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Friday read: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is a book I seem to know a lot about without having actually read it.

Like many people, I know the opening line, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ I know about some of the characters. Mrs Danvers springs to mind. I’m aware of its popularity and focus on the gothic, but I’ve never actually read it.

That’s about to change. Rebecca is one of the set texts on my twentieth century literature module. I’ve made a start reading it today.

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Friday read

My book room is getting out of control. It’s not a big room at all. There are three bookcases, a desk, and piles and piles of books. Last night, I heard a crash. One of the piles of books had taken a tumble.

I raced in to rescue my beloved books. I wouldn’t want them getting creased, or dog-eared or worse still, torn. I piled them back up, and while I was rearranging them, I spotted this.

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Ours are the Streets is Sunjeev Sahota’s first novel. I met him last year at Sheffield’s Off the Shelf Festival. I loved his writing so much I bought both his books. He signed them for me, and I returned home and placed them on one of my many ‘to read’ piles. Between then and now they have both been lost. I knew they were somewhere in the deep, dark, depths of my reading room, but I couldn’t say exactly where.

What a shame to have forgotten about this book. I read the blurb. I read the first page. I decided to make this my Friday read.

“Imtiaz Raina leaves England for the first time ever when he buries his father on family land near Lahore. It is the beginning of a journey that takes him far from his young wife and daughter in Sheffield and deep into the mountains of Kashmir and Afghanistan. He returns a changed man. This is his story.”

My next challenge will be to tidy my reading room and locate Sahota’s second novel.

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Friday read – Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary is the story of Emma Bovary, a woman who struggles to cope with the monotony of provincial life. Emma dreams of a better, more sophisticated and cosmopolitan existence, but is powerless to change things.

Married to a man who irritates and bores her, Emma seeks romance through a series of affairs. She lives her life through literature, developing an idealised view of romance. It’s an ideal that can never be realised, and Emma sinks into depression as she realises that she cannot fulfil her desires.

First published in 1857, Madame Bovary is an attack Continue reading

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Friday read

I’m very excited about this week’s Friday read. It’s a Costa Book Awards winner and Waterstones Book Club recommendation.

I’ve heard very good things about it.

On Wednesday, my Mum and I had an afternoon together, which involved drinking tea, eating scones and book shopping (of course). When I asked the bookseller to recommend a book, she didn’t hesitate in taking this one from the shelf. Continue reading

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Friday read – The Woman in White

‘There…stood the figure of a solitary woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments; her face bent in grave inquiry on mine, her hand pointing to the dark cloud over London, as I faced her.’

This weekend I’m re-reading Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. It’s part of my university degree module.

Woman in White

The essay I’m working on asks students to compare and contrast the techniques by which two novels (The Woman in White, and Madame Bovary) construct what might be described as ‘portraits’ of their leading female characters.

In The Woman in White, Walter Hartright has a mysterious midnight encounter with a strange woman. The meeting draws him into a vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.

Collins presents a variety of first person narratives through a series of letters. The good thing is that the letters are all stylistically different, to reflect the voice of each character.

At 643 pages The Woman in White is certainly not a quick read, but its style, characters and themes make it an interesting read. The first time I read the book, I got through it much quicker than I expected. I’m hoping a second reading will allow me to focus on the themes, ideas and characters, so I have a much deeper understanding.

What are you reading this weekend?

 

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Friday read

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald is my read for this weekend. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while. Helen is speaking at the Sheffield Off the Shelf festival next week, so I’m keen to read it before the event. The blurb is below.

HawkAs a child, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer, learning the arcane terminology and reading all the classic books. Years later, when her father died and she was struck deeply by grief, she became obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She bought Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and took her home to Cambridge, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals.

H is for Hawk is an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald’s struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk’s taming and her own untaming. This is a book about memory, nature and nation, and how it might be possible to reconcile death with life and love.

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Nightwalking – a nocturnal history of London

This week’s book purchase is Matthew Beaumont’s Nightwalking – a nocturnal history of London.

Night walking

VersoBooks.com

Nightwalking is a literary portrait of the writers who explore the city at night, and the people they met. It’s a big book – 484 pages in a lovely hardback. The picture does not do it justice. It’s wonderful.

Unlike last week’s book purchases which were a treat, this book was completely necessary. As soon as I read a review in the press I knew it would be extremely valuable as part of my MA research into writing and creativity.

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VersoBooks.com

‘I need it,’ I told Chris. ‘It’s about writers who walk. It’s about writers who walk in the dark in the city. It’s an essential item. I need it.’

Chris nodded and pulled his how are we possibly going to get more books into the house face.

‘It will really help my MA,’ I added. ‘It couldn’t be more relevant.’

On the way to the bookshop I talked about my project and how I’ve started to think about the influence setting has on writers, and how I’m looking at writers who walk in the country and those who walk in the city. I’ve also been thinking about walking or running in daylight or darkness and how this affects my own writing. Chris has heard it all before, of course, but I couldn’t stop wittering on.

‘It’s like it was written just for me!’

I was getting excited. A new book. A hardback. A book to help with my MA research.

‘It’s a beast of a book,’ Chris said flicking through the pages. He seemed more drawn to it than any other book I’ve bought before. He started reading some of the pages. ‘It looks really interesting,’ he said. ‘I’ll read it when you’re finished.’

‘What do you like about it?’ I said wanting to spark a conversation about writers roaming the city streets after dark and how the nocturnal city has inspired some and served as a balm or narcotic to others. And how the city is revealed as a place divided between work and pleasure, the affluent and the indigent, where the entitled and the desperate jostle in the streets.

Chris closed the book and handed it to me.

‘It looks like a good book,’ he said.

London's Theatre Land Taken At Night

London’s Theatre Land Taken At Night VersoBooks.com