Top Ten Tuesday: Instant reads 

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week a new theme is posted and this time it’s all about those little things that make you instantly want to read a book.

I’m a creature of annoyingly predictable habits. I swear I try not to be; I push myself to try new things all the time and I love it when this yields surprisingly pleasant results. But I can’t help the embarrassing fact that sometimes nothing feels quite as good as the comfort zone. Here’s what mine looks like:

  1. India, France or Russia. I suspect this is for no deeper or more meaningful reason than the fact that some of my favourite books are set in these three countries. Books by Indian, French and Russian authors are fairly highly represented on my shelves.

Suggestions: The God of Small Things, Suite Francais, Anna Karenina

  1. Maps and plans. If a book opens with a plan – of a fictional country or an ancient building for example – then my excitement will know no bounds.

Suggestions: The Hobbit, The Name of the Rose, Treasure Island 

  1. Inter-war. I’m naturally drawn to books set between the wars. I expect it’s just because so much changed in so very little time and you can see that reflected in the books of the period, sandwiched as they are between the traditional classics and modern fiction.

Suggestions: Vile Bodies, I Capture The Castle, The Great Gatsby

  1. Traditional murder mystery. I’m not a fan of modern crime fiction but I will happily read a golden oldie any time. They’re entertaining and easy to read and not half as grimas their modern equivalents.

Suggestions: The Moonstone, Murder on the Orient Express, The Nine Taylors

  1. An arty cover.I seem to own a ton of classic novels with covers featuring artworks, specifically art depicting beautiful but sad looking women.

Suggestions: On Tangled Paths, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The House of Mirth

  1. Letters, diaries and documents. I suspect I like these just because my lazy brain can’t always be arsed with lengthy descriptions, scene setting and inner monologue. Sometimes it just wants the facts explained as concisely as possible thank you very much.

Suggestions: His Bloody Project, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾  

  1. A quest for the truth. It is a truth universally acknowledged that books with protagonists who must uncover a long dead secret are splendid, especially if said protagonist must visit dusty archives, unravel clues hidden in a diary or (preferably) poem and interview elderly witnesses who clearly have something to hide.

Suggestions: Possession, A Very Long Engagement, The Woman in White

  1. Looking back.A regretful narrator (or narrators) telling the story of that thing that happened long, long ago is one of my favouritest things ever.

Suggestions: Atonement, The Poisonwood Bible, The Secret History

  1. Monasteries and cathedrals.I don’t know why this is either.

Suggestions: The Name of the Rose, Dissolution, The Pillars of the Earth

  1. Family trees. I love a family saga, particularly ones so complicated a family tree is necessary to help the reader untangle the narrative. It’s the sense of history that appeals to me I think.

Suggestions: War and Peace, The Forsyte Saga, One Hundred Years of Solitude

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Tyrants, despots and dictators

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. 

I had already half decided not to involve myself in the next few Top Ten Tuesdays, at least until I had a bit more time to spare. However, as soon as I realised that this was a freebie week, the idea for a post on tyrannical regimes in literature immediately leapt into my head fully formed. It would have been wasteful to ignore it or to put it off until another week when the subject would be less relevant (although I guess it’ll remain relevant for at least the next four years). But still, it seemed like an apt week.

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, in which a revolutionary extremist Christian movement seizes control of power and strips women of their rights and freedoms, with horrifying consequences. I’ve read this a few times now and it never fails to scare me.

2. 1984 by George Orwell. An obvious choice perhaps but I don’t think this list would be complete without reference to 1984. Winston Smith exists in a nightmarish world where the state controls the truth and every move is watched by Big Brother; there’s no privacy, no freedom, no love.

3. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. I think the dystopian world in V for Vendetta is disturbing because it’s just about recognisable. This is a police-state London in the 1990s, post civil-war and run by the fascist Norsefire party.

4. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The White Witch’s tyranny over Narnia has lasted a hundred years and caused a deep, deep winter to settle over the land.

5. Coriolanus by William Shakespeare. Weird choice maybe but I quite like this play, although it is rather harrowing. Coriolanus’ tyranny over Rome eventually collapses because he is completely unable to compromise.

6. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. A slightly more light hearted entry on the list here although it’s still fairly dark. The action here takes place in Chromatica, where the social hierarchy is determined by ability to see colour.Woe betide you if you’re a Grey caught fraternising with a Violet…

7. Animal Farm by George Orwell. The farmyard setting is used here to comment on the high ideals of the Russian Revolution which had quickly gone astray and been replaced with Stalin’s reign of terror.

8. Harry Potter and the … by J.K. Rowling. In the Deathly Hallows Voldemort seizes power and begins his own renewed terrifying reign over the magical world, but you could argue that Delores Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic had been verging on the despotic for some time anyway.

9. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. Another alternative history but in this one the people from the African continent have used centuries of technological advantage to subjugate the Europeans. Now the Crosses (Whites) are at the mercy of the more powerful Noughts (Blacks).

10. The Wave by Todd Strasser. A clever classroom experiment – and an attempt to show what life was really like in Nazi Germany – goes horribly wrong when a new movement sweeps through the school.

I realise that this week would also have been a good week for a TTT list on protests in literature but sadly that proved a little harder to write. I’ll bear it in mind for a future week though – suggestions always welcome!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d like to find under the Christmas tree

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new theme is posted and today we’re looking at books we’d like to receive for Christmas.

The hardest part of this week’s list is narrowing it down to just ten. Am I a bit greedy?!

1.       The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I’ve had my eye on this for ages, mainly because I’ve seen a ton of good reviews on the blogs. Fingers crossed.

2.       Anything at all by Ismail Kadare. I don’t mind which book. Any will do.

3.       Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. This year has been an Austen free zone and it’d be nice to cross another of the major novels off the list.

4.       Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. If only this didn’t look so darn huge, I’m sure I’d have read it already. Maybe in 2017.

5.       The Sellout by Paul Beatty. It’s been hard to ignore all the buzz about this novel. I’m intrigued.

6.       The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I’ve not yet read any Australasian novels as part of the Around the World in 80 Books challenge so this might be a nice way of doing it.

7.      The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville by Clare Mulley. I heard a radio documentary about Christine Granville last week and now I’m a bit obsessed.

8. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. I try to read at least one Russian novel a year and this, I think, is the leading candidate for 2017. I’ve not tackled any Turgenev before.

9. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary. Again, it’s the reviews that did it for me with this one.

10. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I read The House of Mirth last year and it was great. I’d like to read another.

That’s it for another week, and probably my last post before Christmas. Have a merry one 🙂

A visit to the Shelley grave

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I’m waaaay behind with reading Anya Seton’s Katherine so there’s no review to post just yet. Instead I thought I’d put up some photos of a grave we visited a week or two ago in sunny Bournemouth. This was my first time in Bournemouth (it’s lovely, by the way; you should go) and before we left I made a point of dragging poor P around the town centre in search of St Peter’s Church. It was fairly easy to find – just opposite a grotty looking Wetherspoons called ‘The Mary Shelley’ – and we didn’t have to spend too much time wandering amongst the graves because the church had provided a handy exhibition board with a plan to help us out. I expect they probably get quite a few Shelley pilgrims visiting.

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This small looking vault is actually the last resting place not just of Mary Shelley, but also her son and his wife and Shelley’s parents, the journalist William Godwin and the feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, author of Vindication of the Rights of Women.

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Apparently Mary Shelley only visited Bournemouth a handful of times. In the late 1840s her son began work on a new home at nearby Boscombe, hoping the sea air would help his ailing mother, but she died in 1851 before it could be finished. In the last years of her life she had expressed a wish to be buried alongside her parents so they were duly removed from a cemetery in London and placed alongside her here. It’s also said that the heart of Percy Bysshe Shelley, with whom Mary had eloped as a teenager, is buried here. He drowned in Italy in 1822 but his heart was salvaged from the funeral pyre and brought home to England.

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After leaving Bournemouth we wandered into the New Forest for a bit and came across another literary grave. But I’ll save my photos of that for next time I’m short of reviews!