For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:
April 30: Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes
Since I felt like this week’s topic was too broad, I decided to make up my own. Books set over the course of a day are often referred to as circadian novels. This is sort of inspired by my list last week.
1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf– An upper class British woman reflects on her life, her marriage and her relationships as she prepares to throw a party. Meanwhile, a WWI vet suffering from shell-shock serves as a sort of doppelganger or alternate for the title character.
2. Ulysses by James Joyce– I have to confess that I’ve never read this all the way through. I’ve read bits and excerpts; enough to get the general idea. But I find it very hard to follow without grammar or chapters. I understand what Joyce’s intention was, but it’s not an enjoyable read for me. Joyce once said that he “put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant.” X which sort of makes it feel (to me) like he’s playing a game with readers.
3. Saturday by Ian McEwan– This book, about a day in the life of a London neurosurgeon is very informed by the post 9/11 mindset. We see the character (successful, privileged, and generally happy) play squash, visit his elderly mother, and cook dinner for his family, but a sudden episode of violence prompts his reflection that the world has become “a community of anxiety.”
4. Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk– We follow the lives of several women in Arlington Park, an ordinary English suburb over a rainy day as they feel anger at their husbands, their children and the world in general. I wasn’t a fan of this one really. It just felt like several unpleasant women being miserable for an entire day.
5. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple– This comic day in the life of Elinor Flood starts off normally. Elinor wakes and resolves to be “better” about her attitude and her life. Of course, that’s before her son decides to fake sick to stay home from school, and her husband goes off to work. When she calls his office she discovers that he’s told them (but not her!) that he’s on vacation. As Elinor navigates through the day, we learn about her life, and how she got to where she is.
6. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- This may be cheating a bit, because it takes place over one night, but since all the action is set within the same 24 hour period, I think it counts…
7. Eleven Hours by Paullina Simons-Didi is an ordinary, albeit heavily pregnant, woman leaving a shopping mall in Dallas when she’s abducted. Her husband and the FBI try to reach her in time, and each chapter is timestamped and the whole thing plays out over (spoiler alert!) eleven hours. I didn’t particularly like this one. I found it predictable and Didi didn’t make a compelling heroine.
8. Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson- This novel of an uptight English nanny who finds herself a job as a social secretary to a free spirited aspiring actress is light and funny. But because was written in 1938 reading it now, we know that the carefree Londoners we spend the day with will soon face horrors. This gives a bittersweet tone to what is intended as a light, fluffy read.
9. New Boy by Tracy Chevalier- This re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Othello is set during one day at a 1970s era elementary school in a DC suburb. In some ways Chevalier makes a very strong statement: in the original play the escalation and lack of communication is typical behavior for ten year olds. So in this book Chevalier set these characters where they act like they belong: in a playground. But you could also argue that by doing that Chevalier belittles the source material. You’ll have to read it to decide which side of the argument you take.
And some variations on the theme
The Hours by Michael Cunningham– This book is heavily inspired by Mrs. Dalloway, but it takes place over the course of three single day periods. One is the day that Virginia Woolf starts to write the novel. Another is the day that a 1950’s housewife begins to read it. The third is the day that a contemporary reincarnation of the main character throws a party and reflects on her life.
One Day by David Nicholls– This book follows two characters on a single date over the course of twenty years. So from that point of view it’s one date but not one day.