Top Ten Tuesday: Winter Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

So, today I chose Winter Holiday Books because I can’t wait for winter to arrive: it means Christmas, holidays, the streets decortaed with wonderful lights, people wearing gloves, hats and scarves. I love it! But winter is also a great time of the year to curl up with a hot chocolate and a good blanket to watch an old movie and read. That is the perfect evening for me. Here we go: Top Ten Winter Holiday Books.

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.- I read it two Christmas ago and I loved it.

2. Elegy for April by Benjamin Black.- The story takes place in a cold winter in 1950′s Ireland. A classic detective book.

3. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.- The perfect book for any time of the year, but it is long and so good that needs long evenings with a blanket.

4. When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson.- The story takes place in the last weeks of November and the first ones of December. I highly recommend reading it during those weeks too: sharing the time of the year with the characters is a wonderful experience.

5. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.- This is a cozy reading, perfect for those late evenings when you arrive home feeling cold, tired and just need to get in bed and take a deep breath. This book will help.

6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.- A classic! Cozy, adorable and a very well-known work.

7. Howards End by E.M Forster.- The book is amazing, but it also has a wonderful adaptation directed by James Ivory. Both the book and the movie make great choices for a cold day at home. I highly recommend both.

8. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.- It is an eerie, haunting story. Got some candles?

9. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.- This is a book about people who love literature, to read, to buy books, open them, smell the pages etc. Perfect to get into a more even bookish mood before Christmas.

10. Lamb by Christopher Moore.- Moore revisits Jesus’ life from the point of view of his childhood bestfriend. I tell you, this is Jesus you’ve never heard of before and you’ll love.

Review: The Forgotten Garden

I bought The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton two years ago and although I read until page 230, I gave up. There was something in the story that failed to catch my attention and I found the pace too slow. A month ago, too intrigued by The Distant Hours, also by Kate Morton, I decided to ask the publisher for the book, but silly me, I got the titles mixed up and ended up asking for The Forgotten Garden. So, after all, I decided to give it another try and I could not be happier I did.

From Book Depository:

A lost child …On the eve of the First World War, a little girl is found abandoned on a ship to Australia. A mysterious woman called the Authoress had promised to look after her –but has disappeared without a trace.

A terrible secret …On the night of her twenty-first birthday, Nell Andrews learns a secret that will change her life forever. Decades later, she embarks upon a search for the truth that leads her to the windswept Cornish coast and the strange and beautiful Blackhurst Manor, once owned by the aristocratic Mountrachet family.

A mysterious inheritance …On Nell’s death, her granddaughter, Cassandra, comes into an unexpected inheritance. Cliff Cottage and its forgotten garden are notorious amongst the Cornish locals for the secrets they hold — secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family and their ward Eliza Makepeace, a writer of dark Victorian fairytales. It is here that Cassandra will finally uncover the truth about the family, and solve the century-old mystery of a little girl lost.

First of all, I love that the story is narrated from three different points of view and times: the beginning of the 20th century, 1975 and 2005. It helps to build a much more complex story, where the reader needs to keep active and keep track of names, places and relationships. At first, I thought The Forgotten Garden was not a demanding story, but I was wrong: I found myself drawing a genealogical tree that I did have to look at a few times. And, not only is the story complex but so are the characters: three women that represent three very different times in the 20th century. I especially loved the 1900′s plot through a child’s eyes and I think Downton Abbey fans out there will too. If I miss something on the series it is a child’s point of view on the decadence of 19th century morals and manners and the tight social customs.

There is a clear intertextuality with other gothic stories, especially Jane Eyre and Rebecca, probably due to the Kate Morton’s special interest on the field: she is pursuing a PhD on the influence of the gothic genre on modern literature and I think her works are the perfect example of that influence. I appreciated the references, but at the same time, I could not but find Morton’s gothic a little bland compared to the original works. Instead of feeling scared, I felt sadness: for me, it was more Dickens’ social preoccupation with children than Brontë’s emotion. After all, Morton is a mother of two.

From a more academic point of view, I would label The Forgotten Garden a postmodernist work, highly influenced by 19th century narrative. The book has different points of view and interpretations because one can never offer a complete view on the matter, all three views complementing each other and enriching each other, just like families do. Past, present and future mix, never being what they seem (what was the present for my grandmother, is my past now) and helping to construct us as the always-chaning person we are.

Finally, the story is so realistic that after finishing the book, I decided to google the name of two the main characters that I thought could have definitely been real people. If you have read the book, I would love to know what you think of this!

So, I recommend The Forgotten Garden to every fan of gothic, 19th century fiction or Kate Morton’s books. However, do not try to rush into the story, let it caught you, little by little. This is a long book that deserves time to really get to know the characters and their lives.

You can learn more about The Forgotten Garden:

Kate Morton’s official website - Complete with her thoughts on the book and reading group questions.

Video: Kate Morton talking about the book.

Video: Kate on writing. In case you find Morton’s narrative as cozy and inspirational as I do.

