Day 6: Favourite First Line
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” – Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
This is my favourite book of all time* and du Maurier created a fantastic opening for it. It has everything: the intrigue, the suspense, an almost mystical atmosphere.
Who’s the speaker? Where/what is Manderley? Why is the speaker dreaming of going back? Where are they now?
The entire first chapter is just so beautifully Gothic, with the description of the house and grounds, thebreader moving through the landscape through the narrator’s eyes.
Simply spectacular. *special thanks to @novelobservations who first introduced me to this book, and to du Maurier’s writing. She bought me one of these awesome mugs!
Day 7: Favourite Short Story
The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter
I was torn between The Bloody Chamber story from this collection and Monte Verità by Daphne du Maurier.
I went with Carter in the end, because I think her use of underlying themes in traditional fairytales to create new stories is nothing short of spectacular. This collection, and much of Carter’s writing, is divisive to say the least, but personally, I love the imaginative extremes she experiments with.
I love the tense, Gothic atmosphere and pacing of The Bloody Chamber story (perhaps that’s why I was torn between this and du Maurier). There’s so much skill used in drawing these vivid characters and experiences, and creating that sense of unpredictability. Like the narrator, we are drawn almost compulsively forward, despite the uncertainty and foreboding.
In short, it’s a wonderfully complex and tense story. And that’s without the weaving in of complex ideas Carter manages here.
Day 8: (International Women’s Day) The book that changed my life.
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara.
This was incredibly difficult because there are so many that have changed the way I see the world, approach life, or simply the books I want to read more of.
However, when I read A Little Life last year, it really moved me emotionally in a way I hadn’t expected.
Some of the experiences detailed in this novel are dark to say the least, but they’re so ‘human’, so real, and the darker aspects of the characters’ experiences are counterbalanced by uplifting, hopeful moments. It’s a novel about friendship, love, acceptance; about dreams and ambitions, success and failure; about negotiating the transition from youth to adulthood. New York is there in all its complex vibrancy, the opportunities and realities of life in the city explored throughout. The four central characters are wonderfully, vividly drawn: we are frustrated by some of their actions as much as we are in support of them.
This novel changed my life because it made me consider afresh the world around me, and how small actions can make big differences to another person’s life. It showed once again the importance of compassion, empathy and understanding. The novel celebrates difference and diversity AND the basic essences, like love and friendship and happiness, that connect everyone too. I got so enmeshed in the stories being told that some parts actually made me cry (and that never happens). It was harrowing because it really felt like I knew these people, and I desperately wanted things to change for them.
I also appreciated how brilliantly constructed it is: moving between the characters and the different ‘moments’ in their lives seamlessly. Even though it’s a long novel, I never felt like it was dragging. It’s truly a work of art, a masterpiece of literary genius.
If I ever doubted that novels written in the twenty first century would be considered ‘classic’ in the way that, as an example, the Brontës are, Yanagihara’s novel put paid to that.