Here it is finally, Part 2 of my favourite university reads. In this post, you will find books that I think about on a daily basis. They have increased my love for reading, have shown me how powerful words can be, and have made me feel all of the feels.
Here we go:
5. Cometh Up As A Flower – Rhoda Broughton
Never mind the creepy cover, this book is gentle (weird use of the adjective but I find it to be exactly how I perceived this story) and full of poetry, as the protagonist quotes poems constantly as a way to bring some beauty into her otherwise morose life. Published in 1867, this novel tells the story of Nell, a young woman who has a hard time confining herself to her domestic space. She is torn between passion and her family like any good sensation heroine should be, but what is important in this book is that we get to view a woman’s thoughts from a female writer’s point of view. Moreover, the story is told as if it was Nell’s autobiography. Therefore, we understand all her inner conflicts, however foolish they may be. (Spoiler alert!) One passage that struck me was when she describes her feelings after her father’s death, her struggles with her faith and her doubts concerning her future. I read this book right after having lost my grandfather with whom I was really close and her vision of death and love really resonated with me. The character of Nell is naive and frustrating at times, but I also found her to be endearing. This book is a great example of a sensation story and a less famous work than Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White or Mary Elizabeth Bradon’s novel Lady Audley’s Secret. It’s a more subtle subject-matter as well, not resolving around crazy plot lines such as hidden and assumed identities.
4. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Like I have mentioned in my previous post (my 2015 reading plans), I don’t think I am a big fan of dystopian / science fiction works. However, I don’t think that is entirely true because I really loved this novel whose uncanny universe makes you reflect on your own society. This novel makes you think about the value of one’s life compared to another’s; who deserves to live and who deserves to die. On a less intense note, it also deals with the struggles of young love, friendship and transitioning to adulthood. I cannot say much about the story because I don’t want to give anything away but all you need to know is that this story will grab you and you will get attached to the characters’ genuine and relatable personalities. Published in 2005, this novel is one whose themes will resonate with me for a long time. The fact that I read it during my first semester at McGill university, at a time when I was trying to figure myself out, made the reading experience extremely relevant to me because I was able to identify with the characters fully which made the whole dystopian aspect of the story even more powerful.
3. Hard Times – Charles Dickens
If you’ve read my previous post, you know that I am a little bit obsessed with our friend Charles. I just love the way he tells stories, combining humour with gravity as only British people can do, and always with a social message in mind. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the story line of this novel, the only thing I remember is a circus and a horse. I am pretty terrible when it comes to remembering plots, sorry. What I do know is that I absolutely loved reading this book; it was fun and profound at the same time. This book is a good way to dive into Dickens’ universe because it is the shortest of his novels and the size of his other works can be intimidating (I am currently reading his first novel The Pickwick Papers and it’s around 950 pages). I would recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for an entertaining yet thought-provoking classic.
2. The Return – Dany Laferrière (L’Enigme du Retour)
This novel has got to be one of my favourite reads of all time. The author writes in the most beautiful style I’ve ever encountered, a mix of prose and verse. I read it in French, the original language, while the rest of my class read it in English because I was reading it for a class on Canada and its Americas. I don’t know how well the translation does justice to the absolute perfection of the words but I thinks it’s well worth the try. This is an autobiographical piece in which the author tells of his return to Haiti after his father’s death. At the time, he has been living in Montreal for thirty years and has never been back to his homeland. Published in 2009, this is a story about belonging and roots. I identified strongly with the protagonist because I was myself living as an alien in Montreal but also not feeling like I fully belonged in my hometown anymore. This story deals with this liminality and how you can belong to this in-between state. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a moving and beautifully-written work.
1. The Promise of Dawn – Romain Gary (La Promesse de l’Aube)
This book is hands down my favourite book of all time. This is also autobiographical although I believe highly romanticised. Published in 1960, it tells the story of the author’s life (duh it’s an autobiography) from his childhood in Nice (my hometown) to his participation in the war and his return to his hometown. We get to see all the joys and hardships he encounter, but always under the guiding light of his mother who stays in Nice. His relationship with his mother is what struck me the most about this novel. She raises him alone and truly believes that he will become someone great. She never gives up on him, even when she has no longer any control. Their relationship is not perfect; it’s complex as every relationship is, but it’s full of love and devotion. I cried three times before I’d even reached page 70 because the way he describes his mother is so poetic and real. I would recommend this book to anyone. It’s just perfection. If you want to read modern french literature, this is the perfect pick.
Fact: this author managed to win the Prix Goncourt twice (which is impossible to do) by publishing his works under different names. If that’s not a proof of his talent, I don’t know what is.
And voila, we’ve come to the end of my favourite university reads. I realise this list is not that diverse in terms of genres. I want to write a post on poetry and on my favourite play sometimes in the future. Let me know what you think. I have an exciting post coming next so stay tuned.