Book Review: My Brother Simple

My Brother Simple is like no other book I have ever read.

The book follows the lives of Simple, a 22 year old with learning difficulties, and his 17 year old brother Kleber. It takes us on their journey as they fight their own battles, but also allows us a peak into the lives of those they met on the journey.

Kleber has ‘rescued’ Simple from the evil that is the Malicroix Institution. Kleber and Simple move into an apartment that they have to share with Corentin, Enzo, Aria, and her boyfriend Emmanuel. From there, we are given an insight to all of their lives; Enzo is an avid writer and in love with Aria, Corentin is struggling with his health and is a heavy smoker, and Aria slowly falls out of love with Emmanuel. Kleber struggles with juggling school work, girls and looking after Simple. Meanwhile, Simple is occupied with his own imagination and his companion, Mister Babbit – a stuffed toy with a life of its own.

My Brother Simple is like no other book I have ever read as it changes the common misconceptions about living with learning difficulties, a subject that is often left out and not spoken about. It shines light on how life is like with a person with learning difficulties in a positive and imaginative way.  Simple is able to positively change the lives of all that he meets in different aspects of their lives, contradicting the negative perceptions of people with learning difficulties.

Overall, My Brother Simple is a nice and easy read, and leaves every reader satisfied and fulfilled as it takes the reader on a journey and addresses all the characters’ lives.

by Cassie Barnard

Review of 1984 by George Orwell

Hidden in the depths of a dystopian version of the 1980’s is a middle aged man named Winston Smith, riddled with worry as he scrawls on a page words that he knows will lead to his eventual death. He is 39 years old and aching with age, but he knows that the Thought Police care not for his ailments – he is a thought-traitor, and what he writes now in this journal is proof of his defiance.
1984 is the story of Winston, who unwillingly lives in a world where Big Brother – the all-powerful, controlling dictator of Oceania – is always watching. Members of the Party are expected to loyally follow his every word, not just by action but also by thought, even if what is going on around them goes completely against their common sense, even if the newspapers and media refer to a past that has been altered from what they remember. Winston knows that he is a thought traitor, unable to conform to double-think as he is too aware of how out of order the Party is. He knows that it is only a matter of time before he is caught, but all he can do is act like everyone else around him.
I found that this novel was interesting, as it differed massively from the modern dystopian novels I’d read before. The world is so thoroughly thought out, and the characters defined in a way that makes the story seem so real that it is jumping off the page, along with a dark and dreary atmosphere that fits all too well with the themes of the book. Whilst reading it, every scene I read I imagined to be in black and white, not just since the book was written in the late 1940s but also due to the somber haze that seems to follow Winston wherever he goes – everything is portrayed in such a dark way, only adding to the dystopian setting.
The whole society of Oceania and the Party works only due to the dictatorship of Big Brother, and neither Winston nor the reader ever really figure out whether he is real or just a fictional embodiment of the Party. But in a brilliant way, it doesn’t matter, as the Party embodies the idea of a dictatorship to the very core, and Big Brother, whether real or not, is just a face to put the dictatorship to. Who knows who really created the Party and sustains its values, since the members of the Party are so convinced by the values that are forced upon them that they would continue to run in the same efficient, utterly loyal manner according to whatever the Party tells them. Even in a fictional setting, the manipulation that George Orwell shows is immense, and its frightening to think that people can be forced to believe anything if convinced in the right way.
Another idea that stuck out to me was the idea of double-think, which is a concept whereby people consciously forget things that the Party doesn’t want them to know. Winston himself works as someone who alters the archived newspapers so they correlate with the present, such as who the country is at war with or erasing the existence of someone who has been executed by the Party. They work to make it seem as though the present extends both into the past and future indefinitely, refusing to acknowledge any change that happens and instead shifting their thoughts and ideas as if the current state is how it has always been. The system is in place so that the idea of the Party ever having not existed or the possibility of it ending is eradicated – another form of control to make people believe that they can’t possibly overthrow the Party. Every person is aware of the government deceiving them, but through double-think they convince themselves of what the Party want them to believe. In 1984, it’s not enough to merely act the part – you must think correctly too.
Winston, throughout the whole novel, seems to be the only voice of reason, but living in a society where he is a criminal for just thinking differently, he at the same time feels like someone who is crazy to the world around him, and is constantly wondering if he is in fact just mad. The way his thoughts and emotions change throughout the book is a roller coaster – at the being, he is weak and aching, hopelessly convinced that he will soon be caught and killed, but as circumstances change he starts to wonder whether maybe he has a chance, only to be thrown back down again at the most unexpected moment possible. Orwell is brilliant at taking the reader on a similar journey to the characters they follow, and I found myself wondering whether Winston could escape the Party even though I knew that rationally there was no way out for him.
I would give 1984 a solid four out of five stars, for it is well written and the setting in particular is the most greatly thought out I’ve ever read about. However, the only limitation from it being a five star is the ending, as I felt that the anti-climax was a let down compared to the rest of the book. Although I realise that the anti-climax was intentional, I felt that it could have been altered slightly to make the ending feel a little more rounded. Otherwise, I would recommend this book to almost anyone, especially those who have an interest in unique dystopian settings.

