Headphones On, World Out: Romeo and Juliet

I’m trying out a new thing this week: Music Recommendations.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the past this week, and  my thoughts have lingered on how I first began to write my novel back in May. My writing soundtrack stayed the same for almost a month until I inevitably got fed-up with those songs. However, one song I find myself listening to over and over is First Kiss from the 2013 Romeo and Juliet film. I’ve heard the film itself is awful, but the soundtrack is so beautiful to write to; it is evocative enough to provoke inspiration but not attention-grabbing enough that it distracts me when I am in the flow of writing.

I really do recommend you listen to the entire soundtrack by Abel Korzeniowski because it truly is beautiful and highly, highly helpful for writers like me who struggle to find the perfect music to both inspire and encourage them.

– Rhan


Returning Home (to Harry Potter Studios)

Yesterday, I went on a trip with a society to Warner Bros Studios in Watford. It was my second time, and it was, excuse the word, so, so magical. I paid way too much for a Butterbeer souvenir mug, a chocolate frog (I got Godric Gryffindor) and some Honeydukes chocolate. Hey, you never know when you’re going to visit again!

Aside from making me want to watch the movies all over again, it also reminded me that, no matter how old you are, it’s okay to still love something you did when you were growing up. I loved Harry Potter then and I do now, and that’s absolutely fine, more than fine, it’s wonderful!

So go forth and enjoy the things you love,

– Rhan

Reflection: The Song of Achilles


To ease myself back into this blog, I thought I would talk about one of my all time favourite novels: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

I first read this book when I was sixteen and an ex-friend’s girlfriend told me she couldn’t get through it without crying. I read it once, thought it was sad enough and put it aside. Then I read it again, properly, and had a good old ugly-cry at several points in the book. It is now a firm favourite.

The way Miller writes is like liquid poetry. The words flow onto the page like quicksilver, languid yet urgent at the same time. The descriptions, the settings, the ending that never fails to devestate me no matter how many times I’ve read it. I could, and have, read it over and over again, sections, pages, the whole book.

I devour Miller’s characterisation, the way she makes me feel as though Patroclus and Achilles are not archaic figures but real humans, boys who fell into love and then into war together. It is a tragedy because of its love story, and I feel as though any aspiring writer, or any person who still believes Achilles and Patroclus were merely ‘close friends’ (this one goes out to all of the academic articles I’ve suffered through) should grab a copy and read it over and over, until their entire soul has been consumed by the wonder that is this book.

It has stayed with me for three years, and I doubt it will ever fade.

– Rhan

A Reflection on the English House

I was recently in Surrey moving my belongings into my new house where I will be living while at university. There was no wifi and no television, so I spent many an hour browsing through Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Houses. 

My university happened to be featured, (and is also the featured image of this post) but all that reading got me thinking about the true wonder of the English house. Jenkins includes huge castles and grand baroque splendour in his picks as well as run down and crumbling ruins and seemingly ordinary houses such as those belonging to the Beatles (located in my hometown.) Yet somehow they are all equally as fascinating.

One of my favourite English stately homes used to be Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, but when I visited it for afternoon tea on my birthday this year it seemed to have lost a great deal of its charm. My favourite kind of house is when it is fully restored, and not just a building used to house a dizzying array of artefacts that belonged to the original owners.

But Founders building (see above) never loses its appeal to me. From the first time I saw it to when I climbed up a set of its stone stairs just two days ago, it still remains beautiful and unattainable, even though I have stood within its grounds many times. And isn’t that what the English stately home is truly about? We can ponder and reflect and even attempt to emulate what we see within these houses, but they remain far away, quietly reminding us that the history that lives on within their walls is not easily achieved.

– Rhan

Romantic Outlaws: A study of the intrigue of Romanticism

I recently finished the spellbindingly good Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon, which I bought impulsively whilst browsing in Cambridge.

I read it almost as fast as I would read a fiction book, which is an idea of just how well-written the narrative was. But this is not a review.

