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Ethical Shopping; A Quick Guide

The more I learn about the world of food production, corporate supermarket operations, and the environmental implications of modern lifestyle, the more thought I have to put into my shopping. The maxim about “voting with your dollar” is largely true, and there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. That being said, it doesn’t need to be difficult, and we all choose which factors most strongly influence our buying.

One of the biggest factors, which I don’t discuss below, is having the income to be able to make ethical shopping purchases. I am on a pretty damn low income, but I have made buying quality (and conscionable) food/products a priority. I don’t buy much (other than books, second-hand mostly), I don’t “eat out”, buy new clothes, etc. To me it’s worth saving my pennies elsewhere in order to eat well!

As a side note, I am surprisingly lucky in terms of access to local (and often organically) grown produce, and local businesses to support. For a small country town, the access to ethically sourced foods is amazing. Not to mention said local produce is usually MUCH CHEAPER than the produce available in the supermarkets!

Now we’ve gotten the preamble out of the way, here is a brief guide to the things I consider when buying a product.

  1. Where am I buying it? Especially with products in the major supermarkets, I always ask “Can I get this from a local business instead?”
  2. Is it vegan? Any animal ingredients (including E numbers)? Is it tested on animals?
      Animal-derived (i.e. non-vegan) E numbers:

    • 120 Carmine
    • 441 Gelatine
    • 542 Bone Phosphate
    • 631 Glutamic Acid
    • 901 Beeswax
    • 910, 920, 921 L-cysteine
    • 913 Lanolin
    • 966 Lactitol
  3. Is it Australian made? Check for products made from LOCAL ingredients only, not a mixture of local and imported.
  4. Is the manufacturer Australian? Even if the ingredients come from Australia, the parent company itself may be a multinational/international corporation. So it’s always worth checking.
  5. Does the manufacturer have a “black” listing? Has the company been accused of any unethical practices, code violations, human rights violations, etc.?

    As a quick guide, the 6 major companies you should boycott on this basis are;

    • Nestlé (aggressively marketed infant formula in developing countries; dependency on these products leads to infant deaths, workers’ rights, pollution)
    • Coca-Cola (murders, kidnappings and torture of union leaders in Colombia, pollution of soil/groundwater in India)
    • L’Oréal / Procter & Gamble (ongoing involvement in animal testing, with no interest in stopping; L’Oréal is also part-owned by Nestlé)
    • GlaxoSmithKline (animal testing, adulterated drugs, $3b fine for fraud)
    • Unilever (animal testing, BPA policy, price fixing, worker exploitation in Kenya and India)
    • Johnson & Johnson (animal testing, unethical marketing, price fixing, action on Darfur)
  6. How many ingredients? Is it mostly whole foods, is the ingredients list a mile long, how many artificial ingredients are there? I try and avoid unnecessary processing where possible.

    For example, quick oats have one ingredient, oats. Pre-flavoured quick oats often have up to FIFTEEN ingredients, even for flavours as simple as “brown sugar”. I’d rather just add some brown sugar to the oats myself; with soy milk that’s a total of 3 ingredients!

  7. How much packaging is involved? Can I get a version with less packaging? Is the packaging recyclable?

    I buy my cat tuna in tins for this reason; the individual sachet pouches aren’t recyclable, but tins are!

When buying produce there are a few extra considerations;

  1. Can I get this locally? A lot of farmers are happy to sell the produce that supermarkets reject because it’s not “perfect”, with the bonus of it being fresh (and did you know those rough brown spots on the skins of apples usually indicate a sweeter apple?). It’s worth hunting around to find out if you have this option.

    Obviously, if you live in a city (you poor thing!), this isn’t very practical; I’d suggest trying to find produce that comes from within your own state, if possible. The aim of the game is to select produce with the lowest food miles; there’s also nothing like fresh produce!

