There’s always something I go back to. Books, falling apart at the seams, that need to be close by as a reassurance. Good humour, good writing, and a mixture of images from my own imagination and old TV programmes or films. Maybe it’s simply the freedom to revisit the depths of youthful emotion…
Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
This edition tied in with the 1974 BBC production. Yes, I am that old. I was totally enthralled by the imaginative, flighty, dramatic, thoughtful Anne, her friendships and her rivalries. The relationships with Matthew and Marilla, her adoptive family, have lasted long in my imagination. How the elderly brother and sister adapted to the red haired whirlwind who unexpectedly entered their lives (they’d been expecting the orphanage to send a boy), and how Avonlea adapated. There are stories about green hair, accidental teenage drunkenness, academic competition. And there is devastating, life changing, grief. I watched the Megan Fellows as Anne production about 2 years ago, and was still in floods of tears. Excellent stuff!
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
You’re probably thinking about Gregory Peck now. No bad thing; he does a wonderful job of recreating Atticus Finch and his belief in Justice, respect and love for family. The book is full of believable characters and is told through the eyes of a child in the 1930s South. Scout tells the story as an adult, so we get a sense of what she now knows, but didn’t recognise then. The story is full of warmth and humour, despite the issues of rape and racial inequality, and the loss of innocence of the children and the town. The childhood ‘bogeyman’ is called ‘Boo’. Simple, and brilliant. Two of my favourite lines are right at the end of the book
‘As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.’
‘Besides, nothin’s real scary except in books.’
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Now I suppose you’re thinking of Colin Firth, in either of his Mr Darcy roles…
Pride and Prejudice is both funny and sobering- a comedy of manners, wordy and articulate, but biting on the choices facing women. Mr Bennet has five daughters, and no way of supporting them or his wife after his death, so they need to get married. However, the Bennets don’t have the social standing, or the social know how, to make them the most attractive of options for society. Social settings are largely formal, and full of unspoken rules, from the set pieces of dances, to playing cards. The two eldest, Jane and Elizabeth, do have some social skills, albeit tempered by shyness or temper. The story is about how they develop those skills and their relationships, in particular how Elizabeth and Darcy achieve respect for each other and reach agreement. Jane and Elizabeth are then in a position to look after the rest of the family. It’s great, cringemaking, and entertaining.
These are books that I return to time and again. There are others (come in Marian Keyes), and there seems to be a bit of a pattern emerging- it looks like I gravitate to humour, warmth and a bit of social commentary. Anyone surprised by that?