February 8: Love Freebie (come up with your own topic having to do with love)
Teenage Fran was obsessed with forbidden love. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Abelard and Heloise, Lancelot and Guinevere… These were my people! Here are some retellings of their stories that I’ve read over the years. Some are more recent, but some are things I read a long time ago, so I don’t know how they’d hold up:
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong– This was a recent read. It was billed as a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but I’d call it more “Romeo and Juliet inspired” with a number of references throughout. It’s set amidst organized crime wars, and the presence of a monster in 1920’s Shanghai. Actually in looking back on it, thing that jumps to mind is just how apt the title is: it’s a violent book.
O Juliet by Robin Maxwell – Juliet is an 18 year old Florentine. She’s the daughter of Capello Capelletti, a businessman who has promised her in marriage to his (horrible) partner, Jacopo Strozzi. At an engagement party for her BFF Lucrezia Tornabuoni, Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, who came to the party hoping to smooth over the long standing feud between their two families. What I remember most about this is that Juliet is an aspiring poet, and we read some of her work. The problem is that this Juliet is writing about the same things that Shakespeare wrote in the original, and as a poet, Shakespeare is a tough act to follow!
Juliet by Anne Fortier – Julie Jacobs inherits a key to a safe deposit box in Siena, Italy. She’s thrust into a dangerous treasure hunt that involves her ancestor Giulietta. Giulietta’s love for a young man named Romeo inspired Shakespeare’s work. As she looks into the real life enmity the families of Romeo and Giulietta, she realizes that there is still “a plague on both your houses…”
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – Hey, if Pride and Prejudice can add zombies, so can Romeo and Juliet! R is a zombie. He and his friend M spend most of their time shuffling around and eating brains. But when R eats a brain, he gets a bit of that person’s memory. So when he eats the brain of zombie-killer Perry, he sees Perry’s memories of his beloved Julie. For some inexplicable reason, R doesn’t want to eat Julie. He cares for her… Here instead of feuding families we have zombies vs. humans. The Romeo and Juliet parallels sort of come and go here, but it’s not meant to be a “serious” retelling by any means. There’s a whole series, but I only read the first one. Not great, but fun.
Queen of Camelot by Nancy McKenzie – I don’t know how well this book would hold up to a reread, but there was a time when younger me could hardly put it down. It’s Guinevere’s story (with plenty of love triangle drama with Arthur and Lancelot, which is what technically earned it a place on this list) but one thing that stands out in memory is the multi-faceted portrayal of Mordred, who is often vilified.
Prince of Dreams: A Tale of Tristan and Essylte by Nancy McKenzie – This is set about a generation after the events of Queen of Camelot. There’s actually a book, called Grail Prince, that bridges this one and that. But regardless, the alliances of Arthur’s time are fracturing. Tristan supports his uncle, Markion’s claim to throne of the High King. But when Markion sends Tristan as an agent to fetch his new bride, Essylte, they fall madly and passionately in love, risking everything they have, everything and everyone around them.
Castle D’Or – This retelling of the Tristan and Islode story is set in modern (well modern circa early 20th century…) times by Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (Q). It was finished many years later, by his daughter, Daphne DuMaurier. It’s set in Cornwall, and involves an innkeeper’s wife and a Breton onion seller. I read this one a long time ago, and don’t remember much of it.
The White Raven by Diana L. Paxon – This tells the love story of Drustan and Esseilte (Tristan and Isolde) from the point of view of Drustan and Esseilte’s handmaiden, Brangien (otherwise known in legend and Branwen). Brangien is Esseilte/Isolde’s cousin who takes her place on Isolde’s wedding night to King Marc’h. Of course Brangien falls in love with Marc’h, thus adding another limb to the love triangle.
I’ve always loved Halloween. As a kid, I was hardly alone in that love. With it’s custom blend of fantasy, make-believe, and candy, it’s a holiday that seems tailor made for the young.
