Book Review- Shutter Island

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis: The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new -partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple-murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades–with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is remotely what it seems.

 

The golden rule is to read the book before even bothering to watch the movie, although I’ve been known to occasionally break that rule. Admittedly, this is one of those rare times and as I’ve learned in the past, there is a certain proactive interference in how you interpret and imagine the story. Thankfully, when it comes to Shutter Island, the book and film are almost synonymous.

The suspense was loaded with questions surrounding the whereabouts of Rachel Solando, the missing patient, Teddy’s past, Dr. Cawley’s masked intentions and what exactly is going on at Ashecliffe Hospital. The mystery builds as Teddy and Chuck investigate, starting with a missing patient to wondering if they will ever be able to get themselves off the island. Sometimes, it’s as if Teddy doesn’t care, his personal connection to the case making it difficult to leave the past behind.

Character-wise, there was little diversity to look forward to. Dr. Cawley was a one-dimensional character as was Chuck, whose only redeeming quality is the levity he balances out Teddy’s intensity with. What propelled the suspenseful plot of Shutter Island, clearly, was Teddy’s candour in his unintentional exploration of the depths of his mind and even his demons. Peppered throughout his quest to solve the mystery surrounding the island, are thoughts concerning his insecurity on being partnered with Chuck who was good with people, his latent suicidal ideation coming to the forefront, and his inability to let go of the horrors of the war and his late wife Dolores.

This twisted romance acting as a shadowing prologue is both painful and wonderful. Teddy’s longing for his wife Dolores is ensconced in ache and ghostly reminiscence, constantly showcasing the wrecked remnants of a man that Teddy really is. I was pulled in by Lehane’s writing style with descriptions like “Those eyes, Teddy thought. Even frozen in time, they howled.” and “…he held her and held her and wept his terrible love into her faded dress.” making me turn page after page, despite knowing the ending.

Not only did Shutter Island deliver in terms of writing style and suspense, it was intriguing because of the themes it tackled, including human experimentation and mental illness.

If you’re fascinated with psychology, I’d say that this book does well to represent the time it was set in, when pharmacology was on the rise and lobotomies were on the fast track to extinction or at least used only as a last resort. At times, the spew of information on topics such as  narcotic neuroleptics and the war between the different schools of thought on psychological disorders can sound dry as if it were being taught to you, an amateur effort on the part of the author in convincing the readers, “Yes, I’ve done my research and here’s everything I know.”

Also,having an avid interest in Holocaust literature, I was intrigued by the parallels between Shutter Island’s human experimentation with its patients and that of the Nazis with the Jews.  In light of this underpinning, the Nuremberg Code is mentioned a significant number of times, which is fascinating to read up on considering how it has shaped our modern approach to ethical conduction of research. 

Overall, I’d recommend reading this book, particularly for its ending which may seem obvious but is fascinating in how the events unfold. Without divulging too much, I find that its ambiguity is perhaps the best part, leaving you to ponder over what it means. For some people, it is quite clear yet there other ways of interpreting the ending which establishes the fact that even after the last page Shutter Island isn’t done with you yet.

Always

Years ago, we lost Severus Snape but this week we lost the man who did his character utmost justice, in all his complexities and intricacies.

Through out the years, I have always been skeptical of the hero-worship Snape has garnered, his unnecessarily nasty behaviour toward students being justified because he was bullied as a child and the fact that he protected Harry. I don’t particularly agree with the fact that he was ‘good’ all along, but that is what makes Snape more complex. I believe he was always in a grey area between evil and good (where we all quite often stand), with his bitterness and abusive nature drawing him toward his darkest self and then his love for Lily and moral actions drawing him away. He may not have always been the hero he was in the end, and that’s what makes his choice to do the right thing all the more important in the midst of moral ambiguity he found himself surrounded in. He grew into the hero he was meant to be; his salient transformation was everything. It was difficult and it broke our hearts.

What is even more heart breaking is watching Alan Rickman describe Snape’s character, demonstrating his deeper understanding of him than what we as readers or as an audience did. This is precisely why no one could have possible played him half or nearly a smidge as well as he did. But just as Dumbledore said, ” To the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.” So I hope Alan Rickman is on his next great adventure.

Goals for 2016

While most of my resolutions are hopeless, I do plan on getting a few things done this year. They’re not too difficult and that’s the key.

