Word on the Water ⌲ Regent’s Canal Towpath, Kings Cross, London N1C 4LW
I recently moved to London, a city I love and have written about many a time before, to begin a new career in the Film industry. Not only have a fallen in love with London itself and all it has to offer, but I have also visited many a bookshop since living here. It is no secret that Daunt Books in Marylebone has been my favourite book shop for a long time, I dedicated a post to the store which you can read by clicking here. However, dare I say, I may have found a new favourite…
I took a stroll down Regent’s Canal from Angel through to King’s Cross on the premise of visiting Word on the Water, not really too sure what to expect. It was my birthday, so I knew I wanted to treat myself to a new book or two. When I arrived, I was charmed by the quaint little barge that managed to house so many books. Both on the outside of the barge and in the cosy interior, there were a wealth of titles to choose from – I was spoilt for choice. Not only did they have a variety of amazing novels but they also had a variety of beautiful editions, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I could have spent hours in there (I almost did!). From the low ceilings and upholstered couches to the worn, leather armchair and vintage trinkets adorning the shelves and the walls, I had never been so charmed by a book ‘store’ before. The vintage-feel and uniqueness of quite literally have a book shop on the water were a new, refreshing way to browse the literature that I love. And, if the charming interiors and the hundreds of books were not enough to draw me in, the owner’s absolutely beautiful dog and his pet parrots were definitely enough. I fell in love with his beautiful dog who was so calm and friendly, and his parrots who would happily have a chat with you whilst you browse. The staff members were also incredibly attentive, friendly and happy to help and discuss the books with you. I picked up a beautiful copy of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ and a hardback Chiltern edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby,’ and I was extremely pleased with my choices. For all book lovers visiting or living in London, I couldn’t recommend Word on the Water more.
Click here to visit Word on the Water’s website for more information.
In light of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and many other Black people in the world due to the racism that is so ingrained in society, both now and for generations, I decided that it was time to further educate myself. I looked at my bookshelves and realised that 98% of the works I owned were written by white writers. It was time for a change, and so I decided to dedicate September to reading novels by Black, female authors. I feel it is important to note before I begin writing that the experiences and sufferings of Black people should not be white-centric: white liberals should not be painted as heroes for their allyship with the Black Lives Matter Movement. That is no way my intention for this blog post. But, I think it is important for myself and for white people and Non-Black people to read, listen, watch, learn and educate themselves. As an avid reader, I decided that my bookshelves were a great place to start. I decided to read a mixture of books, and it is important to note that Black writing is not a monolith. The authors I chose to read this month come from many different places, they write in different styles that fit in with their genres and they deal with issues of race in many different ways. This diversity expanded my knowledge and as Black authors’ lived experiences inform their writing in different ways, the novels I chose took me to new places and gave me new insights which I heavily value. Whilst I discovered new authors and even added a couple of new books to my ‘favourites’ shelf on GoodReads, I also explored an old favourite of mine, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and was extremely happy to revisit her writing. With all of this said, I believe it is important to recognise that my reading material in the past has not been diverse enough, if at all, and moving forward I aim to make a conscious effort to read more Black writing. Reading Black writing and blogging about it, posting on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement and similar should not, in any way, be performative. This support and proactiveness of white and Non-Black people should continue even after the media reports are silent. I am keen to continue my education, and the diversification of my reading. If anyone has any recommendations, I’d really appreciate you leaving them in the comments.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Reading time: just less than 1 day GoodReads rating: 5 out of 5 stars
After reading ‘Queenie,’ I am absolutely not surprised that it is a Sunday Times Bestseller and has been longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction. I absolutely loved this book – it made me laugh, cringe and cry. It is quite rare for me to find books that make me physically laugh out loud but I found Carty-Williams’ character of Queenie to be absolutely hilarious. I was particularly fond of Queenie’s friendship with Kyazike, which was both endearing and amusing. Carty-Williams’ depiction of racial micro aggressions in friendships, relationships and the workplace was particularly eye opening and shed light on the challenges faced by Black women every single day. Through Queenie’s everyday life and the culmination of many challenging events that ultimately impact on her mental health, Carty-Williams demonstrates both the conscious and unconscious racial bias ingrained into our society, from within the medical services to Queenie’s place of work.
A quote I found particularly interesting was ‘I wished that well-meaning white liberals would think before they said things that they thought were perfectly innocent.’ Whilst we all must keep fighting the fight and speaking out on the Black Lives Matters movement, this particular part of the book reminded me that we should keep educating ourselves – there is always a lot more to learn, especially for non-Black people, and we need to continue to read, listen and understand the correct ways to speak on the matter.
