Finally up to ‘P’. Feel free to add your choices of any book title, or the surname of an author, as long as it begins with a ‘P’.
I have to start ‘P’ with an appreciation of the life and work of the English author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter. Her wonderful tales of animals have enchanted generations of children and adults alike, ever since they were first published. She wrote and illustrated 24 in all, from 1902, until 1930. Benjamin Bunny, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Squirrel Nutkin, Peter Rabbit, and so many more. Enduring characters that never fail to delight, and are still just as popular today. Potter moved from London to The Lake District, where she was inspired to preserve the natural surroundings, raising sheep, and buying land. Her conservation ideas led to this area being made into a National Park. She was also one of the first writers to ‘cash in’ on the merchandising of her characters, creating dolls as a spin-off from the success of her books. Even today, her association with the area provides an industry for parts of the Lake District, with many gift shops selling her books, and other merchandise based on the many characters. There have been animated films too, and a biographical film about Beatrix, starring Renee Zellweger, was released in 2006.
Very few historical novelists have achieved the output of Jean Plaidy. (Pen name) This English writer published fourteen series of books covering periods from the Norman era, through to the Medicis, Tudors, and Stuarts. Alongside these, she also wrote romantic fiction, historical non-fiction, and children’s stories too. Using fictional characters in actual historical settings and events, Plaidy brought those periods alive to the reader. As well as providing an entertaining read, she also managed to teach the reader things about those times that they would have been unlikely to discover otherwise. During the 1970s, I must have read more than twenty of her books, and if you are a fan of historical fiction, I really recommend them. There are far too many titles to list, so here’s a link to her Wikipedia page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_Hibbert
It seems that I can never get away from the wonderful writer, E.M. Forster. Every letter in this challenge appears to throw up another of his great books, and ‘P’ is no exception. ‘A Passage to India’ will be known to many, from the superb film adaptation by David Lean, starring Judy Davis, and Alec Guinness. But the book was published in 1924, set around the days of the Raj, the British occupation of India, and the burgeoning independence movement at the time. Forster captures the clash of cultures perfectly, with a cast of characters who are never to be forgotten, and his detailed descriptions of the lifestyle and surroundings. Another superb novel, from one of this country’s greatest writers.
Scottish writer Muriel Spark brought us arguably one of the most fascinating characters in modern literature, with her creation of the school teacher, Miss Jean Brodie. In her 1961 novel, ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’, we are introduced to the unconventional woman who teaches her girls in a refreshingly different way. Being set in the 1930s makes Miss Brodie’s style even more outrageous, as she tells the small class about her own experiences, her travels, and love affairs. The girls soon identify with her, and become known as her ‘set’. Miss Brodie’s methods are not popular with some, but she is loved by two of the male teachers, who are fascinated by her vitality. The book was adapted into a stage play, which in turn became a faithful and entertaining film, giving Dame Maggie Smith one of the best roles of her career.
I have read a few ‘legal thrillers’ over the years. It is a popular genre, with John Grisham undoubtedly the best-known writer of it. Back in the 1980s, I picked up a book at the airport, wanting something easy to read on holiday. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. I became wrapped up in the difficulties surrounding prosecutor Rusty Sabitch, and the case he was involved in. It wasn’t by Grisham though, it was ‘Presumed Innocent’, by Scott Turow. This is one of those ‘did he, didn’t he’ books, but very well done indeed. It is far from being great literature of course, but it’s a perfect example of the kind of book that you enjoy immensely, then all but forget.
A few years later, it was made into a film starring Harrison Ford. It was a decent adaptation, but somehow I never pictured Ford as Rusty.
My top pick today is from one of my favourite writers, and one of the wittiest and most quotable men I can think of. Irish writer Oscar Wilde led a very successful life as a playwright and novelist that ultimately ended in sadness and tragedy, when he was imprisoned because of his homosexuality. Despite his early death at the age of 46, his work endures to this day. His often hilarious plays are frequently staged, and many have been adapted into films. My choice is his novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, from 1890. This has a dark heart, as Wilde tells the story of Dorian, a young man who becomes involved in a debauched and hedonistic lifestyle, under the influence of the dastardly Lord Wotton. Dorian owns a full length portrait of himself, showing him in all his youth and beauty. But as his morals decline, and he sinks lower and lower, the portrait begins to reflect that, becoming ugly and hideous to behold. Dorian shuts it away in an attic, but it continues to reflect his corruption. This is a wonderful analogy, and a compelling read too. It has been filmed twice in English, in 1945, and again in 2009. Both versions are well-worth watching.