to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite
bloggers and other bookish bods to share the names of three books that
mean a lot to them. The idea is that it might raise the profile of
certain books and introduce you to new titles and new bloggers.
Today's guest is Nebraska-based Danielle from A Work in Progress.
Danielle, who works in the acquisitions department of a university library, has the dubious honour of being the very first book blog I ever discovered, some time back in 2005. I've been following her ever since and always enjoy reading her insightful posts, which cover everything from cosy mysteries to high-brow classics. What I most admire about Danielle is her constant striving to try new things, to expand her knowledge and not be afraid of reading outside of her comfort zone.
Danielle, who studied journalism at university before switching to art history, attributes her love of books to her mother, who worked as a library assistant in a public elementary school.
"She would take me occasionally, before I was old enough to go to school myself, so I have fond memories of libraries and books," says Danielle. "She was always very good about taking my sisters and me to the public library, and I was allowed to choose at whim. So I've always been around books, though I feel like I somehow missed the guidance of having someone help me make selections — probably in part now why I feel like my reading is always so haphazard and I choose books based on my mood more than anything else."
Danielle says she missed out on reading classics (as did I) and other books that everyone else read when they were young and has been trying to catch up ever since!
Anyway, without further ado, here's Danielle's Triple Choice Tuesday selections:
A favourite book:
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I think the first time that I read Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (when I was a much younger woman) I was taken with the suspenseful nature of the story, the fact that it combined romance and mystery and never failed to surprise me with its twists and turns. Not so long ago I read it again on an entirely different level and appreciated the skill with which du Maurier crafted her Gothic masterpiece with its subtle psychological insights into the minds of the characters, both living and dead.
A young Englishwoman abroad meets and marries Maxim, a dashing, older widower. He brings her home to his family estate, Manderley, where she is to become the lady of the house. She finds herself incapable of succeeding, because Manderley still exudes the presence of Rebecca, Maxim's first wife, whose memory is venerated by her very sinister servant, Mrs. Danvers. This young woman, who remains unnamed throughout the story, is never able to escape the shadow of Rebecca.
The beauty of the story is its subtlety. There are no ghosts knocking about (at least no real ones), yet the reader is haunted by the beautiful, dead, Rebecca whose secrets won't stay buried with her.
Du Maurier never received the serious recognition she yearned for in her lifetime, which is a pity as she was truly a master of inhabiting the minds of her characters and exposing their fears and insecurities. I might also mention that she was also a talented short story writer who had a great ability to create stories filled with atmosphere and just the right amount of tension. She knew exactly how to string a reader along and shock them, and I mean that in a good way.
A book that changed my world:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
This is a book that readers seem to either love or hate. To be honest I'm not entirely sure on which side of the divide I fall, maybe somewhere in the middle these days — understanding why some readers don't get on with it very well, but appreciating why many do. I first tried to read it when I was not long out of school, but found I couldn't do it. The story was impenetrable to me. I'm not sure if it was the language or the complexity of the story but I tried and tried again and failed.
When I was very young I was left to my own devices when it came to choosing books. Classics never seemed to fall into my hands, so I tended to avoid them later, thinking I wouldn't "get" it, whatever the it was.
Eventually there came a time when I was determined to see what I had been missing out on. Age and a little experience has an an amazing way of opening and broadening a person's mind. When I finally read it I loved it for the passion of the storytelling and the bleak and desolate beauty of the moors that Bronte depicted so vividly, even though the love story itself is dark and obsessive, full of unlikeable and brooding characters whose behaviours often verge on madness. How did this remarkable young woman conceive a story such as Wuthering Heights?
For me this is a pivotal book, as I went from doubting myself and my abilities to understand and appreciate more challenging reads (particularly classic literature) to realising that no book is impossible to read. I might not like everything I try, but I don't have the same fear of attempting books I previously thought were beyond my abilities. It opened a whole new world of books to me.
A book that deserves a wider audience:
Dance Night by Dawn Powell
Of Dawn Powell Gore Vidal wrote, "For decades Dawn Powell was always just on the verge of ceasing to be a cult and becoming a major religion."
In her lifetime (1896-1965), Powell wrote 15 novels, more than 100 short stories, six plays and thousands of letters, and she kept diaries as well. By the time of her death nearly all her work was out of print. She might well have remained forgotten had it not been for the notice of intellectual Gore Vidal (among others) and the championing of her work by music critic Tim Page.
I'm not sure where I first came across mention of Dawn Powell's books, but when I spotted her work in a used bookstore I knew I had to snap it up. She was born and raised in Mount Gilead, Ohio and later escaped to the bright lights of New York City. Although she's known for her New York satires, it is one of her earlier novels, part of the Ohio cycle of books, that I've found so fiercely evocative of small town American life in the 1930s.
The story concerns two youths, Morry and Jen, who dream of bigger and more exciting lives elsewhere (elsewhere usually being NYC) but are caught in their tiny, oppressive lives with little chance of anything more than dreams.
