Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Top 10 book openings

Some time ago I wrote about the Top 10 book endings. Recently I’ve been thinking about the Top 10 book openings; a ‘top 10’ which I found particularly difficult. I used the following criteria: the top 10 lines would be those I easily recalled, (meaning they were especially memorable), or they would be the lines which had most made me want to keep reading.

After much thought, I eventually came up with the following list:

1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

 

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

 

3. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

 

4. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

5. “Call me Ishmael”

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

 

6. Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book’, thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

 

7. Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler (2001)

 

8. All children, except one, grow up

Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

 

9. In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

 

10. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K.Rowling

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The power of books

I have just had a post about reading memories published by the online magazine Mamamia. Whilst the title chosen for the piece refers to the huge influence certain books have on us, my intention in writing the post was more about highlighting the powerful ability of books to trigger memories from different periods in our lives.

You can read the piece here.

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Top 10 reads for summer

This list is my personal one. As much as I enjoy young adult fiction, the summer break means I don’t have to read as much of it and can enjoy a few indulgences. These are the books I am going to read, re-read or that I read last summer and now recommend to you:

1. Shall we Dance? by Maggie Alderson.

I read this last summer and it was divine. Maggie Alderson weaves the romantic world of vintage fashion into the modern world of motherhood and relationships. I loved this book so much it deliberately takes first place at the top of the list.

 

2. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

This is wrapped and waiting under the tree for me. It’s P.D James appropriating the characters of Pride and Prejudice to create a classic murder mystery, set in 1803.

 

3. The Shadow Girl by John Larkin

I had to put one young adult fiction on the list. Read my review of this wonderful book here.

 

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s time to re-read this in preparation for Baz Luhrmann’s movie in 2012. I last read Gatsby in 1986, so it’s definitely time for a re-visit.

 

5. All that I Am by Anna Funder

This is another one on my summer wish list. I have read numerous glowing reviews of Anna Funder’s first novel, which has been compared to Suite Franҫaise and The Reader.

 

6. Lola’s Secret by Monica McInerney.

Summer wouldn’t be summer without Monica McInerney. For twenty years she has moved between Australia and Ireland, working as a writer and producing best-selling novels. I secretly covet her life.

 

7. How Now, Brown Frau by Merridy Eastman

This is the third memoir by Merridy Eastman, following There’s a Bear in There and Ridiculous Expectations. This one caught my interest as it recounts Merridy’s move to Bavaria to begin a new life with her German fiancé. Having lived in Bavaria for a short time as a teenager, I knew I would connect with Merridy’s experiences. What I didn’t expect was to enjoy her humour and wit so much.

 

8. Worse Things Happen at Sea by William McInnes and Sarah Watt.

Part biography, part love story, this is a poignant collection of reminiscences. Sarah Watt, the celebrated filmmaker, died from breast cancer earlier this year. For this reason alone, the book is somewhat confronting, but it is also a powerful salute to the vitality of the human spirit and the beauty of love.

 

9. Emma by Jane Austen

I re-read an Austen every year, and this year it’s Emma’s turn.

 

10. Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich.

What can I say? Stephanie Plum, Lulu and Grandma Mazur just make me laugh.

 

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Writers change the world.

With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, much has been said about the legacy he leaves behind. What an epic legacy it is, the sheer genius of his creativity having changed the way the world communicates and consumes information, music and books.

There is no argument that Steve Jobs was a modern day genius who changed the world. In the future his name will be mentioned alongside other inventors like Edison, scientists like Einstein and explorers like Columbus and Cook.

The brilliance of Jobs has led me to ponder the contributions of other creative geniuses and the changes they have wrought in the world, in particular writers. Like Jobs, Edison and Einstein, writers (be they authors, playwrights or poets) also leave behind a significant legacy with their words that change the world.

Shakespeare is the most obvious example. So many phrases in the English language were borne out of Shakespeare’s creative genius. This wordsmith gave us “All the world’s a stage” (As You Like It); “If music be the food of love, play on” (Twelfth Night); “The lady doth protest too much” (Hamlet); and most fittingly “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” (Twelfth Night). Shakespeare’s prolific and prodigious writing changed the English language forever, his writing so exceptional that we still study it today.

Jane Austen is another writer whose legacy lingers on. Even though Austen was certainly not well respected in her time, regarded as a lowly novelist, the quality of her writing has seen it survive generations. Austen is the master of perfect punctuation and expression, however, it is her characterization and wit that underpin her creative genius. Austen wrote about the everyday, the commonplace and the unremarkable. She largely ignored the world around her, including the Napoleonic wars, preferring instead to concentrate on life within the small towns and villages with which she was familiar. It was this familiarity that brokered her plotlines and gave us such masterpieces as Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Not only have these novels been studied for over a century, they have also spawned a surfeit of Hollywood movies and popular BBC miniseries. Jane Austen’s work has seen the creation of devoted book clubs, zealous fan clubs and websites, and caused generations of women to swoon over Mr. Darcy.

It is not only writers from earlier centuries who leave a legacy. Like Steve Jobs’ influence on the late 20th and 21st century, J.K Rowling has left an indelible mark on the same era. The Harry Potter books have sparked a global phenomenon, spawning movies, a new lexicon and a fresh generation of voracious readers. We Muggles know that Harry Potter is something special.

The gifted writer has the power to change the culture and history of the world in the same way as an inventor, scientist or explorer.  Shakespeare, Austen and Rowling are just three examples of such writers amongst a plethora of illustrious others. And on a smaller scale there have been other, less famous writers who have also changed my world. Their legacy is smaller than those mentioned, but to me they are no less pertinent. These authors may not have their names recorded in many history books, nor will their works be made into movies or their words become a part of our lexicon, but the legacy of their work will live on in me. Some of these writers have books already been mentioned in my Top 10 lists or Reviews, others as yet unnamed have moved me in such a way that a little piece of them will remain a part of my persona forever.

The epic legacy of Steve Jobs has clearly changed the world, but the simple act of putting pen to paper and creating exquisite words of beauty, inspiration and wisdom has changed the world many times over – and will continue to do so.

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