Yes, it’s that time of the month when we chat about books and reading and, well, books.
In book club, we’re currently reading Shirley – the last in our deep dive into all things Bronte. So far we’re 3/4 of the way through ( we read in sections and meet to discuss each) and I’m thoroughly enjoying this one. In fact, and this is a big call, Shirley might just be my favourite Bronte character. I’ll sum up our Bronte adventure next month.
This whole adventure into Bronte country, literaryily (is that even a word? If not, it is now) speaking began because in one of our discussions I mentioned how Wuthering Heights was a book that had a massive impact on me. It hit me for six (for US readers, that’s a cricketing analogy) when I first read it at the very impressionable age of sixteen. And, dear reader, I was a very impressionable sixteen (come to think on it, I’m quite an impressionable almost 55…). I can’t say that I enjoyed it, but it had enough of an impact that I read it again and then again and then again – each time I was a little older and a little wiser and (thank goodness) a little less impressionable, but an impression it still made. Even now it stirs me, but for completely different reasons to how it once did.
It got me thinking though about those other classics that have left their mark on me – for varying reasons. Here are my top five:
- The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton. This is (probably) my favourite book ever. I last read it in 2020 and it had lost none of its power over me.
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. While this isn’t my favourite Austen – that accolade goes to either Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion – this is the book that began my love affair with the classics.
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It’s years since I last read this, but when I did I dreamed the story night after night – and those dreams weren’t pleasant. Let’s just say they involved Madame Guillotine and the knitting ladies with their baskets. I wasn’t, however, able to put it down. Another Dickens is also up there – Our Mutual Friend, a very underated story.
- The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy. This was originally published as a series of three novels and two interludes (short stories) and chronicles the lives of three generations of the Forsyte family. It’s social history, change, life, love, revenge, hate, and more and I love it. Another that I last read in 2020.
- Finally, we come to Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh. The movie doesn’t do this justice, although the 1981 BBC series starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews does. If you don’t read this, at least listen to it. Audible has a fantastic version read by Jeremy Irons.
What was on my bookshelf in January?
First up though, what I read in January… Let’s just say 2022 is going to be a pretty special year reading-wise if January is anything to go by.
Diddly Squat, by Jeremy Clarkson
Coming into a new year I had no idea what I wanted to read. Tbh my TBR pile was overwhelming. I wasn’t in the mood for my usual favourite genres of women’s fiction with a side serve of romance and a good happy ending. Nor was I in the mood for crime (cozy or otherwise) or even a good dose of historical fiction.
Then I came across this one.
Clarkson’s Farm (on Prime) was one of my favourite TV shows from last year and while I mightn’t agree with everything that comes out of Clarkson’s mouth (and think he would be disappointed if that weren’t the case) I love his writing.
It was, in hindsight, the very best way to begin the reading year.
A Girl Walks Into A Book, by Miranda K Pennington
We’ve been reading our way through the Bronte sister’s novels in book club and I had, I must admit, been floundering after Villette and The Professor. With just Shirley left to read (spoiler alert – I love it!), had I lost my faith? Then I picked this up. What an absolute delight. Someone who said the things I wanted to say – about Gilbert, St. John and M.Paul and so much more. Someone who loves and appreciates the Brontes, who also would have fallen for Rochester (when young) despite (I know, I know…) his often appalling behaviour, and who still asks herself – what would Jane do?
The best kind of rabbit hole to wander down.
The Last Garden In England, by Julia Kelly
One garden, three time periods, and the women who love it.
For anyone who loves historical fiction, gardens, strong female characters and a flipping good story.
This, by the teeniest of margins, was my favourite read of January.
The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle, by Sophie Green
My mother was given this book for Christmas and I must confess to borrowing it before she had a chance to read it. My need, however, was greater. I had trains and a flight home to catch. Besides, I couldn’t be expected to put it down once I’d started, could I? Set in the early 1980s, the timeframe is immaterial, the friendship circle, however, is everything and reminds me very much of our book club.
This one was very close to being my favourite read in January…
Deb, Donna, Sue and I would love you to share what you’ve been reading. If you have a favourite classic, I’d love to hear about that too. Feel free to grab and use the graphic below and the linky is below – and it’s open until Monday evening (AEST).