I think that the reason Romanticism is still just as intriguing to us today as the main people involved in it  were to their public at the time because it is still scandalous.

It is still rather outlandish. The antics of Lord Bryon and sometimes Percy Shelley (and Mary of course, considering the time period she existed within) still grab attention today. They are oftentimes ridiculous, but, more importantly, they leave us wanting to know more. 

From whether Mary had sex with Percy for the first time on her mother Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave  to whether Claire Clairmont did have a child with Percy and of course, the numerous lovers the changing group were rumoured to have taken, the antics of the intertwined Romantics stirred up so much speculation that a good deal of it is still considered to be the stuff of great dramas (or, in modern terms, a ridiculous convoluted soap opera!)

These original Romantics have provided a wonderful aesthetic for the Romantics of today and a solid foundation for many biographers to try and tackle the tangled web of their lives. In short, it is sensationalism that has allowed the Romantics to live this long. And may they live on for a while yet!

– Rhan

Favourite Historical Figures: Part One

Side note: this list does not include figures from Ancient Greece/Rome or mythology because that’s a whole other ballpark.

This is a pretty random list with no discernible order as far as I can tell, and I missed a whole lot out to make it short and sweet. Here goes!

  • Marie Antoinette – I really don’t know what is so fascinating about Marie Antoinette but I am instantly drawn to anything regarding her or history during the period she ruled. I just find her and the history/culture that surrounds her so wonderfully engaging (and I will admit that I simply adore the 2006 Coppola film and had to include the picture above!) Perhaps it’s because of the intrigue surrounding Versailles, also one of my favourite palaces of all time, which brings me on to:
  • Louis XIV (and his brother Philippe, Duke of Orleans) – I recently binge-watched the BBC show Versailles over a course of two nights, and, while a lot of the show is probably over-exaggerated and it does mingle rumour and fact, its sheer opulence reminded me of why I have remained interested in Louis the Sun King and his brother. In fact, when studying Charles II A-level history, I spent most of my time waiting for Louis to pop up (sadly, he was only ever relevant to my course once.)
  • Lord Bryon – Anything to do with the Romantic movement I love, and I was originally going to put John Keats/Percy Shelley on this list, as they were who introduced me to Bryon, but Bryon comes first because of the ultimate sensationalism that must have surrounded his name during his lifetime and the often hilarious dramatics that are recorded for people like me to read, enjoy and then steadily become obsessed with Bryon like so many people of his day were.
  • William Shakespeare – I mean, he’s Will Shakespeare. I honestly don’t know why I am so interested in Will other than I have had to study so many of his plays and there is not much recorded information about him. The intrigue probably helps, but there is just something about Shakespeare that is so interesting and makes me want to find out more.

– Rhan




Favourite Translations: Les Mis Edition

Hi! Sorry for the long gap between posts, it’s been a busy few days and will be for the next week or so! Because of this, I’ve decided to just do a casual, easy, chatty post about one of my favourite books ever: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo! I included the photo above because I just love the way it’s designed.

I own six English translations of Les Mis. Not that I’m satisfied, I would still love to collect more editions of the novel.

The first edition I received was the Penguin Classics version, aka the translation by Norman Denny. I received this copy as a bribe from my sister so that she could borrow my favourite skirt for a party and I read it over and over, not even realising there were other translations out there.

Then I believe I bought the Hapgood translation, which is my favourite translation for style of language and characterisation, and I’d say my favourite translation overall.

The other translations I own are:

  •  Lee Fahnestock and Norman McAfee (1987)
  • Julie Rose (2007)
  • Christine Donougher (2013)
  • Charles E. Wilbour (1862)

Out of the above, I’d say Julie Rose’s translation is the easiest to read –  but at a cost of losing a lot of the beautiful language of Hapgood and a lot of updated modern language in its place. Donougher does much the same, although it is to a lesser extent. Wilbour’s translation is, in my opinion, rather heavy going, probably because it was appealing to a long-ago generation when published, and Fahnestock and McAfee’s is a nice, engaging version.

– Rhan