Book Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four

photo (2)

The fifth book I read from my Summer Reading List was Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It was first published in 1949, and surprisingly, still very relevant to modern times. As far as the “story” goes, I was so very disappointed. It is well written, and has more than enough drama, intrigue, betrayal and love. But being the eternal optimist reader that I am, I was hoping for a better ending.

The author tells the tale of the plight that the world finds itself in, in 1984. In a nutshell, the world has been divided into three super nations, all run by similar totalitarian states, with the menacing omnipresent dictator (Big Brother) who controls his people through fear, lies, arbitrary violence, phantom enemies, giving the citizens no freedom, physical nor mental. Even their minds are controlled, manipulated and censored. They have no privacy, are constantly being watched, monitored and spied upon. If one dares make a mistake in the opinion of the Thought Police, they would simply disappear from the face of the earth without a trace, and no memory of them remaining. All evidence of their existence would be simply eradicated, as if they were never there. And this is widely accepted by the population without even a second thought. Which is exactly what Big Brother demands of his state. As the book’s protagonist, Winston Smith simply cannot accept this reality. Thoughts of rebellion and defection come to mind, but ultimately, is not in his power. His internal struggle for the truth, for reality, is truly heartbreaking and frightening.

This book still resonates today, with many “shocking” acts commited by the government in the book, being an accepted truth and part of life for us in this day and age. I’d rather not go too deeply into that, but I found a very interesting article explaining these things here.

As a side note, this was the first time I read this book, and I was quite shocked to find that a few of the very popular Young Adult novels in the past couple of years, closely resembles the themes of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Sure, their stories are different, but alas, the general idea is the same.

 

Book Review: Lolita

elliott_50books

 

Yeesh. This one is difficult. I finished reading on the 3rd of October already. I’m just not sure what to say. But, I need to write this review, so I can get on with my list. I’ve tried to explain the novel to a couple of people, trying to formulate my blog post through discussion, but even my words failed me. So I’ll just try to get my thoughts out – let’s hope it makes for a decent review.

In a twisted turn of events, this novel deals with the subject of sexual abuse, however, it is done through the eyes of the abuser. Yet somehow, you’re not always sure he’s the one taking advantage. In fact, there are points in the story where you genuinely feel sorry for this middle aged literature professor (Humbert Humbert), who helplessly falls in love with a twelve year old (Dolores Haze). The thing is you get the feeling that Dolores, who Humbert nicknamed Lolita, knew exactly what she was doing, and how Humbert felt. Sure, he married her mother just to stay close to her, but Lolita definitely takes advantage of Humbert’s affliction. She instigated the whole thing, although he doesn’t fight it when it gets down to it.

Yes, he is the adult. Yes, he has this predilection for pre-pubescent girls. But throughout his narration, which is very likely biased, you feel sorry for him. He tried to control it. She manipulated him, she knew how he felt. She enticed him, threatened him, used him, and abandoned him. It’s quite sad then really, when he is driven to madness and murder, because she didn’t love him back.

By saying I felt sorry for poor old Humbert, I obviously am not saying anything about the morality of the subject matter. And the way it was written makes it quite readable for most. It is never explicit or even erotic (in my mind at least). It’s really about the struggle of this man in dealing with his deep love and lust for a seductive and salacious twelve year old nymphet. It’s hard to read, but worth it, just to at least understand the pop culture references. In other words, read at own risk.

Baking Day: September Edition

It’s been quite a while since I posted our Baking Day (Mis)Adventures. It’s really tough to line up our calendars to find a date that works for all 5 of us. So after much rearranging and postponing, we ended up deciding on a date that worked for 4 out of the 5 girls. Unfortunately Roxanne, who is a dance instructor, couldn’t attend due to auditions. She very gracefully bowed out, making it the turn of one of my other Sister-in-Law’s turns to host. This was our first baking day at Marguerite’s house (you’ll notice I’m now starting to use names, because I’m sure you’re staring to get confused with all of us!), and she had decided to make a Chocolate Mug Cake recipe she got from her friend, as well as a Pavlova.