  • Read 50 books (This is my Goodreads Reading Challenge 2016.)
  • Start a bullet journal and try it out. (For a conscientious soul like me, this seems like a good system, with room left for personalisation but the key word here is try, because if I don’t like it, oh well.)
  • Read a French book (I migrated this goal from last year.)
  • Make another Rememberlution Jar ( It’s a nice way to end the year by looking back on all the ups.)

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Ron Weasley, the Mistreated Character

As a little girl, I identified with Hermione, dressing up as her for Halloween for two years. I’d beam when people would tell me I look a lot like her (not Emma Watson but Hermione the character) because of my bushy hair (which I used to detest before the comparison). I still do identify with Hermione but now also with Ron which is why they are two of my favourite characters.

I cannot fathom the palpable hatred directed at Ron nor do I understand the unquestioning admiration Hermione seems to receive. I suppose it’s the movies’ fault. Both characters are well fleshed out in the books but less so in the film adaptations.

For a book reader, it is easy to see that the films have dissected Ron’s character, surgically removed his good traits and transplanted them into Hermione’s character which sadly, destroyed both of them, yet Ron more than Hermione in the end. While Hermione Granger is the shining epitome of perfection stood atop a pedestal, Ron is made to look like someone who is fit for nothing better than to clean said pedestal, which is infuriating. Why fix something that isn’t broken? (Yes, that question is directed at Kloves more than anyone else.)

The fact of the matter is that Ron was never meant to be a sidekick, only good for a few one-liners and comic relief. He was much more than that in the books. Yes, Ron is funny, but in the books we laugh with Ron while in the movies we laugh at him. He’s not the slap stick comedian we’ve seen on screen (and I mean no offense to Rupert Grint, he does so well with what little he’s given), he’s witty, subtle and sarcastic, one of my main reasons for liking him so much.

Not only this, but he is very real. He’s poor and has an inferiority complex, but also kind, observant and quite intelligent, though appearing dumb in the movies. (It would surprise people to know that he’s better than Harry in academics.) In the first film when entrapped by Devil’s Snare he is an absolute wreck while in the book he is reasonably still and tells Hermione to conjure up flames while Harry struggles more and more. In the second book, it was Harry who asked Moaning Myrtle insensitively how a throwing a book can hurt her it’d just go right through her while Ron was given that line in the films. Why? Because Ron was backed into the sidekick corner and left there.

Movie-viewers missed out on a wonderful transformation which is the saddest of all. His growth over the series is demonstrative of the fact that heroes can make mistakes and learn from them instead of being always in the right. The same boy who started off indifferent to elf rights became the boy who suggested to save the house elves when everyone else forgot, and gave his own clothes and socks for Dobby to be buried in. That is growth.

Besides, one of my main reasons for enjoying Harry Potter so much was Harry and Ron’s friendship. Yes, we all seem to debate over who Hermione should have ended up with but I was always here for Harry and Ron which, unfortunately, wasn’t well portrayed in the films. There’s a reason why Ron is the one person in the world Harry would miss most. He was his very first friend, the closest thing Harry had to family, never thinking twice to offer his room and food and everything he had to Harry, which was pretty much all he had.

Ron was the one, who was in blinding pain and stood up on his broken leg to fiercely defend his best friend from a serial killer in PoA.

“No, Harry!” Hermione gasped in a petrified whisper; Ron, however, spoke to Black.

“If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us, too!” he said fiercely, though the effort of standing up had drained him of still more colour, and he swayed slightly as he spoke.

Something flickered in Black’s shadowed eyes.

“Lie down, “ he said quietly to Ron. “You will damage that leg even more.”

“Did you hear me?” Ron said weakly, though he was clinging painfully to Harry to stay upright. “You’ll have to kill all three of us!”

(Infuriatingly, this entire line was given to Hermione while Ron was a blubbering mess in the background, while in the books Hermione is the one who was terrified.)

Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger

While many criticise Ron for leaving Harry and Hermione in DH, I think what is often overlooked is the gravity of his departure. Ron is loyal (his Patronus is a Jack-Russell terrier, for god’s sake) and this isn’t shown much in the films which is why it didn’t have the same impact. He is the one who always defends Harry and Hermione from other people.

In CoS, he is ready to kill Malfoy for wanting the Heir of Slytherin to attack Hermione.