I have spent many years writing about the problems faced by women in society, in the economy and in a political climate, amongst many other circumstances, and it’s extremely important to recognise that it is impossible to be a feminist unless you are an intersectional feminist. Carty-Williams’ harrowing writing relating to Queenie’s sexual relationships and in a broader sense, Black women’s experiences with men, broke my heart and educated me on the importance of recognising not just female struggles, but Black female struggles.
Arguably, my favourite part of the book was Queenie’s relationship with her grandparents, particularly her grandmother. The balance between matriarchal affection and tough love made an endearing read and as someone who is extremely close to my own grandmother, it resonated with me a lot. I absolutely adored their relationship and the resolution of Queenie and her mother’s strained relationship at the end of the novel.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Reading time: 3 days GoodReads rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Where do I start? I had been looking forward to reading Smith’s work for a very long time, and had to start with her debut. Please don’t get me wrong, I found this book to be amazingly witty, with clever quips galore that had me laughing out loud. Smith uses her quick wit to create a whole world, spanning three generations, and depicts the nuances of the differing cultures within the novel. Smith encapsulates the meeting of different ethnicities, cultures and demographics to detail the lives of Archibald and Samad, and their respective families. Smith writes with constant reference to varying iconographies of popular culture which is an element of White Teeth that I absolutely loved. Archibald himself gave me Humbert Humbert vibes, marrying Clara when she was quite young and in all, seemingly being a little bit dense.
The strange thing about this novel, whilst witty and clever, is that it forms no cohesive plotline. With a deviance in timeline and a wealth of characters to be narrated, I found the lack of cohesive plot difficult to engage with, which is one of the reasons that I was limited to three GoodRead stars only. I felt the length of the novel was unnecessary, the book is split into four different parts and, by the final part, I was willing the ending to come, finding that Smith unnecessarily deviates from the plot onto tangents that add nothing to the story for my personal liking. The parts dedicated to both Samad and Irie were my personal favourites, and read them with the most speed. The lack of cohesiveness for me, makes me think that this novel may be slightly forgettable for me, though the characters themselves are memorable enough.
Nonetheless, I did enjoy this novel – whilst I felt no attachment to the characters, I thought the character development was excellent and Smith’s strong narrative voice made for an amazing debut novel. The quirky characters and their diverse and creative family histories made for some amusing reading and I would not be discouraged from picking up another Zadie Smith novel in the future.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reading time: a few hours GoodReads rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The Bluest Eye is novel that follows Pecola, a young Black girl in 1940s Ohio that wishes more than anything to have blue eyes, a feature on many young white girls her age that is considered beautiful. The novel follows both her desire and the traumatic events that happen in her life, and also pertains to her family and their background. Morrison alternates between writing from Claudia MacTeer’s point of view, Percola’s point of view and sprinkles in third-person, omniscient narration to tell the tragic tale of Percola’s life.
Firstly, it is impossible not to mention Morisson’s writing style. Though writing about hard hitting, heartbreaking topics, her prose is soft and fluid and almost feels as though the book is one long, beautiful poem. Morrison’s skill of writing so beautifully of something so heartbreaking only makes the book that much more tragic. Her words and descriptions are reminiscent of the era, the book quite literally taking the reader back to Lorain, Ohio in the 1940s. Every time I picked up the book, I was transported.
I quite literally have no words for the beauty of this book, it left me with a broken heart and is a story that will stay with you forever. Exploring not only the general racial oppressions of the Black people in 1940s America, but also the tragedies and oppressions faced by Black women. From beauty standards devised from white features, to the abuse and violence imposed on Black women by men. The bluest eyes in the novel represent the beauty of the white, middle-class in Lorain, Ohio but, (*spoiler alert*) as she finally obtains the bluest eyes that she has for so long desired, she loses her sanity in exchange. An ironic, beautifully told tragic tale that I will carry with me forever. I can’t wait to read more of Morrison’s work.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Reading time: 2 days GoodReads rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I have very few words for this book other than utterly incredible. Americanah tells the tale of Ifemelu and Obinze, childhood sweethearts from Nigeria, whose lives change during many years apart during their respective UK and USA hiatuses. The novel details the course of their lives when they meet again in Lagos during adulthood.
I have always been a huge fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, her novels on feminism (namely ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ and ‘Dear Ijeawele’) are those which introduced her to me, and I relied on them heavily to support my thesis during my undergraduate dissertation. I now attribute Purple Hibiscus to being one of my favourite books of all time, so I was keen to read Americanah. I was not disappointed, and now may dare say that I loved it even more than Purple Hibiscus.
The character development in this book is incredible, Adichie leaves the reader actively rooting and hoping for the characters. I loved Ifemelu, and was completely enraptured in her relationship with Obinze. This element of character development and thus reader attachment is what I found to be missing in Zadie Smith’s writing, picking up Americanah which, for me, was a huge page turner, was largely refreshing.
