Book Review: The Truants

The Truants is a coming of age story with a twist, telling the experience of Jess Walker’s first year as a student at the fictionalized University of East Anglia. Jess studies English Literature and enrolls herself on an Agatha Christie course, immediately finding herself enthralled by the subject, as well as the expert in the field, Professor Lorna Clay. Jess becomes friends with a group of uninitiated, carefree students, including falling for Alec, an ex student and current journalist.

Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Coming of Age, Literary Fiction

My rating: ★★★★

This book echoes the reverberated student scene of carefree days drinking in pub gardens and ignoring academic responsibilities. As the closeness of Jess’ relationship with Lorna unfolds, the mystery involving Alec starts to appear before the readers’ eyes.

Jess cannot help but be pulled in by the perplexing Alec. He is good looking, intelligent, but little does she know about his deeply troubled past. As a character, he is laced with toxicity, regret and past betrayal and takes it out on those who fall for him – a classic maverick disguised as a heart throb. Jess gets caught up in several disturbing love triangles, which serve to explore the realities of betrayal on a relationship and friendship basis. The lure of new love becomes her achilles’ heel as she is placed in the middle of a dark mystery of her own.

Something rather dark lurks beneath the seemingly picturesque portrayal of student life, which is discovered as the book progresses. Despite drawing so heavily on the works of Agatha Christie and her novels, this book is essentially its own mystery and a play on the psychology of relationships, seduction and betrayal. It combines a lot of different genres which I think is one of its selling points, it has elements of literary fiction, mystery and thriller, whilst being told within the coming of age paradigm. The feeling of suspense is naturally created early on in the book, which produces an unavoidable hook for the reader. The whole time I was reading I had a feeling of unease; but couldn’t help but read on. I was fascinated by the characters and wanted to see how everything would unfold.

I think the highlight of this book is in the complexity of the characters. The story only centers around a handful of individuals, but each are fundamentally flawed. This allows for the difficulties of coming of age to be realistically conveyed, with the exploration of problematic friendships and relationships. Jess, the protagonist, was particularly complex, and I was drawn to her insight. It is essentially a major portrayal of character development and exploring the dark incidents that lay within her experience at university.

That said, I did think the play on the mystery was to a certain extent cliche. Not being familiar with Agatha Christie’s writing, I can’t comment on the full exploration of this – and there may be things I missed. Critique’s and readers alike have drawn similarities between this and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, being an avid fan of that novel, I fail to see the comparison aside from the theme of ‘dark academia.’ I found the language in this underdeveloped and simplistic at times, whereas Tartt’s writing is wonderfully crafted, with layers of intricacy. In some ways, I think this book tries too hard. I got the sense it was trying to aestheticize student suffering within the framework of academic life. There are many troubling scenes and dark elements to the book, some are explored well, but others rather flippantly.

However, I very much enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to anyone. It combines so many genres, is full of complex characters and a sense of unrelenting intrigue. It grabbed me from the start and left me hooked, for that alone I would say it is very commendable.

A big thank you to Net Galley and Bloomsbury Publishing for giving me an e-arc copy to review. Please note however, this does not influence my review in any way.

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Graduation (a reflection)

Over last weekend, I managed to successfully graduate from the University of York and obtain my degree certificate.

It was a successful experience on the whole. I managed to climb the stairs in sync with the processions of the ceremony, had the correct name read out alongside my degree, and didn’t manage to trip on my way down. I was relived when I could sit back in my seat and enjoy the rest of the ceremony without having to worry if I would make it up and down in one piece.

After the ceremony came the onslaught of photographs – both professional and ones taken by my parents. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. It isn’t often that the sun shines so brightly in the North of England – but it did on the 24th.

Sitting in central hall, surrounded by so many others – PhD’s, Masters and Bachelors, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it was. Every person in that room had to put up a fight and keep themselves going throughout the pursuit of something they love. Seeing the array of mortar boards worn by people of any age, was incredibly inspiring (and I definitely hadn’t expected it to be.)

This may have been my first graduation – but I don’t expect it to be my last. If I can summon up the resources to finance another stint in education that is…

I feel a sense of sadness when I realise that last Friday were my last moments at the University of York as a student. But I also feel a huge sense of achievement and closure. My graduation was a long time coming, due to the delaying of my final exams. But now I can draw a firm line below my undergraduate life.

I’ll be honest, I don’t currently know what’s around the corner, but who really ever does?

Diary of a graduate (p.1)

Image: Yours truly (Violet Daniels)
A nice hazy sky and some trees

Some observant followers may have noticed my blog getting a nice revamp in recent days. But I suspect most of you probably haven’t noticed (I probably wouldn’t have).

Delving into WordPress premium is part of my (sort of New Years resolution but not as I don’t really believe in all that) decision to really invest in this blog.

Countless failed attempts to get work experience in journalism and writing has made me realise that maybe I need to just try and make it on my own… somehow?! At least if I don’t have experience, I may have this.

So January is a big month for me – I am finally graduating from the University of York with a Bachelor’s degree in History; only five or six months later than planned. When this is published, I won’t have graduated yet but I thought I would give some kind of background to where I am now,

If I’m honest, I’m not really looking forward to the process and would like it over with sooner rather than later. Just let me grab my certificate and run… I suppose the experience of wearing that funny hat is what really matters.

