Happy Xmas to Emma: A Virtual Gift Exchange

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.



Filed under Blogging

17 responses to “Happy Xmas to Emma: A Virtual Gift Exchange

  1. Lizzy and I are influential, I see…
    I like your choices. I’ve read Washington Square and like it a lot.
    The Trollope sounds interesting and you can’t go wrong with Highsmith and Bainbridge, I’m sure.
    Merry Christmas to you as well.

  2. Caroline is an ealier bird than me!

    I really like your choices.
    – You knew I wanted to try Trollope, so it’s great you chose one.
    – I loved What Maisie Knew and I’m happy to read another James.
    – I’m sure I’ll have a good time with Patricia Highsmith. She was on my TBR after your reviews.
    – I also wanted to discover Beryl Bainbridge.

    I’m going to order the books I can’t find on the kindle (And I have to decide: French or English?)

    I wish you a Merry Christmas again and I also thank you for our friendship.

  3. Hi Guy,
    I ordered “Strangers on a Train” and “An Awfully Big Adventure”. I also ordered the film versions of “Washington Square” and “An Awfully Big Adventure”. The Hitchcock is available at the library. (and the book L’inconnu du Nord-Express too)
    I’ll start with Miss Mackenzie. Let’s hope Trollope isn’t more difficult than Hardy and I should be fine.
    Since I got the four books in English, I’m not sure I’ll manage to read them within a month. I’ll continue in February.

    • Emma: I ordered mine too. I think the language of Miss Mackenzie should be fine (one of the reasons I avoided the ecclesiastical books), but you know where I am if not. I’ll probably be reading in Feb. too.

      • I’m relieved you could find the Daninos. I had checked on Amazon before choosing the books, but who knows what can happen with OOP books.
        I’m very interested in reading your reviews. I have all the books at home.

        Thanks to Caroline, I’m now the happy owner of “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew” by Daniel Pool and it includes at least 150 pages of glossary about all kinds of Victorian realities. More than a lifesaver for foreign readers. It should help me.

        Great round of applause for your choices, I’m looking forward to them.

  4. I’ve clicked through from Emma’s site as I wanted to see what you’d choose for her. These seem like really good choices to me. I loved Washington Square and Miss Mackenzie and have been wanting to read Patricia Highsmith for ages. I’ll be very curious to see what Emma makes of them.

  5. kimbofo

    What a wonderful idea! I’ve not read any of those books, but they all sound intriguing…

  6. I’ll add my kudos to your selection — I’ve read the James and Trollope and agree that you have found excellent starting points for both (even if I did start Trollope myself with the whole Barchester set). Highsmith is on my 2012 “read more” list and I can’t fault Bainbridge, even if she wouldn’t have been my choice. Excellent project.

  7. Lit Love, Kim and Kevin: I wrestled with my choices up to Xmas Eve which is one of the advantages of virtual gift giving. I almost picked a Patrick McGrath instead of Bainbridge, but finally landed on the 2/2 formula (2 American/2 British–2 Female/2 male). Plus there’s a film version of the Bainbridge I liked a lot.

  8. A lovely idea and a lovely selection. Very nice.

    • We’re going to open this up to other bloggers next year but with different organisation–after all if ten people give you 4 books each then it’s too much. Perhaps we’ll draw names or it’ll be one book per person–we’ve got a year to work it out

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