Brigitta – Adalbert Stifter

Title: Brigitta

Author: Adalbert Stifter (1805-1868)

Genre: German literature

Having been born in Austria and also going to school there, I naturally discovered German literature over the course of the years and certainly came to enjoy it.

The german language is often described as harsh and hard, not even to close to the beauty of romantic languages like Spanish and French. Which is right, neither Austrians nor Germans sound particularly nice, the written german language however, is a bit different.

Especially in the epoch of Sturm and Drang, when German authors flourished, the language is beautiful to read and made me kind of fall back in love with my mother-tongue after having slipped off into English (I still prefer to write in English though). For that reason I decided to occasionally upload a German-literature-post on here, for those of you who are studying German or are generally interested in that topic.

The first book I would like to review is “Brigitta” by Adalbert Stifter.

The book has first been published in 1843 but reappeared as an edited version in 1847. Compared to other pieces of German literature, Brigitta is a fairly easy read, which makes it the perfect book to get started with in this genre.

I first read the book in High School and for some reason loved it straight away. Something about the protagonist just resonated with me and I’ve been rereading it every once in a while.

Now, what’s the book about. 

The short novel Brigitta is separated into four parts or chapters. In the first chapter we follow the first-person narrater on his journey through Hungary, where he is visiting an old friend and fellow traveler.

In the second part, we get to know that friend who is called the Major, and his surroundings a bit better. The reader also gets a very good picture about one of the neighbours of the Major, whose name is Brigitta.

The third chapter makes it clear that the Major and Brigitta share a very special history and the story of how they met and what happened between them is unfold.

In the fourth chapter there’s an accident, tears and finding back home.

What makes this story so appealing is Stifter’s incredible talent of describing landscapes. His style of writing is so accurate and precise, it feels as if he were painting with words. And in Brigitta it also becomes clear that Stifter was very much in favour of emancipation which wasn’t the norm during the 19thcentury.

The main characters of the book are:

  • The Major, who even as a middle-aged man has the looks and the brains to make women swoon
  • Brigitta, who is so ugly even her own mother repelled her, but has a huge heart and works hard
  • The first person narrator of whom we know nothing more than how much he used to love travelling, but starts to long for a settled home

To conclude this review, in my opinion Brigitta is a great book to get started in German-literature but also for those of you who want to increase their ability of describing landscapes and scenes.

Looking For Alaska – John Green

John Green’s „Looking For Alaska” is probably my favourite work of his. Published seven years before his most famous piece “The Fault In Our Stars” (2012) captured millions of readers all over the world, Looking for Alaska showed the mysterious, dark side of growing-up, mixed with mental health issues, trauma and loss.

As I mentioned in my review of “Turtles All The Way Down” I adore John Green’s style of writing in all of his books, but in Alaska he has certainly outdone himself. He speaks the language of teenagers like no one else, which is why John Green is the master of Y/A literature (in my eyes at least). Looking for Alaska is for the lack of a better word, more “indie” than the rest of his books and I love the mystery and the companionship between the main characters. Also, establishing a protagonist who quotes the last words of dead people is so unusual, and at the same time the perfect match to the story.

Anyway, enough about the author, let me give you a quick overview of the plot (spoiler-alert!).

The book starts with young, friendless Miles deciding to go to boarding school in, as he puts it, the search for the great perhaps.

