7 Books That Left Their Mark
Updated: Dec 31, 2019
I love to read, and everyone has those books that stick with them. I could just name seven of the classics and talk of how Pride and Prejudice opened my eyes up to the idea of having this one great love or how The Great Gatsby taught me to live in every moment (which is probably true) but everyone knows the classics. Almost everyone can talk of how the classics affected them in someway. So I want to talk about some other books that made an impact on me in lots of different ways.
1. Gemma (Noel Streatfeild) - This book (and it's sequels) I read over and over again when I was younger, so much so that the cover and pages are now sellotaped together. It gave me dreams, it made me fall in love with the theatre and its magic, and it made me realise no family is perfect. Gemma gets sent to live with cousins when her mother goes to America for five years to work on a film, and for 8 year old me, who was trying to figure out what it meant to have divorced parents when none of my friends did I could relate to Gemma and her loneliness and confusion. I could join her on her journey to figuring it all out, and to her figuring out who she wanted to be, and how to be happy before, finally, being reunited with her mother.
2. Darling Buds of May (H.E. Bates) - Anyone who knows me (my family especially) are going to roll their eyes at this one. I am obsessed with The Darling Buds of May, and ok maybe it's cheating a little as I did discover the TV Series before the books but they both changed my outlook on life. It was the idyllic family life, the simple way of living that drew me in. I learnt to focus on the simple things in life that make you happy, and to not over complicate things, to value my time with my family and to not take myself too seriously.
3. Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) - Ok ok so maybe I included a classic, but Rebecca was the first book that stayed with me months after I'd read it. The very first lines "Last night I dreamt of Manderley again.." are imprinted in my mind forever. It left me in awe of the power of writing, the absence of Rebecca throughout the novel, and yet the way that du Maurier makes her feel so present. The way that we never once question Maxim's actions, even when he thinks he killed Rebecca, only after the end of the novel do we look back at our own morals.
4. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) - This book opened my eyes to other cultures in a way no other book has, I know it was written by an American man about Japan but it pointed me towards other books about Japanese culture and to Mineko Iwasaki (the Geisha that was the inspiration for the book) and made me realise the way the Western world talks for other cultures, instead of giving them a voice. It stopped me from being so insular and naïve and made me look further outside of my bubble.
5. Les Parisiennes (Anne Sebba) - This is a biography about French women and their experiences during WW2, both those in the resistance and those who were Nazi sympathisers. It taught me about bravery and courage, not in great acts but in every day life. It taught me how easy it is to be apathetic and to turn a blind eye, and how disastrous the consequences are. It opened up my perspective, showing me that it wasn't all black and white and that these women were all trying to survive. It also made me realise how little support was given to those French citizens returning from concentration camps, and the idea of making amends, and how it could ever be enough.
6. Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) - I realised the power of guilt, the grip and the hold it can have over our lives and our decisions. I learnt about oppression, freedom, choice. It is such an accessible book, and opens up the doors to Afghan culture and history. This is one of the books that makes me cry every time I read it, it is so poignant and so moving, and such a beautiful story of the consequences of our actions, and the road to redemption.
7. Mad Girls Love Song (Andrew Wilson) - This is a biography all about Sylvia Plath, from her early years right up until her suicide and I've never connected with a book, or a person more, reading her letters made me realise my feelings weren't strange or abnormal. I read it in the depths of my depression and so much of what she wrote and believed made so much sense to me. It also showed me that she fought nearly everyday of her life and still managed to win a scholarship to Smith College, get a Fulbright Fellowship, and publish her work. She inspired me to not give up on my dreams or ambitions, whatever might get in the way.