Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics
- 2nd August: Books Set In A Place I’d Love to Visit
- 9th August: Hilarious Book Titles
- 16th August: Books I Love That Were Written Over Ten Years Ago
- 23rd August: Completed Series I Wish Had More Books
- 30th August: School Freebie
- 6th September: Books I Loved So Much I Had to Get a Copy for My Personal Library
It has been a strange week here in the UK, since my last Top Ten Tuesday post. One where events have rather run away with me so despite my best intentions, I am still falling farther and farther behind in my reviews. But, there is milk in my fridge, eggs in my larder that were purchased when there was a different Prime Minister and a different monarch. Strange strange times – and surprisingly moving times… well, the Queen’s death was, less so Boris’ rather more planned departure.
And I am sorry, but for me – regardless of my views on the monarchy as an institution and our deeply uncomfortable imperial history and legacy – the Queen herself had been a stable point throughout my life, a constant around whom we saw fifteen Prime Ministers come and go. So, yes, Thursday’s news was sad and a little shocking.
And as a mini-tribute, which has nothing whatsoever to do with this week’s theme, can I mention a quiet gem of a book by Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader in which the Queen stumbles upon a mobile library and starts to read books which leads her to gently subversive thoughts!
The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely ( JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.
Anyway, onto this week’s topic, books with a geographical term in their title.
Now, Geography was one of those subjects I was keen to drop at school – I suspect because it was taught by a PE teacher who always smelled a little… stale. And also, who in hindsight probably was not a subject specialist and felt uncomfortable teaching it. I have been there, Mr Heath! Now I sympathise; then, I couldn’t. I still distinctly remember an exam question “How is mist formed?” Apparently, the answer I gave – “The same way as clouds, but lower” – was not deemed acceptable.
So, I am grateful for Lisa of Hopewell, whose suggestion this was, for including some examples of those geographical terms: mountain, island, latitude/longitude, ash, bay, beach, border, canyon, cape, city, cliff, coast, country, desert, epicenter, hamlet, highway, jungle, ocean, park, sea, shore, tide, valley, etc
Let’s look for some examples… this may not be an easy list to compile…
Small Island, Andrea Levy
It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun.
Queenie Bligh’s neighbours don’t approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but with her husband, Bernard, not back from the war, she has little choice in the matter.
Gilbert Joseph was one of the many Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight Hitler. But when he returns to England as a civilian he doesn’t receive the welcome he was expecting, and it’s desperation that drives him to knock at Queenie’s door. Gilbert’s wife Hortense, who for years has longer for a better life in England, soon joins him. But London is far from the golden city of her dreams, and even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was.
It feels like an age ago that I read this and I have memories of enjoying it, but not for the details. It is one I will need to re-read,- and fairly urgently – because I am going to be teaching it this year!
The Island of Missing Trees, Elif Shafak
It is 1974 on the island of Cyprus. Two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet, in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic, chilli peppers and wild herbs. This is where one can find the best food in town, the best music, the best wine. But there is something else to the place: it makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows.
In the centre of the tavern, growing through a cavity in the roof, is a fig tree. This tree will witness their hushed, happy meetings, their silent, surreptitious departures; and the tree will be there when the war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to rubble, when the teenagers vanish and break apart.
This one was a gorgeous read: the evocation of Cyprus, the trauma of the civil war and colonialism on the island, the joy of the tavern and its wonderful owners, and the marks left by tragedy and trauma not just on those who experienced it but by generations afterwards… Elif Shafak’s novel is gorgeously written and her command of language is exquisite!
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
The discovery of a treasure map plots ‘Jim’ upon a course that will take him into the midst of blood thirsty, treasure seeking pirates led by the infamous ‘Long John Silver’. Treasure Island examines the inner mechanisms of the minds of both wild and subtle men, the similarities between human nature and the differences in individuality.First published in 1883, ‘Treasure Island’ has had a profound cultural influence on western literature and entertainment. Over fifty different film and television adaptations have been made.
