Tag Archives: London

High Rise by J. G. Ballard ~ Book & Movie Review





Pages: 208

Published: 1975

Format:  E-book

Movie Released: April 28, 2016 in USA



High Rise is a horrific novel about a building that begins to have a strange hold over its residents.  The high rise is a virtual vertical city, with the higher levels representing higher social class status.  The building has it’s own school, restaurants, pools, grocery store.  The only reason for its’ residents to leave is to go to work.  The residents begin to throw louder and wilder parties and begin leaving the building less and less often to go to work.  Often if they do go, they rest at work for a few hours and then return to the high rise, or they may get to their car and then turn right around and go back to the high rise.   The parties turn to violence, vandalism, voyeurism, raiding, raping,  murder and cannibalism with the ultimate goal being survival of the fittest.  The characters become either checked out or fully engrossed in the “game” they are playing.   Although there is some hope they will get caught, no one ever bothers to call the police or seek outside help.  The men and women revert to hunter/gatherer roles.  The women seem banded together by the end and it appears the women have come out on top, however, no one really is a winner in this book.  Reading this novel from 1975 did not feel much like I had jumped back in time with the exception of the polaroid cameras and lack of cell phones/social media.  This novel was many things at once:  a horror story, a dystopian science fiction story,  and most impressively a chilling social commentary.   It  is a commentary on the psychological effects of modernization and technological advancement.  This advancement leads to an increasingly fragmented and socially insular society that yearns for more connectedness even if that connectedness is horrific. The writing was excellent and I look forward to watching the movie.  images-2




Interestingly, J. G. Ballard (15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009) grew up in in Shanghai, which came under Japanese control in 1943.  He spent 2 years in an internment camp with his family.  Presumably this early exposure to the atrocities of war shaped his writing and the horror it contains.  In 1945, he returned to Britain with his mother and sister.  He began medical school in 1951 with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist, however, abandoned his medical studies 2 years later, to pursue a career in writing.  Since then, he led an incredibly interesting life with various twists and turns.  His wife and mother of his 3 children died young of pneumonia and he was left to raise 3 children.  He has had movies and television series made of his stories and novels.  He has influenced the genre of dystopian science fiction literature, art and music.  With the publication of The Atrocity Exhibition, there was an obscenity trial and in the United States, the publisher destroyed nearly all of the print.  He had become an icon with this work.


Discussion Questions:

  1.  Who ends up on top, the women or the men?
  2. How is this book a literal struggle to the top?
  3. How are the characters psychologically affected?  Why do they become that way?
  4. How do you think J. G. Ballard’s background affected his writing?
  5. Laing isn’t sure if what is happening is all in his head.  Could the building be a Freudian representation of himself?
  6. Debate which the better, the movie or the book?

Review at Fantasy Book Review

Book/Movie Comparison:

I watched the movie shortly after finishing the book.  I thought it had a similar dreamlike surreal quality to it.  The events occurring in the book are horrific and repulsive yet somehow, in both reading the book and watching the movie, I felt ok with it.  I was interested, intrigued, waiting for what was next, almost complicit in the act of chaos and abandon that the characters/actors demonstrate.

The movie rendition is mostly true to the book.  I did think that children figured more prominently in the movie than they had in the book.  It’s a movie that’s interesting to watch after reading the book and understanding the author, his background and the year in which it was written.  Given the graphic content contained within the movie, it is not a movie for everyone.  If you can stomach, I highly recommend watching it if you’ve read the book!

Review of the Film as published in The Telegraph

The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis ~ Book Review




Pages: 221

Published:  1955

Format:  Soft covered book




I loved the Chronicles of Narnia as a child and was excited to read this with my 8 year old son.   As a child, I loved the magic and beauty contained in these other worlds.  As an adult, I now see the parallels to the bible, and the messages it is intending to teach.   The ending of the book is actually a retelling of sorts of the story of creation from the bible.    I must say my remembrance of the book was that of a 5 star read, but in re-reading it, I can only give images-2.  My son, although very interested and attuned to the storyline throughout, I think would agree.

I will keep this review short as there is so much already written about this novel and instead of providing discussion questions, I will simply provide links.

Discussion Questions from Charlevoix Library

Study Questions from Oxford Tutorials

Official website of C. S. Lewis

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide


Pages: 432

Expected Publication:  May 3, 2016

Format:  E-book from netgalley




Chris Cleave is a very talented writer who understands people and relationships so well.  Having loved his novel Little Bee,  I was very excited to read this book.  In this epic WW2 historical fiction novel, he deftly describes the area, the people and their relationships as shaped by love, war, and other circumstances.  This novel follows two main characters Alistair and Mary through their experience of the war and how it they cope with loss, love, and various other hardships.

It is a coming-of-age novel about Mary North who suddenly steps out of her life of luxury with the onset of war and puts herself to work as a teacher, falls in love, experiences loss, addiction and many more effects of the war.  There is so much truth to relationships (romantic and non-romantic) as depicted in this novel…the deep hurts they can cause but the huge love and support that is there if both parties are open to it.

I found it interesting and heartbreaking to read about the race relationships of the time in England.   Chris Cleave cleverly shows how people will play the roles they are ascribed to in order to not rock the boat.

There is so much to this book!  Excellent writing, beautiful character  and relationship development, and well researched history.  For whatever reason, perhaps the state of mind I was while reading, it felt lengthy and I felt like I was struggling to get through it at times.  For this reason, I can only give it 3-stars

Click here to see an interactive historical map of London from this time period.




map of Malta, 1941-1942



Discussion Questions:

  1.  Describe Hilda and Mary’s friendship.  How is it affected by their appearances?
  2. What is it about teaching that Mary loves?
  3. Why do you think Mary is drawn into helping Zachary?
  4. What do you think Mary loved about Tom?
  5. How did you feel about her falling for Alistair while Tom was still alive?
  6. What is the meaning of the title?
  7. Why do you think Alistair has his friend, Simonson, start to write to Hilda?
  8. When Alistair returns to the war, why are Mary and Alistair initially strange with each other?


Simon & Schuster Reading Group Guide

Chris Cleave’s website