We were all so very excited for the Pavlova – it’s not something we eat often. Let me tell you though, as much fun as it was getting into our usual shenanigans and almost-failures, here is my TOP TIP for Pavlova. You need an electric whisk/mixer. Marguerite has a hand whisk, which we all thought would be fine. We watch our favourite TV chef idols whisk cream and egg whites into submission by hand in no time all the time. How hard could it be, right? Ha! Lesson learnt. Unless you’ve got the arms of The Hulk and the stamina to run a marathon, don’t even bother. We had to take turns, we had to switch arms. It was a mess. We just couldn’t get those egg whites to submit to silky, shiny stiff peaks. No sir-ey. We eventually gave up when we deemed them to have soft peaks. We figured we couldn’t do any more. It was a lost cause, but we had no time to grieve for our epic failure – it had to go into the oven! BUT… Since the eggs weren’t stiff enough, it just would not hold a round shape. And we couldn’t find a springform to use as our shape. We had to improvise. Quickly. We ended up using a roasting tray, lined with baking paper, with rolled up logs of more baking paper to help make a rudimental shape. And in the oven it went.

I’ll tell you this though – it came out really well if I think how big of a flop it could have been! It was delicious. The exterior of the meringue crunchy, crispy and golden. The interior a pillowy, fluffy, sweet delight. And the fruits! Gorgeously plump little bursts of colour with major pops of flavour, layered with gloriously decadent whipped cream. Side note: The whipped cream was yet another fiasco… We couldn’t get it to whip! It. Just. Wouldn’t. Luckily, a valiant hero (Marguerite’s friend, Reg) wanted to pop in to say hello, and in a desperate attempt to save our dignity, we cried out in unison: “Bring CREAM!”. The cream was brought, the Pavlova assembled, and after taking some photos, it was greedily gobbled up. The fruits we used were pomegranate seeds, blueberries, raspberries and a double dose of strawberries. We used fresh strawberries, but I also cut half of the strawberries in halves, and with a touch of sugar and a glug of bubbly, let them macerate – allowing them to make their own sweet and thick syrup. Here’s the recipe, adapted from Sarie:

Pavlova with Mixed Berries and Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • 8 Egg whites
  • 630g Castor sugar
  • 20ml white wine vinegar
  • 30ml cornstarch
  • 250ml cream
  • 400g berries of your chocie
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 140 ˚C.
  • Whisk egg whites until it reaches soft peaks. Then start adding the sugar while whisking.
  • Whisk until stiff peaks are reached and the mixture is glossy. Fold in vinegar and cornstarch.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking paper and spray with greaseproof spray. Gently spoon mixture into a round form of about 30cm in diameter. You can use the back of a spoon to press into the top lightly, and then lifting, to form little peaks on the top of the meringue.
  • Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the exterior is golden, crispy and dry, but the interior still soft and chewy.
  • Let the meringue cool completely before starting with the decoration. When it’s cooled, it can be placed on a serving plate/cake stand.
  • Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks. Ladle the cream onto the meringue.
  • Now, add the berries in any formation. Here’s where your creativity can come out to play.
  • Lightly dust with powdered sugar and VOILA!

Serve in “cake” slices with a glass of champagne and feel extra decadent!

photo 2 (5)

Now, for the Chocolate Mug Cakes. (Phew, this is a long post!) These little pots of dark delight is the perfect way to end your day, if you’ve had a rough day, after dinner, exhausted and just need a treat. The whole thing takes less than two minutes from start to finish! This is the first Mug Cake recipe that I’ve seen that really works, and delivers what it promises. Marguerite’s friend Magdel, (whose recipe this is), says she makes it often when she’s put the kids to bed and feels the need to satisfy a craving. I can see why. It’s quick, and delicious! And I can only imagine the variations you could try! Served with a scoop of ice cream, and off to bed! What’s better than that?!

Chocolate Mug Cake (makes 1)

Ingredients:

  •  1/4 cup Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp Milk
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Hazelnut Spread (Like Nutella)

Method:

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Pour into a microwave safe cup/mug/ramekin
  • Microwave for approx. 60 seconds. The less time it is microwaved, the gooey-er the middle will be. We found that 60 seconds delivered a cake-like consistency. Obviously every microwave is different, so it might be a good idea to experiment with times, and finding that sweet spot that delivers the consistency that you’re jonesing for.

photo (5)

All in all, it was a successful baking day. We drank wine, we ate a lot of cheese. We baked, and laughed, and failed, and were surprised by how great our attempts turned out. And that, is ultimately what we’re aiming for.