Shortly after his arrival at Culver Creek Boarding School he is named “Pudge” and has made the first three friends of his life. Chip, Pudges roommate, and his friends Takumi and Alaska. Those four aren’t the cool-kids at Culver Creek, but they are extremely smart and, especially in Alaska’s case, really good in pranking. So the first few months of the school year go by, but it wouldn’t be High School if there weren’t some sort of romantic drama involved. Miles has been falling for Alaska, the only female in their group, ever since he stepped into her dorm-room filled with books. The stunning girl is as beautiful on the outside as she is screwed-up and lonely on the inside. With her near, it never boring and historic pranks are pulled off. Yet despite the fun there’s that dark cloud that follows Alaska everywhere she goes. She literally goes from being all bubbly and seemingly happy to making cryptic comments like “Y’all smoke to enjoy is, I smoke to die.”and so the girl with the childhood-trauma and thousands of books, slowly wins Miles’ heart. She is enchanted by him as well, but just when they seem to hit it off, she dies in a car-accident, which could have been suicide but we never find out whether Alaska really killed herself or if it was a terrible accident. Miles and his friends are left in a deep hole of guilt and grief and have to fight against the tidal wave of life and remember to keep going. 

In the end, it’s Alaska who puts Miles in a miserable place in the middle of the story, yet she also teaches him and all the readers one important lesson for life: The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.

Oliver Loving – Stefan Merrill Block

Now, let’s talk about Oliver Loving. This book has been a step out of my comfort zone in some way. I don’t usually read books like that, but since my boyfriend is called Oliver I thought I might give it a try. Also, the cover is quite beautiful.

Anyway, the story is about Oliver who has been gravely injured by an amok-attack in his high-school. Ever since then he’s lying in a hospital bed unable to move any part of his body.

At the beginning of the book, Oliver has been in that unchanging condition for ten years and is about to get yet another test, which should reveal whatever he is still somewhere in his destroyed body. As the story slowly progresses to that fateful day, the reader is also lead in the past. Oliver’s divorced parents, his younger brother Charlie, his high-school love Rebecca and of course, Oliver himself tell the whole tale from their different points of view. All of them struggle with the question as to why the accident happened and why Oliver was attacked. But not only do we discover the truth behind the amok-attack, we additionally find out a lot about the former life of the family. And in the end get to see a great example of how strong a mother’s love is.

Well, in my opinion, that book did certainly have quite some action to it, nevertheless, I couldn’t really warm up to it. To me, it was quite predictable and it is definitely an easy-breezy summer-read because it kind of has the habit of dampening your mood a bit. So although I’m glad I read Oliver Loving once, I probably won’t read it again.

Catcher -Kalyn Nicholson

It’s almost like I’ve known you my entire life.

Although I normally upload reviews on Sundays and Dear Reader-parts on Tuesdays I couldn’t resist uploading the review of Kalyn Nicholson’s book straight away. The book came out on August 7thand I’ve been reading it a couple of days later, basically in one sitting.

It’s a story about love, loss and family, with just the right amount of cheesiness and a hell lot of coffee. But let me give you an overview of the plot. (Spoiler-Alert!)

The book is written from the view of eighteen-year-old Carson Wallace. The girl lives with her parents in Thalia, a country in the future and is being homeschooled by her father. The story starts with a tragedy that happened to Carson’s family when she was about four years old. During a lift-crash (lifts being the futuristic transportation vehicles) her younger brother Axel dies, although Carson also nearly did not survive the accident. But while she is unconscious she meets a young boy with grey eyes who tells her it would not be her time to die yet. So, she decides to live and returns to her life. The boy, whom she calls Grey, continues to visit her in her dreams and together they have the most awesome adventures.

As the years go by, their friendship eventually turns to love, but on Carson’s 18thbirthday her house is set on fire, she and her parents merely escape and her world is turned upside down. Suddenly she is allowed to attend Yorker, a school which specializes in brain stimulation, something her parents have forbidden her before since the school is across the country in the capital of Thalia. Also, instead of Grey, Carson suddenly dreams about how she herself sets her house on fire with a pack of matches she found.

Things get even more confusing when she not only finds out that Grey exists in real life, but that she also is on top of a kill-list established by the government. Trying to escape from her fate, she discovers secrets about her world, she’d never thought possible.

Well, I don’t want to spoil you anymore, so I’m gonna stop with that.

