Book Nook: My All Time Favourite Reads
It struck me t’other day how one of the things I rarely blog about is books. WHICH IS JUST WEIRD given how much I read, the fact I run a book club, my degree was in English Literature, how much I want to open a second hand beer and book shop called ‘BEER AND BOOKS’ and how much I just bum books really. So welcome to the Bloody Hell Brennan Book Nook, a place to chat books, see wha gwan at Book Club and share some lit-based-loving!
Kicking off, I thought I’d write a little post about my all time favourite books (adult edition-all time favourite childrens reads is a WHOLE other post hun. And no, before you say it, I’m not just going to list all the Harry Potter books.)
These are novels I go back to time and time again, books that make me tingle, feel, weep, laugh and cry. Books that made me gasp, go WOAH, set my brain to thinking and my heart to racing.
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Right, listen to me, forget Gone Girl, if you thought THAT was tense, this is a fucking GRIP-FEST. A romantic Gothic novel set in the grounds of Manderley, a stately home on the Cornwall coast, the story revolves around a young chick who marries widower Max de Winter after a whirlwind romance in Morocco. Having moved to Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter meets the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers who is SHADY AS FUCK and also obsessed with her dead mistress. Obviously I’m not going to tell you what happens, but all you need to know is SHIT GOES DOWN and it’s incredible. Also features one of the most famous first lines of all time, “Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” DELISH.
- Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
I first read this in Sixth Form and it’s been one of my absolute favourites ever since. Set in the glittering London of the 1920s, this pacy, episodic read follows a set of twentysomethings, the Bright Young Things, in their tumble through the capitals parties, weddings, political scandals and social engagements. All at once a parody of romantic comedy, a comment on the Great War, a ‘modernist’ novel and a look at the dawn of the ‘celebrity’ age, it’s hysterically funny and bleak all at once. PHEW. The dialogue is just a SCREAM as well, it’s like Enid Blyton but with more champagne, cocaine and insincere love affairs. YEAH MAN.
- Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
Fifty Shades of Fuck Right Off, this is the original and best naughty read. Lady of the house becomes physically and emotionally estranged from her husband after the war so she gets her rocks off with Mellors, the hunky, gruff gamekeeper. Like, A LOT. And what’s cool, is that as well as loads of GREAT SEXY BITS, it’s actually a good story too, with themes about love in the heart vs love in the body, upper/lower class politics, and lots of examining of complicated, difficult relationships bound by duty, circumstance, aggression as well as love and sex. It’s well good.
- Wise Children by Angela Carter
This was one of our Book Club books a couple of year ago and I gobbled it up in about two seconds. It’s the life story of Dora and Nora Chance, two fictional chorus girls born into a theatrical dynasty, who live in Brixton. It features a total kaleidescope of bizarre characters, blended BEAUTIFULLY with Carter’s signature magical realism and carnivalesque and to me, it read like a total love song to London itself and to the theatre, two things I am QUITE KEEN ON REALLY. It made me howl with laughter too, which I did looking like a total loon on the tube, and it ends with the fabulous line, “What a joy it is to dance and sing!” A complete RIOT.
- Blindness by Jose Saramago
This book seriously affected me. I mean, I’m nicht so gut with apocalptic-y stuff as it is (I ask my Dad on a bi-weekly basis about the likelihood of a Zombie apocalypse) but this haunted me for WEEKS. A unexplained, unpredictable epidemic strikes society, affecting all but one person. What happens next is the examination of breakdown of society, of rules, of moral code- the question seems to be, if no-one sees you doing something immoral, does it really happen? It’s chilling, harrowing and yet all at once totally compelling and un-put-down-able. The way it’s written is incredible as well- long breathless sentences without punctuation, and no character names aside from titles such as “The Doctor”, “Man With Black Eye Patch”, having a real disorientating effect on the reader. Kind of like inducing a BLINDNESS of one’s own. YOU SEE! Clever, right?!
- Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
Laugh and turn your nose up at me if you want because IDGAF. It’s gritty, traumatic, life-affirming and wonderful representation of a slice of London in the ’50s. It ain’t all nuns eating Victoria Sponge and putting plasters on people you know. It made me cry a lot, some of the stories are just so sad, especially the chapters that focus on the workhouse and the inmates. Obviously I LOVE the series as well, (anyone know where I can get one of those nurse outfits by the way cos, holy fuck I would look gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood in that) but the book and its two sequels are so wonderful for true stories and memoirs of a forgotten and under-represented moment in London’s teeming history.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Again, I first read this badboy in Sixth Form, and was WELL ANNOYED when we had to study Enduring Love instead (which, actually, was fine in the end because Ian McEwan is a massive lad). Set in a dystopian future, the story is about Offred, who spends her time as a Handmaid for a high-ranking public official. This means her duty in society is merely to have his babies. Which is pretty bleak. Told partly in flashback, we learn about her lost past, the husband and daughter she’s left behind and in the present day sections, we see her embark on a VERY ILLEGAL affair with Nick, the chauffeur. It’s all about the subjugation of women, gender, politics all bound together in a gripping story which smacks of 1984/Brave New World. I also suspect that The Hunger Games has a lot to thank this book for. There’s a reason this one often makes peoples ‘best ever books’ list. And I mean it won the Booker Prize. SWELL.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This book starts out by telling you, “Here is a small fact. You are going to die.” I mean cheerful, it isn’t. The whole story is narrated by Death (who has a surprisingly sharp sense of humour) who watches over the characters waiting for the right moment to visit them. Set in Nazi Germany, it follows the story of a little girl, Liesel Meminger (who turns out to be the Book Thief of the title, namely because, well, she nicks books) and her foster parents and how they hide a Jewish chap in their home. It’s just gorgeous. The story is beautiful, the language is stunning with poetic turns of phrase littering the prose, the depiction of the neighbourhood and all it’s lively inhabitants are wonderful and the tiny twists and turns in the story keep the reader hooked, smiling and weeping all at once. The recent film just DOES NOT do the book justice, despite starring Geoffrey Rush. IT’S A BEAUTIFUL STORY GO AND READ IT!
What would be in your list of all time favourite reads?