The book is rife with dialogue, conversations in the UK, USA and Nigeria, with both Black and white people, of varying ages in varying social settings, and this together paired with the inflection of time throughout the novel really made clear the continuation of racism, micro aggressions and prejudices. Adichie raises the idea of ‘being Black’ in the USA vs. being Nigerian in Nigeria, and I really learned a lot about Nigerian and more widely, African experiences of expatriation. Adichie skilfully worked the topic of racial injustice and prejudice into a novel that was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Whilst the ending was not entirely sad, it still left me sobbing. I can’t recommend Adichie’s works more to anyone, wanting to learn and educate themselves more on issues of racism, or simply to someone who wants to read an incredible novel.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Reading time: 2 – 3 hours GoodReads rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Renni Eddo-Lodge’s ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ (2017) is arguably the most important book in my entire list. This book taught me more information about Black British history than all of my years in education. If you’re looking to learn and be educated on matters and motivations relating to the Black Lives Matter Movement, this is the book for you. It’s the book for everyone. It taught me how revisionist and reductionist the British education system’s portrayal of British history really is, and I felt that I walked away with a wealth of knowledge that is essential for all to know.
Eddo-Lodge humanises the issues that Black people face in British society. She puts a name to the children who suffered under the racial discrimination of the social care system, the parents who suffered under the prejudice of the British healthcare system and the people who suffered under the brutality and negligence of the British criminal system. Eddo-Lodge makes it impossible for Brits to say ‘it isn’t as bad in the UK as in the USA,’ something which has been circulating around social media for months now. She humanises and showcases the racial injustices and micro aggressions ingrained in all aspects of Britain’s institutions for every reader to see and understand with her poignant words. It is impossible to read this book without feeling ashamed of the UK and without feeling to need to further educate yourself and understand that the UK is an extremely racist country. Whilst it isn’t written into the GCSE curriculum or A Level specification, it is our history, and we need to learn and understand it if anything is going to change.
This book made my heart ache and imposed shame and disgust on me, but in the best way. I put it down feeling more educated and motivated to really understand more of my own country’s history and the ways in which our society needs to change. I couldn’t give this any less than 5 GoodReads stars, I would have given it 10 if I could. If there is any book in this list that you choose to read, I’d argue it should be this one.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Reading time: 1 week GoodReads rating: 3 out of 5 stars
There were many things that I loved about this book and many things that I didn’t love, hence the 3 star rating on GoodReads. I feel as though a 3 star rating isn’t going to be very popular, given that the book won the 2019 ManBooker Prize! I can totally see why she won the prize, and appreciate the skill of her writing. However, my reading preferences meant that I wasn’t blown away by the novel. I feel separating my loves and my dislikes into two paragraphs is the best way to explain this…
Evaristo’s intersectionality in this novel is incredible. I feel it is so rare to read about, for example, non-binary identifying people in modern day fiction as a whole. So to have a non-binary character in the novel was so refreshing, it added a new dynamic to the plot and I loved learning about it through a fictional tale. In general, Evaristo’s inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community is something I really loved too. She didn’t stick to the rigid character type of cisgender, heterosexual women with a wealth of men-related issues. It was great to see diverse characters with different life experiences, and actually made the plot so much more engaging. I felt that whilst the book was fictionally enjoyable, I was learning too, which is something I really value in a novel.
The novel also has little-to-no punctuation. At first, I found this so strange and really quite difficult to engage with, but, as the novel went on, I actually found that the book flowed beautifully due to this grammatical element and it made it more of an enjoyable read for me. It made the ease of picking up the book and quite literally flowing through the pages incredible, and felt it was a representation and reflection of the fluidity of characters within the novel itself.
However, I am very much a reader of plot-driven novels. I love when a book is driven by the plot rather than the characters, I feel it makes for much more of a page-turner and keeps me engaged throughout. Evaristo’s chapters focus on a different character each time, whilst they are seemingly all linked in some way. I found it difficult to keep engaged and saw myself oftentimes losing interest in the story. As the book is character driven, I hoped it would be a novel I would be able to dip in and out of, however I didn’t feel this way and found it difficult to pick up once I had put it down.
Having said this, I did enjoy the book on the whole and am keen to read more Evaristo novels. I also thought the cover art was beautiful and love how the novel looks on my shelves. The cohesiveness in art work between all of her novels is so visually pleasing. Perhaps I’ll get on better with more of her work but for this particular novel, I was not blown away but did enjoy the book.
The fight for racial equality continues, and reading/educating ourselves is the bare minimum of work that needs to be done. For more information on how we, as a human race, can help, please see the links below.
Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Call My By Your Name’ (2017) chronicles the story of Elio and Oliver, two Jewish boys who fall in love during a hot summer in Crema, Italy. Based on the novel by André Aciman, Call Me By Your Name tells the tale of Oliver, a graduate student who arrives in Italy to spend the summer with Mr Perlman and his family, to assist him in academic matters and further his studies within the realm of Classics and Archaeology. Oliver not only studied Archaeology, but formed a relationship with his son, Elio. A film with many accolades, including a nomination for Best Picture at the 90th Academy Awards, Call Me By Your Name is the tearjerker that broke audiences’ hearts all over the world. A love story that breaks boundaries, this essay will explore the themes and symbologies of desire, identity and heartbreak.
‘Ageless ambiguity. As if they’re daring you to desire them’
I would argue that desire is the most common theme throughout Call Me By Your Name. At the beginning, Elio’s desire seems to be slow burning, he’s confused by his feelings, almost in denial and there even seems to be some animosity between Elio and Oliver. Arguably, that animosity stems from the desire to suppress the feelings they are having. But as the film progresses, so does their romantic interest in each other.
The discovery of their feelings for each other is paralleled against the common theme of discovery of hellenistic and roman sculpture: the reasoning behind Oliver’s visit to Crema. Oliver, Elio and his father, Mr Perlman, take a trip to Lake Garda, whereby they dredge a shipwrecked bronze of a young man, a kouros from the water. A poignant scene in the movie, this imagery is seemingly repeated during Elio and Oliver’s time together. For example, there are many scenes where Oliver is in bodies of water (i.e. the pool in the Perlman’s garden). In one particularly reflective scene, the camera shows Oliver lying face down in the water, a reaction to something that Elio had said. The close up shot portrays his back and shoulders whilst Elio looks on. Drawing a link between these two particular scene suggests that much like Oliver is discovering the hellenistic history at Lake Garda, Elio is discovering the feelings that he has for Oliver.
As Mr Perlman studies slides of sculptures with Oliver, he reflects, ‘ageless ambiguity, as if they’re daring you to desire them.’ This particular quote is an apparent symbol of Elio’s influence on Oliver. As aforementioned, Elio’s feelings and desire for Oliver starts to grow and in turn, much as Mr Perlman states, Elio dares Oliver to reciprocate, reflected in scenes of Elio leaning in to kiss Oliver, even when Oliver states that they must ‘be good.’ André Aciman’s ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ the novel on which the movie is based, has received a wealth of criticism due to the age gap between Oliver and Elio, Oliver being 24 and Elio being 17. The use of ‘ageless’ in the movie suggests a response to this criticism: that love has no age, that desire has no age. There are a wealth of obvious representations that depict the desire between the two protagonists, but classical desire and hellenistic symbology are arguably the two elements that subtly reinforce this theme.
‘Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine’
The theme of identity arguably appears hand-in-hand with identity, most obviously but not limited to the title of the movie: Call Me By Your Name. Guadagnino’s use of language and linguistics within the film is the element which I would argue most strongly enforces the theme of Identity.
Firstly, it would be difficult to discuss this film without discussing the title and arguably the most important quote: ‘call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine.’ Through this simple imperative, Guadagnino blurs the lines between the two characters. Their aforementioned desires have joined them together as one, both physically and linguistically. This is also further visually reinforced when the audience are presented with a mid-shot of Elio wearing the Star of David, something which we, as the audience, have repeatedly seen on Oliver throughout the film. Guadagnino pushes the boundaries of religion to visually blur the lines, too.
‘Je pense que les gens qui lisent cachent ce qu’ils sont’
One of my favourite elements of the movie is the wealth of European languages that are spoken. A noticeable linguistic element of the film that represents identity is Elio’s use of English. Notably, with his friends and family, Elio seems to speak predominantly Italian (with his mother and Mafalda) and French (with Marzia). The only other character with whom he speaks only English is Oliver, thus linguistically connecting them, as previously mentioned with regard to their names. Elio also speaks English with his father, the character who seemingly connects Elio and Oliver (as the purpose of Oliver’s trip to Crema is to work with Mr Perlman). With Marzia, the French girl who seemingly would have become Elio’s girlfriend had he not discovered his desires for Oliver, he only speaks French. It seems that this creates a barrier between the two of them (as French is not Elio’s mother tongue), and could be a symbol of Elio hiding his true identity and thus desires from Marzia. This is further reinforced in her comment, ‘je pense que les gens qui lisent cachent ce qu’ils sont’ (‘People who read are kind of secretive. They hide who they really are.’) This seems to be true of the relationship between Elio and Marzia, as for a long time Elio conceals his true desires from her, even engaging in sexual relations with her.