  2. Should I buy organic? This is a tricky one; as a general rule, I first consider whether the item is one of the “Dirty Dozen” or the “Clean Fifteen”. These are general guides indicating which foods are grown using the greatest amount of pesticides and petro-chemicals. They are:

      Dirty Dozen (buy these organic where possible)

    • Apples
    • Capsicums
    • Blueberries
    • Celery
    • Cucumbers
    • Grapes
    • Lettuce
    • Nectarines
    • Peaches
    • Potatoes
    • Spinach (and kale and other greens)
    • Strawberries
      Clean Fifteen (minimal pesticides used in production)

    • Asparagus
    • Avocado
    • Cabbage
    • Cantaloupe
    • Corn
    • Eggplant
    • Grapefruit
    • Kiwi fruit
    • Mangoes
    • Mushrooms
    • Onions
    • Pineapples
    • Sweet peas
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Watermelon

So there you have it, a (reasonably) short and sweet guide to ethical shopping considerations! Now, this is a lot to remember, especially when you’re busy grocery shopping. I use several reference materials, in handy pocket form, that ensure I can look all this stuff up on the fly. They are;

  1. The “Shop Ethical” guide, a new pocket-sized guide book that I am absolutely NUTS about! It provides you with information about products and companies, including animal products/testing, human rights violations, companies accused of ethical violations, the country of origin of companies, and a very useful guide to what is Australian owned/made. (And it’s only $9! I actually have two of these, one for each of my bags, so I’m never without!)
  2. A list of animal derived E numbers; I have written the above list out on a post-it and taped it to the back of the Shop Ethical guide.

  3. “The Chemical Maze”, which comes in a bookshelf or pocket size, and gives you a complete list of all E numbers and common chemicals in cleaning and costmetic products. It tells you what they’re derived from, what their function is, whether there are any health/safety issues associated with the chemical, and common uses.

As always, questions and comments are more than welcome!

Book Review: The Secret History

‘The Secret History’ by D. Tartt.


The plot is very difficult to discuss without giving anything away! The book examines the idea of group mentality, the notion of the Greek ‘fatal flaw’ in a character, class structures, etc. etc. It’s set in New England, in an unspecified time period, and revolves around the lives of 6 Classics students who find themselves embroiled in murder and mystery.

As for the principle characters, I loved them, honestly. They were the right combination of beautiful Classical figures, with an underlying element of hubris, selfishness and even malevolence. In other words, they are very realistic creatures.

The structure of the novel is interested too: it’s about Greek scholars, and is written to parallel the Classical tragedies, again and again coming back to the idea of the tragic figure, foreshadowing, and that fatal flaw. But at the same time there’s a beautiful Dostoyevsky-ish undertone to the whole thing; it’s obviously deliberate, and is directly mentioned by the narrator, but never falls into the trap of self-consciousness. Stylistically, it’s beautiful, though I must admit I’m a sucker for the biased perspective of the unreliable narrator. The shifting flow and rhythm of the writing work perfectly to create both atmosphere and emotion – these are Stoics, by and large, so the sense of what they’re feeling is perhaps best conveyed through the suggestive language and form.

A lot of people have commented on the lack of a definitive temporal setting for the novel – I particularly loved this. After all, we’re talking about a concept that spans thousands of years of human literature. The characters are often straight out of a Greek tragedy, down to the suggestions of incest and pseudo-pederastic adoration on Julian’s part. Then there are the hints of an early 20th century setting, complete with the appropriate slang and dress; perhaps this is simply a lazy way of enabling a stark representation of the class system (again reminiscent of the earlier Greek social structure), but I don’t think so. I think it was a deliberate choice that not only adds to the mystery of the novel as a whole, but also conveys the undeniable knowledge that human nature is largely consistent; desires, darkness, selfishness, ego – these things haven’t disappeared with time.

Overall, I’d give it 9 out of 10. I’d highly recommend it!

