Monday, 12 March 2018

Read Women - Top Ten Books by female authors

Last Thursday, 8th March, was International Women's Day, and Twitter (or at least my section of it) was filled with people posting their Top Ten favourite books by female authors; the books they couldn't live without, those which made the greatest impression, those which meant the most.
You know me - ask for a Top Ten of anything and I'm there in a shot. Make a Top Ten involving books, and if possible I'll be even quicker. So, how could I resist?
Here they are, in no particular order, other than making sure they were stacked safely enough to photograph ...
Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan - This is actually a French copy dating back to my schooldays, and, though I could read it back then,  I'm not sure I could now. When I first encountered this as a seventeen year old, I was taken aback by the 'heroine', Cecile; she smoked, had sex with her boyfriend (unheard of way back then), schemed and manipulated people because life wasn't going her way, causing heartbreak and despair, and all against the backdrop of the exotic-seeming French Riviera. It was like nothing I'd read before!
Villette by Charlotte Bronte - it was a close call between this and Jane Eyre, but I looked at them both on the shelf, wondering which to choose, and Villette won. There are a greater array of characters in it, a country-dance partner-changing series of love affairs, and an (unusual at the time) admission that a woman might have a crush on one man then change her mind and fall for another.
The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin -  my introduction to her work, a blend of sci-fi, politics, and personal relationships that made it stand head and shoulders above any other sci-fi I'd read before.
Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers - Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are married at last, but their plans for a quiet honeymoon disrupted by a murder (almost as you'd expect). What makes this stand out in my mind is that Sayers takes the story beyond the catching of the villain, to his trial and hanging (remember this was written in the days of the death penalty), exploring Wimsey's state of mind as these inevitable events follow his unmasking of the criminal.
The Waves by Virginia Woolf - another book discovered in my teen years, it was possibly a case of jumping in at the deep end with Woolf at her most obscure but I loved it, and to me it's the backdrop to the heatwave of 1976.
Persuasion by Jane Austen - a tale of second chances in love. You might prefer Pride and Prej, but this is the Austen book for me. Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth fell in love but were separated by interfering friends and relatives. When they meet again after several years, their relationship isn't all easy sailing, and for much of the book it seems quite possible that they'll end up with different partners. It doesn't have the Bennet family, but the Elliots are almost as comical.
Possession by AS Byatt - plots within plots and subplots everywhere. Part detective story, as various academics try to trace previously unsuspected correspondence between two Victorian poets, and uncover more than they'd expected, and part romance (as suggested by its subtitle) as love flourishes in both timelines.
Moon of Three Rings by Andre Norton - another back to my teenage years book, chosen by me as a school prize. At the presentation I remember being wrong-footed by thinking I ought to have picked a serious non-fiction book BUT this turned out to be the start of my love for sci-fi/fantasy fiction, and although it came from a 'teenage reads' section, I still reread it today.
Weathering by Lucy Wood - a story about the, not necessarily smooth and happy, relationships between mothers and daughters, about home, and belonging, told in beautiful prose which slips into poetry
A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson - another close call as I almost choose Atkinson's Life After Life, which shares characters with this. Carefully and cleverly constructed, this is the life-story of Teddy Todd, moving back and forth in time, but always circling round the all important, formative war-years. Two things particularly make this book stand out - it's unusual to find a war novel written by a woman (and Atkinson does it as well, if not better, than many such stories penned by male authors), and the final twist, which casts a whole new light on what you've just read.  

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