Hi there! I'm stopping in for BvB. :)
Alright. I haven't even started reading yet and I'm already excited. I LOVE The Things They Carried! Such a powerful book, and one that made me truly appreciate what soldiers went through in Vietnam (and afterward), more than any history textbook ever could. But, I could talk about that forever, so I'm going to shut up now and read. :D
Okay... I think the only way to truly start this review is by saying that was absolutely brilliant. I'm going to do my best to explain why, but honestly I'm having so many feelings right now that I'm not sure anything beyond this sentence will be coherent.
First, the realism of it all. War is messy. War doesn't always make sense. War does things to people, messes with their heads, and makes them do things that they never wouldn't even dream of in a peaceful state of mind. This echoed that perfectly. Obviously, Seamus is the victim here, but one can't help but feel sorry for Neville. We know Neville wouldn't hurt a fly, so the fact that he was pushed into torturing his best friend showcased just how powerful the Carrows' influence was at Hogwarts, how toxic the environment had become.
Furthermore, this was an excellent exploration of guilt, one of the most complicated human emotions. There were layers to Neville's guilt here, because it wasn't only about hurting Seamus. It was about being a disappointment to his parents, not living up to his Gryffindor name, and, fifteen years later, potentially letting down his kids should he ever tell them the story. And again, without the context you provide, it'd be easy to write off Neville as the weak coward he describes himself as. But, you show how a moment of weakness does not equate to a weak mind; Neville's years of turmoil and remorse are indicative of that. Add that to the fact that, even after all this time and Seamus still being his friend, he's still trying to find a way to make amends, it shows just how strong Neville really is.
I'd also like to add that that I really appreciate how you didn't tell us right away what was bothering Neville so much, what was so difficult for him to write. You lead us to believe it was just the general trauma of the war (kind of like how O'Brien and his comrades would write to each other about a bunch of different things, you know?), then you hit us with the "I Crucioed my own friend" line. It gave me whiplash (in a good way!). But this really illustrates just how chaoic and horrendous Hogwarts was during this time. I think we often tend to forget that while the Trio was running around the country, there was a whole groups of students, their age and under, dealing with sights, sounds, and experiences no one should ever have to endure, especially so young.
Also, Deamus. Just saying! <3 :)
This was a truly magnificent piece! I'd be interested to see if you plan on writing a war story for Seamus in the future. Excellent work!
What do I even write? *sobs*
I'm finally here for your requested review. I chose the first chapter because I am particular about order, but I'd love to come and review the second chapter if you'd like to request again.
Okay, Gina, stop wasting time, you need to write a review.
There are so many things that I love about this chapter. The first thing that comes to mind is the repetition of "fifteen years later." Heartbreaking. Neville is holding onto the guilt fifteen years later, when Seamus has probably long since forgiven him. Neville seems to think that he lacks courage because of what he did, but there is a sort of courage in bearing guilt. It shows how just how much he loves his friends and how much he holds himself accountable. Of course, I'd rather he get his feelings down on paper and hash it out with Seamus, but the struggle in and of itself shows what a good guy Neville is. He's flawed, but great.
The way you weave multiple narratives into one is honestly astounding. I love the idea of storytelling with Neville's children (Frank and Alice... *sniff sniff*). It shows an interesting side of Neville that is concerned with the legacy he leaves for his posterity. And the constant revision of the letter as he rehashes the event is stunning. It reveals the complexity of his emotions about this event, and how he hasn't quite come to a place where he can fully explain his own part in it and his own emotional reaction to it.
Which brings me to the ending... It is perfect. I read your Author's Note about Tim O'Brien (which sounds very familiar) and instantly found myself nodding in agreement. The ending was PERFECT. It has so many layers. It shows how close Neville is with Seamus despite this incident, which hints at my belief that Seamus has already forgiven Neville. (Isn't that so common, by the way? That we are the last to forgive ourselves?) And it shows how damaged Neville is, really, because he believes that saying nothing is "best." What a poignant line, because no, saying nothing is NOT best, but I suppose Neville believes that he must stay silent to... I don't know... preserve their current relationship or keep his shame hidden.
