Q & A: What is your favorite novel?

My favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre.

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I enjoy the story – a fine gothic-style romance with the arguably first feminist heroine. But the real treat is the language. There’s something musical in Charlotte Bronte’s writing style.  Consider her first paragraph:

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.”

At the moment I’m going through a Dystopian phase. My top four recommendations in that genre would be:

1984.

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Orwell’s classic should be required reading. I think the book he wrote as a terrible warning was taken as a “how to” guide by some… and here we are.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.”

Brave New World,

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Aldous Huxley. See above re: “how to guide”.

“A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin light glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory. Wintriness responded to wintriness. The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The light was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables.

“And this,” said the Director opening the door, “is the Fertilizing Room.”

The Handmaid’s Tale.

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Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece. It’s listed as dystopian science fiction, but I actually think it should be found in the “horror” section. Especially if you’re female.

“There is more than one kind of freedom…Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

And finally,

The Long Walk,

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Stephen King’s first novel, an underrated tale written under the name Richard Bachman in 1966.  But wait!  Wasn’t “Carrie” his first?  Well yes.  It was the first book he published in 1974.  The Long Walk is the first novel he wrote.  I love the language!

“An old blue Ford pulled into the guarded parking lot that morning, looking like a small, tired dog after a hard run.”

Honorable Mention…

The Unit,

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Ninni Holmqvist’s debut novel. I must confess, I didn’t enjoy reading this book. The main character annoyed me to death. I found myself wanting to shout at her. But that is why I recommend the book. I read it over a year ago, and I can already feel my anxiety rising and the walls close in as I’m writing this. The premise seems quite direct, but the effect is surprisingly subtle and long-lasting. You need to be a little bit fearless to read this book.

“It was more comfortable than I could have imagined. A room of my own with a bathroom, or rather a suite of my own, because there were two rooms: a bedroom and a living room with a kitchenette. It was light and spacious, furnished in a modern style and tastefully decorated in muted colors. True, the tiniest nook or cranny was monitored by cameras, and I would soon realize there were hidden microphones there too. But the cameras weren’t hidden. There was one in each corner of the ceiling – small but perfectly visible – and in every corner and every passageway that wasn’t visible from the ceiling; inside the wardrobes, for example, and behind doors and protruding cupboards. Even under the bed and in the cupboard under the sink in the kitchenette. Anywhere a person might crawl in or curl up, there was a camera. Sometimes as you moved through a room they followed you with their one-eyed stare.”

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10 thoughts on “Q & A: What is your favorite novel?

  1. I’m yet to read The Long Walk – though I am a keen Stephen King fan! What did you enjoy about Brave New World? I found it difficult to continue with (though I did finish it in the end) when I normally like dystopias & alternative history books.

    • Hi Judith! Like you, I found BNW daunting at first – it took me a while to finish it! Typically what draws me to a novel like this is the use of language. But in the case of BNW it’s the powerful images. The rolling industrial feel of it all, the conditioning of the babies to be afraid of colorful objects and toys… even the green belt that was abandoned after 3 months because it was too old and out of fashion to be worn. I saw so much of our current society in those pages… like them, we’re being entertained to death.

      • That’s a really helpful explanation, and I agree. I wrote a book review of BNW at the start of the year, and I tried not to be too negative about it! 😛

  2. I’d have a hard time picking just one favorite, but for now, The Sparrow is at the top of my list. And, even though I’m not a Stephen King fan, I love The Long Walk.

    • The Sparrow!! I love that book so much! I can’t understand why more people haven’t read it. I heard that once upon a time Brad Pitt’s production company optioned the film rights, and it would star Antonio Banderas as Emilio. Sadly the deal fell through – I think he would have been wonderful in the role.

      As for the Long Walk, that’s my “go to” book for inspiration. Just the first few pages is enough. How he describes the Ford wheezing to a stop, how the dress hangs off of his mother, Stebbins and his purple pants… and imagine, that’s the first novel he ever wrote. I’m no fan of horror, but Mr. King is in a class by himself.

      • Oh no! Not Banderas. I know exactly what Emilio looks like and Banderas isn’t remotely right. In any case, I really wouldn’t want to see it made into a movie. When I care deeply about a book, I have no interest in seeing it made into a movie.

        I know what you mean about The Long Walk and inspiration. I’ve read both books multiple times, and I’m sure I’ll be reading them again. In fact, when I get to the last page of The Sparrow, I want to start all over again.

      • I’ll take that challenge. What do you think Emilio looks like? (and after Banderas dropped out, Pitt was going to star in it himself. YIKES! I love Brad, but NOT as Emilio! Maybe Jimmy… but even then…

      • If you saw 1492: Conquest of Paradise, Michael Wincott would be closest to a possible Emilio. He always seems to play a real bastard, but I haven’t seen him in too many roles, and judging from his filmography, he’s pretty versatile. Anyway, Emilio is short, slightly built, and at one point he’s described as looking like a Spanish grandee.

        I realize that Hollywood often picks actors who look nothing like the book characters, but Jimmy was a unique character, and his looks were a big part of that. Frankly, I can’t see Pitt in any role for that book — his star power would just be too distracting.

        But it’s all academic as far as I’m concerned. There’s no way to film The Sparrow without destroying it, so no matter who they cast, I wouldn’t want to see it.

      • I’m actually fond of Pedro Pascal for the role these days. But you’re right. I don’t think it can be filmed either. As it happens, Mary Doria Russell agrees! She’s withdrawn all rights from all film companies.

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