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Smoke {Book Review}

 

 

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Wow. Magnificent. Oh my goodness gracious me. I was blown away by the utter magnificence of this book – I think it could even replace my beloved The Lord of the Rings as my favourite book of all time?? I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to completely process everything, but then a good book is one that captivates you every time you read, for years to come, isn’t it?

Anna’s rating: 5 stars

 

Summary

Thomas Argyle, Charlie Cooper, and Livia Naylor live in a world not unlike Dicken’s Victorian England. In fact, Dan Vyleta begins with a quote from the Master Author’s novel Dombey and Son:

“Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon the health of Man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise from vitiated air were palpable to the sight, we should see them lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly on to corrupt the better portion of a town. But if the moral pestilence that rises with them … could be made discernible too, how terrible the revelation!”

(Beginning a section of a book with a quote from Dickens or Dostoevsky or Dante or one of those other great authors is my new favourite thing.)

That quote really summarizes the setting of the novel. In this world, any baser emotion, whether that be lust or anger (or even joy), causes a human being to emit Smoke. The Smoke is seen as a sign of one’s fallen state – therefore, the common people live in Smoke, the aristocracy using Smokelessness as a sign of their right to rule. (Of course, they are just able to hide their Smoke because they have the money to do so – nothing to do with morality.) The Smoke is therefore highly entangled with both religion and politics. In the boarding school which Thomas and Charlie attend, the slightest sign of Smoke brings great punishment upon the unfortunate boy whose clothes are found stained with the soot which will not disappear. However, the two boys soon begin to learn that everything they have been taught is a lie and there are deeper, darker secrets to be found in the streets of London.

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Anna's Life · Hope in Darkness · on writing · Thoughts

The Story of Anna, the Writer

I felt in a reflective mood this evening, so I decided to bring my laptop up to my room, play Mumford & Sons and Halsey, and throw words the computer screen until something started to make sense.

I’m taking a short story writing class this spring, taught by Eugene Stickland. So far it’s more discussing thoughts about writing than learning much about improving my writing, but it has made me think.

For me, and for many of the people in the room, writing came to us at a time when we needed an answer, a hope, something. Eugene’s brother had died when he was eleven and he started writing. One of the students, Josh, told us how his mother had died and that is why he searches for comedy in fiction – ‘why does everyone have to take it [life, I suppose] so damn seriously?’ seems to be his motto. I find it interesting how tragedy can move people in different ways – some go down a dark road, some search for the light. I admire Josh for how earnestly he strives for light, but that isn’t quite the road I went down.

I suppose I should speak a little bit about my own journey. Much of this is going to be details about my life not many know, still much will be left unspoken – either because I can’t find the words, or it’s not my place to tell of it.

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Hope in Darkness · Themes in Literature · YA Literature

The Hope & Humanity in Stories

I’ve been reading Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games trilogy slowly, on and off, for a little while. I remember how the decadence of the Capitol in the first movie struck me. But now, reading Mockingjay, it has been instead the little glimmers of humanity even during times of great hardship.

As I love my books to be dark and my characters to be greatly flawed and/or tortured before the hope appears, I thought I might write a post examining some of my favourite works and what is in them that makes them appeal so much to me.

I only just started Mockingjay, but I already love the book.  It starts on a very grim note. The Capitol has destroyed Katniss’ home district and her love interest, Peeta Mellark, has been captured. I found this quote quite chilling:

“My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Peeta was taken prisoner. He is thought to be dead. Most likely he is dead. It is probably best if he is dead…”

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Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) learns that Peeta is still alive.

Katniss agrees to be the symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol (the Mockingjay) in order to save Peeta from the evil President Snow. I haven’t gotten much further in the book than that, but I wanted to mention the scenes in which Katniss finds her old stylists imprisoned in the rebel base. Katniss is shocked by the treatment of the three and immediately orders their release. Even though Katniss does not like associating with other people, she shows them how to get to the dining hall and sits down to eat with them. One of the stylists, Octavia, has green skin (a fashion statement from the Capitol). Posy, a five-year-old girl, sister to Katniss’ best friend Gale, comes over to the table and is curious about Octavia’s green skin. Octavia becomes upset – she has just been rescued from prison, is finally allowed to eat again, and now this little girl questions her looks. But the little girl becomes a source of comfort for the poor woman:

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