Clichés abound : “the first step in a thousand miles” …

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.

Image taken from here, here, here and here.
This entry was posted in Book Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Clichés abound : “the first step in a thousand miles” …

  1. When I turned 18, my aunt gave me a wonderful collection of paperbacks, including ‘The Secret History’ and ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’. I still remember the magical moment when I saw this huge pile of books waiting for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Julie says:

    A gorgeous idea and one which will be very much appreciated. Bravo. And I bet you had the best fun of all trying to narrow down the choices.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely idea! I was around Daisy’s age when I first read my favourite novel of all time – Middlemarch. I hope she loves it as much as I did on reading it that first time! I envy her that experience 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Denise says:

    How about that classic I capture the Castle? I think that voice is one that’s been echoed in several books I’ve read since. The Bell Jar would be another with atmospheric memories from my adolescence, and also To the Lighthouse or Orlando or Mrs Dalloway.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a lovely idea. I’d read and loved Eliot, Hardy and Austen by that age, and there are so many other books – Anna Karenina is the fist that comes to mind – that I wish I’d read younger so that I could re-read and see how my understanding and my sympathies changed over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sally Bentley says:

    Sophie has read them all except “Tess…” we might have to purchase next time we are in London! – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- is what she recommends … xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Need to get onto A T G I B – neither of us have read that. Thanks so much for the suggestion – wow that is impressive that Sophie has read all these books, truly. Tess is a cracker – very melodramatic but absolutely brillant I think xxx


  7. alison41 says:

    What a wonderful idea. Your daughter is lucky to have a Literary Mum. In my old age I’m still catching up with the Classics – some of them. Target for 2016 is to read “Middlemarch”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a great thing, I love it even more than she does, possibly. We were out and about this afternoon and bought another one together to be put on one side for the collection – it’s going to be tough to keep it to 18 for the time being…
      I hope you do get to Middlemarch this year, I had had a go many years back and abandoned it but so enjoyed reading it part way through this year, better late eh… Joining the Classics challenge is hopefully going to be a very good thing in pushing me to pick up more of the classics I’ve just never managed to date.
      Happy New Year, Alison!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Monique says:

    What a lovely idea Nicola! was thinking shamefully only recently that I have not been good on giving books to my daughter, so maybe will aim at her 20th birthday to start the collection?? very hard to get her to read in her mother tongue (??) as she is more into Scott Fitzgerald or Jane Austen than on the French classics…although we live on rue Gustave Flaubert and have “L’éducation Sentimentale” at home! will have to think about my list…Enjoy the year end and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a good idea 🙂 Shamefully, I have only read Madame Bovary and Pride and Prejudice from your list! I would like to include 20th century coming-of-age classics like I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are the second person after Denise to specifically mention ICTC – I think I need to revisit this one as was a bit underwhelmed when I read it a long time ago (although remember the narrator finding herself somewhere and downing a drink only to find she didn’t have her purse – now that really resonated!). May follow in your literary footsteps and include a little choice re-reading in 2016…. thanks v much for the suggestion. x


  10. A.M.B. says:

    What a lovely idea! Your selections are wonderful. You’ve included so many of the novels I loved as a teenager (and still love today).

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s