A Literary A-Z: G

‘G’ is a feast! Lots of titles, and many authors to choose from too. I am going to have to leave out so many good ones! Please play along by choosing any book title, or the surname of an author, as long as it begins with a ‘G’.

American writer Jeff Shaara followed in his father Michael’s footsteps, and wrote two excellent novels about the American Civil War. They became both a prequel and sequel to Michael Shaara’s 1974 book, ‘The Killer Angels’. That told the story of the battle of Gettysburg, in 1863, and Jeff followed this by looking at the events before that, in his 1988 book ‘Gods and Generals’. This trilogy is a must-read for anyone interested in the civil war, and both were made into films too.

Such is the legend surrounding the film ‘The Godfather’, and its sequels, it is easy to overlook the fact that it was adapted from a book of the same name, by Mario Puzo. This substantial book was published in 1969, and more than any other, can lay claim to introducing the outside world into the inner workings of The Mafia, from its Sicilian roots, to the takeover of organised crime in America. In 1984, the sequel ‘The Sicilian’ was published. Both are excellent books, even if you already know the films well.

I don’t often follow characters in a series, but with Arkady Renko, I made an exception. Set in Soviet Russia, the 1981 novel ‘Gorky Park’ by Martin Cruz Smith caught my imagination. Using the very different location of the Soviet Union to set this tale of mystery and murder was a refreshing change, and one that brought success to the author. There are seven books featuring Renko, and later ones are set after the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘Gorky Park’ was also made into a very good film, starring William Hurt as Renko, alongside Lee Marvin.

I could not leave out the excellent writing of John Steinbeck, and his novel from 1939, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. This heartbreaking tale of families affected by the Great Depression in 1930s America affected me profoundly, when I read it as a teenager. Believable characters in a perfectly-described landscape, bringing to mind the haunting photos of Dorothea Lange. This is an important historical work, as well as a compelling novel. It was also adapted into a film, starring Henry Fonda and John Carradine.

My top choice for today is a book from the First World War Trilogy by Pat Barker. As a memorial service for the 1917 battle of Passchendaele takes place on the TV news in the next room, it seems more appropriate than ever. ‘The Ghost Road’ is the final book in her series that started with the wonderful ‘Regeneration’, and continued with ‘The Eye In The Door’. Barker manages to create relationships between her fictional characters and real people (like Seigfried Sassoon) that seem natural, and totally convincing. Following the different characters through the three books is an emotional experience, always overshadowed by the horrors of the war on the Western Front from 1914-1918, and the effect it had on the men who served there. This is writing on the grand scale, and I recommend it unreservedly.

I have left you so many to consider, not least Graham Greene! So, off you go.


68 thoughts on “A Literary A-Z: G

  1. I add David Guterson “Snow falling on Cedars”, Miep Gies, she wrote about the time with Anne Frank at Amsterdam and a novel by Daphne Du Maurier “Gasthaus Jamaika” ( Jamaica Inn ).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. In Germany it is usually that films and books get german titel.

        The Germans also synchronize all foreign films. That’s why we can not speak English as well! The Scandinavians and the Dutch are far ahead of us.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great choices. I did mention Pat Baker under B and could not agree more with you (I quite liked the Regeneration movie, although it cannot compare with the amount of detail and the fine characterisation of the novel). Yes, Grapes of Wrath, indeed. I love the Great Gatsby too. Such a beautifully written book.
    I did catch up the movie of the Girl on the Train a few days ago and enjoyed it, but have no idea what the book is like (it is getting a lot of publicity). I’m with Kim on Dennis Lehane (he writes good thrillers) although I have not read Gone, Baby Gone (I liked the movie a lot. Ben Affleck is a much better director… well, anyway). Gerald’s Game by King has already been mentioned, but as we’ve been talking about films, The Green Mile, I guess. (Not all his books got good adaptation, but he’s been pretty lucky so far).
    A great selection and wonderful suggestions too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for adding ‘The Green Mile’, Olga. I expected people to come up with that one, so left it off. I can never resist the genius of ‘Mr Jingles’.
      I believe that Barker’s trilogy is one of the most important works of WW1 fiction, and deserves to have renewed interest now, given all the commemorations.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  3. A friend of ours (third-generation Chinese born in Australia) returned to China in 1952 at the age of 18 to ‘do something for the Mother Country’. She got caught up in the Cultural Revolution and was sent to the fields for rehabilitation. She had one of Graham Greene’s books in English and managed to convince the authorities that it was okay to possess. After she returned to Australia in the late 1970s, she wrote to Greene saying his works had saved her sanity. They corresponded regularly until his death in 1991. She has since written two books herself, which I’ll contribute to the letter ‘T’.

    As for ‘G’ from me, how about the works of Kahlil Gibran.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robert took my “Ghost Soldiers”, but no matter, I still have for the letter ‘G’: “Going Home to Glory”, “The Great Betrayal”, “General Kenney Reports” , “Goodbye Darkness” and “The Guns At Last Light” for the military and for S.KIng: “Gerald’s Game”.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. For anyone interested in Vikings or the English Civil War, Giles Kristian has some excellent series of books. I can heartily recommend The Raven series, and The Rise of Sigurd series for the vikings, and for the civil war, The Bleeding Land series.

