Triple Choice Tuesday

Triple Choice Tuesday: Plastic Rosaries

Triple-Choice-TuesdayWelcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers, writers and readers 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, new authors and new bloggers.

Today’s guest is Beth, who blogs at

Beth is a copywriter and has two daughters under four. Given that young children specialise in limited reading time like it’s a sport, you’ll often find her reading at 2am.

She’s been blogging in some guise or another since the early 2000s — was launched in early 2013.

Without further ado, here are Beth’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:

My Cousin RachealA favourite book: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

Like so many people, I adore Daphne Du Maurier. She would have passed me by for much longer if I hadn’t had Rebecca on my final year degree syllabus, but from there I went out and looked for what could be better. I didn’t truly believe she could pull off something better than Rebecca but as far as I’m concerned My Cousin Rachel is that book.

I love My Cousin Rachel because there is so much left for the reader to play with – who really was she? I still don’t know and I don’t know if I’ll ever make up my mind, but I’m pretty sure I could read this novel a dozen more times and have a different theory each time. All Du Maurier’s work is wonderfully written, even the novels I don’t count amongst my favourites, but in My Cousin Rachel it’s taken to a new level — it’s special. I know My Cousin Rachel is often heralded as the next best thing to Rebecca, for those readers who can’t bear the idea that there is no more Manderley, but I think it’s much better than that.

Cancer WardA book that changed my world: Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I read Cancer Ward when I was in college completing my A Levels, at a time where I was intentionally (pretentiously?) only reading things by authors that weren’t their ‘big hit.’ For Solzhenitsyn, as I saw it, that would have been The Gulag Archipelago or One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, so I went digging for something else and am still so pleased I did. Cancer Ward was one of the first novels that truly clicked with my brain, adult novels that is. “I won’t forget you” was one of the first things I tangibly remember thinking on finishing it (a decade ago I must add) and though allegorical and, at times, nothing more than a shell through which Solzhenitsyn can get his points across, Oleg Kostoglotov and his suffering have never left my mind.

Solzhenitsyn started something, and though I don’t always go after what I consider to be obscure (and Cancer Ward is hardly that, I know), I felt justified in picking what I wanted to pick rather than what was recommended and I think this has stayed with me permanently.

Pocket NotebookA book that deserves a wider audience: Pocket Notebook by Mike Thomas

I found this book really hard to choose — I really have no idea how popular many of the things I read are (save seeing other reviews/general publicity for them). In the end I went for Pocket Notebook because I was disappointed that it didn’t have more rave reviews all over the internet and because it’s brilliant and once you’ve read it you’ll want to read Ugly Bus, which is Thomas’ second novel and another one I regularly recommend.

Pocket Notebook is in the Irvine Welsh school of literature, it’s a no holds barred tale of the spectacular breakdown of a policeman on duty at the absolute extreme. It would probably crudely be categorised at ‘lad-lit’, if that’s still a thing (it shouldn’t be). It is sweary and distasteful and I could not recommend it more. It’s probably not one for everyone but I know many fans of Irvine Welsh are missing out and it also reminded me distinctly of American Psycho in some ways too.

Thanks, Beth, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday! 

I’ve not read any of them… so I guess that means my wish list has grown that little bit longer now.

What do you think of Beth’s choices? Have you read any of these books?

1001 books, Author, Book review, Daphne du Maurier, England, Fiction, literary fiction, Publisher, Setting, Virago

‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier


Fiction – paperback; Virago; 448 pages; 2011.

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca was first published in 1938 — and I may possibly be the last person on Earth to have read it. I decided it was time to find out why so many people — friends and bloggers included — count this novel as one of their all-time favourite reads.

Timeless classic

Rebecca is a timeless story about a young woman caught up in circumstances seemingly beyond her control, and while some have labelled it as either “women’s fiction” or “Gothic romance” it doesn’t really fit in with either description. Yes, it’s about women — or more importantly, the relationship between the sexes. And yes, it’s romantic. And yes, there are touches of the Gothic about it in the way the storyline is both scary and suspenseful.

