I was challenged to list 10 book that have stayed with me. I was told to do this quickly, without much thinking.
Only 10 books?! Impossible, I thought.
But here’s the list:
1) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I read an abridged version when I was ten. Shortly after, a BBC miniseries adaptation was shown on Norwegian TV, and I experienced my first fictional crush in Mr Rochester. Healthy? Well… it made me read the original novel, anyway. And I identified with Jane Eyre all the way. She was bullied and a grey mouse, but she had guts. I still think she’s a wonderful heroine.
2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I read this in my late teens. It took a few pages to get me hooked, but as soon as Mr Darcy showed his arrogant face, Mr Rochester had a competitor. When the 1995 BBC series came on TV, I was glued to the screen every Sunday. Jennifer Ehle was perfect as Lizzie. And Colin Firth as Darcy? Yep. Very good. I’ve liked all adaptations I have seen, actually.
3) Beloved by Toni Morrison. This was probably my first encounter with stream of consciousness, and during the first reading of this book I realized much of the plot flew right over my head, but I was still compelled by the story. When I completed it, I just started over again. Loved it, absolutely loved it, and was absolutely mesmerized by the (then) strange narrative.
4) Across the Barricades by Joan Lingard. Belfasts’ Romeo and Juliet! They escaped and lived! I read all the book in this series, and loved them. The story also made me borrow many books on the Northern Irish Troubles.
5) Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. I read the first installment in this Nobel-winning trilogy when I was around ten years old. The story about a girl growing up in Norway in the early 1300s may not have been proper reading material for a pre-teen reader once Kristin reached her teens and fell in love with a swashbuckling older and more experienced playboy fella, but since I didn’t have much of a clue about sex yet, those scenes sort of went by without much notice on my part. I was still swooning over Erlend, the one true (but a bit unreliable, as it turned out) love of the heroine, and I may have gotten an unrealistic impression of true love, but I still love this trilogy – and especially the first book. I have read it countless times.
6) The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. She is an old favourite author of mine, ever since I read this book and was mesmerized by the magic realism. Allende is responsible for me moving on to Gabriel Garcia Marquez later. He’s not on this list, despite making a great impression, because Allende’s book filled me with so many strong emotions, and she wrote about all these fabulous women. In typical teenage fashion, I thought I’d name a daughter after Alba in the novel.
7) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Mystery and a creepy house, secrets of the first wife interfering in the second wife’s life. Rock solid story.
8) A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. This story got me started on a long-lasting and still on-going love of Irving’s writing. I’ve never been disappointed in any of his works (though some have perhaps not been as good as the rest), and Owen Meany, with his big heart and living with the tragedy of killing his best friend’s mother, is an unforgettable character.
9) Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Oh Anne! Being freckled (my sister got the red hair) and a bit of a bookworm from an early age, I so identified with Anne. When the TV series came to Norway, I loved it. Megan Fellows was perfect as Anne. I also had a healthy crush on Gilbert Blythe, of course.
10) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. The best novel I’ve read in many many years. Not a sentence, not a word, is superfluous in this re-telling of the Iliad. A fabulous love story.
Now, what does your list look like?