. *dramatic music* I started reading this book at the beginning of July (may Instagram be my witness) and I only finished reading it at the end of October. For some unexplainable reason I just couldn't get through it. I blame it on the July sun that shone just a tad bit too bright. But still, why was this book so hard to read? I want to love it, I need to love it, why is it so hard to love it then? And then it struck me. It's very clever in that way.

The struggle is the point. The struggle between, within and outside yourself (or naturally between/within/outside the characters in the book). Being dragged into situations or (sub)consciously creating situations that either grows beyond yourself or becomes (un)explanatory to your being. The struggles within the book are made to make you struggle when reading it. Basically: not everything that's great is enjoyable. She said. She sighed. I think, within mainstream consumption, we're actually made lazy. I mean -to show my popular hand- how else can pineapple-pen be 'a thing'? Right? RIGHT?

Wuthering Heights isn't a book to simply read, to simply consume, it's a book you'll have to experience. You'll have to try to embody the means and motive before you get the opportunity to make it hunt you.

by Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, Anne Berest

When discussing this book with my mum (because I just love to share my opinion with everyone who'd like to hear it (and 'everyone' always turns out to be my mum, who doesn't always want to hear everything I've got to say, but she's there anyway, so basically she's got no choice)), I came to the conclusion that How To Be Parisian can best be summarised with the word 'self conscious'. Which is stupid. Not the book, mind you, but the word 'self conscious'. I mean, it is stupid isn't it?

But then again it -in this case, within this book- can also be very helpful. Enjoyable. 'Fun' even. It takes itself serious, but also it doesn't. It makes fun of itself, but also it doesn't. Basically it's conscious, self conscious, of the good and the bad and all the 'grey areas' that goes with it. Which can be funny or ironic or informative. And that from your 'typical' fashion book that explores your 'typical' fashion terminology and stereotypes. So therefore concluding that it contains, maintains and obtains a self consciousness, a (reflective) personality, a 'anything but snobbish attitude' is almost the act of a madman. Call me mad.

At the end 'the' Parisian isn't defined by its je ne sais quoi, its unattainability, its fleetingness, but by its - there it is again- self consciousness, and therewith thus its humanness. The Parisian in this book isn't something that only exists between the twilight of stereotypes and daydreaming (or: seeing what you want to see, defining something that isn't actually there, but still can be looked and graved for because there's a market for it, or at least there's a market created for it by fashion magazines through idealisation). This isn't a phantom image, a nonexistent being, a fashionable money-maker (well....) or the proof of the existence of demi-gods. It's a deconstruction followed by a reconstruction followed by a resurrection.

by Jo Baker

Longbourn is a novel by Jo Baker that gives you a sneak peek behind the scenes of Pride & Prejudice. It almost gives you a reality check. A lifting of the magical veil that is love: It presents you with the inevitable truth of class, rank and life. So no fancy dresses or long diners for you, my sweetest. You will be scrubbing, cooking and crying. But then, then the story turns again. It'll let you dwell on a whole other love story, including all its romance and 'sticky stuff'. And therewith, indeed, creating another magical veil of love...

It's very refreshing to get a whole other angle on the classic story I've known (and loved) for years and years. And no, just to be clear, this isn't a story about Elizabeth and Darcy slowly falling in love. It's set in the same period of time (and a bit beyond), it's got the same pace and the stories intertwine at moments (when the servants are for instance mentioned within the Pride & Prejudice world), but it's a whole different read. Another story with another ending. Elizabeth and Darcy do get together, but who cares?! Mr Darcy can be brutally murdered with the silk ribbons of Elizabeth's bonnet or tragically slip in the lake and drown for all that I care! What about Sarah the housemaid and the mysterious footman James? What about Mr and Mrs Hill? You don't even need to know or have read Pride & Prejudice to understand this story! (although I highly recommend you to do so anyway).

Longbourn is in fact fanfiction, the only difference being that the main characters in Longbourn aren't really of any importance to Jane Austen. Or at least, they make the world of Pride & Prejudice work the way it did, but substantially it didn't made a difference on what kind of servant (the 'who': Sarah, James, Mr or Mrs Hill etc.) acted upon their wishes. It was being taken care of, like it always had been taken care of (and therewith the actual 'who' didn't matter). This whole 'role division' is perfectly demonstrated within Longbourn, although they (so the Bennet's, the Bingley's and the Darcy's) aren't being portrayed as some kind of monsters (although they are high maintenance), they play the part of master/better than you and therewith they are unlikable characters. Or at least: they don't shine as bright or are as witty as we once thought they were. You can't charm your way out of this one, Darcy dear...

Lizzy and Darcy etc., as characters, don't flourish as much as they did or could in Pride & Prejudice. Mainly because this 'new' perspective doesn't allow them to. Yes, Jane is still the most loveliest and Elizabeth is still the smartest. However when scrubbing their "monthly bleeds" from their clothing, being totally ignored and expected to serve them 24/7, you wouldn't be as taken with them as presented in their original settings. It gives the words 'pride' and 'prejudice' an entirely different meaning. Therewith making the title of this book, Longbourn, almost symbolic to this hierarchy. The servants are 'bound' to this place. It's their place, socially and morally.

You could even say that the moral is a construction based on the social, which in itself is naturally also a construction. However more importantly: it's a construction that's being acted upon. Not only by the Bennet's, the Bingley's and the Darcy's, but most importantly by the servants. Without trying to spoil anything: the anxiety that comes with these certain settings, expectations and 'rules'. The downstairs of the household tries to obtain a certain 'uniform being' that is seen as a reflection of the household as a total (so downstairs + upstairs = household aka Longbourne). Because it's a reflection or even a representation of the household within the society it moves in, it's really important how either party 'flows' (naturally the main focus being on upstairs instead of downstairs, but it's the thought that counts). And SPOILER ALERT it's quite telling that at the end of the book the main characters (the servants) are reunited at the same place that bounded them together in the first place. Perhaps demonstrating that they will always belong or play their part, in some way, as the servant no matter what happens. They'll forever be property of Longbourn, bound within the boundaries of the (social) household, while their own personal boundaries (the 'who') has developed dramatically. 'Keeping up appearences' is seen as the most important end result. "But what about love?", as Sarah rightfully asks. Yes, what about it?

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