And of course there's the added complication of Neville thinking about his parents, how their lives were forever damaged by the Cruciatus Curse. The Carrows are so clever. Evil and monstrous, but clever. It's not being tortured that is the worst punishment for Neville; it's seeing the Cruciatus Curse used against someone else, knowing its power to destroy their lives, and not stopping it. He's become the very thing he hates, if only for this one moment in time. And of course we can forgive him, because we understand how terrible things were at Hogwarts that year, but Neville cannot forgive himself.
YOU ARE A MASTER. My emotions are broken.
Wow, this was a really heartbreaking story to read.
I love seeing stories set in that dark period at Hogwarts, while the rest of us were following the trio around. I've always wondered what life would have looked like for the students, and I think you painted a good picture of a glimpse at that experience.
I'm really impressed by your descriptions. You incorporate the senses into the story in a way that I have always struggled with, and I really loved the way you involved so many of them into the flashback of Neville using the curse on Seamus. You describe the scene visually, but we also hear about the blood moving in Neville in a way that muffles his hearing, and about Seamus' screams, and the taste of bile in Neville's mouth, the tightening in his throat, and the feel of his wand burning in his hand. Absolutely nailed that.
This story definitely provoked a lot of feelings for me. It's hard not to feel some sympathy for Neville, but really, he's not the real victim here, so I had to wrestle with the fact that I was feeling sorry for the abuser (albeit in a very complicated situation). I think that, overall, the story really does a good job of addressing the way that violence and trauma can often become cyclical, causing the person who is hurting to hurt others in turn.
I also think including the children's reactions was a clever way of kind of mirroring the way that we, as fans, think of Neville. He's courageous despite all appearances, he's overcome his fears and he is the ultimate hero, without faults, selfless and brave... until we find out that maybe that's just what we have constructed based on the stories we've been told, without having all the facts. It sort of reminds me of the wave of men who have come out recently as absolute trash pile human beings--even ones who, to all outside appearances, appeared to be allies. It's a real gut punch, and a reminder that our heroes and idols are often hiding some shameful secrets. (Because, really, who isn't?)
I actually read The Things They Carried in high school, and this chapter was very reminiscent of those stories. You did a good job in making it your own but still paying homage to a classic.
Thank you so much for sharing this story with us and giving us a glimpse into Neville's pain, and delving into a much more complex narrative for him. (Also, YAY at Seamus and Dean ending up together!)
I know you just went through a load of nasty midterms, so here's some love for you! And I'm so happy and delighted that you requested this story, because it's such a beautifully-written piece. I'm quite ashamed of myself for not having read and reviewed it earlier. Better late than never, though, amirite?
Your descriptions breathe life and soul into your stories. Every time I read something of yours, I know for certain that there will be words you tie together to form the most perfect sentences. You manage to include your masterfully chosen words into Neville's narration, while retaining his unique voice, and that's just incredible to me. The stories you write always read as a piece of art that you work on until you're satisfied, and it's just so amazing to me. You're so talented. I love your writing so much.
In this chapter, you bring up a really, really interesting scenario, of Neville performing the Cruciatus Curse on his best friend in order to save himself from the torture. And this point just made me sit here and think a lot, about how heroes do horrible things in their lives, but they're considered heroes because of the monumental achievements they have made for society. What Neville did in this story was absolutely horrific, almost nauseatingly so, but you wrote it in such a way that we felt his fears and traumas, and we understood him. It doesn't justify him, but at the very least we understand. And I think that heroes who have done horrible things are the most interesting kinds.
The fact that he named his children after his parents, in the same way Harry did, really goes to show how much he misses them and loves them and respects them, in a way. It's this emotional connection to the parents who were never quite there that made him torture Seamus like that, I think. And every time he thought about what his children would say, how his children would react, my heart cracked a little bit. Because we as children usually idolize our parents, and consider them heroes. And sometimes the realization that they're very, very fallible hurts so much. And I can see Neville worrying about that point, that he's not really the hero they consider him to be.
Mostly I'm in love with the ending. You mentioned in your author's notes that it was anti-climactic, and I completely understand why you did that. (I have yet to read the book that this was inspired by, but it's been on my to-read list since you first mentioned it to me, haha.) It makes for a more realistic ending, and in some ways, more bittersweet.
I understand why Seamus has never truly forgiven Neville, after all these years.
