What Am I Reading?
I have a number of books ‘on the go’ at the moment; in this post, however, I’d like to focus on two of them:-
- Hejaz before Word War I by David George Hogarth
- Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan
They are two very different books.
Hejaz is not a book as such. It was published in two editions in 1916 and 1917 by the Arab Bureau for use by its members during the Arab Revolt. The book, or handbook, as it may properly be called is divided into chapters on – amongst other things – the climate, population, districts, tribes, and trades of the Hejaz region.
My interest in the book, of course, is in the fact that David Hogarth wrote it. He did so using reports from British officers in the field – one of whom was T. E. Lawrence. That makes the book doubly interesting to me!
Just Juliet is a newly published work of teen/YA fiction. Lena is a 17 year old high school student who falls in love with new-girl Juliet. The book is about that relationship and what happens when Lena comes out. According to the blurb on Goodreads, ‘the loyalty of those closest to her will be tested’, which sounds very portentous. We must hope that all ends well for her.
Going back to Hejaz, I have to admit that it is not the most exciting book. Yes, Hogarth; yes, Lawrence but there seems to be little of their personalities in it. That is no surprise – it was written as a guide to officers during a war; it was neither the time or place to make the work a personal one. I need to try and imagine myself being in Cairo during the Arab Revolt and see Hejaz from an officer’s point-of-view.
What about Just Juliet? In a way, this book takes me back to the 80s when I was a teenager and enjoyed watching John Hughes’s films. I should do that more often now – one of those pictures, Some Kind of Wonderful, still counts as one of my most favourite films.
That’s all very well and good, but unfortunately, I have read virtually no teen/YA literature since then, so I don’t have much to which I can compare this book. All I can do in this post, therefore, is give an impression of how the book seems to me now. I am currently four chapters in so these thoughts are based on them:
- Just Juliet is very simply written. The book is easy to dive in and out of
- The story is unfolding quickly. Lena, the protagonist, starts to fall in love with Juliet as early as Chapter Two. If I was writing this book, this would not happen until Chapter 7 at the earliest! These probably says more about me than Charlotte Reagan
- Speaking of whom, Reagan is a confident writer. She must be because we find out that Juliet is a lesbian in Chapter Four and in the most matter-of-fact way. I would have expected that information to come later on and in a much ‘bigger’ scene. Maybe it is not so much confidence but that she has a rich seam of story to mine. Either way, this bodes well for the rest of the book.
- I’m not quite there with Juliet as a character. Or, at least, she confuses me a little. Judging by the clothes she wears and the posters on her wall at home, she appears to be a bit of a rebel but her actual character is much softer. Maybe, though, the fault is not Reagan’s but my judgement. Why can’t a person with a gentle personality like Rock and Roll?
- The only thing I don’t like about Just Juliet is its cover:
- It projects an image of the book as a piece of erotica, which it isn’t. Just Juliet is by no means a deep meditation on sexuality but it is a book that could help teenagers (or adults, for that matter) accept who they are in that respect. Having a cover that seems designed only to titillate and therefore cheapen seems to undermine what must surely be the author’s intention.
Writing A Blog Post
I began writing this blog post last night in the Harlequin pub near Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. I am currently sitting in my living room tidying it up!
The Harlequin is a lovely pub with a very friendly owner and staff. While reading, I went to the bar to order another beer (Doombar). The barman asked me what I was reading so I showed him my copy of Hejaz. While we were talking about T. E. Lawrence, counter-insurgencies, politics etc a woman and her husband walked by. The woman recognised the London Library sticker on the front cover of the book; it turned out she was also a member. I shall say here what I said last night – the London Library is not cheap to join but boy am I ever glad I did, for I would not have been able to find Hejaz anywhere else. It has an amazing collection of books. I am very, very glad that when I was last unemployed I managed to save enough money to pay my subscription. My clothes were tatty but I was well read.
While writing the post this morning, I googled the cover of Just Juliet for this post. I couldn’t find my Kindle one (what you see above is a screen shot from my tablet) but did find this:
Perhaps this is the hard or paper back cover? It suits the story much, much better than the Kindle version.
- Read more about Just Juliet and Charlotte Reagan at her blog here
- I would love to link to a blog about David Hogarth here but is there one?? There really ought to be