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:
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.
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.
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…