But I took it more seriously than most kids. I started planning costumes months in advance (literally, months- I would come up with costume ideas all year round and then have to wait until Halloween to use them). Then, around mid-September I’d start thinking about the logistics of costumes. For example, the year I tried to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid I was presented with several problems. One was that I would have to walk around in a more modest version of Ariel’s shell bra. Even though the costume had significantly more coverage than the movie version did, my parents didn’t think it wise for me to walk around with no sleeves and a bare midriff on a chilly October evening. That was solved by a flesh colored shirt worn underneath. But then came the challenge of walking around in fins. My tail had an opening at the bottom for my legs, but it wasn’t wide enough for me to take more than mini-steps, so it had to be expanded slightly. Such alterations and decisions required a lot of time and thought.
My Halloween seriousness wasn’t just limited to costumes. I used to plan my trick-or-treating route. I knew what houses had the best candy, and where to go for “filler” items. I knew there was a limited amount of time for trick-or-treating: eventually my mom would say it’s getting late and we should go home. So I wanted to hit the best houses in the shortest amount of time. In between, of course, I’d stop at all the other houses. I wasn’t one to turn up my nose at any candy!
But like all children, I eventually grew up. I didn’t grow out of Halloween though. I’m not much of a party girl, and since my friends in college weren’t big party animals either, we’d rent a bunch of Halloweeny movies, stock up on candy and make it a movie night. It was more fun then it sounds. So I’ve sort of maintained the tradition into adulthood. It’s not as much fun as it was in college, since I don’t usually have a group of friends who can easily come over and join me (one of the advantages of dorm living is that everyone is a few doors away!) and I’m more health conscious so I don’t let myself have quite so much candy.
I do save seasonal films to see, books to read and TV shows to binge. Here’s some recommended Halloween media. Just note that while I like “spooky” and “creepy”: I’m not a fan of horror per se. I don’t like blood and guts. I also (for the most part) left off stuff that’s aimed primarily at kids. There’s some good stuff there, but it’s a whole nother list!
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury– This is a very seasonally appropriate book. It feels like fall. Actually I think I’d call the story more “dark fantasy” than “horror.” But I suppose it depends on one’s scare threshold. I have some issues with the florid writing in this one. It’s appropriate in some places, but in others I think it slows things down. Still definitely worth reading though.
The Other by Thomas Tryon– I didn’t like this one at first but by midpoint it was hard to put down! Some of the twists I saw coming but others took me by surprise. Tryon’s novel Harvest Home is also Halloweeny, but I didn’t like it as much.
The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski- This is a haunted house story meets psychological thriller that takes place over several layers and incorporates different forms of text within a text. I didn’t include music on this list, but the author’s sister is singer-songwriter, Poe, who put out an album called Haunted that contained several songs connected to/about the novel.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl- Like The House of Leaves, this book plays with form. It incorporates photographs, documents, and there’s an app you can download to access bonus content. But more importantly, it tells a creepily compelling story with elements of murder mystery and supernatural.
Ghost Story by Peter Straub– Just what it sounds like! It has one of my favorite ghost story beginnings: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” “I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me—the most dreadful thing . . .”
The Haunting of Hill House– This Netflix miniseries is inspired by Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, but it’s not really an adaptation.
The Haunting of Bly Manor- This miniseries was the work of the same team as the above, but deals with a different story and characters. This one is inspired by Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, but again it’s not an adaptation per se. I didn’t care for the team’s third outing, Midnight Mass (perhaps because it’s doesn’t have a clear literary inspiration?)
Locke and Key– This series is based on a series of graphic novels which I haven’t read. Apparently they’re darker than the Netflix series. In TV form this plays sort of like Narnia meets The Haunting of Hill House. It’s fun, a little creepy, but nothing too intense. I didn’t like the second season as much as I liked the first, but it was still fun.
Being Human (UK) This show about a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf who live together, was a total guilty pleasure for me. I didn’t particularly care for the American version though.