50 Books Challenge

Challenge stolen from the lovely Lady Lazarus, whose awesome blog you should go check out. Now! Well, after you’ve read my post. 😉 The challenge is to read 50 books in a year.

Books:

1. Jude the Obscure, Hardy
2. Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky
3. Carolan’s Concerto, Mor
4. Brave New World, Huxley
5. 1984, Orwell
6. Neverwhere, Gaiman
7. The Plague, Camus
8. Fire Child, Sanders
9. The Wiccan Mystic, Gruagach
10. Trainspotting, Welch
11. Prozac Nation, Wurtzel
12. The Bell Jar, Plath
13. Mists of Avalon, Zimmer-Bradley
14. Flow My Tears The Policeman Said, Dick
15. The Celts in Europe, Cremin
16. Catch-22, Heller
17. 5 Decades of the X-Men, Lee (ed.)
18. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Fielding
19. Archaeology and the Media (kinda cheating, mostly read it for uni)
20. Suite Francaise, Nemirovsky
21. Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury
22. Dear Fatty, French
23. Caucasus, Griffin
24. Girl, Interrupted, Kaysen
25. Atonement, McEwan
26. Anna Karenina, Tolstoy
27. The Time Traveller’s Wife, Niffenegger
28. Dancing Girls, Atwood
29. Druid Priestess, Restall-Orr
30. The Prestige, Priest
31. Book of Shadows, Tiernan
32. The Coven, Tiernan
33. Blood Witch, Tiernan
34. Dark Magick, Tiernan
35. Awakening, Tiernan
36. Spellbound (I’m rereading the series, don’t judge me :P)
37. Bluebeard, Vonnegut
38. Good Bones, Atwood
39. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Dick
40. Timequake, Vonnegut
41. Dune, Herbert
42. Love All the People, Hicks
43. Kissing the Hag, Restall-Orr
44. Dubliners, Joyce
45. On Eating, Orbach
46. Terrier (The Legend of Beka Cooper, Book 1), Pierce
47. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berdstant
48. Batman: the Long Halloween, Loeb & Sale
49. The Crow, O’Barr
50. Kingdom of Fear, Thompson

Yay! 50! I actually read quite a few more than that, but I can’t remember/don’t see the point in recording them now. So. On to 2010, where I will attempt to document them as I go.

Book Review: Breath

‘Breath’ by Tim Winton.

This review may be somewhat biased, given that Winton is one of my favourite contemporary authors; but there’s good reason for his prominent standing among modern writers. Breath is yet another example of his amazing work.

The premise of the plot is deceptively simple: framed within the perspective of Bruce Pike’s adult viewpoint is the story of his wilder youth, in which he sought thrills in dangerous natural environments, and rebelled against the loneliness and hurt of society in ostensibly ‘deviant’ ways. Although he reflects on the insanity of some of his teenage antics, the plot never veers into moralistic piety, and is certainly more nostalgic and reminiscent than regretful.

Stylistically, Winton’s prose is typically sparse and occasionally disjointed, simultaneously conveying the harshness of the Australian landscape, the sea itself, and the tumultuous life of a teenage boy seeking to live an extraordinary life. The underuse of conventional grammar (if you hate Joyce, you may be rather annoyed) adds to the feel of the novel, creating a fast-paced tale that careens from present to past, skipping across time freely, and genuinely recreating the hectic feel of adolescence.

It’s interesting that Winton so aptly conveys the desparation of youth; Bruce tries desparately to establish his extraordinariness, to defy convention, and to live a meaningful and exciting life. However, given that this part of the story is framed within the perspective of adult-Bruce’s life, I think there’s a poignant message in it. The desire to be something brilliant, to burn brightly in the dull sea of mediocrity, never dies in those that feel the driving need to be something more than average.