‘Some things stay the same only by changing’
Which leads us onto the discussion of heartbreak. Spoiler alert: the film ends in heartbreak. Throughout the film, Guadagnino makes continuous use of food imagery to convey deeper meaning to the plot. On Oliver’s first morning in Italy, he clumsily breaks into boiled eggs at the breakfast table whilst Elio looks on curiously, seemingly representing the barriers breaking between them little-by-little as the plot moves forward. However, the symbology of the peach seems to be the most utilised. There are many analogies and articles available that detail the sexual connotations of this, something which I won’t delve into today, but the use of the peach in particular to me, ultimately presented the theme of heartbreak and a coming of age love story in the most effective way. Elio eats peaches throughout the movie, until the pinnacle scene of him breaking apart the peach and performing a sexual act with it: representative of his growing feelings toward Oliver which in finality, ends with sexual relations between them. Peaches are easily bruised, much like Elio’s feelings and emotions during this journey of discovering his first, true love. Elio is left with a bruised heart due to Oliver’s departure, and ultimately, a bruised ego upon learning that Oliver has decided to marry with a woman.
A common theme in European romance films, Guadagnino continuously uses the symbol of nostalgia and plays on the audience’s memory to emphasise the trope of heartbreak. The use of non-diegetic sound and, in particular, the soundtrack of the film, is used tactically by Guadagnino to encourage the audience to relate two separate scenes: the first time Elio and Oliver had sexual relations, and the final scene in which Elio stares into the fire, after learning that Elio has in fact gotten married. In both of these scenes, ‘Visions of Gideon’ by Sufjan Stevens plays, not only a beautiful song but an especially heartbreaking one when concentrating on the symbology of the lyrics. The song is used in both scenes to tactically draw on the memories of the audience, who will remember the earlier scene and feel enhanced emotion for the fact that Elio and Oliver have transitioned from lovers to strangers. The use of ‘Visions of Gideon’ and the sadness in the song within the first scene during their sexual relations could even be considered as a foreshadowing tactic, suggesting the ultimate sadness at the end of the movie. I personally consider the final scene to be the most beautiful of the whole movie, despite the wealth of beautiful Italian scenery and nature in the remainder. The length of the scene should, in theory, feel uncomfortable, but for me it was gentle, heartbreaking and effective in representing both Elio’s despair and fondness for the memories he shared with Oliver. Elio’s ever-changing facial expression along with the soundtrack playing in the background, suggests the memories evoking in his mind, as the prior scenes are evoked for the audience, and creates the ultimate nostalgia, sadness yet melancholy for a summer that is now over. Finally, Guadagnino interjects diegetic sound to break Elio out of his trance as his mother gently coaxes ‘Elio…’ as she prepares the table for Hannukkah. It seems that life, does indeed, go on.
I would argue that Call Me By Your Name is one of the greatest films I have watched in my life so far. The characters, the plot, the ultimate sadness yet happiness of it stayed with me for months after watching it. Guadagnino is skilled in his use of speech and sound, cinematic imagery and symbologies of nature to reflect the desire, identity and heartbreak of the protagonists. Whilst the wealth of emotions within the film culminate into sadness and heartbreak in Elio, in the words of his father, ‘but to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste.’
Whilst we are in the middle of a global pandemic, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to write about the trip I took to Naples, Italy just before Covid-19 descended on the world. I hold such fond memories of this beautiful city and it was honestly like nowhere I have ever visited before! Still holding all the charm and glamour of a typical Italian city, I found it to be worlds’ apart from Rome, and in some ways, much preferred it. We travelled to Naples and stayed in a gorgeous Air BnB a stones’ throw away from the Via dei Tribunali. We had a beautiful, small balcony overlooking an Italian-style courtyard, made up of old stone floors, tiled stairways, overgrown palms and old, brightly painted front door ways. My favourite thing to do every morning was sit in the fresh air with a coffee and watch over the courtyard, as Italian grandmas left their quaint houses to collect their essentials: pastries, bread and coffee. We wandered down Tribunali, ever-busy with tourists and native Italians alike, with many relaxing outside of the pizzerias, coffee and cigarettes in hand. We wandered down to the port and took photos on the wolf statues, ate gelato next to the castle and even joined in with the Carnevale celebrations, throwing confetti in the main square surrounded by children in their favourite dress-up costumes! We had our first Neapolitan pizza at an amazing pizzeria recommended to us by our Air BnB hosts, at the top of the Tribunali, named Vesi. I couldn’t recommend it more – the pizza was incredible! We passed our nights in the Piazza Bellini, drinking Pinot Grigio and mingling with the locals. We were extremely lucky with the weather – despite being February, it stayed sunny for the majority of our trip! I honestly fell in love with Naples and cannot wait to visit again once all restrictions are lifted and we are able to travel again. If you’re looking for a city break weekend with amazing food and a relaxed atmosphere, Naples is the place for you!
