Rachel, over at More About the Song has a very intriguing and thought-provoking series of posts up at her blog. She’s asking readers to list books they have read (pre-1920 and post-1920) as kind of a referral guide for a novice reader of 17 years (a female). I have contributed to both posts, but this got me thinking further about books that I have enjoyed through the years. I realize that certain books fill a certain need at a particular time in our lives. I decided to compile a list of books that have meant something to me at one time or another, and exactly what they did for me at the time.
As well, Linda at Linda’s Twaddle posted a bit on people spoiling the plot of movies, books, etc. by re-telling the entire storyline in an effort to “sell” the product to the listener. This recalled to my mind, the time a babysitter gave away who the murderer was in a locked room Agatha Christie (see below – it’s set on an island)and how I have never forgiven her.
Please add your thoughts to the comments and let me know what books filled a space in your lives and for what reason.
Good Books I have known :
ANONYMOUS, Go Ask Alice – This book probably has much to do with the fact that I never tried any hard drugs – in fact, I’ve never been a smoker either (apart from the odd menthol cigarette at a party). The terror this instilled in me was enough to remain in my mind and niggle at the back of my brain anytime I fell in with a dangerous crowd. This book should be required reading in school.
MICHAEL CAPUZZO’s, Close to Shore – My friend, Deb (mentioned below under “The English Patient”) suggested this book to me and the concept of it greatly intrigued me. It details the true events of 1916 which presaged the movie “Jaws”. At that time, a great white shark terrorized the beaches and even the inlets along the New Jersey coast. The historical detail is flawless and riveting. Most interestingly, an element of the book is actually told from the shark’s perspective. A fascinating read that held me captive in the summer of 2001, shortly after we moved into the Hyggehus and I had a lovely back porch and a glorious (if scraggly) garden to enjoy.
AGATHA CHRISTIE’s, And Then There Were None (a.k.a. Ten Little Indians) – a fantastic read for a girl of 13, who,having graduated from The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew, couldn’t get enough of shocking murders and suspenseful situations. I loved the cast of characters in these books, the very British (and as yet unknown to me) environments and the surprise endings (although I soon got very good at working out the murderer’s identity).
KEN FOLLETT’s, The Eye of the Needle – This time the book came first. Follet is undeniably one of the masters of suspense writing. Though he’s had a few books that have failed to draw me in, I must admit, usually he is an author I find hard to walk away from. Eye of the Needle is, in a word, gripping. The world of Nazis and spies and killers is a spine-chilling and fast-moving one. This book was one I will not soon forget.
THOMAS HARDY’s, Jude the Obscure – This was a third-year university course book, but it had a profound effect on me. More than any other book, I think I felt the tragedy and confusion of the main characters. I struggled to read some of the novels I was assigned – George Eliot comes to mind here – but Hardy, was no problem at all.
ALISTAIR MACLEOD’s, No Great Mischief – I cannot say that I have ever picked up a piece of “literature” and read it cover-to-cover in one go. With this book, I came close. I read it in 2 days. Perhaps it was the way it pulled my heritage out of me and made me really see it for the first time. Or maybe it was the memorable images of the harshness of winter in early Nova Scotia. Possibly, it was the mellifluous, poetic language. No! It was all of that and more. It was a haunting, echoing experience that periodically calls to me. It re-awakened my affinity for my mother’s world just as we lost my Cape Breton aunt to a long, arduous illness. The book made me weep for joy and loss and it was the indescribable epiphany experience of MacLeod’s words that can be credited.
MICHAEL ONDAATJE’s, The English Patient – Okay, so I did see this film prior to reading the book. In fact, I saw the film a couple of times (didn’t really enjoy it the first time, but loved it the second). The book was brilliant! If you’ve seen the movie, but NOT read the book, I urge you to do so.
My friend, Deb and I read this book together. She lives an hour away, and has belonged to a book club for 10 years. I cannot be constricted by the confines of a book club. We decided to have our own private reading of this one and see where it went. I don’t recall the conversations we had about the book. I think we were never at the same spot and saw things quite differently, so our “private book club” never got off the ground. We both did say that we loved it. That’s all I can tell you.
PETER ROBINSON’s, In a Dry Season – Robinson is a transplanted Englishman who now, I’m happy to say, lives here in Canada. His mystery series featuring Inspector Alan Banks, is exceptionally well-written, always well thought out and fails to disappoint.
I have come to really appreciate books wherein the story harks back to an earlier time, but the plot is resolved in the present day. In a Dry Season is such a book. The drought of a reservoir reveals a skeleton and the story delves back in time to reveal what originally transpired. Riveting. Really.
This is the kind of book I like to read when I have nothing at all to do and so can devote myself to it 100%. That rarely happens, but if a book is good enough, sometimes you just have to make it happen.
BARBARA VINE’s (pseudonym of Ruth Rendell), Asta’s Book – This was heavy going for me, but I must add it to the list for three reasons: first, it is a flashback to an earlier time book and I do love the element of history; second, the historic part takes place in 19th century Denmark and as you know, my husband’s background is Danish and we are careful to preserve the Scandinavian culture (see the “Days of Hygge” poem); third, although I was mainly reading this on my lunch-hour at my pedestrian data-entry job with a small hydraulic power distributor and I had such a hard time staying focussed, eventually, the weight of the story kicked in and it became one of the most enjoyable reads of my life. Most importantly, the ending was such a shock and surprise that I went around for days with my mouth hanging open (okay, that’s a bit of an exagerration, BUT I was stunned).
EVELYN WAUGH’s, Brideshead Revisited – As some of you know from previous posts, this book has a permanent place in my psyche. I must admit that, yes, the BBC drama came first, and perhaps without Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews I should never have even ventured between its pages in the first place, BUT, once I did, I was eternally bound to the characters and their plight.
I was a student at university when the drama aired on television and I immediately bought the book and read it in record time. It may be my Catholicity, or it may just have been the romance of life at Oxford – who can say? I only know that Waugh struck a chord that forever plays for me.
More to come!