It could be argued that he still seeks that thrill in the adrenaline-fueled work of being an ambulance officer, but the fact that he still surfs, despite the limitations of age and injury, more strongly suggest that even that capitulation is never enough. That in finding that compromise between thrill and what is considered conventionable/allowable, the brilliance is lost, and becomes little more than a new sense of safety. It’s the kind of need for something more that drives people to unspeakable despair through dissatisfaction.

Hmm, digressed a little there, but it’s hard not to, after reading such a passionate piece of writing. Overall rating: 10/10.

Book Review: Spirited – Taking Paganism Beyond the Circle

‘Spirited: Taking Paganism Beyond the Circle’ by Gede Parma.

Let me preface this review by saying that 1) it is basically a ‘Wicca101’ book (though not actually dealing with Wicca, just NeoPaganism in general) aimed at teenagers (and thus I’m not the target demographic), and 2) I know and adore Gede, but I hope I’ve kept this review balanced nonetheless.


Spirited is one of the better Wicca/NeoPaganism101 books that I’ve read in a long time. It follows strongly in the tradition of Scott Cunningham’s eclectic Neo-Wicca DIY approach. I don’t have a problem with that, and indeed, I’d certainly recommend this as a very light introduction to NeoPaganism for young people.

The book does what it intends to do, in that it is very specifically aimed at young and new practitioners: however, as an experienced practitioner with a very different approach to and experience with NeoPaganism, it also made for a thought-provoking read. There were a lot of parts of the book that were nothing new at all, but certain aspects made me stop and think – if I disagreed with his statements/conclusions, why was that? I’m a firm believer in a book being worth reading if it makes you think independently and critically.

The good: it’s a very relevant and current approach to generic NeoPaganism. The first half of the book contains general tips and guides for young NeoPagans, both in terms of establishing and accepting their identity, as well as actually practicing. The balance of suggested exercises/spellwork is good, and the overall tone of the book is generally extremely clear and very simple to read. The second half of the book contains more general information, not necessarily specifically aimed at such a young audience, and covers issues such as different conceptions of Deity in NeoPaganism, aspects of ethics, etc. This part is of particular interest to people who, like myself, are not really the target demographic, but like to gain insight into the thoughts and opinions of other NeoPagans.

The not-so-good: Some of the author’s included personal examples seem a little pointless – a lot of people have bad experiences in high school, but the manner in which they’re depicted quite possibly transects the line between ‘helpful background with which the reader can identify’ and ‘airing personal grievances/a martyr-like attitude’. I also think the book could probably benefit from introducing more detail on the basics of energy work (given that this is a beginners’ text) prior to the inclusion of exercise/spellwork ideas.

Overall, it’s a great book that I certainly wouldn’t hesistate to recommend to any new, young NeoPagans, and it’s great to see an updated beginners’ text. However, if you’re not a teenager, you may want to hold off purchasing – the second half may be thought provoking, but it primarily summarises and codifies a lot of information already out there.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Carolan’s Concerto

Carolan’s Concerto by Caiseal Mor.

This book was an absolute joy to read. It was a delightful narrative, weaving together elements of fairy-tale and historical reality in a manner that leaves you constantly questioning how much is real, and how much is fantasy. But within the context of the book (through the character of Edward, who is hearing the life-story of Turlough Carolan, being told by a blind brewer), you seen the gradual acceptance of the magical as being possible.

It really does pay tribute to Irish culture, without being overtly OMGIRISHGUINESSGREENLEPRECHAUNS!!! etc. It’s in the subtle capturing of the national pride, but also the fierce pragmatism that is prominent in the many Irish people I’ve met. That is to say, he doesn’t rely entirely on hyperbolic stereotypes and shallow portrayals.