‘For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others, for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.’
In 2019, I managed to tick off the number one item on my bucket list. I finally, after years of idolising Audrey Hepburn, took the journey off the beaten track to Tolochenaz, Switzerland, where she spent the final thirty years of her life. I’m still in a state of disbelief that I managed to visit the tiny little town, and can’t believe I am even writing this blog post. I can honestly say that Tolochenaz is one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited and can certainly see the charm it held for Audrey and why she chose to spend the latter years of her life there.
From Geneva, we took a train to Morges and visited the local Migros to pick up a bouquet of flowers for Audrey’s graveside: I chose a vibrant yellow bunch of roses. We then waited for the 703 bus toward Lussy-sur-Morges and took the 10 minute journey to the village, getting off at Place Audrey Hepburn. As we meandered down the windy road into Tolochenaz, I spotted the monument in the middle of the tiny square: a statue and plaque commemorating Audrey’s life, and I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to jump off and see up close. We ran over to the square and had a look at the plaque, with words from her son, Sean Hepburn-Ferrer. The statue of her face is scarily realistic, and such an amazing recognition of her presence in Tolochenaz. There was the loveliest little water fountain next to the statue, offering a peaceful soundtrack to the quaint town.
We decided to explore the town itself before heading to the cemetery, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. The whole time that we spent in the village, we did not see a single other person. Normally, I would find this slightly eerie but in this instance, it felt peaceful and relaxing. The village is quintessentially Swiss, with a range of charming terraced houses, small cottages and houses with thatched roofs. A rainy day, most of the local business were closed, however we passed a lovely coffee shop and the one and only restaurant in Tolochenaz that looked typically-Swiss and extremely cute! The town was extremely rural with gorgeous views of Lac Leman in the distance, framed by the snow-capped alps, one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen.
We wandered up the hill to La Paisible, the house where Audrey lived for the last thirty years of her life. Surrounded by high walls and greenery, the top of the house peeped over, giving us an insight into her home. With blue shuttered windows and a thatched roof, it was just as quaint and charming as the photos suggested. We were sure to be as respectful and quiet as possible, as there are now new owners of the house who live there, but it was so exciting to be able to see where she lived and raised her children! There is also a plaque on the outside of the house commemorating her time there.
Finally, we walked five minutes further up the hill and through the underpass to visit Tolochenaz Cemetery, where Audrey is buried. It offered beautiful views of both Lac Leman and Tolochenaz itself, and right behind the cemetery is the famous buttercup field where a lot of photos were taken of Audrey, so that was lovely to see. The cemetery is very small, no more than 20 people laid to rest there, so it was easy to find Audrey. Her grave is utterly beautiful, and adorned with photos, gifts and trinkets from fans of all nationalities. I honestly couldn’t believe I’d finally got to explore the town and see her resting place, it felt like a huge privilege and my roses looked lovely on her grave. Despite it being so rainy, it was an amazing day and one that I will never forget.
From Italy (see my previous two posts about my Italian travels via my travel category), we went onto Switzerland, a country that has been number one on my bucket list for many years! Not least because it is where Audrey Hepburn spent the last thirty years of her life, but also because of the natural beauty of the Swiss landscape. I was so excited to finally visit, and it is safe to say that it did not disappoint. Visiting three different places in Switzerland was amazing, and I loved all three equally! But let’s start with Geneva. Flying over the alps from Italy into Geneva was utterly breathtaking, and from the moment we landed I knew I would love the city. The city breathes sophistication and elegance and is both quaint yet bustling. Every corner you turn houses a luxury fashion store or a chic boutique, a stylish coffee house or a bespoke jewellers. The city is also super multicultural and a variation of languages can be heard when wandering by Lake Geneva. The public transport is always punctual, though you scarcely need to use it as everything is within walking distance, the city being one of the most efficient I’ve visited. We walked around the lake at dusk and it was nothing short of beautiful, from the swans that sail by to the twinkling lights hung above. We visited the cathedral and wandered through the old town, visiting the most beautiful book store: Librarie Ancienne Antiques, housing the most beautiful second hand books. From Antoine de Saint–Exupéry to Simone de Beauvoir, from Albert Camus to Jean Paul Sartre, the store houses every author you could imagine. I picked up a beautiful copy of Le Petit Prince. It isn’t limited to only Francophone writers either, but writers from all over the world. If you plan on visiting Geneva, you should factor in at least a couple of hours to peruse the shelves and treat yourself to a beautiful edition of your favourite book. As it was close to Christmas, the city also had a Christmas market in the centre, with lovely trinkets and Christmas food available to buy: the ultimate festive treat. We were also lucky enough to be in Geneva during the time at which they celebrate the Fête de l’Escalade, a festival to celebrate the defeat of the Catholic state, Duchy of Savoy’s, attempt to conquer the city in 1602. We watched the parades of horses and reenactments of that historical night in Geneva’s historical old town. It was amazing to learn a little more about the city’s history and heritage and to experience a true, Swiss celebration. Whilst I found it hard to find vegetarian/plant-based food in Geneva, we had a lovely meal at Inglewood Eaux-Vives on the Avenue de Frontenex, the veggie burger was delicious and the staff were amazing. The place gave me Northern Quarter vibes for any of my fellow Mancunians out there, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. I can honestly say that there was no place greater to begin the festive season than Geneva, and now consider Geneva to be one of my favourite cities in the world.