This was so beautiful, Shreya. I'm so in love with your writing. If I had to write concrit for this, I would just say that sometimes your sentences are long, and that they have too many clauses sometimes. (Such as the opening line.) But honestly? I'm in no position to give you concrit, haha, this is just so gorgeous and wonderful and just an amazing character study omg.
(I love Neville a lot. He's one of my favorite characters. <3)
NEVILLE. He is easily one of my favourite characters from the series, just because of the way he goes from someone practically invisible to being a hero. I think I've always liked the way he represents that anyone can be a hero.
I honeslty loved this story, because it showed Neville in a completely different light than I'd seen before, and yet still felt 100% like him. It's important to recognize, as you did, the grey area in between the ideas of good and bad people. No one would ever argue that Neville is a bad person, but it's very realistic that sometimes good people do bad things, for whatever reason. And the fact that Neville used the Cruciatus Curse on Seamus - I can believe that, under these circumstances. What was happening at Hogwarts that year was just horrible, and when someone is faced with enduring the same thing that made their parents lose their mind and locked them away in a hospital forever, or hurt someone else to avoid it - you have to be pretty selfless to pick the first one. Not everyone has the strenght for that, and it doesn't make Neville a bad person, it just makes him a lot more nuanced, flawed, and ultimately realistic. It kind of reminded me of the end of the novel 1984 (which I love) - after everything he's withstood already, he finally reaches his breaking point and this was sort of the "do it to Julia" of this situation. It's so awful that Neville was ever put in that situation.
And of course the repercussions - because of who Neville is, it makes sense that fifteen years later it's still haunting him. I loved the way you described all the previous times this has happpened, the times he's tried to write the letter before and doesn't have the right words. What even are the right words for that? But those first few paragraphs about staring at empty pages and how he's spent so long there that he's memorized all the scratches on the desk, these were such powerful, evocative descriptions. perfect.
The mentions of Neville telling all these stories to his kids added a lot to the story as well - how he tells them the exciting stories of heroics, but has this feeling of guilt because it doesn't represent everything, but at the same time he feels like he can never tell his kids about his worst moment and how much he hurt his friend and see the disappointment and disapproval on his kids' faces. That was truly heartbreaking.
I hope one day Neville and Seamus are able to talk about it, and that it helps. I don't know that things will ever be the same, but I just hope they get better.
This was such a great story. Wonderful writing, Shreya ♥
Hey there - dropping by for your review from the staff review thread! :)
So I have a soft spot for Neville, because he's so real, you know? Well, all of the characters are real and realistic, really, but he's just... so normal, and there's a kind of inspiration in that, because he's an ordinary guy-turned hero, and I love that and the whole way he grows through the books. So I was super excited to see this was the next story available in the review thread and I just had to jump on it :P (Also people don't seem to write much about Neville, which I always find kinda sad, because he seems super fascinating to me)
I love the whole idea of this. The way that it deals with the idea of good people doing bad things, even awful and terrible things, and how it can haunt people for a long time and how fundamentally it can affect you. It's so true, and it's such a heavy topic - and one I never really thought of in the context of Neville, tbh, which makes this so interesting to me and so unique - and you deal with it so wonderfully.
I love, too, how you use it to produce this beautiful character study of Neville: of his ideals and his characteristics and what he thinks of himself and what he would like himself to be, the things in his life which are important to him (his kids and Hannah and how they, particularly his kids, view him and think of him). It's so clever and so well done, and you show so many different facets of Neville in this, and it works so, so well. I think it must be kinda harder when you think you should be brave, that you're told you are brave or ought to be, because your parents and what you did, and you feel it's a lie. It's not a lie, but it's not necessarily - as he would see it - entirely true either, and it's such a difficult, horrible position to be in.
Also, I think in really difficult times, when people are finding things hard and under huge amounts of stress and pressure and in almost constant fear - or even just a huge amount of fear on a one-off situation - it's surprisingly easy for people to do things they regret and wish they'd never done and perhaps wouldn't normally do. I love that Neville kinda faced this (as I imagine Harry would have done, after using the Cruciatus curse on Amycus, as well), having to try and reconcile that side of himself with what he thought of himself and the person he wants to be: kind, gentle, brave, generous. Neville seems like the last person who would do something like that, but then, I guess, when people are afraid, it's so difficult to predict what people can or will do and are capable of, you know?