On that note, it was interesting that it treated the Irish rebellion against English rule in the manner that it did; the standard ‘fight for your country, patriotic hatred of the English’ trope of so many novels, films and poems was absent. Personally I don’t have a problem with that sentiment, when expressed well, but it was interesting that Mor instead chose to focus on the reality of any culture that’s been oppressed by an invading force; that, ultimately, many people are forced to choose between sacrificing everything in the name of their ideological beliefs, and instead enduring in order to ensure the survival of themselves and their families. And he does portray it well; there’s the sense of fierce Irish pride, but it’s tempered by the weary acknowledgement that Connor’s rebellion is a subtle one, by necessity, as they try to survive in hard times.

So, for a brief overview; Mor uses mis en abyme (framing a story within a story) to particularly fantastic effect. Both stories are equally engaging, and the ‘containing’ story isn’t simply a framing device, it’s a rich tale of its own, and the combined stories work beautifully. The external story is of a Dublin-based rebel, who shoots an English officer and then escapes and seeks refuge with a country family; while hiding out there, the patriarch of the house recounts tales of his master, Turlough Carolan, arguably Ireland’s most famous musician. Throw in liberal doses of Sidhe mythology, sharp humour, and beautifully subtle cultural references, and you’ve got yourself an enchanting fantasy novel.

Stylistically, this is another of those books that, much like Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, you read for the narrative content, not for syntactical experimentation. So, the structure is fairly basic, though Mor uses his customary evocative description and expansive vocabulary to paint a very vivid mental picture.

Overall rating: 10/10.

Incidentally, Caiseal Mor is one of my all-time favourite authors. If you’re looking for fantasy that isn’t full of stupid names (or ones that are a blatant, and insulting, plagiarism of Tolkien’s works), bodice-ripping shit, and 4 pages of nothing but a description of the stock-standard ‘heroine’, definitely check him out.

Music Reviews: First Impressions #1

Given that I work in a music shop, I thought that it might be fun to give quick “first impression” reviews of some of the new CDs that have come out. Obviously this isn’t as in-depth or insightful as reviewing an album that I’ve had a chance to listen to carefully. Nonetheless, it’s fun (and a great way to keep myself occupied when it’s deeeeaddd at work). I’ll probably continue this theme as I remember/can be bothered.

Manic Street Preachers: Journal For Plague Lovers – very different to their older stuff; much rockier, and they’ve started incorporating sound clips into their music. The album opens with an audio clip from the awesome, awesome film The Machinist, which pretty well had me sold. The album sounds pretty cohesive, and stays consistently rock-ish, occasionally bordering on garage, and sounds pretty good. It’s MSP, so there’s little doubt that the lyrics are also good.

Madness: The Liberty of Norton Folgate – another band that has really changed their sound (though it has been many, many years since they produced their most well-known pieces). The first 2/3 of the album is all right, incorporating a little of the almost ska-ish sound that characterised their earlier works. The last third of the album is awesome: New Orleans, Beasly-St style upbeat jazz with brass accompaniment. If the entire album sounded like that, I would have purchased and loved it immediately.

The Mars Volta: Octahedron – some of the singing is very ‘Coheed and Cambria’-ish, and the album sounds pretty similar to their other stuff (or at least what I remember of them). Unless the lyrics are exceptionally good, I think this is more of a background music sort of album.

Gavin DeGraw: Free – very, very laid back album. A few pieces have a slightly more upbeat style, more reminiscent of his big single “I Don’t Wanna Be”, but on the whole the album is a rather quiet, mellow affair. That’s not to say that it’s bad, because it isn’t, it’s just a more easy-listening album, rather than something that demands your immediate and undivided attention.

Tori Amos: Abnormally Attracted to Sin – well it’s Tori, so you know it’s going to be good. I personally liked this album a lot more than American Doll Posse (though I really liked the concept of that one) and The Beekeeper. I think it signals more of a return to her older style; understandably, this album is a little more mellow, but she’s back to really using her voice. The album has a slightly sultry, blues-ish feel to it, without being mellow or overwhelmingly slow or dark. “Welcome to England” is a particularly awesome track.

