Classics Challenge 2016 #2 -February

Book 2, February’s book, for the 2016 Classics Challenge (join 400+ other people reading a classic each month of 2016!) is …..


“The crime was a psychological accident, virtually an impersonal act; the victims might as well have been killed by lightning.”

Written in 1966, Truman Capote called In Cold Blood the first “non-fiction novel”. Based on the true life murder of the Clutter family which took place in Holcomb, USA in November 1959, the book goes into huge detail about the investigation, capture, trial and finally the execution of the killers. The reconstruction of the murder is chilling and detailed – Capote was said to have made approximately 8,000 pages of research notes. Not only do you feel as if you knew the neighbours and friends of the victims, but you have a huge insight into the lives of the Clutter family and indeed the killers themselves.

In Cold Blood took me a long time to read. At times its pace was fast and captivating so that you wanted to go on reading to find out more. At other times it was slow and meandering and, it seemed to me, a little irrelevant in places.

With a “traditional” work of non-fiction you are presented with facts and allowed to make your own opinions about the subjects in that book. In this book Capote plays with your emotions. His clever imagery leads you to care for the family, despite their somewhat complicated life, and you are even left with some feelings of empathy for one of the killers.

In reading the book it is sometimes hard to remember that it is a true life story, not a work of fiction. It’s lack of sensationalism puts modern day journalism to shame. Presentation of the facts is key. Capote tries to get to the heart of the matter, to understand why the killers did what they did, in a cool, calm and detailed manner with no screaming headlines. It’s a book which seems to talk to you on a “normal” level rather than trying to grip you with hype and fabrication as we have come to expect from modern tabloid journalism.

It’s not a nice book. I can’t say I liked it. But there is something about it. Capote’s NEED to find out the details, to try to understand, to follow it from the very beginning to the very end is captivating. I’ve never read anything like it in the past and I’m not completely convinced that I’d like to in the future.



Classics Challenge 2016 – January (ahem!)

Okay, so I’m a little late with my post, but at least I am doing it, and I really have been reading my classics diligently! In fact I’m already on number 3. I’d be looking for Brownie points (happy World Thinking Day by the way!) if I wasn’t so late….

So, book number 1 for me was….


I have to admit, although I’d heard of it, I knew nothing about it so was reading, effectively, blind. I found the recommendation from a very handy list from our mentor Stacey who came up with this whole brilliant idea in the first place. Read all about the Classics Challenge 2016 on the Pretty Books Blog.

Working in a library, the thought of burning books was an intriguing one and I thought beginning with a “modern” classic would be a good way to break myself in gently.

I’m not sure that “enjoyed” is the right way to describe the way I felt about this thought provoking book. It’s quite scary that 60+ years earlier a lot of Ray Bradbury’s “predictions” of life in the future are pretty accurate.

As well as the physical burning of books and the reading of books being a crime punishable by death, lack of social and personal contact are big themes and, well, we all know that is the direction in which life is moving at present with social media keeping us at arms-length from face to face contact a lot of the time, as well as the meteoric rise of reality tv shows encouraging us to watch life from a distance rather than take part personally.

Interestingly, in Bradbury’s world the citizens police themselves and the book burning and other conformity is widely accepted and, indeed, embraced.

The violence in the book is shocking – the burning of a colleague, a mechanical hound hunting down it’s prey, attempted suicide and more – but the reaction of those who witness these things is even more shocking. A huge wake up call. If Bradbury wrote this 60 years ago and we are rapidly heading in the direction of his predictions without having taken heed of those words, is there hope for future generations? Are things like consideration for others and a wide and rich education becoming things of the past?

We need to grasp, embrace and act upon the equally strong positive messages of the story….

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.”

“It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

So, what are you going to leave behind….?