But there are echoes of Jane Eyre, too, and of “country house” novels in which stately homes — and the people who run them — play a central role in the plot.

According to Sally Beauman, who wrote an afterword in the edition I read, du Maurier described the book as “a sinister tale about a woman who marries a widower … Psychological and macabre”  — and that pretty much sums it up perfectly.

The tale of a young woman who marries an older man

The basic story is about a young woman — tellingly she is nameless — who marries a much older man, Max de Winter, who is above her station. She meets him when she is living in Monte Carlo, as a companion to an older and quite trying American woman she does not particularly like.

Max is a handsome, well-regarded gentleman with a large manor house called Manderley in England. He is in Monte Carlo trying to come to terms with the death of his wife, Rebecca, who was, by all accounts, a rather beautiful and popular woman prone to throwing lavish dinner parties.

When our narrator marries Max — against the advice of her boss — she must not only contend with a new life as a gentlewoman living in a style to which she is not accustomed, but she must also live in the shadow of Rebecca who represents all the things she is not: graceful, educated, confident and loved.

And from the very first (famous) line — “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” — we know that events have not played out as Max and his new bride might have wished. We get a further inkling of this when we discover that the stately home is now in ruins and that the story is being told from a “bare little hotel bedroom” in an “alien land”.

From the outset, du Maurier sets up a suspenseful premise: what events lead to Manderley’s ruin and what of the fate of those who lived there?

Flowery language

When I first began reading Rebecca I was worried by the flowery language and the overly descriptive passages, particularly of Manderley and its beautiful grounds. The word that immediately came to mind was “overwritten”.

In many respects, the prose felt as if it had been composed by a young writer wanting to impress her reader — and I’m pleased to see that Beauman addresses this in her afterword. She, too, uses the word “overwritten” but she believes it was a deliberate ploy by du Maurier to put the reader in the head of a young, easily impressed and not very well-educated narrator, who is amazed at the house when she first sets eyes upon it. I accept that that may well be the case.

Even so, I found the prose style slightly wearing in its eagerness and enthusiasm. And while I realise that Mrs Danvers, the evil housekeeper, is supposed to be our narrator’s nemesis and therefore the character we channel all our hate towards, I found her tiresome and a little too two-dimensional to be taken seriously.

That said, the terrific plot made up for these shortcomings. Du Maurier deftly scatters clues here and there to suggest that the much-loved Rebecca may not be all as she seems, but I seemed to miss most of them until they were pointed out (in a rather annoying way, it has to be said, by the narrator herself). This meant that the little twist in the middle caught me slightly off guard — which is always a good thing when, like me, you worry that you may be turning into a jaded reader.

Such an unexpected plot development turned what had been a fairly entertaining novel about a young woman readjusting her expectations of marriage into a page-turning mystery. I found myself racing to finish the book just to see how events would resolve themselves. The denouement, while slightly rushed and too neatly tied up, was satisfying.

A hugely evocative story

I can appreciate why so many readers clutch Rebecca to their hearts — it’s a well-crafted, hugely evocative story about married love and a young woman’s search for identity and acceptance. It’s filled with drama and emotion and is played out against a grand backdrop of the rugged Cornish coast and a beautiful stately home.

And du Maurier is an expert at putting us inside the head of someone who is floundering and deeply uneasy about her place in the world so we want to cheer her on and tell her that she’s better than she thinks she is!

While the story is memorable and will stay with me for a long time, Rebecca is at least 150 pages too long! But I am keen to explore more of du Maurier’s vast canon of fiction if only to see whether Rebecca is typical of her style.

‘Rebecca’, by Daphne du Maurier, first published in 1938, is listed in Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, where it is described as an “immediate best seller, spawning many adaptations, serialization, movies, stage shows and copycat narratives”.