Random Book Meme

Stolen from Lady Lazarus. Also, I kind of cheat, because most have more than one answer (and that’s after culling my favourites by like 700%).

A book that made you cry: There have been quite a few, but the one that immediately springs to mind is Good Night, Mr Tom. It remains one of the best books about civilian life in Britain during WWII that I have ever read.

A book that scared you: The only one I can think of right now is the graphic novel The Nightmare Factory, based on the stories of Thomas Ligotti.

A book that made you laugh: Definitely Bridget Jones’s Diary. It’s just hilarious, and a frighteningly insightful piece on modern culture.

A book that disgusted you: For actual content, probably Trainspotting (or most things by Irvine Welsh). It’s great, but there are some pretty gross scenes in there (the restaurant bit springs to mind…). Of course, I’m also disgusted by the intellectual insult and misogynist bullshit that is Twilight.

A book you loved in elementary school kindergarten: most were pretty unremarkable “learn to read” sort of crap, but I really did love Bugs in Boxes.

A book you loved in middle primschool: it’d have to be Playing Beatie Bow, hands down. I don’t remember precisely how many times I read that book, but it’d have to be over 50.

A book you loved in high school: Ahahahah, like 50? Number one is of course Lord of the Rings, which I actually read during the holidays between primary school and the start of Year 7. I was a big Dumas fan at that point, too.

A book you hated disliked in high school: I didn’t hate it, but Margaret Hale in Gaskell’s North and South was just begging for a punch in the face. God, but that woman irritated me.

A book you loved in university: hmmm toss-up between The Bell Jar and The Handmaid’s Tale. Man that’s hard to pick, I’ve read several hundred books while I’ve been at uni, and many of them have been pretty damn awesome.

A book that challenged your identity: this is probably somewhat tangential, but Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner was pretty influential in leading me down the path of NeoPaganism. Failing that, any and all of the books I’ve read on war are a lot of the reason that I’m so vehemently anti-war.

A series you love: hmm, it’s almost impossible to pick between Tamora Pierce’s Immortals quartet and her Song of the Lioness quartet. I also love Tiernan’s Wicca series (they’re my guilty easy-read indulgence).

Your favorite horror book: I don’t really read much that could be strictly defined as ‘horror’. Dracula and Interview with the Vampire are often classified as horror, and I really, really love them both. The graphic novel From Hell is also terrifying and awesome.

Your favorite science fiction book: Aaaaaah, how do I even pick?? One that springs to mind is Stranger in a Strange Land, but there are many.

Your favorite fantasy: well I’ve already mentioned Tolkien and Pierce, so we’ll go with American Gods, or anything by Neil Gaiman.

Your favorite mystery: not sure if it’s strictly classified as a mystery, but The Picture of Dorian Gray is a favourite. If this was meant to refer to crime novels, then the entire Inspector Rebus series is fantastic.

Your favorite biography: probably Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda. Man, do I love Alan Alda.

Your favorite “coming of age” book: off of the top of my head, probably How I Live Now. Anything by Judy Bloom is pretty classic, too.

Your favorite classic: ZOMG how am I supposed to pick just one??? Anything Austen/Dickens/Dostoyevsky/Tolstoy. Number one favourite is probably… Northanger Abbey, but really the Western canon is my favourite genre.

Your favorite romance book: either Pride and Prejudice (cliche, I know!) or Chocolat. The original graphic novel of The Crow is also beautiful, in a tragic way.

Your favorite book not on this list: hahah, how long do you have? Probably anything by Camus (particularly The Plague), Vonnegut (especially Slaughterhouse Five), Winton (The Riders is amazing), and Caiseal Mor (an Australian writer of Celtic fantasy, one of the best).ary

Book Review: Wuthering Heights

Author’s note: this was actually written for an old blog many, many years ago. So if it makes me sound like a 16 year old girl, it’s because I was at the time. 😛 But I figured I ought to update the blog at some point, before I evanesced into (further) obscurity.

