Monday, 7 March 2011

My Life in Books

I have been watching a few episodes in the short BBC2 series 'My Life in Books', where people in the public eye have been asked to choose five books - one children's book, one 'guilty pleasure', and three others. They also have to say what their choices say about them. There have been some interesting combinations of people interviewed, such as Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and Sister Wendy Beckett (my favourite of the programmes I saw, actually). This got me thinking, what would I choose? I must say that this was one of the most difficult choices as I have so many favourite books. If it had been top 100, or even top 50, it would have been much easier. No Dickens, no Cold Comfort Farm, no The Moonstone, no Wives and Daughters, no A Traveller in Time and only one Jane Austen - but I am reasonably pleased with my final choice. Here they are:

Children's book: The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston

I first read this when I was about eight or nine and I loved it. I still read it every year, around Christmas. It is the story of Tolly, who comes to stay with his Great Granny at Green Knowe, and discovers that the house has other occupants from previous generations. There is a curse on a large yew tree in the garden and he has a very exciting time sorting everything out!

Persuasion by Jane Austen

This is my favourite of Jane Austen's novels. It has a wonderfully autumnal feel and tells the story of Anne Elliott, an unmarried middle daughter who previously fell in love with Frederick Wentworth, only to be persuaded that he had no prospects, so she declined his proposal. Several years later, he returns, a Captain in the Navy with lots of money, and Anne (who has remained in love with him) realises that her chance of happiness may have gone forever. The story is beautifully written, with wonderful characters, and I really empathised with Anne throughout.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This book kept me absolutely engrossed and I often re-read it, despite knowing what happens. It is a convoluted story told by different characters and contains blackmail, mistaken identities, love, murder, and one of the most evil (but charming) villains ever to appear in print, Count Fosco. The heroine, Marian, is an amazing woman who is described as ugly which immediately grabbed my interest, as an ugly heroine is extremely unusual. She is wonderfully clever and a match for Fosco. The ending is satisfactory, with everything explained, but it is not altogether happy.

The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift

Beautiful prose, written over fourteen years and based around the forming of a garden is how this book can be described, but it is so much more. The author writes about geography, geology, astronomy, astrology, county lore, gardening, country people, the seasons, her own family history and at the heart of the book is her creation of a garden. It is a book that you need to read slowly, without distractions, to savour each bit of it. I have read it twice now and will continue to read it for the rest of my life, I think.

Guilty Pleasure: The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

This is a children's book really, but it is one I still enjoy reading. It has a 13 year old heroine called Maria, who goes to stay with her cousin, Sir Benjamin Merryweather. Gradually she realises that she has got to sort out some very ancient history and if she doesn't, she will have to leave the valley and never return. It has magical and supernatural elements and Maria is a strong-willed and determined young lady. Does she sort everything out? You'll have to read the book!

What do my choices say about me? I think they show that I am a romantic person who likes a satisfactory ending - not always happy, because life isn't like that, but with all the ends tied up. I also love stories I can escape into and leave the world behind. There is also a bit of a supernatural element to some of the books I have chosen, which really surprised me, as I have a really vivid imagination and don't like horror films or ghost stories usually. I found this a really interesting thing to do - what are your five favourites?

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