A Discovery of Witches- This is another TV series is based on a book series (also fun) that blends supernatural creatures. The biggies in this one are vampires, witches and demons, but there’s also some other weirdness.
Salem– This is sort of semi-inspired by the idea of the Salem witch hunts, but that’s about all it has in common with reality. There are plenty of witches, demons, and supernatural creatures here.
Sleepy Hollow– The classic legend gets the Tim Burton treatment. It’s just a fun movie.
The Woman in Black – Based on the book listed above. The 2012 film is good, but if you can find the lesser known 1989 film, I like that better. But I only saw that one once, a long time ago.
Poltergeist– I saw this movie for the first time when I was about 9 years old (don’t know how that happened) but needless to say it terrified me. I saw it again a few years ago. I found it less terrifying, but otherwise it holds up pretty well.
Workouts Yes this is sort of an unexpected category, but I saw a few fun Halloween workouts out there, so I figured “why not?”
I did one of these a long time ago. I started trying to think of another ten literary guys I love, but then I started thinking about the guys who are usually cited as literary crushes, who just don’t appeal to me. In most cases I still root for them and their love interests in the context of the book (though there are one or two exceptions to that as well) but they’re just not for me. Just a warning there may be some spoilers here:
Laurie from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- I don’t dislike him, but I definitely think Jo made the right call turning him down. Even at the end of the book, when he’s matured, I still feel like he’s kind of childish. That can be endearing, but it’s not what I’d choose for a partner.
Maxim DeWinter from Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- Yes the handsome millionaire would catch my attention. But he’s emotionally closed off from the get go, and learning that he killed his first wife wouldn’t make me more attracted to him (in spite of the fact that it seems to do for his second wife…)
August 24: Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time
1. The Secret History by Donna Tartt– I wish I could read this again and not know what was coming. At the same time I’m really glad I read this for the first time when I did, because my high school English class was reading Crime and Punishment at the time. There are a lot of parallels and I appreciated the enriched experience in that way. I think it would hold up well to a reread though. I just wish I could recreate that experience of finding those parallels and getting excited.
2. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Last year I reread this with a book club and I found myself really jealous of the members who were reading it for the first time and didn’t know what twists and turns lay ahead.
3. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie- The first time I read this I tried to read it as a detective and figure out whodunnit as I read. I wasn’t right, but I tried! I think I’d like the experience of reading it as more of a reader and going along with the story without trying to be two steps ahead.
4. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield– I remember staying up late into the night with this one, and feeling the thrill of surprise as the story unfolded. Those reading experiences are wonderful and rare.
5. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– This one had a slowly building sense of dread as I realized what was happening. At the same time I kept hoping that I’d be proven wrong. That sense of building tension without a “reveal” (rather a gradual unfolding) is not something I encounter often.
6. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters -I read this book for the first time while I was on a train. At one point I got to a plot twist and I literally shouted, “Holy crap!” Out loud. It’s a rare book that makes me embarrass myself on public transportation.
7. The Other by Thomas Tryon- There was one twist in this book that I felt was really obvious. Once it was revealed, I felt like I was very smart, I’d figured the book out, and it was going to be disappointing. Little did I know there were other turns ahead! I think the initial twist as a sort of misdirection, so the reader wasn’t on the lookout anymore.
8. A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara- This one didn’t have any huge surprises in it, but I became so invested in these characters, for better or for worse (and often it was for worse.) I was legitimately worried about them it was a wonderful and stressful experience. I think it would hold up to rereads, though, because I know what’s coming for the characters and I can focus on other things without worrying about them so much. Just a note: I’m always hesitant to recommend this one without including a content warning, because some of the content is very difficult.
9. East of Eden by John Steinbeck -I honestly think I was too young for this the first time I read it. It’s on my to be reread list, and I think I’ll get a lot more out of it a second time, but I wish I was coming to it fresh.