I gotta say, I really loved the way you talked about how people struggle to write and stuff at the beginning - how people just sit there and stare sometimes, as though if they just keep looking words will appear for them, how words don't always feel as though they're good enough or they mean enough. It's so incredibly true, and so very human - it's the kind of feeling I think everyone's felt, on whatever kind of level and about whatever type of thing, where people just can't find the words or know what to say because nothing works or says enough or says it right. You described it so beautifully and so clearly, and it really resonated with me.
Honestly, I know you said you're worried about description in this, and so imma mention it specifically, but your writing is gorgeous and in this, tbh, you really didn't have too much description at all. (Though, like, I always include too much description, haha, so I might be a little bit biased :P) It was so right and so well balanced for a character study-type story, and I loved your use of italics for speech instead of quotation marks. It really emphasised the whole memory-like aspect of it. Your writing is so good, honestly - you should definitely write more (and in this narrative style, too, if you wanted - it really suits you!)! :)
I've rambled a lot in this and I'm so sorry for that, haha, but I really did love it - thank you so much for requesting; I'm so glad I got a chance to read this! :)
Hi Laura! :) I wanted to thank you for this really nice review that always makes me grin and dance whenever I read it!
I absolutely agree with you about Neville—I always found him to be a very interesting character (much like Cho), one the realest characters in the books. I actually think that JKR did him a little bit of an injustice by making him become suddenly heroic... I understand that times of war often cause people to change (that is, after all, the entire point of this fic!), but I think that some part of Neville would always be the eleven-year-old scaredy cat kid. And I was also really disappointed to see the lack of Neville-centric fics; maybe this will inspire some more? :D
I think it's interesting that you never thought of Neville as someone who might do awful terrible things in times of war and rather thought of Harry. I thought about that for a little and actually absolutely understand your perspective—Harry's use of the Cruciatus Curse seems like something that would definitely haunt him since it would go against everything that he was raised to be. I always had the feeling that he'd never really feel all that bad about it though. I think he's the sort of guy who is fiercely protective of his loved ones, like McGonagall, Ron, Hermione, Sirius, his parents, etc., that he would do absolutely anything to protect them and hurt anyone who hurt them. I don't think that he's necessarily all that pure to not be corrupted by the desire for revenge—similar to how I don't think that Neville is so brave as to never be corrupted by fear once the Carrows took over. That just doesn't feel as human to me. But that point about Harry is an interesting one to raise! I really agree that Neville seems like the last person who would do something like that, and yes, Neville definitely was influenced by the times—but I think there's also the element of his personal connection to the Cruciatus Curse, something I wanted to play around with a little in this fic. That makes me think that regardless of whether they were at war or not, I think Neville might've still behaved the same way. I think, fundamentally, people are guided by internal pressures, not external pressures. But, that's a topic for an entirely different fic :)
Wow, thank you for the huge compliments about me capturing the struggle to write perfectly—that means a lot coming from a writer, who knows exactly what it feels like for the words to simply not come. That's just... wow! And your comments about my description... eep. That's so kind of you <3 I'm really really happy that you think it's well-balanced, I always struggle between achieving that perfect balance, and it's so relieving that I got it right this time! (And saying that my description is good, coming from you, the queen of description... ahh! My face is going to split in two, I'm grinning so wide haha).
Thanks so so much for the delightful review--always cheers me up when I'm feeling down about my writing :) <3
Since you're my official favorite personTM I knew I had to swing by and leave you some birthday reviews! <3
First of all, WOW, your descriptive writing is so well done. It's pretty and full of imagery without bogging down the story or seeming pretentious. I'm thoroughly dazzled by it. In the very beginning you give us the writing desk and is it weird how fond I now feel for that desk and all of the memories, both good and bad that accompany it?
Also I love your characterization of Neville. He feels very well defined and all around interesting. I feel like even in the later books he was never treated like the dimensional, human character that he was. He went from Neville Longbottom: Comic Relief to Neville Longbottom: War Hero with very little development in between in the eyes of the characters. This feels so much more intimate and personal and real.
"Tonight was a rare night where he could taste the words he wanted to write on his tongue, feel them at his fingertips, hear them in his ears."
I relate to this on a personal level. Also I really enjoy the way his insecurities come out. I feel like this every time I write an email.
