Saturday, September 19, 2009

What I've Been Reading Lately

I mentioned in a previous post that I was reading the English coming-of-age classic I Capture the Castle and I can now report that - sadly - I have finished it. I say sadly because this book was a treasure trove of joy that I had trouble saying goodbye to. It is a very English book - almost like a love-letter to England in a way, as English-woman Dodie Smith wrote it while living in California - and it is filled with a cast of lovable and eccentric characters. The narrator, 17-year-old Cassandra, who lives in a crumbling castle with her poverty stricken and artistic family, is a character so authentically and delightfully captured that you can't fail to love her, even when she is behaving selfishly. The dialogue is witty, the descriptions detailed without being tired and most especially the story of Cassandra's first love is so enormously believable and touching. The book is written as a peak inside Cassandra's journal, creating a lovely sense of intimacy between reader and narrator.
This is a book that will definitely bear re-reading in a few years.
Published under the Vintage imprint, by Random House.

Probably not quite worthy of re-reading but also thoroughly entertaining is the latest Tracy Chevalier. Chevalier is the author of bestselling historical novels such as Girl With a Pearl Earring and Falling Angels and she has stuck with the genre she does best with her latest offering, Remarkable Creatures. I haven't read her last couple of books, but this one really drew me in with it's story of a friendship between two highly intelligent women of different classes in the early 1800's. Even though the two main characters of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot were real people, who garnered some fame for finding and collecting fossils, I didn't really know anything about them or their lives before I started the book. I was thoroughly enthralled by their stories.
Chevalier aims to demonstrate the limitations on women's lives during that period and although her approach is rather heavy handed, I'm still a sucker for a feminist novel.

With both I Capture the Castle and Remarkable Creatures I found myself reading as I walked to work. A definite sign of a good book!
Remarkable Creatures is published by HarperCollins.

Recently I finally got around to reading Madame Bovary. Because I'm a big dork, I try and read a few classics every year, and I feel like my knowledge of French literature is lacking. Madame Bovary is a remarkably modern novel which, like I Capture the Castle, is startlingly real in its representations of envy, lust, joy and anger. I'm glad I made the time to read it.

And now I'm finishing up an Aussie classic; Helen Garner's debut novel Monkey Grip. At first glance the book is about the romantic relationship between a single mother and a junkie but on a broader level it is more like a snapshot of a time, place and loose, communal lifestyle which doesn't really exist any more. I'm reading the book as a Popular Penguin (great size for a handbag!) but the pic above is obviously from the 1982 film tie-in book. I'll have to try and get my hands on the flick - starring Noni Hazelhurst and Colin Friel - when I'm finished.


Ms. B said...

You should take a look at The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice. I loved that book! It takes place in the 50's in England.

I really need to read I Capture the Castle.

Louise said...

Oooo, thanks for the recommendation. I'll check it out.