My favourite person of the female sex (never let it be said that am not keeping up with the world in terms of political correctness) will be turning 18 next September. Over recent months she has started tackling some of the heavyweights like “Lolita” and “The Age of Innocence” with great gusto, and as such a book lover myself this has clearly been manna to my proverbial ears. I took to thinking about a friend’s brilliant story some time back about everyone being invited to offer their own all-time favourite book to her daughter as she turned 18, or was it 21, and remembering being all ears again to know which authors and which books had come flying through the postbox.
So as a variation on a theme, decided this Christmas to place a grand total of nine individually wrapped books under the tree for Daisy. Nine now, and one every month over the next 9 months, so that by the time her 18th birthday arrives she will have received one beautiful novel per year to start her “adult” collection.
It’s been a lot of fun picking the titles. How do you choose under twenty books and single them out as Absolute Must Haves to start a library of a lifetime? In the end I plumped for the top ten to all have women in the starring role, and seven of them have ended up being penned by females, to boot. Here’s the lowdown so far :
1 “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy – the great unsung heroine, and THAT scene with the letter slipped under the doormat;
2 “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte – unfettered nature and unchecked insanity on the moors, la grande passion as it should always be, the tapping on the windowsill… ;
3 “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert – beware domestic bliss! Overjoyed and misty-eyed still about picking up a two-volume edition from the little antique Jousseaume bookshop in the Galerie Vivienne;
4 “Emma” by Jane Austen – maybe Daisy will bristle with indignation at the depiction of the misled heroine, but oh! the depiction of the vicar’s wife – and all those clues strewn along the way! ;
5 “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy – Vronksy’s swirling moustache and Anna’s iconic fur hat and collar – and the first ever memorable BBC adaptation seen at probably Daisy’s age with the unforgettable Nicola Pagett;
6 “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen – Kate Atkinson’s favourite book so that’s automatically good for me;
7 “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte – probably the book that resonated the most growing up: the concept of good deeds being recognised in the long run (but resulting in marrying the local squire? maybe I’d sprinkle salt on that these days…);
8 “Middlemarch” by George Eliot – having only come to this myself this past year, hoping many more years of pleasure will be had by perhaps coming to it earlier;
9 “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott – will never, ever forget reading this out loud to the Offspring one balmy summer when Daisy was about six or seven – and her stopping me when Beth first falls ill. It was all too much to bear. Even spoiling the story by saying she was going to get better (well, in book one at least) didn’t help, and so it was put on one side for the forseeable. I think that was one of the moments when the power of fiction really hit home.
So bring it on. Happy holidays to one and all and here’s to centuries of wonderful books ahead.