    I hope your Reaser who made a list of all the movies is doing the same for books! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I haven’t read Ghost Road, but Pat Barker is on my list of authors I want to try. My list would definitely include Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, Gulliver’s Travels, and Grahame Greene. Here’s a few more.
    The Giver/Gathering Blue – Lowry
    Graceling – Cashore
    Gone With the Wind – Mitchell
    Great Expectations – Dickens
    Gerald’s Game – King
    Game of Thrones – Martin
    George’s Marvelous Medicine – Dahl
    Green Eggs and Ham – Seuss
    Gilead – Robinson
    Girl With the Dragon Tattoo/Girl Who Kicked A Hornet’s Nest – Larsson
    Girl With the Pearl Earring – Chevalier
    Gone Baby, Gone – Lehane
    Go Ask Alice – Anonymous
    Gathering Darkness – Rhodes
    Ginger Pye – Estes
    Guest Room – Bohjalian
    Guys and Dolls – Runyon
    Goodnight Moon- Brown
    Good Omens – Pratchett & Gaiman

    Authors: Neil Gaiman, Diane Gabaldon, Tess Gerritson, William Golding, Terry Goodkind, Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm, John Grisham, John Green,

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Super list, Kim. Especially ‘Pearl Earring’, A great book, and lovely film too.
      I cannot recommend Pat Barker enough. Superb writing, and a moving trilogy. So appropriate to the current centenary commemorations too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. G is easier though I can’t provide much different than what has been mentioned already. I too loved ‘Gods and Generals’. And I would read anything by Doris Kearns Goodwin and especially liked, ‘No Ordinary Time’ (Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during the WW2 era) and her memoir, ‘Wait Till Next Year.’ I also like Grisham books for lighter reads, though not all equally. Probably my favorites are ‘The Painted House’ which is quite different than his lawyer sagas, and ‘The Partner.’

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with you on Grisham. Many of the books are so similar so it’s hard to tell them apart. But ‘The Painted House’ is altogether different. and ‘the Partner’ full of twists and turns and fun to read.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. My lightweight offer is Elly GRIFFITHS (though that is her pen name, real name Domenica de Rosa) who has a series about Ruth Galloway who is a forensic archaeologist living with her two cats in a Saltmarsh cottage in North Norfolk. Again I like them because I can visualise the settings.
    And (The) Girl on the Train (2015) a psychological thriller novel by British author Paula Hawkins.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have a couple of Gs for you, Pete…The first is Guy Gibson’s ‘Enemy coast ahead’ which I read when I was much younger, and now, of course there is a lot of stuff on The Dambusters. Then, of cours, Mr Greene… As someone else has mentioned the excellent ‘End of the Affair ‘, how about ‘Dr Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party’? Brilliantly, succinctly written novel on the nature of greed. Or more specifically, the greed of the very rich.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. I couldn’t get into it at first so left it for a few months before trying again. It has made a lasting impression for its exquisite depiction of the fighting and individual lives struggling against the odds.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a great list of classic novels and pulp classics as well – I can only really add this nordic noir classic: “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson…and as for “The Godfather”, I can only add that the horses head was real…

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Hi Pete – I will look for the Pat Barker trilogy, time to step up my WWI reading. I liked “The Killer Angels” very much but haven’t read the son’s books yet. I thought “Gorky Park” was terrific.
    Suggestions for authors: Doris Kearns Goodwin for “Team of Rivals” on my top 20 list of histories. “Gun, Germs, and Steel” is on the serious side, but I always encourage people to read it – it just seems like one of those books, where someone comes along, and points out something obvious and important, that everybody else kind of missed. “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” is excellent and interesting start to finish. “Ghost Soldiers” is a good WWII true story.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You are right Pete, so many good books and authors starting with letter G. Griffin and Sabine, the whole four books by Nick Bantock. I love the illustrations, and the series of postcards and letters in all of those books. I have them in a special book case. The Gift and Grace by Richard Paul Evans, two books by my fave author. Diana Gabaldon would not be left behind. Kahlil Gibran’s the Prophet, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (this is a tiny book, her autobiography, sort of). Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado, books by Emily Giffin and John Grisham.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The geek strikes again…..”Green Book” by Qaddafi……”Geoppolitics” by Cohen……”Game Theory” by Rossenthal and “Globalization and its Discontents”….Joseph Stigliitz…..got nothing in my library of fiction with a “G”……onward….chuq

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth is by far one of the best novellas I’ve ever read, and probably the best thing I’ve had to read for one of my classes so far. The wit and humour Roth uses when writing a portrait of a strained relationship between working class and upperclass Jewish teens, as well as how he uses that relationship to show bigger issues within religious communities, is just fantastic! And he does it all in under 150 pages.
    Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin is a heartbreak classic about same-sex relationships and the desire to fit in with society, and the religious imagery and powers of description Baldwin uses in not just describing scenes, but also emotions, is beautiful.
    The Great Gatsby (as already mentioned on “F” for “Fitzgerald”) is a favourite of mine because of its use of symbolism and the historical context it provides to the 1920s.
    And a favourite book of mine in middle school-The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages, a novel about an eleven-year-old who’s father is working on developing the bomb that the US would drop at the end of WWII. It’s a fantastic book with beautiful imagery and subtle historical inclusions, and I suppose I could credit it as one of the books that first turned me on to historical fiction. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ah yes Graham Greene. Bar none best experience is the audio performance of Colin Firth reading “The End of the Affair.” I will add Elizabeth Gaskell, great British 19th century biographer of Charlotte Bronte and author of books exposing ills of society much as did her contemporary Dickens.

    Liked by 1 person

All comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s