Book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

This book is one of the classics of English literature for a very good reason; frankly, I much prefer the writing style of Emily Brontë to many of her other counterparts. Her writing style has a greater (and more menacing) atmosphere and style than that of Austen; Charlotte Brontë evokes a similar melancholy air, but her characters are generally more lacking in passion, and deviousness. That is one of the most striking features of the character development throughout Wuthering Heights; the sheer malevolent manipulation shown by all of the characters. Indeed, throughout the novel, the reader is presented with the distinct impression that no-one really likes anyone else, even those who are “passionately in love.” Everyone is simply a means to a selfish end for another character (usually Heathcliff :P).

Unlike Austen, who deals primarily with the very parochial field of the gentry of Georgian England, Brontë incorporates far more universal concepts into her novel, perhaps placing it above Austens P&P, S&S, Emma and the like (heresy, I know), because when it is all said and done, the values, motives, characters and ideals portrayed in Wuthering Heights are more timelessly relevant than the idea of marrying as the only acceptable career of the wealthy.

Manipulation, greed (particularly avarice), jealousy, nature vs. nurture, and loyalty are some of the primary themes explored by the text. Social values are of a lesser concern; the women do not feel that they have to marry as a career, or at least, we are not told as such. What is particularly interesting about Wuthering Heights is that much of the story is presented from the perspective of Ellen/Nelly, a mere servant; when contrasted with Austen’s gentry-focused writings, this is a somewhat unusual feature of 19th century literature, particularly that written by a woman. Note that none of the aforementioned themes in the text are particularly light or cheery; in fact, you rarely feel any great fondness for any of the characters, and any brief affection tends to be destroyed by their cruel, manipulative actions. Some you pity (particularly young Hareton Earnshaw, I felt), others are purely devilish (*cough, Heathcliff, cough*), and others so woefully whining, puling and generally self pitying (ie, Linton Heathcliff) that you want to slap them.

I have two primary criticisms to make of Brontë’s writing; one being the manner by which Joseph’s speech is portrayed. True, the accurate transcription of his yokel accent does lend an air of verisimilitude, but still, when it reaches the extent where one has to read the sentence out loud in order to ascertain what he said does encourage the skimming of his lines. Second, she tends to switch back and forth between using the character’s first and last name; this can be confusing when referring to someone who shares a Christian or surname with another character. And, given that most of the characters are interrelated in some way or another, that is quite frequently. The “Earnshaw” references confused me for a while, until Hindley died. Hindley is particularly confusing, because it is easy to forget that that is a given name, not a surname.

In general, the tone of the book is dreary, foreboding, melancholy, and generally ominous; the relatively frequent occurrences of violence are understated to create a deliberate vagueness that does not detract from the realistic tone of the novel. Some parts are genuinely spooky; however, Brontë creates this feeling through understatement once more. The terse, almost tense style of the writing works well to create an aura of suspense throughout the story; the ending is somewhat anticlimatic, but the final imagery is hauntingly vivid in its understated simplicity. Overall, Wuthering Heights is a delightful read, perfect for a rainy, chilly afternoon. The novel has a strong propensity towards true Gothic literary style, and is quite easy to read, if rather heavy in mood, compared to some of her contemporaries.

Food Review: Sammy’s Organic Couscous

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I bought the “French Provencale Style” one, though there seem to be many other different flavours. This was actually something of an impulse buy while grocery shopping some time ago – I picked it up from Woolworths, though there seem to be quite a few places from which you can order it online.

First off, it’s very good value for money. It’s very filling, and at 4 servings for a couple of dollars, it makes a great base for a meal. Secondly, it’s virtually instant to make (this particular type takes 6 minutes). And thirdly – it’s delicious.

Very quick, easy to make (and with nice, clear instructions on the packet!), and very, very tasty. I’ll definitely be buying it again.

Also, it’s important to note that this DOES contain gluten.

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