Penguin Moderns: Part 2 | The one where things are lost

Three Penguin Moderns - Till September Petronella by Jean Rhys, Africa's Tarnished Name by Chinua Achebe and The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson

Back in March I introduced this new mini-review series for the Penguin Modern Classics, a collection of tiny pocket-sized modern classics sold for just £1. Having quite a few of these, I decided to review them in groups of three – and today we finally have the second post, the one where things are lost. Somehow – despite choosing them in a completely random order – I’ve managed to find a common theme for each post so far (the first one being “the death episode”) and today’s is very much about what is lost in their story. So we have The Missing Girl, the lost thing in this book being pretty obvious, Africa’s Tarnished Name, discussing the lost culture and accurate representation of Africa, and Till September Petronella, following women who feel lost in their worlds. What you will find, however, is my thoughts on these books below…

Penguin Modern edition of The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson - links to Goodreads page

*Click the images to go to the Goodreads page!

• The Missing Girl •

by Shirley Jackson

Broken into several short stories of deception in what would otherwise be the average American life, this one was…interesting, at least. The first one – The Missing Girl – left a little more to be desired come the end. I was reading it, intrigued to find out what happened, and then the ending happened and I just didn’t get it. Plus it started grating on me how ditsy all of the characters seemed. So we’re not off to a great start. Moving onto the second story, Journey with a Lady, I’m happy to say I at least understood this one. It felt weirdly whimsical because of how accepting all of the characters were of strange events, and yet held a darker side to it that made it unnerving to read because it just felt wrong. And that’s exactly what I was expecting from this book! I was happy to have found it at last. Only I lost that enjoyment again, when moving onto the third and final story, Nightmare. I just did not understand it at all. I thought there would be a revolutionary twist at the end that would stick with me for years. But nope. Just more confusion. I even tried Googling for explanations but can’t seem to find any, so I don’t know whether it’s just me that didn’t get it or whether it’s a universal confusion. I’m hoping for the latter.

Rated 2/5 stars

Penguin Modern edition of Africa's Tarnished Name by Chinua Achebe - links to the Goodreads page

• Africa’s Tarnished Name •

by Chinua Achebe

After reading Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for uni and needing to write an essay on postcolonialism, I figured this was the perfect time to pick this one up and get a little extra background knowledge for my essay in the process. Way to multitask, amiright? Reading and studying in one. 

Anyway, this is a collection of really short essays written by Achebe about – you guessed it – Africa’s tarnished name, and how the representation of Africa has been created by Europe (specifically, Britain). I’ve found that I really get along with Achebe style of essay writing, as he’s not overly academic and includes anecdotes to support his claims, making them more personal and humane than just having words thrown at your face (as most essays feel). You can sense his personality through his writing, hear his disdain at the world and it just works. Granted, sometimes he would go off on a tangent and I’d get lost somewhere along the way, but it soon realigned to what he was trying to say. I suppose it also helps that he always absolutely slates Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, one of my least favourite books of recent years. Good on ya, Achebe. I’ll read your rants anytime.

Rated 3/5 stars

Penguin Modern edition of Till September Petronella by Jean Rhys - links to the Goodreads page

• Till September Petronella •

by Jean Rhys

With all the other Penguin Moderns I’ve reviewed so far, I’ve divided the reviews into small comments on each small story in the book. This one, however, just seems so finely put together, it feels wrong to do that. This book includes four short stories; The Day They Burnt the Books, Till September Petronella, Rapunzel, Rapunzel and I Lived Here Once. They all feature women who feel lost in the world for whatever reason, and that feeling really resonates with you throughout this book. Different situations, different societies, none of that matters – that sense of being lost is there. Jean Rhys writing style seemed quite scattered and almost disoriented. There was no clear continuation between a couple of paragraphs and the next, and while this would usually bother me, it made me feel off-track and adrift, much like the women of the stories. They all had an ambiguous air to them. There was definitely more to each story that we are told. But somehow it all worked, it said just enough, and leaves you with a series of short stories to remember. I’d love to read more of Jean Rhys’ work, and probably will do sometime soon.

Rated 4/5 stars

green watercolour line

So there we have round two of my Penguin Modern mini-review series! Let me know if there are any specific Penguin Moderns you’d like me to review, I’d be more than happy to take requests!

Have you read any of these books? Are there any you recommend from the series? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

sign off handle saying "Ashleigh" for A Frolic Through Fiction blog



5 thoughts on “Penguin Moderns: Part 2 | The one where things are lost

  1. I always like reading your reviews or the Penguin moderns. 🙂
    I don’t think I’ll be picking any of these up haha but I’ll definitely keep you posted of what I might read next!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m very tempted by Till September Petronella, although I feel like it will have similar vibes to The Bloody Chamber which I didn’t enjoy. But for only £1 I feel like I can take that risk, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

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