Hello, I’m Becky, I blog occasionally, and mostly about burgers, coffee, and my gorgeous rabbit, at Elderflower and Prosecco, and tweet about Buffy at @becky_schultz. I have been known to walk into things because my nose was in a book, and I’ve run out of storage space for my books, because I can’t bear to part with any of them. Here are some of my favourites, although quite a few on my favourite books ever list have already been mentioned, so props to previous booklovers!
Gormenghast is my all time favourite book ever. I have two copies so I can lend one out and still have one just in case. My non-lending copy falls open to my favourite passage, and pages are trying to fall out. It’s about the birth and life of a boy, heir to a castle whose inhabitants are bound by endless tradition. The story also follows the attempts of a kitchen boy to rise through the echelons of the castle’s society, and the lengths that he goes to in order to achieve this goal. It is a gothic masterpiece, and the imagery is gorgeous. The characters are wonderfully weird, and brilliantly written. Technically Gormenghast is the second book in a trilogy, and second books are rarely the best one, but this is an exception, and it is just perfect. Go read it. Then watch the BBC adaptation. I can’t decide if I love it or hate it.
In the Shape of a Boar was my favourite holiday book this year. Aren’t holidays great? So much reading time, so little suitcase space. God bless the e-reader. The book starts with an ancient Greek boar hunt, and moves to Paris in the 1970’s, occasionally going back to the same hills in Greece in 1945 along the way. The Boar is a mythical beast sent by Artemis bent on destroying the town of Kalydon. A band of Greek heroes is gathered to hunt and kill the boar. Three and a half thousand years later, the hunt for the Boar of Kalydon is echoed in the post-war poem of Solomon Memel, a Jewish Romanian refugee, who runs to Greece, and witnesses the hunt and death of a Nazi officer. It might be the best book I’ve read all year.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
About 3 or 4 years ago I went through a phase where I only read Russian authors, and I read everything by any Russian author I could get my hands on. It was brilliant. The Master and Margarita has a giant demonic cat with a gun. Do I need to say any more? Well, I will. The Master is an author who disappears and ends up in an asylum after his novel is rejected. His mistress, Margarita, becomes a witch, and makes a deal with the devil to get him back. It is beautifully written, and not everybody has the same name, which is a common problem with Russian novels.
On Beauty is loosely based on Howard’s End, which, I’m ashamed to admit, I haven’t read. It follows the members of the Belsey family, in a university town near Boston. Howard is a white, British university professor battling with an academic rival, whose family ends up entwined with Howard’s own. Tensions rise, exploring the cultural differences between the UK and USA, and liberal and conservative academic values in the United States. Smith excels at exploring relationships, and this book is a brilliant example of that.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
From the author of The Virgin Suicides (love it) and Middlesex (yep, love that one too), the Marriage Plot is so good my bunny tried to read it by eating the cover. Set in the 1980s, an era of sexual liberation, and feminism, the romantic entanglements of the protagonist, Madeleine, are contrasted with her studies on the marriage plot – the idea of the love story as written in the nineteenth century by Jane Austen. I honestly think Jeffrey Eugenides might be the greatest American author alive. His words are like magic.
A cruise ship carrying a handful of people are shipwrecked on the island while the rest of the world is stricken with a disease that leaves all humans infertile. The shipwrecked group are the only fertile humans left, and slowly evolve into a new species, no longer recognisable as human. The novel is narrated by the spirit of a Vietnam veteran, Leon Trout, who died after building the ship in Sweden. Leon stays on the ship, and ends up spending a million years watching the descendants of the shipwreck evolve from humans into aquatic mammals, cursed by the large size of the useless human brain. It’s only wee, read it in a day!
Thank you, Sarah, for letting me gush about books on your blog! If anyone wants to recommend me something lovely, give me a shout, I’d love to hear from you.