I thought I would join in with the Friday Club Carnival this week.
I’ve got so very many favourite books that I hardly would even begin to know where to start. There are books I loved as a child (Narnia, the Chalet School series and Cherry Ames) and ones I love as an adult because the stretch me and inform me and transport me to places I can’t go myself (Elizabeth Chadwick books, Philippa Gregory and the Daughter of the Empire series.) I love historical factual books nearly as much (Alison Weir is wonderful) and have adored Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl and His Dark Materials in equal measure as an adult, even if they were written with children in mind. Lord of the Rings will always be special and there are entire series’ on Boudica and Julius Caesar I have devoured.
In my bedroom though, I have a set of shelves and on those shelves are complete collections of books that I will always have and which I have turned to more times than I can remember. Seven authors are encased on the shelves and I have all of most of them; only one has let me down at all in that time but I still treasure her older writing. It is these books that I go to when the chips are down and times are tough, when I need safety and nurturing and to know that nothing I read will hurt me.
I’ve pulled one of each from the shelf.
I bought The Rose Revived when I was at college, from a WHSmith opposite the Swiss Cottage. I seem to remember buying with one other, now forgotten but kept for years, book and a Chalet School story. I must have been in that half confused stage of still being small and also being big. It is a typical ‘girl has a tough time, meets a cad, starts a business, cad turns out good’ type story but it is also of friendship and pulling together and I still love it. Katie Fforde at her best.
The next is Bookends and it is another story of friendship, love and tragedy all mixed into the heady reality of youth becoming adult life. When I read it, it reminded me powerfully of a group of friends I had not long left, most particularly of one of them and all that I feared for and missed about those friends. It still makes me nostalgic for them now. I’m not sure if any other of Jane Green’s books haul me so close, especially now her focus has moved to America, but I still enjoy them all.
I think I also bought The Morning Gift from the Swiss Cottage shop. Eva Ibbotson remains one of my most favourite authors; her writing is magical, beautiful, nostalgic and captivating. She weaves fairytale and brutal reality together with a charm and joy that would seem impossible to achieve and yet she does. The Morning Gift tells the story of a girl escaping Vienna at the time of Nazi occupation and all she encounters as she moves to London and falls in love. It is funny, clever and magical.
Consider the Lily is one of three books by Elizabeth Buchan I have kept; I’m not a fan of her relationship books but this is the story of 1920’s-30’s England and the fading rose of aristocratic life. It tells the love story of Daisy, Kit and Matty through the eyes of another person and the themes of love, loss, wanting and passion are quite searing, though somehow conveyed through English demure and stoicism. I think it is masterful.
Freya North remains an all time favourite. She is one of the only authors I like for this type of fiction who has entirely failed to throw up a weaker book (the others being Eva Ibbotson and Victoria Clayton). It is hard to pick a favourite but perhaps it is Chloe and perhaps the reason I like it is that Chloe is sent on a journey of discovery by a loving elder at a crux time in her life and the journey brings her home. There is something comforting about a theme which manages to twist together age bringing wisdom and the people who love you wanting to allow you the freedom to discover what is right for yourself. She is eminently likeable too and there is a recurring theme through the books of each character popping up at the end of the next one, so that you see how it worked out.
Victoria Clayton employs the same technique and, having always been someone who loves a series, perhaps that is why I like her books. Again it is hard to pick a favourite but Running Wild has always been special for the bohemian and slightly scatty but endearing nature of the artist heroine and her journey to self discovery. Unfortuately her name is Freddie (short for Elfrida) and she plays a large part in the subsequent book. I think it will be a long time before I can read it again.
Last but not least, a book Max bought me, with astonishing vision, when we had not really been together long, becasue he heard a review of it and thought I would like it. He was right. Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson is an inspiration and a triumph, the sort of book I would love to write, a mastery of story telling, whimsy and word craft. It is simply a remarkable tale of a girl, a family, lives and the tangled twists of family history. I love it for it’s ramble and the imperfect ending which is nonetheless how life is. I was reading it before I had Freddie and just after and it was extraordinarily appropriate and oddly comforting.
There are certainly common themes in these books; friendship, finding love, finding courage, loss, finding self, melancholy and hope. I suppose they are the themes of life for much of the time; certainly of my life. Perhaps that is why I love them.
on favourite books.