Favourite book by favourite author.
Wait! What?! I have to pick one?! One?!
Was this challenge not supposed to be fun?
Okay. Let’s narrow down the favourite authors part. As with the previous day, let’s look at them by genre, too.
I’m going to kick off with the obvious: Shakespeare. Not trying to be literary or high-brow or anything, but his language and the humanity of his characters are fabulous! I do genuinely love it! It would be hard to pick one play but at a push I’d say King Lear would be a favourite. An audio performance of it is actually loaded on my phone and waiting to be listened to! It is chockful of quotable lines: Edmund’s “Thou, nature art my Goddess“; Edgar’s “My face I’ll grime with filth, / Blanket my loins, elf all my hair in knots, / And with presented nakedness outface / The winds and persecutions of the sky.” And of course Lear’s own – and too oft quoted and misquoted –
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
Outside Shakespeare, as a teacher, let’s turn to Young Adult novels – a genre without meaning in my opinion. But it is a section of the library and book shop littered with gorgeous and powerful writers: Patrick Ness and Frances Hardinge would be two of my favourites and it would be very hard to choose between them. If pushed, and with half an eye on other categories in which the other would appear again, I would select Hardinge. By a whisker. An incredibly fine whisker. A new novel from either of these writers is an event but I probably more liked more of Hardinge’s novels than Ness’. The stand out in Hardinge’s list would have to be Cuckoo Song: deliciously creepy and powerfully written with a lyrical intensity. Talking – screaming – dolls; insatiable appetites. Wonderful. Folkloric. I mean, just look at the cover here!
Turning to adult writing, I can’t not highlight Life After Life by Kate Atkinson which is phenomenal! A girl who relives her life every time she dies, becoming aware of it as the cycles of her life continue. The concept is wonderful and haunting, and the writing muscular and powerful – Oh, God! the first stillborn life of Ursula Todd! Personally, I could have done without the shooting Hitler moment, but it is just wonderful. I’ve not read the sequel yet, A God in Ruins, but I hear tell that it is every bit as good.
Looking to non-fiction, the stand-out for me – albeit the only book I’ve read from her – is H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald – a painfully frank and at times uncomfortably honest memoir of Macdonld’s response to her father’s death, an ode to the countryside, a biography of T. H. White and fantastic vivid writing.
So my nomination for this category is – with regrets and many reservations – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.