Favourite Books

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While each year I read dozens of excellent and memorable books, there are few that I feel compelled to reread. There are a handful, though, that I keep coming back to. No doubt the primary reason for re-reading is that these particular books have an emotional appeal. There is the added delight of discovering new layers within the story each time I reread whether it is the depth of characterization, the plotting or the beauty of the prose.

Gone With The Wind MitchellGone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – Read five times
Scarlett O’Hara is the spoilt daughter of a plantation owner when the novel begins at the start of the American Civil War, by its end she has lost nearly everything. At both personal and emotional cost, Scarlett struggles to get back something of that life. ‘If I have to steal or kill – as God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again.’
I read this book in three days when I was fourteen, after seeing the film which I have seen about six times.

Wide Sargasso Sea RhysThe Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – Read four times
Antoinette Bertha Cossway, a West Indian heiress, is married to an English gentleman who rejects her, declares her mad, takes her to England and locks her in an attic. A re-imagining of the life of Bertha Mason, the wife of Rochester in Jane Eyre, told in multiple voices. Can be read without any knowledge of Jane Eyre.
I read this twice in two days the first time. It turned on its head everything I thought could be done with fiction. Absolutely brilliant! Avoid any film adaptation – I have seen them all and they are utter tripe.

Here Be Dragons PenmanHere Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman – Read three times
Joanna, illegitimate  daughter of King John is married off to Llewellyn Ab Iowerth, Prince of Gwynedd, John’s sometimes enemy who is battling to prevent England’s conquest of Wales. I love Penman’s imagining of Joanna so much that I get very irritated with any other author who presents her in a different way. I was so enthralled the first time I read the book that the children could have been killing each other and I wouldn’t have noticed.

20160814_141032Christ Recrucified by Nikos Kazantzakis – Read three times
Set in Anatolia in the 1920s under Turkish rule, Christ Recrucified tells the story of Manolios, a shepherd, chosen to play the part of Christ in the village’s Passion Play. With the arrival of a group of refugees whose village has been destroyed by the Turks, the lives of those chosen to take part in the play come to parallel Christ’s passion.
I first read this is my late teens after seeing the the 1957 film Celui qui doit mourir (He who Must Die) at school in a French class.

Black Narcissus GoddenBlack Narcissus by Rumer Godden – Read twice
A group of Anglican nuns are invited to set up a school and dispensary in an old palace, formerly a harem, in the Himalayas. The isolation, loneliness, the wind and the beauty of the place unsettle them as they struggle to help the villagers and maintain their own faith.
This is another book read after seeing the film.  The 1957 film starring Deborah Kerr and Jean Simmons is stunningly beautiful if a little melodramatic towards the end.

20190212_173805I could add the Crawford of Lymond and House of Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett as I have read both series twice (fourteen books overall). One day I will read them again but I find them so compelling that they completely take over my imagination leaving room for nothing else, and that would be the end of my own writing for nearly six months.

11 thoughts on “Favourite Books

  1. Films are rarely better than the book, but I think that’s the case with Gone With the Wind. It’s one of my favourite films. I also love the film of Black Narcissus, despite the melodrama you mention.

    I haven’t read the Dorothy Dunnett books. You’re not the first person to say that they’re really good, so I’ll have to give them a go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gone With the Wind is definitely one of my favourite films. Both the book and the film are each brilliant in their own way.

      The Dorothy Dunnett books can take a while to get into. The first book, The Game of Kings, has a great deal of Scottish dialect in it and is not the easiest read. I think her style became a little plainer as the series progresses. In the second book, Queens’ Play, I found Francis Crawford particularly unlikable but there was something that kept me reading. I was hooked by the time I was halfway through the third book. The world she creates is rich and detailed and I am in awe of her scholarship.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All of Penman’s books are wonderful. My favorite novel, and one I taught for 23 years, is “The Great Gatsby.” Not only is it beautifully written, but every time I found something new to delight me. Thank you for your list of books that have withstood the test of time. Thank you, also, for opening up your blog for my pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

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