Overall, the book is a nice read, which features a lot of almond lattes and notebooks. Nicholson’s style of writing is pretty good, although the characters do miss a tiny bit of depth every now and then. Apart from that I really enjoyed reading Catcher and cannot wait to read the sequel to this very exciting series.

Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve had this book for at least three years in my bookshelf, but for some reason I kept putting reading it off. Well, actually, I started reading it right when I bought it, but Eat, Pray, Love didn’t really feel good to me back then. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it just felt as if I or something inside me wasn’t yet ready for this book. Does that make sense?

Anyway, now that I eventually managed to read it, I can tell you, I liked it, although I see why a lot of people don’t have that good an opinion on Gilbert’s most known piece. But, I guess that’s just part of the risk you take when you write and publish a book that features mostly personal experience, since there probably are tons of people who would have reacted differently than the author in certain situations, but that shouldn’t matter, really. Gilbert tells her story and how she felt during that period of her life and she deserves some respect for putting it so bravley out into the world.

But, let’s focus on the content of the book. Eat, Pray, Love is a non-fictional, motivational book that tells the story of the author and how she lost her husband, her house and herself, but found the path to her innerself or awakening (as Rebecca Campbell calls it) through traveling from Italy, to India to Indonesia. It’s a story about healing, learning and finding back on track. Very motivational and be warned, after reading this you are going to want to jump onto the next plane and travel the world, just like Gilbert.

I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s sense of humor rather refreshing, although her style of writing and her world-view take some time to get used to, but apart from that Eat, Pray, Love is a highly inspiring, motivational and also very interesting book to read, since it features three, well actually four entirely different cultures with Italy, India, Indonesia and the USA.

So, in case you are looking for a book you want to read outside in the warm sunlight of early-summer, you may very well have just found it. I highly advise you to give Eat, Pray, Love a go.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Having been published in 1817 Frankenstein is now the epitome of gothic books. Mary Shelley was only 19 years old when she wrote this dark tale of monstrosity, the rules of science and death.

Victor Frankenstein is a highly intelligent striving young man from Switzerland with an enthusiasm for alchemy. When he sets out to attend a rewarded Universtiy, it soon becomes clear that great things are to be expected from him. And doesn’t take long that he commences a project that will last far longer than he could have ever imagined. After endless hours in his labour he succeeds in the middle of the night when the creature he put together from lifeless limbs suddenly opens its eyes. But his creation is a wretch, a Monster and Frankenstein flies from his labour in fear. To his Desperation that’s not the end to the tale, in fact it’s only the beginning. For some time, Frankenstein doesn’t see or hear anything from the wretch, but when he murders Victors younger brother, it becomes clear to him that he made a huge mistake in bringing that miserable creature to life. The monster hunts him and takes revenge for giving him this pleasureless and miserable life by tormenting him with the murders of Frankensteins beloved ones.

The creature is feared and rejected by every human being because his appearance is hideous and he never meets a genuine hand. Tough, he longs for companionship, for a fellow creature, with whom he could share his lonely life with. Therefore, he sets out and seeks Frankenstein in person to demand from him to produce another wretch, just like him. If he, Frankenstein, would fulfil this task the monster and his partner would forever leave him and all humans in peace. But Frankenstein dares not to put another monster in the world and refuses the demand. Filled with rage and hatred for his creator the daemon thus makes his purpose of life to put Frankenstein into as much misery as possible. Innocent people have to give their lives in order to torment the troubled and despairing Frankenstein, who then vows to destroy the monster and sets out on a journey that will eventually cost him his life. The monster, after Frankenstein is dead, dies from his own hand, and the claims to not be the only devil in this tale. He says all he wanted was the be happy and to be content. He wanted to interact with other people, but he was left alone by his master, who feared him solely for his appearance. He claims to have emotions just like a person has and he felt the injustice and he wanted, in his misery, Frankenstein to feel the same pain he had to endure. The death of Frankenstein can also not satisfy him, because now his life is robbed of its only purpose of life, which was to torment his creator. Thus, he sets out and takes his own life.