Being in Geneva, it felt only right that we make a day trip to Lausanne. Only a couple of hours away on the train and with relatively cheap tickets, we decided to wake up early and make the journey. Unfortunately, we chose the rainiest day of our holiday to do this, so the photographs that we took don’t do the beauty of Lausanne any justice, but we nevertheless had a lovely time. A fleeting visit, we spent most of our time wandering around the old city centre and admiring the architecture, the narrow cobbled streets and the beautiful cafes where the Swiss weren’t deterred by the rain and sat outside with cups of coffee – we even stopped for one ourselves! We wandered through the different boutique shops and took the metro to the more rural side of Lausanne, with the intention of climbing the tower on the top of the hill, offering panoramic views of Lausanne. One thing I would advise everyone to do is check the opening times and conditions of any attractions you wish to visit – unfortunately, we spent 40 minutes climbing a hill to find that the tower was closed! What we did not realise was that in poor weather conditions, tourists aren’t able to access the tower for health and safety reasons and it was particularly windy and rainy on that day. Nevertheless, it was fun to wander off the beaten track. Our final stop was Lausanne Cathedral, where we were lucky enough to stumble across a Swiss primary school performing Christmas carols in front of a beautiful Christmas tree. It was lovely to escape the cold for a while and listen to the children sing. Lausanne is definitely worth a visit for anyone travelling to Switzerland, and is just as beautiful as Geneva!
A holiday to Rome meant one thing: of course, we had to pay a visit to the world’s smallest sovereign state! Accessible via metro and fairly easy to navigate, we hopped on the red line at Repubblica in the direction of Battistini and exited at Ottaviano, the closest metro stop to the Vatican and the easiest way to arrive. We wandered through the streets and through the walls into the Vatican, and it is just as beautiful as I imagined it would be. We paid 17 euros for an ‘Ordinario’ ticket, giving us access to the Musei Vaticani and to most of the monuments, including the Sistine Chapel, which was extremely reasonable! One piece of advice I would give to any one who is wishing to visit the Vatican: wear comfortable shoes! There is a lot of walking, so much to see, and it takes a long time to wander through each section, so comfy shoes are an absolute essential. The museum was of course hugely interesting, with Roman sculpture and gorgeous artwork alike, but the star of the show really was the Sistine Chapel. There is a lot to see and do before you arrive at the Sistine Chapel thus anticipation takes over as you turn another corner and say ‘are we at the Chapel yet?,’ but it is safe to say that it did not disappoint. Michelangelo’s work is truly breathtaking and whilst the chapel was full with tourists, it was largely silent in awe of the intricacies of each and every painting that adorned the walls and the ceiling. I unfortunately didn’t manage to take too many photographs, as in a large portion of the Vatican, it is prohibited (to preserve artwork, presumably). We visited the Vatican City in the early afternoon, and in hindsight if I could visit again, I would arrive in the morning. There was a tonne to see and do, and so it is worth accounting for this when planning your trip. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit the Basilica as we left at dusk and the queues were extremely long. However, the sun setting made for some beautiful photos. After leaving the Vatican, we went in search of a delicious evening meal, and as this was one of our last days in Italy, we wanted it to be as Italian as we could find! We stumbled across Marcantonio Ristorante and Pizzeria, about two minutes walk from the Vatican, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. The pasta was incredible, and (as mentioned in my Rome travel post!) I couldn’t get enough of their Caprese salads. If you’re ever around the Vatican, make sure to pay them a visit! Ending our day with a pizza and a view of the Vatican City was a great way to round off the loveliest trip to Italy. I can’t wait to go back (…very very soon!)
