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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Life in Books

So anyway inspired by My Life in Books here are my five offerings that have inspired me, entertained me and got me to where I am.

Childhood reads.
It would be very tempting to pick an Enid Blyton Famous Five novel since I loved these as a child BUT the one book memory that is so clearly etched in my mind is Bilbo and Dwarfs going up the side of the mountain after Smaug's Treasure in JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit.

Moving on not many more years we come to Richard Adams' Watership Down yes the story of talking bunnies. But it's not all sweetness and light. Adams' creates some memorably dark images and I can still see in my mind the skeletal images of tree roots and Bigwort defending a tunnel against General Woundwort.

And so we move on and there are any number of books I could choose but my third.?

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have always enjoyed Holmes, there have been many fictional detectives but you can keep your Poirots I'm a Baker Street Boy! Doyle's stories capture a different age you can almost touch the late Victorian age. Go into any National Trust Victorian property with cluttered rooms and you can sense Holmes and not forget the good Dr Watson. The stories are for the most part 20 pages but Doyle captures an ambience and the relationship between the brilliant Holmes and his foil Dr Watson (brilliant portrayed by David Burke and Edward Hardwicke). The stories are not all about the great and the good or even murders. One story, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, comes about over a stolen goose! The master!

I am seldom without a book but when I was working in Romford I found myself sans book. I wandered in WH Smith's and just out was a copy of Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. Now I had read and not enjoyed a short story of Willis but I was without a book and this had won loads of science fiction awards and it was a time travel story and sounded interesting. I expected to not like it and LOVED it.

Young historian Kivrin Engle is sent back in time and arrives at the time of the Black Death 20 years later than was intended. It shows her struggles with the language (the version of middle english she has learnt is different to the local version), the clothes they have sent her back in are way too fine and that here she is a woman who can read and write at her time where it was very unusual. It's incredibly bleak as Kivrin has to watch so many people die and also very moving.

Guilty Pleasure

Jane Austen - Pride & Prejudice. WHAT? it's a classic! Well when I was at school I was forced to read Emma. As an arrogant 15 year old I dismissed Austen out of hand as Mills & Boon fiction. We roll forward many years and I bought my friend Min the video of Sense & Sensibility she LURVES Austen and raised her eye brows when I said I'd watch it but probably 10 minute chunks was all I could endure. And and you now what? I enjoyed it and also enjoyed Andrew Davis adaptation of P&P.

I've read Sense and it was quite good but P&P is different. In the adpatations its easy to see why Darcy should like Elizabeth Bennet. Keira Knightly is far too pretty and Jennifer Ehle has her pneumatic chest BUT in the books we aren't distracted by such things and Elizabeth's wit and intelligence shine through and you can see why Darcy is really attracted to her. It is, and Min will be tutting at me saying I told you so, a really really good book and she tells me Mansfield Park is better!

These aren't the best books I'v'e ever read but they fit best! I will admit they I really agonised over leaving out The Time Machine by H G Wells and The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov!

Anyone care to give there's?


Ragged Robin said...

My favourite books as a child were The Tales of Beatrix Potter - exquisite illustrations and great tales, Jemima Puddleduck was my favourite and I still read them today :D

I just devoured the Enid Blyton books too - they may not be literary masterpieces but they were great for stirring the imagination and my all time favourite was the Island of Adventure.

As an adult my favourite book has to be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen which I reread every couple of years. Despite watching the film and various tv adaptations I still retain my own personal images of the characters although I can never forget Colin Firth clambering forth from the lake :D

Lord of the Rings by Tolkien would be my next choice. A real masterpiece and another book I reread every so often.

Its hard to pick a fifth there are so many contenders - Tess by Hardy, My Famuly and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell ( not strictly fiction but the funniest book I have ever read with wonderful descriptions of Corfu, its people and wildlife), The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch, Jamaica Inn by Daphnne du Maurier?

But I think I would pick the Duncton Wood series by William Horwood - I enjoyed these even more than Watership Down and Skallagrigg by the same author is the most moving book I have ever read.

Sorry, Pete too long a comment! I like your choices. I haven't read any books by Connie Willis but will look out for the Doomsday Book.

Pete said...

interesting choices RR.

Strictly speaking you are meant to select a guilty pleasure as your fifth :D

I was a big Famous Five fan and enjoyed the .... of Adventure Series. Wasn't so hot on the Secret Seven. I guess the FF and adventures were fun becuase the kids went off into the big wide world.

I'll forgive you Colin Firth I get distracted by Jennifer Ehle as you may have gathered.

Love Lord of the Rings but the books that got me into fantasy were the Thomas Covenant Chronicles by Stephen R Donaldson.

I loved Duncton Wood and its sequels. I'd agree that they are perhaps better they Watership Down but chose Watership for the influence it had on me. And I also heartily enjoyed Horwood's continuations of the Wind in the Willows!

Connie Willis? - on a lighter note "To say nothing about the Dog" more time travel and semi homage to three men in a boat.

Ragged Robin said...

Oops, Pete. Sorry about the "guilty pleasure" - must admit I haven't yet seen the programme - must catch up on iplayer.

I wasn't so keen on the Secret Seven or the Find-Outers either.

The Stephen Donaldson "Thomas Covenant" books are brilliant - I keep trying to get my son to read them but having read (and not been overkeen on) Gormenghast he is ignoring my further recommendations!!

Horwoods continuations of "Wind in the Willows" are very funny.

I think you should have allowed us a choice of 20 books :D.

Pete said...

never read Gormenghast! I liked the Gap novels by Donaldson as well!

Ragged Robin said...

Final comment, I promise :D. I loved the Gormenghast Trilogy but after son's reaction I am loathe to recommend :D Not tried the Gap novels - now I am being tempted to buy more books! I notice also that Horwood brought out a new fantasy novel called Hyddenworld last year. Managed to watch the programme tonight - its very good.

Pete said...

i saw the Horwood as well. I tried the first volume of his wolves one and didn;t like it at the time.

I may try Gormengast :D

you read any Evelyn Waugh? i'm poor on the classics

Ragged Robin said...

Just one more comment on this post then :D.

I've got the 2 Horwood Wolves books in my box of my books to read - I may try the new one when its out in paperback (or perhaps I ought to visit the library!).

I first read the Gormenghast books when I was in my early twenties and thought they were brilliant and then tried to reread them after watching the tv adaptation of the first book but have to admit they didn't weave the same magic second time round.

The only Evelyn Waugh I've read is Brideshead Revisited which I enjoyed.

ShySongbird said...

Hi Pete, I know you have moved on from this post but I have been mulling over my choices since you posted it.

I found it very difficult to choose but eventually came up with the following.

My childhood choice apart from Enid Blyton's Famous Five, Five Find Outers and Dog, Secret Seven, Malory Towers and St Clares (among others) is Little Women by Louisa M Alcott which I read over and over.

Teenage and into my twenties would be Agatha Christie.

Adult choice, I found very difficult but settled on Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

Guilty pleasure would be the Miss Read series.

Husband is putting his twopenny's worth in too :)

Childhood would be Mr Bumbletoes of Bimbleton by L C Ockenden.

Teenage would be War of the Worlds by H G Wells.

Adult would be Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

Guilty pleasure would be Casino Royale by Ian Fleming which he thought was darker and different from the other Bond novels.

So difficult to make the choices but an enjoyable and thought provoking exercise!

Pete said...

hi SS - everyone likes Dickens !! Never really read much - the shame.

War of the Worlds is another that came VERY closed