If I’m honest, when I think back to my degree it almost feels like a lifetime ago, and that I was living in some hazy, alternate reality far away from life as it is now. I do miss the constant learning and academic rigor that came with my degree. Part of me thinks I am not quite done with studying yet, which may be another path for me to go down (if I can pay off my already acquired student overdraft)…

As my graduation looms ahead of me like a dark cloud, I can’t help but feel like I need to kick myself in gear a bit more in terms of my ‘career’, as I can no longer claim I am a student after January.

September to December were some really good months for me, I was working in a bookshop which I loved but now that temporary job is over and I am once again unemployed and have not had any luck with finding work.

I guess this ‘diary of a graduate’ series is an attempt to convey the realities of post university life as a young adult trying to find their ways into the world. I will be documenting my struggles, experiences and any successes I may have, in a hope to convey the reality of life after university and a graduate trying to find whatever is meant to be next.

I will also be documenting my attempts to get experience in the writing/journalism/publishing industry. It may be of interest, it may not but I feel like it might be worthwhile even if it is just a personal document for me.

That’s it for part one – I hope at least one person enjoyed this 🙂

V

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An Election for Change

Image: DW

If you’ve been living in the United Kingdom for the past three years, it can feel as though nothing has changed. Despite having two new Prime Ministers in less than five years, the country has not moved forward and life has got a lot worse for many people.

Nearly a decade worth of austerity has resulted in increasing social deprivation, declining working conditions and education standards due to a myriad of cuts to essential services. They have been preserved by the political elite, whom will never be affected by any struggle. Above all, the legacy of the David Cameron years and the condition of the present day, is far from the promised glory that eradicating the deficit was meant to achieve.

With the next snap election on the horizon, it can feel as though we’re simply repeating political history, due to the 2017 snap election which resulted in the election of former Prime Minister, Theresa May. However, this will be far from history repeating itself, but an election that will mirror calls for staunch, political change.

In 2017, I was one of the, if you like, typified left-wing, young labour supporters, who had a belt of optimism around me. It was my first time voting in a GE, what can you expect? When sharing my opinions online whilst being apart of a Guardian feature on first time voters, older generations were quick to shut me down for my optimism and hope for change.

“I feel strangely optimistic’?! Why? Next you will be saying we live in a democracy!”

“we’ve relied on EU imports since the 15th century”. !!!! What grotesque ideas the young have…”

But like many, I really believed that the 2017 election would be the election of change and in many ways, it was. During the 2017 election campaign, like many students, I could not get as politically active as I would have liked as I prioritized my summer exams which were just around the corner.

Although I was not an active campaigner, I felt like I really found my political voice in the 2017 election. In many ways, it was the first election where I started to truly care. Say what you like about Jeremy Corbyn but he is an excellent campaigner who thrives of the rallying crowds and inspires the feeling of change, as I witnessed at a Labour rally in York, before the 2017 election.

Image: Me at a JC rally in York, PA

In 2017, a year after the Brexit vote had past, the Labour Party made a gain of 30 seats, despite Jeremy Corbyn being reluctant on the issue of Europe and not giving his party a stable stance. The Conservative party lost 13 seats and could not even reach a majority in the House of Commons and as a result, were propped up by the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party). Despite valiant attempts, Theresa May failed to get a Brexit deal passed through parliament and resigned this summer.

With the non-election of Boris Johnson, we have seen a shift in the pariamnetary and political rhetoric in this country. His use of rhetoric and dangerous language at times, has changed the nature of political debate in the establishment. It’s harsher, cleaner and not as forgiving. It appears not to make any allowances for issues other than those defined by Brexit. With the ever increasing failure to get ‘Brexit done’ the parliamentary landscape has got more and more divided and the people of this country more frustrated.

With the election of Sir Lindsay Hoyle, change for the Commons is on the horizon, as yesterday during his election speech, he promised to help heal the divisions within the system and make room for coherent and considerate debate on all sides.

As a Remainer, I inherently don’t believe Brexit is a good idea for the country but now take the position of wanting to get the best deal possible so that we can move on and address the more imperative issues. Although Brexit and its ramifications are very real, especially for my generation who will have to live with the long-term consequences, we cannot go on with another decade of political stagnation. It is time for change and the creation of a political landscape of debate which benefits us all, and not one that just serves the agenda of the elite.

We need to abandon the rhetoric that parliamentary democracy is a barrier to the political project that is Brexit and start opening up the debate to allow room for the issues which have been ignored. I am alarmed that the current leaders can be so consumed by one issue for so long and are blind to the deprivation going on around them.

This election, although being defined by the parameters of Brexit, is not just about one singular issue, but it is a chance to open up the political spectrum and address social problems which have been ignored for nearly a decade. Another five years of a Conservative government led by Boris Johonson will do our country and its people no favours.

We need to move forward and make way for a government which gives attention to the ramifications of decreased funding in all our schools, the increasing amount of homelessness in our streets, the waiting lists for GP and NHS appointments and the climate crisis which is imminently real. We need a government which cares about other people’s issues – and not just their own self-fulfilling, political prophecy.

After nearly a decade of austerity and four years of prolonging the Brexit debate, forgive me for being an optimist for change, but it is simply the only way forward.