Keeping with islands, they did form the mainstay of my childish imagination: the Famous Five’s Kirrin Island, the Island of Adventure – bless Enid Blyton – and Treasure Island. The grandaddy of all pirate narratives – Long John Silver was a genuinely terrifying and endearing character, probably the first truly complex antagonist I encountered in my reading.
Echo Mountain, Lauren Wolk
1933. When Ellie and her family lose everything, they flee to Echo Mountain. Ellie runs wild, exploring the mountain’s mysteries. But the one she can’t solve is who’s leaving the gifts for her: tiny wooden carvings of animals and flowers, dotted around the mountain for her to find.
Then Ellie’s father has a terrible accident. When she sets out to find a cure for him, she discovers Cate, the outcast witch, and Larkin, a wild mountain boy. From them she learns about being a healer, being brave – and how there can be more to a person than first meets the eye.
I really enjoyed this book – a parable in many ways, imbuing the hardships of Depression era America with a sense of the other. A wild woman in the mountain, guarded by a huge shaggy dog. A celebration of being different, of difference being a form of magic and empathy for nature… all great until one sudden, abrupt, totally unnecessary and clumsy reveal towards the end that for me marred the whole novel. Not ruined it, but definitely took the shine off!
I do love the cover though!
The Mountains Sing, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
One family, two generations of women and a war that will change their lives forever
Ha Noi, 1972. Hương and her grandmother, Trần Diệu Lan, cling to one another in their improvised shelter as American bombs fall around them. For Trần Diệu Lan, forced to flee the family farm with her six children decades earlier as the Communist government rose to power in the North, this experience is horribly familiar. Seen through the eyes of these two unforgettable women, The Mountains Sing captures their defiance and determination, hope and unexpected joy.
Some poets don’t manage the cross over from poetry to prose that successfully. It’s a tricky border, that one. But Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai makes language her own as she evokes the horror and violence of war and the emotions of her characters. Gorgeous.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
This is what he remembers, as he sits by the ocean at the end of the lane:
A dead man on the back seat of the car, and warm milk at the farmhouse.
An ancient little girl, and an old woman who saw the moon being made.
A beautiful housekeeper with a monstrous smile.
And dark forces woken that were best left undisturbed.
They are memories hard to believe, waiting at the edges of things. The recollections of a man who thought he was lost but is now, perhaps, remembering a time when he was saved . . .
The fact that I love Neil Gaiman is going to come as no surprise to anyone used to reading my blog, or of talking to me about books. And this is – in my humble opinion – a massively underrated with a rating of barely 4 stars on Goodreads. Eclipsed by Coraline and Stardust for younger readers, and by American Gods and Neverwhere for adult readers – and somehow falling between those two readerships – this is a real shame because the character here of Lettie Hempstock – little girl, friend, witch – was wonderful.
And the Ocean Was Our Sky, Patrick Ness
The whales of Bathsheba’s pod live for the hunt. Led by the formidable Captain Alexandra, they fight a never-ending war against men. Then the whales attack a man ship, and instead of easy prey they find the trail of a myth, a monster, perhaps the devil himself… With their relentless Captain leading the chase, they embark on the final hunt, one that will forever change the worlds of whales and men.
Patrick Ness is, like Neil Gaiman, an automatic-buy-author: his writing is amazing. This novella – it is barely a couple of hours read – is extraordinary: reimagining Moby-Dick from the whales’ point of view… It exhilarating, lyrical, brutal, and the illustrations by Rovina Cai and gorgeous.
On Midnight Beach, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
I kept clear of Dog Cullen. Till the summer we turned seventeen, the summer the dolphin came to Carrig Cove . . .
When a dolphin takes up residence in Carrig Cove, Emer and her best friend, Fee, feel like they have an instant connection with it. Then Dog Cullen and his sidekick, Kit, turn up, and the four friends begin to sneak out at midnight to go down to the beach, daring each other to swim closer and closer to the creature . . .
