Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Favourite Companion Books

The weather is turning hot, and I have just put my back out.... my summer reading festival is about to begin early! I am not even going to wait until I can go to Perth to fill a box with new books, I am starting by reading some of my absolute favourite books, and this time I will read them in pairs, as every good book deserves a companion. The joy of reading books in pairs for me is that you get flow - one book leads to another, you don't leap from reading a book about mutant space creatures and then start reading a classic Jane Austen. You can compare and contrast, you can see things you might have missed considering on first reading it, and you have the joy of exploring both books to your best advantage.

I thought I would share my planned companion reading as it might inspire you, and also if you are looking for a gift for a book lover, it could be a good guide to select the companion book of a book you know they have loved.

So hear they are..... not necessarily in the order I will read them.

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. Perfect companions because they both explore the use and misuse of privilige and wealth, and are from the beginning evidently modern tragedies where you are waiting for the decline and decline of the pivotal characters. The sadness of beauty and talent wasted, of family expectations and disappointments and the struggle to find meaningful identity are what capture and hold my attention.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory and The Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn. Together these books perfectly capture the essence of Anne Boleyn, the historic figure I most resemble in character. I love her, even for all her flaws and as she turns her greatest triumph into disaster for herself and her closest connections, you see she had an innoncence that was belied by her temper and that it was her endless desire and that temper that ultimately played into the hands of her enemies and brought her to the scaffold.

Wild Lavender by Belinda Alexandra and The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simmons, set in the same period of time, illustrating the hardships of war even for those who do not fight in it, these books show the Paris of WWII and beseiged Leningrad. Both have wonderful heroines with love stories that will have you begging the authors to stop torturing you and let the lovers be together and happy.

All The Names by Jose Saramago and The Book of Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. One is set in Spain, the other Portugal, although I cannot say for sure why I instinctively feel these books are companions, perhaps I will be able to say after I have read the two again, this time one after the other.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Perhaps I see the characters of Jane Eyre and Fanny Price as companions because they were both raised by their extended family in unhappy circumstances and at the mercy of the good will of their keepers, while clearly being the moral superior of the other characters around them. Both books are teriffic examples of English literature and I could wish to have discovered Jane Eyre at a younger age instead of being forced to read Dickens Hard Times for school.

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Though one is set in China, and the other Japan, the heroines are united in their rise from obscurity and poverty to great privilige while documenting the end of historic eras - one as the last Empress of China (though this is historic fiction Empress Orchid was a real person), and the other as one of the last great Geishas before the fall out of WWII nearly destroyed that heritage.

Atonement by Ian McEwan and The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley. Both of these show the changed fates of a close knit family circle during WWII triggered by events that precede the declaration of war.

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jaqueline Mitchard and My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, perfect companions because they explore painful family issues and choices where there are no clear right and wrong options and no easy way to resolve the crises to everyone's best interest.

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs and The Book of Joe by Jonothan Tropper. Perfect companions for me because as a writer I relate to their struggle to use their own experiences without incurring the wrath of others, and to bravely face their personal history. Tropper's book is fiction and Burroughs is extraordinarily an autobiographical account of his journey from child to man.

so there we go, that is the journey I will be taking this summer, frolicking amongst my favourite characters and adventures, thinking about and digesting the deeper meaning of each, and as I pick up each one, giving it a welcome back hug, as I am now quite 'homesick' for these favourite books.


mandy said...

Starry as a teenager I loved to read but then kids came along...lol..
Who knows maybe one day I will actually have the time once again to pick up a book and lose myself in the story...

jenny said...

I love to read your this post with lots of interest. I dont have that book but came to know so much from here also...

dsi r4