Michaelmas 2, Book Reviews – Oliver Hurley, Rosy Fitch, Sophie Doe

This half term, three students agreed to read a book recommended to them by members of the English department. Oliver Hurley read ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemingway, Rosy Fitch read ‘Atonement’ and Sophie Doe read ‘Private Peaceful’. They have kindly reviewed these books for ‘The Bubble’. Perhaps their insightful comments will guide your choice of holiday reading.


Book of the Half Report by Oliver Hurley: ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemmingway

Simultaneously endearing and horrific, Hemingway’s simple yet emphatic style manages to capture all the nuances of life during the first world war. I find that ‘A Farewell to Arms’ works two-fold. If you’re looking for a soppy romance story set during the First World War you’ll love ‘A Farewell to Arms’. On the other hand, if you take the time to really consider the text and its portrayal of war, sacrifice and love, you’ll find a lot of beauty in Hemingway’s brutally honest narrative, based on many of his own experiences during his time in Italy.


Book of the Half Report by Rosy Fitch: ‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan

Summary: ‘Atonement’ is a novel written in 2001 by Ian McEwan. It tells the story, in the first person narrative of Briony Tallis, set from 1935. It develops from Briony as a 13 year old, to her as a nurse through the war, to her in her 70’s where she has written a book about her life. Through the novel we learn that Briony is atoning for the problems she caused earlier in life, where she held back her sister (Cecilia) from developing a romance with Robbie Turner. She does this by falsely accusing him of raping her cousin Lola Quincey, in which he gets sent to prison before going off to fight in the war. Robbie is then seen in 1940’s as a soldier fighting in France, on the shores of Dunkirk waiting to be rescued. We then also see Briony as a nurse visiting her sister in an attempt to atone for her mistake, after seeing Lola marry Paul Marshal, who was actually the one who raped Lola. The third and final part of the book shows Briony as a famous author and now old with vascular dementia. She has written the book ‘Atonement’ and it will be published after her death to reveal the actual truth of her early years. A twist in the narrative brings the story to a poignant conclusion.

My thought of the book: While it may have taken a bit of time for me to get into the book, I actually really enjoyed reading it. I thought that the narrative set by Briony really emphasised the purpose of her atonement because I was able to see that she was truly sorry for her grave mistake.

My favourite quote of the book was ‘Mr Hitler did not pipe down’ because I couldn’t help but laugh at how stupid the war was presented to be in the book.

By the time that Briony was reflecting on her mistakes, it really shocked me at the true revealing of the unforgettable incident of the rape. I could not forgive her but go against Briony because of what she caused, which I actually believe is one of the purposes of the book as I could see how much calamity she had caused from that one mistake; she hadn’t just ruined Robbie’s life, she had ruined three others as well; her own, Cecelia’s and Lola’s.

 The part that almost brought me to tears was the ending of the book; the real-life situation turns out to be too depressing for Bryony’s readers but Ewan’s readers are exposed to the truth. It was utterly dejecting to learn that the saddest part wasn’t even about the war.

Why I recommend this book:

Firstly, it is a realistic love story that shows what love during the war was really like, perfect for hopeless romantics.

It really left me thinking about how my own choices effect the people around me and what the consequences of lying can do to not only others but yourself.

It shows the difficult and unspoken subject within rape, where people are falsely accused, how it affects the life of survivors and why it needs to be handled carefully.


Book of the Half Report by Sophie Doe: ‘Private Peaceful’ by Michael Morpurgo

‘Private Peaceful’ is a very emotional book. It is full of jealous, grief, joy, love and anger.

This book is based on Thomas Peaceful’s life up until modern times. It is set just before the First World War ad lead up into it. The book is about Thomas Peaceful and his life in the countryside, but then the war starts and he is forced to go to war with his brother Charley in France.

The book is very well written and very interesting. It was also perfectly suited to 2018 as the war ended one hundred years ago this year. The book also gave me a better understanding of what World War One was really like for the soldiers and how tough the conditions were in the trenches.

‘Full of warmth as well as grief, conveying vividly how precious it is to be alive.’ (Sunday Times)

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