But the fame and fortune the dolphin brings to their small village builds resentment amongst their neighbours across the bay, and the summer days get longer and hotter . . . There is something wild and intense in the air. Love feels fierce, old hatreds fester, and suddenly everything feels worth fighting for.
Another young adult book, a coming of age novel set in Ireland in the 1970s which evokes both the claustrophobia of small town life at the time, and the mythic characters of Irish mythology, in particular the Táin bó Cuailnge or the Cattle Raid of Cooley, reimagining the bull as a bull dolphin and Cú Chulainn as Dog Cullan, told through the utterly compelling and authentic voices of the teenagers yearning to escape.
On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
It is July 1962. Edward and Florence, young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come and, unbeknownst to them both, the events of the evening will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
A little bit of local interest to this one: I literally live a stone’s throw from Chesil Beach! Pirates used to use it, judging where they had come to land by the sizes of the stones on the beach. This novel, however, takes us into the 1960s and an appallingly clumsy sexual encounter between two newly weds both of whom are trapped by the moral codes and taboos of the time. Theirs was a 1960s that had not begun to swing yet!
In the Woods, Tana French
When he was twelve years old, Adam Ryan went playing in the woods with his two best friends. He never saw them again. Their bodies were never found, and Adam himself was discovered with his back pressed against an oak tree and his shoes filled with blood. He had no memory of what had happened.
Twenty years on, Rob Ryan – the child who came back – is a detective in the Dublin police force. He’s changed his name. No one knows about his past. Then a little girl’s body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. Knowing that he would be thrown off the case if his past were revealed, Rob takes a fateful decision to keep quiet but hope that he might also solve the twenty-year-old mystery of the woods.
I can probably slip a Tana French novel into most of these lists! But this, the first of her Dublin Murder Squad series, creates the hallmarks that shine throughout: intense relationships between characters; fantastic, tense interviews; an unnerving sense of the gothic, the other shifting behind the narrative. Here, the relationship between the detectives Rob and Cassie is wonderful, and the dark events of Rob’s past are palpably sinister.
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies, Maddie Mortimer
Something gleeful and malevolent is moving in Lia’s body, learning her life from the inside out. A shape-shifter. A disaster tourist. It’s travelling down the banks of her canals. It’s spreading.
When a sudden diagnosis upends Lia’s world, the boundaries between her past and her present begin to collapse. Deeply buried secrets stir awake. As the voice prowling in Lia takes hold of her story, and the landscape around becomes indistinguishable from the one within, Lia and her family are faced with some of the hardest questions of all: how can we move on from the events that have shaped us, when our bodies harbour everything? And what does it mean to die with grace, when you’re simply not ready to let go?
This is lined up on my kindle to be read… but I hear tell it may be better read on paper. Does it do something clever with fonts and pictures and the form of the page? But as a geographical term, maps is on the money: I remember at Primary School, years before Mr Heath’s lessons on mist formation, our geography lessons consisted of painstakingly shading the edges of different maps green for land and blue for sea…
It may have revealed something about my personality, considering the sorts of geographical terms that I chose to focus on: islands, oceans, beaches, mountains, woods… There is something about all of these locations that speaks to nature, to distance, perhaps to isolation… Freud might have a field day! Still, happy TTT to everyone and, as always, please comment and leave your thoughts, they really do make my day.
Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes
September 20: Books On My Fall 2022 To-Read List
September 27: Typographic Book Covers (Book covers with a design that is all or mostly all words. You can also choose to do books with nice typography if that’s easier!) (Submitted by Mareli @ Elza Reads)
October 4: Favorite Bookstores OR Bookstores I’d Love to Visit (The UK celebrated National Bookshop Day on October 1, so I thought it would be a fun topic!)
October 11: Books I Read On Vacation (bonus points if you tell us where you were!) (Submitted by Dedra @ A Book Wanderer)
October 18: Favorite Words (This isn’t so much bookish, but I thought it would be fun to share words we love! These could be words that are fun to say, sound funny, mean something great, or make you smile when you read/hear them.)
October 25: Halloween Freebie