June 29: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2021
But rather than make yet another TBR, I got to thinking: since people are starting to travel again, what are some good books set in hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and other travel lodgings? And if you still can’t travel IRL, you can do it vicariously with these books. Hotels are great settings because you get all kinds of people, each with their own stories, all in the same place at the same time. I tried to keep it pretty varied.
The Shining by Stephen King– This is a hotel you probably won’t want to stay in! When Jack Torrence gets a job as the caretaker at Overlook Hotel, the recovering alcoholic sees it as a fresh start for himself, his wife, and their son. But the idyllic location is remote and cut off from the rest of the world, particularly during the harsh winter. And the Overlook is home to something dark, something that threatens both Jack’s mind and his family’s safety.
A Room with A View by EM Forester– While traveling in Italy with her aunt, Charlotte, Lucy Honeychurch meets George and his father, who kindly offer to switch hotel rooms with Lucy and Charlotte, as their room has a view. Charlotte refuses this offer out of snobbery. But Lucy finds herself drawn to George. She’s headstrong and bright, and pushing against the ties of her upper class British upbringing, but she can’t quite bring herself to sever those ties. When the characters return to England, where Lucy and George’s paths soon cross again.
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving- In the mid 1950’s, Win decides to buy and convert and old school into a hotel. His family comes along for the ride and the challenges of helping to run, and live in a hotel bring out different aspects of his children’s personalities. When an old friend offers Win the chance to operate an Austrian hotel, he sells his first hotel, and moves the family to Austria. Several years later the family moves to NYC. Along their travels they encounter a number of eccentric characters and situations, but they’re probably the most eccentric of all in their own unique ways.
Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier– After losing her parents, Mary Yellan moves to north Cornwall, to live with her aunt Prudence and Prudence’s husband, Joss Merlyn, who operates the titular inn. Soon Mary comes to suspect that something criminal is happening at the inn. She finds herself drawn into dangerous situations, and falls in love with a man she doesn’t trust, before she discovers a secret even darker than she’d anticipated.
Eloise by Kay Thompson– Eloise is a precocious child, living in the Plaza Hotel. “Getting bored is not allowed” so Eloise fills her days with various (self assigned) jobs and adventures. It’s a great look at the world of a child who turns a luxury hotel upside down. When I was a little kid I wanted to be Eloise!
Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner – This one about Edith Hope who writes romance novels under a different name. But when she realizes her life is looking like the plot of one of her novels (and not in a good way!) she escapes to the quiet luxury of the titular Swiss hotel. But the hotel’s other guests all seem to come with their own drama.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James This is a pretty decent ghost story/mystery. In 1982 upstate NY, Viv takes a job as a clerk at the titular motel. But something creepy is happening there. In 2017, Carly has heard all about her aunt Viv, who disappeared from the Sun Down Motel before she was born. Unable to let the story go, she moves to Fell, NY and gets a job at the motel. She learns that a lot of things there are still the same, including the things that may have cost Viv her life. The story is told in alternating chapters between the two time periods, but it all comes together at the end.
The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis In 1945 actresses Hazel and Maxine meet on a USO tour of Italy. Five years later, they reunite. Hazel is working as a playwright now and Maxine is cast in the lead role of her play. Both are living in the Chelsea Hotel, which a number of artists of various kinds call home. But as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare gains momentum, both Hazel and Maxine and the other artistic residents of the Chelsea find themselves under suspicion. Lies, espionage, betrayal and more abound.
The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell Sophie wants to put her messy past behind her in St. Carys. When Josh arrives in the idyllic seaside town to run his family’s hotel, he’s taken aback by Sophie’s lack of interest in him (women are usually very interested in him). But there are other dramas happening. Josh is tricked into hiring Sophie’s friend, Tula who seems to have a crush on him that’s unrequited. Meanwhile, someone else has a thing for Tula. And things get more complicated from there… This is frothy fun set in a seaside hotel.
