Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the folks at The Broke and the Bookish.
I spend ages underlining my favourite passages as I read, mainly because I have a terrible memory and I’m always worried I’ll forget them later. Here are some of my favourites from the books I’ve read this year, in no particular order:
1 . I didn’t love The Moving Finger but this exchange, about a series of poison pen letters, made me smile:
“Have you – er – had any yourself?”
“Oh yes, two – no three. I forget exactly what they said. Something very silly about Caleb and the schoolmistress, I think. Quite absurd because Caleb has absolutely no taste for fornication. He never has had. So lucky, being a clergyman.”
“Quite,” I said, “Oh quite.”
2 . I can’t, for obvious reasons, include the entirety of the chapter here (as much as I would love to) but the one devoted to his mum in Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie is very touching. By the time I reached the end of the chapter I already knew I’d have to go back to the beginning and read it at least once more.
“In trying to recapture the presence of my Mother I am pulling at broken strings. The years run back and through the pattern of her confusions. Her flowers and songs, her unshaken fidelities, her attempts at order, her relapses into squalor, her near madness, her crying for light, her almost daily weeping for her dead child daughter, her frisks and gaieties, her fits of screams, her love of man, her hysterical rages, her justice towards each of us children – all these rode my mother and sat on her shoulders like a roosting of ravens and doves.”
Maybe it’s the image of those ‘broken strings’ connecting him to his lost mother, but it’s one of the most moving things I’ve read all year.
3 . It’s funny that some of the quotes that stick in my mind are from books that I didn’t really enjoy. Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow has now been relegated to the charity donations pile but one of the things I remember most about this book was Smilla’s distinctive voice:
“Falling in love has been greatly overrated. Falling in love consists of 45 percent fear of not being accepted, 45 percent manic hope that this time the fear will be put to shame and a modest 10 percent frail awareness of the possibility of love. I don’t fall in love any more. Just like I don’t get the mumps.”
She’s such a liar.
4 . This tickled me:
“We had forgotten to say that Jacopo was a Corsican…”
I guess it’s just the perfect indication of how hard it must have been to write a novel like The Count Of Monte Cristo in weekly instalments. Dumas starts to tell a story and then realises he forgot to tell you a vital piece of information at the beginning so he just goes, “Oops! Yeah, sorry guys, this would have made so much more sense if I’d remembered to tell you that Jacopo was from Corsica at the start. My bad…” This is me every time I try to tell a joke.
5 . Some wise words from Bathsheba Everdene in Far From The Madding Crowd:
“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”
6 . I could do a Top Ten post devoted just to my favourite quotes from Cold Comfort Farm:
“The flies buzzed in answer above the dirty water standing in the washbasin, in which floated a solitary black hair. It, too, was like life– and as meaningless.”
This one sticks in my memory because when I read it I did one of those really unattractive laughs that are a bit like a snort. I was in a very quiet station waiting room at the time but thankfully everyone was much too British to give away that they’d heard. It was still embarrassing though.
7 . My copy of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth is littered throughout with whole passages that have been underlined in pencil. Like Cold Comfort Farm, it’s just very quoteable but for very different reasons:
“Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”
I read this book pre-blog but it’s one of my favourites this year.
8. The Little Prince is a sad book but I love the idea that the prince’s planet is so small he can watch a sunset anytime he wants:
On your tiny little planet all you needed to do was to move your chair a few steps. And you could watch the twilight falling whenever you felt like it…
‘One day, I watched the sun setting forty-four times,’ you told me. And a little later you added: ‘You know… when one is terribly sad, one loves sunsets…’
9. I knew I was going to like The House of Mirth very soon after I started reading it. I love this description of Lily Bart:
“He had a confused sense that she must have cost a great deal to make, that a great many dull and ugly people must, in some mysterious way, have been sacrificed to produce her. He was aware that the qualities distinguishing her from the herd of her sex were chiefly external; as though a fine glaze of beauty and fastidiousness had been applied to vulgar clay. Yet the analogy left him unsatisfied, for a coarse texture will not take a high finish; and was it not possible that the material was fine but that circumstances had fashioned it into a futile shape?”
10. This has long been one of my favourite quotes in A Tale of Two Cities but I thought of it several times over the past weekend:
“Chateau and hut, stone face and dangling figure, the red stain on the stone floor and the pure water in the village well – thousands of acres of land – a whole province of France – all France itself – lay under the night sky, concentrated into a faint hairbreadth line. So does a whole world, with all its greatnesses and littlenesses, lie in a twinkling star. And as mere human knowledge can split a ray of light and analyse the manner of its composition, so sublimer intelligences may read in the feeble shining of this earth of ours every thought and act, every vice and virtue, of every responsible creature in it.”
This was a surprisingly simple post to write. Hurrah for more Top Ten Tuesday posts like this!