As the description of today’s topic points out, March’s proverb is ‘in like a lion, out like a lamb’. Today’s list of books are those which I started with some trepidation but ended up really enjoying. Most of these were assigned during my university years and surprised me with how much I enjoyed them!
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Middlesex was required reading for a literature class I took in my final class of university, called ‘Postmodern Genders’. The novel is a coming-of-age story that follows Cal, who is born intersex. There’s a lot of allusions to classic Greek mythology throughout the book, and it explores complex issues of identity and family. It’s not without its flaws (Cal is born intersex due to their incestuous ancestry which is hugely problematic) but the writing is beautiful and the story is epic. I don’t know why exactly I didn’t think I’d like it, but I remember being put off by its size – it’s around 600 pages which is a lot when you have a million other books to read for other classes too – but I completely devoured it. Incredible.
by Ian McEwan
This was lent to me by a friend in my mid-teens. I remember taking it on holiday with me and not being able to get past the first chapter and being absolutely furious because I had no other books with me! The novel begins when Joe and several other men attempt to assist with an unmoored hot air balloon, only for it to end in tragedy. One of Joe’s fellow rescuers becomes increasingly and dangerously obsessed with Joe throughout the course of the novel. Towards the end of my trip, I was growing increasingly frustrated with my lack of reading material so I persevered with Enduring Love and I’m so glad I did because it’s become one of my all-time favourites. It’s utterly haunting and incredibly tense.
Mio, My Son
by Astrid Lindgren
When I studied abroad in Sweden, I took a whole class on the legendary Swedish children’s writer, Astrid Lindgren. I loved the story of Pippi Longstocking as a child, but I foolishly thought that I wouldn’t enjoy these books as much now, as an adult, and I hadn’t heard of most of them anyway. Then I read Mio, My Son and thought it was absolutely beautiful. The story begins with a young boy who was adopted by a couple that makes his life miserable. Through a series of magical events, he’s transported to a faraway land, where he finds out that his real name is Mio, he is the son of a king, and it’s his destiny to save the kingdom from an evil knight. I adored this book and it completely changed my attitude towards reading children’s literature as an adult.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Arthur Conan Doyle
This is another read from my university years but I can’t quite remember which class it was for. Up until this point, my only exposure to the Sherlock Holmes stories had been through the BBC adaptation. I know most people love Sherlock but I’m not a huge fan so I wasn’t thrilled to learn I had to read The Hound of the Baskervilles, in which Sherlock and Watson investigate an estate terrorised by an enormous spectral hound. I loved the writing style and the rapport between Sherlock and Watson. I also found the novel’s Sherlock far more likeable than that of the TV show, so this book was a pleasant surprise for me! I’ve read a couple more Sherlock stories since and really enjoyed them.
In my final year of university, I took a class on European Crime Fiction and Film, and Agatha Christie was heavily featured in the required reading and viewing. I’d never considered reading her work before and always thought of it as being a bit old-fashioned so I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed her stories! They kept me guessing all the way through and I was always shocked by the final reveal. I’ve read quite a few now and found that I much prefer her Miss Marple stories to Poirot. I definitely wouldn’t have read Christie’s work if it wasn’t for my university class!
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