Here’s a little flashback to the books I adored during one of my final terms at Glasgow University. My focus that semester was American women’s writing and Occupation France, as you’ll see from the reading list below. If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you thought of them in the comments below.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott – I have fond memories of curling up on the sofa at Christmas time, watching Winona Ryder gallivanting on the TV screen in front of me. If you enjoyed the film(s), the book is even better. Although it may seem like a typified childhood tale, between the lines you’ll discover that marriage isn’t quite the be-all and end-all for Alcott.
The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Here is the short story of a mother gone mad… In Gilman’s novella, the narrator’s husband places her in a ‘nursery’ to ‘get better’ (the windows are barred and the bed screwed to the floor. She’s actually been admitted). The woman’s madness is traced through her love-hate relationship with the room’s ugly yellow wallpaper and the female ghost that she spots lurking behind it. Super creepy warning: do not try this at night.
Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton – an almost Brontë-esque tale of northern landscapes and frozen hearts. The narrator tells the story of Ethan, a quiet man who falls in love with his sick wife’s maid. Fellow readers said: ‘don’t read this when you’re on a warm beach in Spain’. Expect to feel coldhearted after this tragedy; perfect for a windy winter evening with a cup of tea.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn – I devoured this tome in less than a day during the summer, and I’ll assume you know the plot by now… Ben Affleck? Rosamund Pike? Well: the wife goes missing, the husband’s the prime suspect, but who can we trust? It’s a mind manipulator with a huge twist – and you’ll love it.
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath – Plath’s only full length novel, The Bell Jar, is the story of a young girl’s American dream gone wrong. Winning a magazine internship in New York, the narrator is unable to reconcile the all-American woman she’s meant to be with the scared girl she actually is… Cue depression and deep thoughts. I couldn’t finish this the first time I read it, but second time I adored Plath’s poetic language.
Indemnity Only, Sara Paretsky – This is the first in Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series (which was made into a film starring Kathleen Turner back in the day). V.I. is a seasoned private investigator, combing the vicious streets of Chicago for her next clue. Not only is she gifted with a gun, she’s got a super-sharp wit, which sees her crush all the hitmen and police officers who block her way.
One for the Money, Janet Evanovich – this is a total romp of a book; a hybrid between chick-lit and crime, Evanovich will have you addicted and Amazon-ing the twenty subsequent books in the series. Meet Stephanie Plum, whose lack of cash sees her accidentally fall into bounty hunting. Cue the hot fugitive, a bunch of blunders and some hilarious dialogue.
Suite Française, Irène Némirovsky – Némirovsky, one of France’s best-selling writers during the Second World War, crafted this masterpiece as the fighting and fearmongering went on outside her home. Our class focused on the ‘Dolce’ section, which is to be released as a film in 2015. Primarily it’s a tale of love, but it also tells about the difficulties and grey areas that French people battled with, throughout their daily lives in occupied France.