Friday, 29 August 2008

Favourite Books

It’s August; holiday time. Our book group doesn’t meet in the school summer holidays. This is historical. In fact, as our children are no longer young, we can actually sometimes manage to finish a book at a sitting even though they are at home. We don’t really need that break any more. So when one groupie invited us all for a social evening – albeit with a literary theme - we were all up for it. And everyone did their homework.

The suggestion was that we all note down our favourite books. I was one of those who was actually up against it time-wise and so cheated by reading out my blog (The 3 R’s: reading, reading and re-reading) of February 2007. Strangely – or perhaps not - most people mirrored my views. Nearly everyone chose books that reflected different stages in their lives.

Enid Blyton came out as a clear winner in the childhood choice: today it would be Rowling for much the same reasons. They were books with a clear structure, a story that was full of excitement with a good moral underlying it all. Many said that it was the Enid Blyton books that got them reading: the plots are sequential – not too many time shifts - so it’s not necessary to re-read great sections every time the story is picked up again.

A few of the same books cropped up as ones we enjoyed as teenagers: The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mocking Bird for example. And then most of us seemed to have enjoyed books such as The Great Gatsby and Gone With the Wind, and easily digestible books such as those by the Mitfords, Laurie Lee or H E Bates.

I was surprised, though, at how many of us chose Thomas Hardy as a favourite author. So many people immediately dismiss his works as too lengthy and descriptive. Perhaps it’s because Hardy was often the exam choice when we were at school and maybe because we had to read the whole book we got a taste for it.

On the other hand, no-one mentioned Dickens: another author who often gets a bad press as ‘difficult’ to read. Nothing could be further from the truth. His novels are a doddle, amusing and colourful. George Elliot, on the other hand, cropped up in several groupies’ choices.

Overall, Midnight’s Children – which had been one of our book group choices - was the clear favourite. Others that several groupies chose were My Name is Asher Lev, The God of Small Things, Wuthering Heights, anything by Margaret Attwood or Jane Austen.

For re-reading Dorothy Dunnant was mentioned by a few, as was The Alexandria Quartet, Music & Silence by Rose Tremain and The Mill Stone by Margaret Drabble. Latterly – so it must be an age thing – several groupies are enjoying biographies: two we’ve read in the group - Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire and Samuel Pepys – were both mentioned by more than one member.

It was a very interesting exercise and a great way to remind each other of books we had loved, those that we should read and those we intend to: a very successful evening altogether.


Anonymous said...

Dear Lucy

I havejust finished reading and enjoyed your novel "A little Blue Jacket". Although you have a short synopsis of the historical happenings in the early 1900s at the back of the book, I wondered why you did not incorporate more details in your novel. Nana is mentioned and her friend and husband to be but you do not mention the black population who must have been much involved in the local happenings of the theatre and the white people etc. It was a lovely tribute to your grandmother and I wish I had your writing ability but I did feel the story could have been set in Brighton, England. There was little mentioned about the exotic atmosphere in Capetown with it's indigenous population. The last few lines of the novel were fantastic - I was so taken with it - tears turned to happiness. Happy writing. Pam

Lucy said...

Thanks for your comments, Pam. The historical notes (these are not in the small paperback edition published May 2007) are there to give a background to those readers who like such things. In fact, the indigenous population (San & Khoikhoi) had migrated from the Western Cape by the time this novel was set. Very, very few Zulus or Bantu had moved there from the Eastern Cape at that time so it was mainly Malays that made up the non-white population.

On page 15 (12 in the small paperback edition) the multicultural make-up of Cape Town is mentioned in particular but, you are quite right, in the early 1900's it could have been confused with any seaside town in Europe or the Colonies: the manners, fashion, pusuits etc were those Europe. Language was English or Dutch.

Today, I'm glad to say that it's a much more cosmopolitan city.