This is how the Story of Frankenstein and his Monster Ends and I believe that book is an astonishing read. It’s about how pushing too far never equals a good outcome and how revenge and hatred lead only to more misery and that sometimes forgiveness and admitting one’s own mistakes and giving a helping hand to those who need it, may go a very long way.

I do not really believe that Frankenstein’s monster was evil from the beginning, nothing ever is evil on its day of birth. But being abandoned by his creator and rejected by everyone made him take the actions of a Monster. If he really was evil, I don’t know, but I think he could have come out alright if someone had taken proper care of him. This might be very naive, but I just have trouble believing that something is entirely evil or entirely good.

Anway, Frankenstein, though brilliant, could not see the line where science may be too much. His pushing too far over the edge kind of reminds me of Moria in Lord Of The Rings. The dwarves, just like Victor, stepped over a line and woke a monster that was far out of their league. The same happened to Frankenstein and I think no one can blame him for running away, that night when his Monster first opened its eyes. Nevertheless, he had to spend the rest of his life trying to destroy what his very own hands brought to life, but in the end, he only lost everything that was dear to him and of course his own life.

Frankenstein is an astonishing read. Shelley fills the head of her reader with the most grotesque images, that are so dreadful, I would not advise reading this book at night when you are alone at home. But I would certainly recommend reading it. Frankenstein may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is definitely worth your time.

Leah On The Offbeat – Becky Albertalli

After binge-listening to Simon Vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda on Audible, it came in handy that the Sequel Leah On The Offbeat was soon to be released. Of course, I preordered it and was very happy when it finally got delivered and just as I binge-listened its prequel I read Leah On The Offbeat in one sitting, which is a sign for a very fluent, easy-to-read style of writing.

But before we discuss Albertalli’s structure and style, let me give you a quick summary of both books.

Simon Vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda

Simon is your typical student with the same problems we all face in some sort in high-school.  Also, Simon is gay and he knows that for sure, so he starts mailing with an unknown other guy, who happens to be gay too. The two of them chat for approximately two-thirds of the book and it’s only in the end that they find out each other’s identities. It’s one of the cutest and sweetest books I’ve ever read, that I can tell you for sure. There’s a lot of relatable everyday High-School “Drama” going on and that’s pretty much about it. Nobody suffers from a terminal illness or a severe mental health condition, as we find it in most Y/A-books. The characters are literally just your average students with unique talents, attributes and fears. It’s a great read, really and one of the best things about it is, that Albertalli managed to transfer the characters to

Leah On The Offbeat

This time it’s all about bisexuality and not being super-skinny and the problems that come with falling in love with one of your friends, who has a super-cute boyfriend and seems to be super-duper hetero. And all of that whilst being in senior-year and on the edge of graduation. So, finding out what you want to do after High-School and making the most out of those last days, is definitely a huge topic in this particular book. But there’s also prom, break-ups and the cutest couple ever (Simon & Bram). And a hell lot of nice people being mostly nice, but sometimes not so nice to each other.

I don’t want to spoil you too much, so if you are looking for an easy read over the summer or sort of want to relive your own last year of High-School, go ahead an grab a copy of Leah On The Offbeat. It’s certainly one of the best Y/A-Books of 2018. In my opinion, Becky Albertalli belongs right up there to the masters of Y/A-Fiction like John Green and Jandy Nelson.

You keep running away.

You keep finding me.

I mean, Jesus Christ, how freaking cute is that? Cheesy, yes but that’s just the risk you take whenever you go buy a Y/A-Book.

But in defence of the author, so far she managed the amount of cheesiness very well in her books. Like, Simon was cute, yes, but not so cheesy you get major eye-roll-dizziness and luckily it’s the same with Creekwood #2.

To wrap this up, I think Leah On The Offbeat is a great summer-read or an easy to read book you pick up whenever you want to forget about your own life for a bit and only care about the guys in the book.