Some weeks ago, Emma from Book Around the Corner and I decided to have a virtual gift exchange for Xmas. This sprang from admiration for Caroline & Lizzy‘s joint venture: German Literature month 11/12. For various reasons, Emma and I scaled down our joint project, and this brings me to the virtual gift exchange.
Here are the rules:
1)We each select 4 books for each other
2) We announce the selection on Xmas day
3) We read and review them.
I chewed over a lot of possibilities for Emma. Dilemma: should I select books that are sure bets (Thomas Hardy)? Or should I take a chance? When we select gifts for people, do we buy things they’d buy for themselves or do we stretch in our choices?
So here’s the line-up
1) Washington Square by Henry James (free on kindle)
I’m sure Emma would love Portrait of a Lady, but I selected Washington Square as it’s not mammoth, but it’s a tight well-drawn story of one woman’s narrow life. Emma read What Maisie Knew earlier this year, and I think Washington Square will give another, better view of James.
2) Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope (free on kindle)
I’m sure that Emma will enjoy the droll humour of Trollope, but I don’t want to stick her with an 800+pages. This made my choice a bit more difficult (as the natural choice would be Barchester Towers), but I finally landed a novel of reasonable size, and I think Miss Mackenzie, a sleeper Trollope novel, is the perfect introduction. The novel isn’t talked about much, but it’s marvellous. It’s the story of a woman considered an ‘old maid’ who inherits a little bit of money, and suddenly she has several suitors. With his customary wit, Trollope shows just how money changes this woman’s life. Trollope was, btw, interested in women’s rights and how they got shafted on the issue of inheritance.
3) Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
I love this book. It’s my favourite Hitchcock film, but the book’s considerably darker than the film. I think Emma will enjoy the novel’s dark, twisted psychological aspects, and the emphasis is not on violence but on personality.
4) An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge
Of the four novels I selected this was the most difficult due to the fact I wanted to pick something modern, and that left a huge range for selection. This novel is set in 1950s Liverpool and is the story of a young girl named Stella who joins a seedy repertory company as a sort of go-fer, and Stella is unleashed into the adult world. This is one of Bainbridge’s best. Funny, poignant, and vicious all at the same time.
Anyway, Happy Xmas Emma. Thanks for your friendship, and I hope you enjoy these books. And if you get bored, 3 of the 4 are available as film versions.