Best Books of 2011

2011 has been a great reading year for me. I tend to take into account the quality of what I read and not the number of books I read. Sometimes, a single book can change your life in ways that fifty other books did not. So, I am happy to say that I read books that reminded me of how much I love sitting on my bed, with a blankett and a good book. Or how it can help me to read a few chapters of a book I love to keep on working on those awfully boring papers for school.

Here you have, Books and Reviews’ best books of 2011!

Lamb (Christopher Moore) 4,5/5 - A humoristic re-writing of Jesus Christ’ life narrated by his childhood bestfriend who accompanied him until her death. Sweet and funny, incredibly full of values to live your life by. Review here.

Alias Grace (Margaret Atwood) 4,5/5 – What can I say about Margaret Atwood? I simply adore everything she writes. This book was a journey into a 19th century woman’s mind and how she managed being accused of murder. Review here.

Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier) 4/5 – A Classic. It was dark, thrilling, and very psychological, in every sense of the word you can imagine. You can read my review here.

The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown) 4,5/5 – A book I bought for light reading and loved so much as to want to re-read it. The Andrea sisters just reminded me how much I love books: from the font, to the quiality of the paper or the design of the cover. A must read. Also, the author was kind enough to let me interview here. You can read my review here and the interview here.

When Will there be Good News? (Kate Atkinson) 4/5 – Everyone kept insisting on how wonderful Kate Atkinson is and I did not belive them. Shame.on.me. She is as wonderful as an English female author of detective fiction can get, which is awesome. Review here.

The Dinosaur Feather (Sisel Jo Gazan) 4,5/5 – A crime novel set on a college and with the incredible combination of dinosaurs, academics and a thesis. Simply perfect! Review here.

Two of my passions: reading and bunnies.

I am incredibly proud of myself for having reviewed all these books that I loved so much. I wanted to share them with all of you and, hopefully, having helped you to discover new titles. But, the best part, is that we got to share opinions.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and 2012 is full of happiness, health, love, projects and books for all of you. Thanks for visiting Books and Reviews and a especial thanks to those who took time to comment, enriching the blog and fulfilling its mission: spread the literary love.

30 Day Book Meme – Day 17

Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy                                                                                          Day 06 – A book that makes you sad                                                                                                 Day 07 – Most underrated book                                                                                                        Day 08 – Most overrated book                                                                                                            Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving                                                                                                                                                      Day 10 – Favorite classic book                                                                                                            Day 11 – A book you hated                                                                                                                     Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore                                                                     Day 13 – Your favorite writer                                                                                                                 Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer                                                                                 Day 15 – Favorite male character                                                                                                         Day 16 – Favorite female character                                                                                                    Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book I don’t really have A favourite book. I think a 19th century novel cannot be compared to a postmodern novel or a graphic novel. Also, I’m not good at memorizing quotes: they are terribly meaningful when I read them, but then I forget. However, this one always sticks with me:

“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.” – Dr. Watson, A Scandhal in Bohemia (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Then, doing some reserach I googled my favourite books and found the following quotes:

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”- Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”- Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

“Life’s a nasty habit”- Bean from The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown)

“Go and see what might be. Before it’s too late” – The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown)

“How old were you when you first realized your parents were human?” – The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown)

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” – Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)

“They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word.” – Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)

 

Rebecca

Rebecca has been in my TBR list for a long time now. I never watched the movie, so all I knew about the plot was basically mistaken (my mom told me Rebecca was locked in a room, I think she was thinking about Jane Eyre). However, I enjoyed this book more than I though I would!

4/5

Summary from BookDepository:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again …Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers …Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

The first chapters were a little bit slow, but as soon as the nameless narrator marries Mr. de Winter, Manderley becomes her rival both as the other and as a stronger character. Her constant doubts and fears seemed a little bit tiring but never boring: I knew she was terrified and almost on the verge of tears every now and then. Also, due to a horrible and luckily quick, teenage personal experience, I could relate to fighting the other and struggling to find my own place.  So, the plot focuses on the narrator’s feelings and struggles which fit the Gothic and typically Romantic atmosphere of Manderley. Her fears are also highlighted by the presence of Mrs. Danvers, the house maid who became the most famous character of the novel thanks to Hitchcock’s adaptation of the novel.

My edition also had a post-word, very academic, by Sally Beauman in which she explains the whole novel. What I liked the most about it, was her highlighting Manderley as male character (Man-derley) but also a typically male setting where the female narrator could not feel at home. Beauman also paid attention to Mr. de Winter and how he embodies the perfect emotional manipulator and even batterer. Even nowadays the world if full of Mr. de Winters socially respected but abussive of their wives at home.

Also, I would like to point out that I felt attracted to the character of Rebecca more than to any other character in the novel. She is far more interesting (and strong, heroic and emotionally disturbed) than the narrator and I wished I got to know her. The perfect hostess, the perfect actress who managed to live the life she wante to, at that time: that of a man.

To sum up, Rebecca was a great book. It took me one week to get through it despite how addicted I was to it… I will only read one more chapter. It also reminded me how much I love Gothic and Romantic novels and psychological thrillers. But what I loved the most was the presence of the other, how haunting memories can become and how hard to fight. Just wonderful.