The Circle by Dave Eggars vs The Circle (2018) – Book Review, Film Review

The Circle by Dave Eggars – Book Review

This is a world similar to ours. We have social media technology which connects us all. But what if a little is not enough? When Mae is employed by The Circle, she is over the moon. Highly paid, with an amazing campus filled with excitement and all of the best of everything, she wants to succeed. The longer she is there, the more she buys into the philosophy that the only way to live is to have your whole life on display.

I loved that the protagonist of the book buys into the whole system, and that as we, the reader, see red flags, she is swept up in the excitement of the world. We want her to fight the system, but we can also see how charismatic leaders and groupthink can influence the individual. It’s a scary world and a scary thought, but a truly wonderful read.

The Circle (2017) Film Review

It’s impossible for the entirety of a novel to be translated into a film and choices need to be made about what to leave out. This is a film I wish I’d seen before the book, because it felt like a waterer-down version of the book, and perhaps it would hold its own without the background of the book. We had to lose the overwhelmed feelings of Mae, the amount of pressure put on in this new job and for her to commit to the world of The Circle, and this meant that it lost some of the dread and suspense. It was good but just a bit weak – I’d love to have seen it as a television series, even just a three- or six-parter.

 

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed – Book Review

In the lead-up to a senate election, Jamie and Maya find themselves campaigning for a local democrat – Jamie roped in because his cousin is running the campaign and Maya is doing it for her mother in a roundabout way. But as they go on, there are some pretty nasty behaviours appearing in their local community, and both find they want to get more involved in activism. And each other.

I really enjoyed this book, seeing some of the challenges of living in the US with Trump as president and the appalling behaviour this has allowed in the general population. Of course, this was written before COVID-19, and before the extensive BLM protests across the world, and so it almost feels dated. The romance was the cherry on the cake for me – not really needed, but it definitely worked.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks – Book Review

Reading about a plague during a pandemic – I did consider whether this was the best idea for my mental health. Still, I remembered loving this book, and that hasn’t changed. It’s 1666, and plague has arrived in a small village in England. Anna is a widow who works for the local minister and lives with her two small children. But as the plague strikes people down, she works with the minister to try to get through.

It’s heartbreaking, but that’s hardly a surprise. I found it fascinating to compare what actions were taken to what we’re currently doing, especially given how far medicine has come. Social distancing, isolating the town, essentially lock-downs. Brooks has the reputation of being a master of historical novels, so while this isn’t non-fiction, you know that it’s got a strong historical base. It’s a wonderful book.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Book Review

In the marshes of North Carolina, a girl lives, abandoned by most of her family. She raises herself and avoids most people, and has become a mysterious legend in the nearby community. But when a man is found dead, the police need to figure out if Kya is to blame.

I loved this so much. The way Owens describes the marsh and Kya’s life is stunning, and while her existence is heartbreaking, there’s still a sense of hope and possibility.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – Book Review

R is a zombie. There are a couple of types of zombies in this world – those like R who are dead but still have thoughts and can almost have conversations between themselves, who eek out some kind of existence. Then there are the scary skeleton zombies who are scary, even to other zombies. When a group of human survivors are scavenging, Julie gets separated from the group and R protects her. And as they spend time together, they realise he is changing.

This is so fun. I do love a zombie book, and this is just a bit crazy and fun. And there are a couple more in the series… I’m keen to see where it goes!

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

Told across continents and over time, There Was Still Love is the story of two sisters separated by the events of WW2.

How was Melbourne different to Prague in the early 80s? What was Prague like back in 1938? How can family still find the love when things are so challenged? This is a beautiful book, just stunning. Such deep emotion, so much pain, so much love. Wonderful.

There Was Still Love was shortlisted for the Stella Prize in 2020.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has had some pretty big crushes in her time, and as she’s moved on from each, she’s written a secret love letter to them. But when somehow these letters have ended up being posted to said crushes, she thinks her life may be over.

I learned about this through the Netflix movie, which is so much fun. The book is great, Lara Jean is wonderful and the way she interacts with her family, her friends, these boys is just delightful.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

A close-knit trio of older women get together for a weekend to pack up the holiday house of their friend. But she was the glue of the group, and all three wonder if they have enough in common to keep their friendships going now she’s gone.

I don’t know if I really enjoyed this. I love Charlotte Wood’s writing, but the fact that all three women seem to really dislike each other – I just couldn’t see why they were friends. Maybe it just makes me realise how good my own friendships are.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – Book Review

Set a couple of decades after The Handmaid’s Tale, this shows the possibilities of how things may have gone. Atwood reportedly wrote it in response to years of questions about what happened next. Given how popular the television adaptation has been, it’s a pretty big ask. The television show covered the book in the first season and has gone beyond. By setting it much later than this, Atwood has been able to keep the essence of the world. Yet, it is separate. There is another season to come (according to IMDB it will be coming next year, but who knows how the pandemic has impacted production), and perhaps it and potential future seasons may go a different way. At any rate, I really enjoyed the choices Atwood made with this book.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – Book Review

Natasha is fighting to keep her family from being deported from the US to Jamaica. Daniel is trying to figure out what his future should be, especially as his older brother who has always been the golden boy is now in disgrace. Their meeting and the day they spend revolving in each other’s orbits changes both of them.

I love this book. I loved the way it is written, sometimes from Natasha’s perspective, sometimes from Daniel’s, sometimes giving us interesting facts, sometimes telling someone else’s story. Oh, so good.