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye – Alice “Nobody” James is a gun moll who arrives in Portland, Oregon in 1921 escaping a violent past. Her newly acquired travelling companion, Max, brings her to the Paragon Hotel to be treated for a bullet wound. The segregated city’s only all black hotel may be an unlikely hiding place, but it has the advantage of a doctor who doesn’t ask too many questions. As she recovers, Nobody is drawn into the lives of the hotel’s residents, especially Blossom, a secretive chanteuse, and Davy a lovable mixed race orphan who is cared for by the hotel’s staff. When Davy disappears, the racial tensions in the city reach a boiling point, and Nobody may be the only person who can safely make inquiries.
Since there aren’t many books I’d gladly throw in the ocean (even if I strongly dislike it, someone else may like it! That just seems like such a waste!) I decided to take the ocean theme in it’s own direction. These are my top books set at/near/on the ocean.
Just an early disclaimer: I have read a lot of the sea set novels that we now think of as for children (though are some aren’t) like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Treasure Island. My opinion varies depending on the book but for one reason or another a lot of them don’t resonate with me. So this won’t be a list of novels with “the most” ocean presence. But they’re books about the ocean that I enjoyed.
Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter-Naslund– I suppose this list is a good place to confess that I’ve never actually read Moby Dick, so that won’t be on this list. But the ocean takes a strong role in Una’s epic as well. I actually did really like this book, but it didn’t make me want to read Moby Dick more. I was actually more interested in what Una was up to while Ahab was off at sea.
Circe by Madeline Miller– Parts of this novel (based on a character who shows up in The Odyssey) take place at sea. Other parts take place under it, and still others take place on an island, but the sea is present throughout, so I’m counting it as “nautical.”
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware– Not only a whodunnit, but also a “did it even happen?” set at sea. A travel journalist sees someone thrown overboard on a cruise. But no one else saw anything and no one is missing.
The Pearl by John Steinbeck– Years ago, I read this short novel about a poor pearl diver with a sick son. But it’s haunted me for a long time. When he finds a huge pearl the family’s fortunes change, and his family dreams of a better life. But the pearl may be more of a curse than a blessing. It’s a retelling of a Mexican folktale, in which diving, pearls, and the sea, play an important role.
Foe by JM Coetzee– This is the third book on this list that reimagines a sea set classic. In this case, Coetzee imagines that a woman named Susan Barton tells Daniel Foe (Defoe’s name before he fancified it) about her experiences on an island with a shipwrecked Cruso (Robinson Crusoe) and his manservant Friday. But Foe changes up the story a bit to make it more marketable. Barton turns Cruso into her own invention in the story, and then Foe turns that into his invention. It’s really about the enigmatic nature of storytelling, but the ocean (and an island) are strong settings throughout.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys- Wow, yet another classic reimagining with a strong nautical element. Jane Eyre isn’t nautical at all, but this tale of the madwoman in the attic, begins on the shores of the Caribbean.
For this one I decided to twist things a bit: I’ve given a bit of thought to places in books I’d want to visit/see (here and here ) but these are places I would avoid!
1.Manderley in Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- In this case the problem is the servants. Well, really just the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers; but she’s cruel, treacherous, cunning and destructive. Who wants to live with that?
2. Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling– Here there would be two major issues. One is the fact that I have a crappy sense of direction and I’d probably get lost all the time. The other is the ghosts in the bathrooms. There are some places I just need privacy, and that’s one of them.
3. Panam in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins- The reasons for this one should be fairly obvious. But I would always worry about being chosen for the Hunger Games. I know if I was selected I’d be one of the first to die. Actually there are a lot of dystopias I wouldn’t want to live in. I won’t list them all (that would be a different list) but really most of them sound pretty awful!
4. Obernewtyn in the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody– You could call this one a dystopia I suppose. It takes place in a pretty awful post-nuclear holocaust world. But Obernewtyn itself, after the first book in the series (where it’s a horrible place), becomes sort of a refuge. So I suppose if I had to live in that world this is where I’d choose, but I’d rather not live there at all thankyouverymuch. Just a note: these books are pretty popular in Australia but I think they deserve to be better known in the US.
5. Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– In this one, the biggest problem is the madwoman in the attic who constantly escapes the woman who’s supposed to be watching her, and starts fires. When picking literary houses, that’s an issue I just can’t overlook.
6. Wuthering Heights in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte– This one is pretty bad too. From the master of the house who is on a vengeful mission, to the ghost who wanders the moors outside, I would just rather not deal with any of them.
7. Neverworld Wake in Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl- Sort of a limbo state between life and death where the characters must relive the day of their deaths over and over again until they vote on one member of the group to be the sole survivor. Not only does the prospect of limbo sound bad, but reliving the same day endlessly until you make an impossible decision? No thank you!
8. Foxworth Hall in the Dollinganger series by VC Andrews– In this house I don’t know what’s worse: the religious fanatic owners, the greedy, heartless daughter, the sadistic butler, or the four kids locked up in the attic.
9. The Overlook Hotel in The Shining by Stephen King– Even if it weren’t for the malevolent ghosts that drive you crazy, I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that’s so isolated. Plus, the fact that you have to take care of the boiler carefully or the whole place will blow up, sounds very stressful. So the fact that it’s haunted just makes it a bit worse. Really any/every haunted house book falls in this category (similar to dystopias) but I won’t list them all.
February 2: Books Written Before I Was Born (These can be books you’ve read or want to read!) (submitted by Davida Chazan @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog)
Well, they didn’t have books before I was born, they carved them onto stone tablets… Just kidding, I’m not quite that old! These are the books on my TBR that were written and published before I was born:
2. The King’s General by Daphne DuMaurier (1946) Over the years I’ve been slowly reading all of DuMaurier’s life’s work. This one is next on my list (unless I unexpectedly come across something else!). It’s set during the English Civil War, which I don’t really know much about.
4. The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf (1925-1932) This series of essays was originally published in two volumes (one in 1925, the other in 1932) but I’m counting it as one because it’s my list and I can do what I want! I think I like Woolf best as an essayist.
10. The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart– For a long time, I’d thought that I’d read all of Stewart’s work. Then I discovered a whole list of novels that I hadn’t read! I’m rationing myself and working my way through slowly to savor them! This is next on the list.
These aren’t the kind of ghost stories that you’re used to. These ghosts all have something a bit different, a bit unconventional about them. But if you’re up for something different this spooky season, check them out!
1. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella– When Lara’s great aunt Sadie turns up and asks a favor, Lara’s in for a rough ride. Great aunt Sadie has been dead for a while, but she has some definite ideas about how Lara should live her life!
2. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger– When their aunt Elspeth dies, she leaves twins Julia and Valentina her apartment in London: there’s just one stipulation. They have to live in it together for a year before selling it, and their parents can’t come inside. Elspeth’s ghost is there too of course!
3. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Rebecca is dead from the very first page of this one, and she stays dead throughout. But her specter haunts everyone from her housekeeper to her husband, to his new wife.
5. Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan– Artist Eben Adams is fascinated when he meets Jennie, a young girl who chats about things that happened long before her time. But the next time he meets Jennie, she’s aged several years. He comes to realize that Jennie is a spirit outside of her own time, and she’s come looking for him. This also has a film version.
6. The Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams– Again, talking much about the nature of the ghost in this book would involve spoilers, but I do appreciate the ambiguity of the haunting here.
7. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz- The title character in this book is a short order cook who communicates with the dead. This is actually the beginning of a series but I only read the first book, since I felt it worked well as a stand alone and didn’t want to ruin that. There’s also a film adaptation.
10. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders- In 1862, a year in the civil war, Abraham Lincoln lost his eleven year old son, Willie. Newspapers reported that the distraught president returned to the crypt to see his son’s body. From this seed of historical fact, Saunders creates a novel of voices from the Georgetown graveyard, where a struggle breaks out over young Willie’s soul.