2019 was my book-ban year. I had hundreds of books on my shelves that I just hadn’t gotten around to reading, and I decided that in 2019, I wouldn’t buy any books but rather read everything that was outstanding on my shelves. It’s been great, and whilst I’ve read books that I didn’t necessarily like or love, I’ve equally read books that have quickly become my favourites. I loved many of the books that I’ve read this year, but in this post I’ve listed six that I now consider some of the best books that I’ve ever read. Whilst it is now February 2020, it’s never too late to write about books you love!
Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult This is a book that had been sat on my shelf for a while. The only other Picoult book that I had read was, predictably, My Sister’s Keeper. I really enjoyed it and thought her writing style was great – I love the way each chapter focuses on a different character’s perspective and think that it adds real depth and character development to her stories. I decided it was time to give Salem Falls a go and I really didn’t regret it. At first, I wasn’t too sure about the Wicca element of the story, I felt it could take away from the realism of the tale. In the end, I found it only enhanced the story and it became a real page turner. I was invested in the fate of the characters, particularly Addie and Jack. I thought it was a different approach to a harrowing tale and in the end, it really worked. I’d recommend this novel to those people who like both page turners and romance. I’ll definitely be picking up more Picoult novels in 2020.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger I’d heard great things about Salinger’s work and had always wanted to read The Catcher in the Rye, and couldn’t resist picking up this beautiful Penguin copy when browsing in Waterstones. A seemingly superficial novel but when read with deeper focus, becomes an intriguing comment on American society in the late 40s/early 50s, particularly what it means to be a youth at that time. Holden is full of angst and his story epitomises the true feelings of alienation, identity and youth-hood. A coming-of-age story that is definitely worth the accolades and prizes it has received, and also a relatively short novel that could be read in one sitting. For anyone looking to dip a toe into contemporary classics, I would argue that The Catcher in the Rye is the way to go.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier There is nothing surer than the fact that this book was my ultimate favourite from 2019. I couldn’t resist the absolutely gorgeous Virago Modern Classics edition, the cover is beautiful and compliments my book shelf perfectly. At first, I found this book to be a little bit slow on the uptake – du Maurier is extremely descriptive, the intricacies of this book make you feel as though you’re genuinely stood in Manderley with the characters, as though you’re a part of their conversations, of them readying the morning room, as though you’re experiencing the memory of Rebecca first hand. As the mystery grew, I became more intrigued but the one thing that made this book my favourite of 2019 was the plot twist. I really was not expecting it at all, and I think that’s where du Maurier’s description and intricate detail is important. Without this, I don’t think I would have been so shocked at the plot twist. 10/10, could not recommend this book more.
Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel García Márquez My only collection of short stories of 2019, I thought it was brilliant. Twelve stories that relate to the strangeness of living in a foreign land, I found a lot of it, whilst largely symbolic, to be heavily relatable having previously lived in two different countries (Spain and Portugal). What is means to be ‘foreign’ is the common theme and something which I haven’t read about before, so it was refreshing to read something new. My two personal favourite stories were ‘I Sell My Dreams’ and ‘Maria dos Prazeres.’ I found a lot of the writing to be dream-like, whimsical and more fitting to a fantasy theme, yet still portraying a realistic, societal issue. For this reason, I found García Márquez to be such a talented writer and I can’t wait to read more of his work.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho At some point in their lives, everyone should read this book. It took me a while to get around to it but when I finally did, I didn’t regret it! A philosophical novel but still a page turner, I loved following the protagonist’s journey. It really made me think about my approaches in life and being more positive/prioritising myself and my goals. It’s also a relatively short novel and can be read in one sitting. I’m not the biggest fan of the edition that I have but Waterstones and Blackwell’s sell beautiful, hardback editions of the novel for anyone interested in buying it. I’m looking forward to reading more of Coelho’s novels, I feel they offer great lessons of life but also amazing page turners.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov I would argue that this is possibly one of the strangest books I’ve ever read, and considering the premise to the plot, I’m almost ashamed to say that I enjoyed it. Hubert Hubert is pathetic and honestly one of my least favourite characters I have ever come across, but nevertheless, I loved the book and can see why Lolita is so popular. Nabokov has influenced me to delve deeper into Russian literature, despite the very strange storyline and I can’t wait to read more of what Russia has to offer. I particularly love the Penguin Classics copy of Lolita that I own, it was relatively well priced and I picked it up in Waterstone’s. I know it’s a common debate when Lolita is discussed but I personally do believe that Hubert Hubert is a monster, nevertheless I really enjoyed the book and would say it is definitely worth the read.
I can’t wait to lift my book-ban this year and read brand new, current books. Hopefully I’ll come across some that are just as amazing as this year! For any avid GoodReads users out there, I log and review everything that I read and also make lists of books that I still need to read, you can find and follow me by clicking here.