Also I'm glad this was the memory you selected to talk about because I feel like there are so many missing moments from that year that we will never see. I think you did a really great job characterizing all of those horrors and making me cringe at the thought of ADULTS doing this to poor innocent children.
Also I really don't think, especially with all the extra details and the whole "uncle Seamus" thing that Seamus would actually hold any kind of grudge or bad feeling about it. I mean, these were hard times. War. Apt name, by the way.
I love the characterization of his kids too. I need to see more of them in future fics for sure. So cute!
I loved the ending. I loved it all, but I especially loved the ending.
I should really add you as a favorite author. I should. I think that’s happening. Notching that on the to-do list. I must start reading your stuff and then be doing something or something because you are the type of writer where I can already tell that I come back and I read a completely different interpretation. Part of that might be me wanting to read while on break, but whatever.
The first part about the writer’s block? And the illustration of the desk? Can we just sit back and appreciate that for a moment? That is so genuine about the writing process. I mean, you think you have something, you really do write something, sometimes the whole thing, and then you toss it away. It’s no good. And when you just need to get something out of your head and onto paper, you are caught in that moment. Happens to everyone. Every time I read about the writing process that any writer puts into an effort, I wonder if he or she has had difficulty in drafting the piece. In HBP, you can tell that JKR had this problem, and again, this makes her more genuine as a person.
I call this flipping the switch. There is a point in our lives where we start to grow up, and while I would argue that this first started for Neville in fifth year, you are the first person to illustrate to me why with the language. Well done. Language and word choice are powerful - you have options and should never insert curse words as a just because; that often reflects cheap writing and a cliche. You illustrate that well. On a side note, I once pulled up the word “bastard” in the OED because a professor told me to for a world history thing… cool guy… I think he just wanted me to smile. :)
A lot of times, we carry things for years. I have done it, and we don’t make that move, which makes this all the more realistic, but it hurts when we do this towards friends or family. You can bury that for fifteen years and never make a move because … time erodes the length or the supposed imagined effectiveness of the apology. Does that makes sense? I’m not saying the old cliche of time heals all wounds. It just … erases it? Sometimes there is such a thing of too little, too late, where there is, in the end nothing left.
The only criticism I have is the part about Hannah’s breathing and you want to give this a read over to caught small mistakes. A beta once told me that the editing process comes in stages and doesn't have to be finished. We walk away and we come back.
The ending? Perfection. So what if it’s not a happy one-shot at the end. That’s life. You wrote a slice of real life in fiction, and that, my friend, is an admirable moment.
Not satisfactory she says? Pooh!
Well done. I loved it.
Firstly, thanks so much for adding me as a favorite author—that's incredibly flattering and I'm honored and surprised that you like my writing that much :) That was a great confidence boost to see and motivated me to keep working on the next short story in this collection :)
I'm glad that you liked the part about Neville's writer's block, being unable to put to words the feelings that he's feeling because they're almost too much. I was worried that this would be pretentious but I'm glad to see that it came off as genuine, and you're absolutely right, it's something that everyone goes through, no matter the gravity of what you're writing. Also, it was very difficult for me to write that section—that was the part of this fic that I wrote and rewrote several times before finally feeling satisfied with it. So yes, when writers talk about the process of writing, it's never easy! :D
Thanks for the comment about the curse words—I was hoping someone would pick up on that. I hardly use them in my writing except when necessary and only when it fits the characters and the situation, so I thought it would be fitting in this case. I'm happy that I could reflect the necessity of picking words carefully because you're absolutely right; sometimes, curse words are just thrown in for the sake of being thrown in there.
"...time erodes the length or the supposed imagined effectiveness of the apology"—oh my god, this is such a major aspect of what I was trying to convey. Your explanation makes complete sense and I'm really happy that I could articulate this sense of letting go, but not really letting go; how some things just sort of turn stale in your heart after time—but they're still there, poking at you a little, it's just a pain that you have now grown accustomed too. I like to think that some wounds can never be healed at all, but are rather just scarred over—they're still left there on your skin as permanent marks, but the bleeding has been stopped so the pain seems to be gone, but you can look at your scar and be reminded of all the pain once again. That was exactly what I was trying to convey here and the fact that you got the message is the best compliment :)
"You wrote a slice of real life in fiction..." Thank you! That is a huge compliment. Gosh, this entire review has left me so happy <3 Thank you!