July 21: Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go to Someday (Real or Fictional.Submitted by Nandini @ Unputdownable Books)
I decided to do fictional festivals/events for this one. I’m not much of a party girl to be honest, but some there are some literary soirees I might be tempted to attend. I decided that nothing thrown by Jay Gatsby was allowed on this list. Big parties really aren’t my scene.
“He sits at the bar, feeling like a failure and yet overwhelmed by all that has happened as he attempts to catalog the entire evening. Drank rosemary for remembrance. Looked for a cat. Danced with the king of the wild things. Excellent-smelling man told me a story in the dark. Cat found me.”
2. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien– I might be persuaded to attend Bilbo Baggin’s eleventy first birthday party. If nothing else, I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to attend many eleventy first birthdays in my lifetime.
“I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am.” Deafening cheers…. Cries of “Yes” (and “No”). Noises of trumpets and horns…. Indeed, in one corner some of the young Tooks and Brandybucks, supposing Uncle Bilbo to have finished (since he had plainly said all that was necessary), now… began a merry dance-tune. Master Everard Took and Miss Melilot Brandybuck got on a table and with bells in their hands began to dance the Springle-ring: a pretty dance, but rather vigorous.
But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he blew three loud hoots…. “I shall not keep you long,” he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. “I have called you all together for a Purpose…..” There was almost silence….
3. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway’s party. This one has a lot of build up and a gentle success marred only by news of a suicide. Because no party is perfect. But in this case, bad news might make the fun even sweeter.
She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.
The noble buoyancy of her attitude, its suggestion of soaring grace, revealed the touch of poetry in her beauty that Selden always felt in her presence, yet lost the sense of when he was not with her. Its expression was now so vivid that for the first time he seemed to see before him the real Lily Bart, divested of all the trivialities of her little world, and catching for a moment a note of that eternal harmony of which her beauty was a part.
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- This book (and Austen in general) has a few good parties; but I went with the one where Jane and Mr. Binghly fall in love and Mr. Darcy declares that Lizzie is ” tolerable.”
When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her, in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:
“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. — I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.
6.Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Note to self: if you ever marry a widower do not attend a costume party dressed as his late wife, however unintentional it may be. And don’t listen to your evil maid’s costume suggestions either. Yes, it’s an awkward party, but it wouldn’t be a boring one.
That was why I had come down last night in my blue dress and had not stayed hidden in my room. There was nothing brave or fine about it, it was a wretched tribute to convention. I had not come down for Maxim’s sake, or Beatrice’s, for the sake of Manderley. I had come down because I did not want the people at the ball to think I had quarreled with Maxim. I didn’t want them to go home and say, “Of course you know they don’t get on. I hear he’s not at all happy.” I had come for my own sake, my own poor personal pride.
7.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– I might go to Mr. Rochester’s house party. If nothing else, the host disguising himself as a fortune teller would be fun!
When I heard this I was beginning to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment; but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once called my sensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got over the temporary blunder—how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr. Rochester’s movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a vital interest.
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. “I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I ca’n’t take more.” “You mean you ca’n’t take less,” said the Hatter: “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
9.Invitation to Waltz by Rosamund Lehmann- Like Mrs. Dalloway’s soiree, Olivia Curtis’ first ball has a whole novel dedicated to it. While her more socially adept sister threatens to overshadow her, this party is both more and less than Oliva expects.
“And they waltzed together to the music made for joy. She danced with him in love and sorrow. He held her close to him, and he was far away from her, far from the music, buried and indifferent. She danced with his youth and his death.”
10. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding– I’m not much of a drinker, so unlike Bridget, I wouldn’t be hungover at Geoffrey and Una’s New Year’s turkey curry buffet. I would also (always!) be able to tell Mark Darcy a few titles when he asks what I’ve read lately.
“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.”