Owen Jones’ ‘The Establishment’

The Establishment is a highly political book which explains the real deal surrounding the British ‘Establishment’ – The social elite – where the book subsequently shows who runs the show behind the scenes. The book however is not a part of a series but the author has been known to write many a political book or even articles on the Guardian.

The book has a spectacular quality of not dissuading the reader in five minutes, a quality of most books surrounding British politics hold to heart, and in fact seems to have you gripped by the first page. It is also relatively easy to follow (although there is a lot of information and can be quite tricky to remember) and the way it is presented is cleverly done to help someone read the book with little political understanding. Owen Jones, the author, has been called a hypocrite for writing this book as he graduated in Oxford and is even considered a part of the establishment to some although some criticism would be expected from a controversial piece such as this. Do not be fooled though, this is not a book you can quickly whizz through. It takes time and consideration to take in all that has been written, implied and exemplified (which stands throughout).

I would recommend this book not by age group, despite being a more mature book, but by determination to sit and really let the information simmer in and make sense. For the learners out there this book is a god-send; I doubt you can reach the next chapter without learning at least a few new things.

Through all of this I would have to give this book 5/5 with no legitimate flaws it is hard to give it any less.

~Reuben

 

Book review – The Humans, by Matt Haig

Andrew Martin, a maths professor at Cambridge University solves the Riemann hypothesis; a mathematical puzzle concerning prime numbers that may unlock answers to some of humanity’s biggest questions and assures a great technological improvement for humans. However learning of this on the other side of the universe the Vonnadorians, a more intellectually advanced race, decides humans are too destructive to let them keep their discovery.

The Vonnadorians are logical, mathematical and rational and have no array of emotions clouding their judgments. A single Vonnadorian is dispatched to kill any humans that may have discovered the information and finds itself in the body Andrew Martins (who is now effectively dead having been taken over by the alien Vonnadorian), trying to discover if his family or anyone knows the solution of the Riemann hypothesis. The Vonnadorian shows us a distorted vision of what perfection looks like. The Vonnadorian is able to store a great deal of theoretical knowledge but finds it harder to understand our human unreasoned and illogical norms. To understand us he must become one of us.

The book highlights the hypocrisy and ignorance humans choose rather than reality, although he sees that reality is something we are all subject to (if not more harshly for those who try and forget) “If getting drunk was how people forgot they were mortal, then hangovers were how they remembered.” It is also highlighted in the quote “They can talk about peace being a good thing yet glorify war.” Is this a true definition of humanity?

As a work of fiction, it leaves an eerie message of viewpoint, and what morals are considered “right” or even have any logic. Although we see ourselves as individuals and see our morals as subjective, the book shows us as one species and a fixed definition of what it means to be humans…. at the beginning. Yet it later showcases our diversity and individuality. It gives us perspective of how small we are in comparison to the entire universe. Nevertheless it allows us to see what a big impact we have on each other and potential outer sources (the Vonnadorian).

I won’t give too much away but it’s definitely a great read and an eye-opener to our world.

Vikita

The Humans, by Matt Haig