“I’m quite surprised the Mudbloods haven’t all packed their bags by now,” Malfoy went on. “Bet you five Galleons the next one dies. Pity it wasn’t Granger…”

The bell rang at that moment, which was lucky; at Malfoy’s last words, Ron had leapt off his stool, and in the scramble to collect bags and books, his attempts to reach Malfoy went unnoticed.

“Let me at him,” Ron growled, as Harry and Dean hung onto his arms. “ I don’t care, I don’t need my wand, I’m going to kill him with my bare hands-”

Not to mention when he shouts at Snape, their scariest professor, in Hermione’s defense and gets detention (scrubbing bed pans) for it.

“That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger,” said Snape coolly. “Five more points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all.”

Hermione went very red, put down he rhand and stared at the floor with her eyes full of tears….Ron, who told Hermione she was a know-it-all at least twice a week, said loudly, “You asked us a question and she knows the answer! Why ask if you don’t want to be told?”

The class knew instantly he’d gone too far…

In the movies, after Snape snaps at Hermione, Ron just says “He’s got a point, you know.” which he would NEVER say. I think Ron would rather face a spider than agree with Snape.

These are just a few instances of how the movies have mucked up his character and slowly, as Ron fan, it kills you.

Book Ron is that friend who would defend you no matter what. To desert people whose side he’s unfailingly on shows just how the Horcrux impacted him. Ron wasn’t a spoiled brat or cowardly, he was dealing with his insecurities and as soon as he left, he said he wanted to come back. We often forget that we fight with our friends and some of them actually walk out on us, never to return but the ones that come back are true. And Ron is nothing if not a true friend. He’s the sort of person you want in your corner, always good to be around, even when not doing anything in particular.

Overall, I think the movies outstripped movie Ron of a lot of character points and this makes me feel bad for Rupert Grint who really likes the character he plays. He said it himself, “But, the truth is that Ron is my hero. He’s always there for his friends – sometimes belligerently, but there nevertheless. And no matter how scared he may be, he will put aside his fears to support and protect the people he loves. To me, that represents true courage.”

Too bad we never got to see him play the real Ron, it would have been fantastic.

(I have a lot more to say about this issue and I tend to rant a lot about book Ron vs. movie Ron but this pretty much sums it all up.)

My Love for Silverstein’s Poetry

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

-Albus Dumbledore

I’ve always thought Shel Silverstein’s poetry is like little drops of magic, short and silly and always guaranteed to put a smile on your face. We can grow up and pretend all we want that we’re mature adults who only have a taste for Dickinson or Plath but you know there’ll always be a special place for those poems you read as a child. I know I do.

I can relate to each of my favourite’s even now.

Because…

I can be as active as I want but the truth is I’m a lot like lazy Jane. For me, home delivery is a god send.

And when things seem tough and there’s a job to do that you find so daunting and terrible that you wish someone else could just get on with it instead of you, you’ve got a nice little reminder that somebody has to do it. And there’s a reason that somebody is you.

Then there are times when we think we’ve done so well, ha ha, how funny those stories are when we realise what we’ve done. (How sad it is if we never realise, don’t you think?)

And sometimes, Silverstein hints at the hard parts of life, like the masks we wear and walk around.

Or how tough it is being yourself in a crowd of muggles… without a single word (Dumbledore underestimated the power of illustrations, I suppose.)

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For all these reasons and more, I will always adore Shel Silverstein’s poetry. After all, who said wisdom can’t rhyme?

The Coldest Hug

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It stole into the house, through a window that swayed

Much like a temper, and in the room it stayed.

Cold fingers crept up her spine, as it fell in beside her

Underneath the sheets, and her soul grew quieter.

Then came the coldest hug, chilling down to the bone

And in that bed she lay, feeling forever alone…

Except for it.

It was always there.

A Very Harry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Everything about this December has been Harry Potter-centric and it couldn’t have been better for fangirl me.

Our class played Secret Santa and thankfully my elf/snowflake is a Potterhead, so I got to give her a Hogwarts acceptance letter which you can customize and print here (you’re welcome)! I’ve also made Marauders Maps (instructions here) and Hogwarts house bookmarks for a couple of people!

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After a busy year, it’s been nice to sit and relax at home with a hot cup of cocoa, reading the illustrated copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I checked out the second and third book from the library so that’s a lot of re-reading to look forward to! Not to mention the movie marathon over the next couple of days :D

So cheers everyone! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all :) May you stuff your face and have fun!

-VD

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this blog :)

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