Powell's story is gritty and doleful yet never totally despairing, and it ends on a note of optimism. It's told in a series of vignettes, but it still progresses at a brisk pace with fully fleshed out characters who aren't in the least perfect, and full of foibles, at times annoying, yet are complex in their makeup and in their interactions and fumblings with each other. Powell most assuredly deserves a broader reading audience.
Thanks, Danielle, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
What do you think of Danielle's choices? Have you
read any of these books? This isn't the first time that someone has championed Rebecca as one of their favourite reads, so I really need to be adding this one to my inventory. Just like Danielle, I tried to read Wuthering Heights as a teenager and simply did not get it, so maybe I should give it another try. And I'm completely fascinated by the Dawn Powell book; I had never heard of her before. I love finding out about new authors in this way…
12 thoughts on “Triple Choice Tuesday: A Work in Progress”
Danielle is one of my favourite bloggers too. I always enjoy reading her posts about what she is reading now, or thinking about reading!
I read Rebecca a number of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of these days I will try to reread it.
I don’t recall hearing about Dawn Powell before. **off to check the library catalogue**
I love your blog, Dani, especially your lists of new books (there are always at least a couple that I then put on my “to read/buy/mooch/borrow” list). I’ve never read Rebecca or Dance Night and am now intrigued by both. One of my English teachers introduced Wuthering Heights to me and, though, I didn’t really understand what was going on, I loved the book. Time to revisit it, I think, and read it with adult eyes.
I feel the same about classics and yet I wonder if we’re not forced to read them too early at times. There are some authors I don’t touch simply because they were forced upon me by teachers who couldn’t quite get me excited about them (and I was a big reader even back then). And there are some that I love to this day. But to date I’ve read no Tolstoy or Dickens and I’m embarrassed by that.
I always get lots of recommendations from Danielle’s blog and it was also one of the first book blogs I started to read. I love both Rebecca and Wuthering Heights, and like both of you, I didn’t ‘get’ the latter the first time I read it at 16. But when I tried it again a few years later, I was swept away by the Emily Bronte’s powerful story. I haven’t read any Dawn Powell, but I’m going to check her out!
Well I am definitely in the ‘Rebecca is amazing’ camp because well it is, but then I think that most of Du Maurier’s works are. I am hoping that she has a huge resurgance(!?!) in the future and soem of the wonderful books she wrote that are out of print come back. Her short stories are marvellously dark. Enough of my Du Maurier love in though…
I hated Wuthering Heights both in my teens and now again when I tried it a few years again determined to love it – a fail from me rather than the book I think!
Not heard of the last choice, sounds intriguing!
Many thanks, Kim, for letting me share a few favorite books, and thanks for the kind comments as well. It was so hard narrowing my choices down to a mere three. I’m glad I am not the only one to have struggled with Wuthering Heights and agree that some books are introduced to readers at the wrong time. It is nice to revisit books later with a new or different perspective–it can often be a completely new reading experience! I hate the idea of getting older, but it tends to put an entirely new slant on reading and being willing to try new things. And–I have to agree that Daphne du Maurier’s short stories are excellent as well!
What great choices, but then I’m not surprised – Danielle’s blog was one of the first I discovered when blogging and barely a week passes without my adding several new authors or books to my TBR list from her recommendations! Rebecca I read when I was 14 in one long, hypnotic session. I had a wicker chair in my bedroom (they were all the rage) and it took about a day for the imprint of the wicker to ease out of my skin! If I’d had the same chair when I read Wuthering Heights, I expect the same thing would have happened again…. I just loved both of those books.
I love your Tripple Choice Tuesdays, Kim.
I love Rebecca too (I saw the film when I was a child, way before I read the book and was captivated even then).
Off to check out Danielle’s blog now…
Thanks, Boof! These Triple Choice Tuesdays end up being a lot of work, but I really love seeing what people choose. My wishlist gets longer every time I do one!
Great Choices. Far be it from me to self-promote, but I did have a Dawn Powell post recently.
LOL Tony … I was going to post that I had just been introduced to Dawn Powell by Tony of Tony’s Book World but you’ve beaten me to it.
Nice selections Danielle – though I have to say that while I adored Wuthering Heights when I was a teen, I’m not sure I want to read it again. It feels to me like a young person’s book BUT maybe I should give it another go.
I still don’t know how Danielle finds the time to read as much as she has.
Wuthering Heights – I think that I read it in high school. But, I have seen several versions of the movies and enjoyed all of them. I like seeing the young Larry (Sir Lawrence Olivier.)
Re. “For me this is a pivotal book, as I went from doubting myself and my abilities to understand and appreciate more challenging reads (particularly classic literature) to realising that no book is impossible to read.”
I think this is an intelligent answer. I read Wuthering Heights as a teenager too, and scorned it afterwards because all I could remember was people hurling themselves passionately at trees and shouting, “Heathcliff!”. “Overwrought,” I thought. A few years later I read it again and discovered that every ridiculous thing my old self thought she’d seen in it (with such exact perception, it seemed, at the time) had vanished.