A Literary A-Z: P

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.


67 thoughts on “A Literary A-Z: P

  1. I’ve read “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” published in 1890, in the original English. It is quite reminiscent of “La Peau de chagrin, written by Honoré de Balzac in 1831. With respect to the French classic, Wikipedia states, “Set in early 19th-century Paris, it tells the story of a young man who finds a magic piece of shagreen that fulfills his every desire. For each wish granted, however, the skin shrinks and consumes a portion of his physical energy.”

    When I think of the letter P, Charles Perrault comes to mind, as do Marcel Proust and Marcel Pagnol. I also think of Joseph Peyré, who wrote a few novels involving mountaineering that I’ve enjoyed very much. But there is one French author that I particularly favor: André Pieyre de Mandiargues (1909– 1991). I’ve only read “Le Lis de mer” and “La Motocyclette,” but those books were enough.

    I’ve read “La Motocyclette” several times, and also own the so-so film adaptation on DVD (“Girl on a Motorcycle,” starring Marianne Faithfull and Alain Delon). The book involves a woman riding a motorcycle across country to meet her lover, and consists primarily of flashbacks that detail the various aspects of their past relationship. It’s a great book, and definitely one of my favorites of all time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw that film on release, and didn’t care for it too much as Marianne was far from being a good actress, in my opinion. (Delon deserved a better co-star)
      I have never read the book though.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I realized today that I should have mentioned one of America’s greatest writers: Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve read every short story and every poem—many times! I’ve also read his one novel, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket,” twice in French translation. Interestingly, Jules Verne wrote a sequel—”Le Sphinx des glaces” (translated in Englsh as “An Antarctic Mystery”).

          Liked by 1 person

  2. If anyone likes historical fiction/alternate history/what if’s – – “Prince Charlie’s Bluff” is just excellent. Especially if you’ve grown up on The ’45, General Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham, etc. and the French & Indian War, this is a blast

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve visited Québec City, about 7 hour drive from here, and walked on the Plains, and around the Montmorency Falls, where the Highlanders were somehow supposed to get up the cliffs under fire, etc. as you no doubt recall. You’d never know Montcalm lost, it’s a very French city. The book starts there, with the battle, and it’s really good.

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  3. I have a ba-zillion books that start with “Principles of”……so I will give one example….”Principles of International Relations” by Bruce de Mesquita….same hold true with books titles “Political …..” just a few of the many….”Political Thinkers” by Roger Scruton…..”Political Economy of the Middle East” by Alan Richards….”Political Junkies Handbook” by Michael Crane and “Political Thought” by Bagby….I am running out of space…LOL Have a good day….chuq

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  4. Glad to contribute this list:

    The Road Less Traveled – M. Scott Peck (A new psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth)
    A Child Called “It” – Dave Pelzer ( a true story)
    The shell seekers – Rosamunde Pilcher ( I love Pilcher and her other books)
    The Gentle Art of Blessing – Pierre Pradervand (inspirational)
    Cabinet of Curiosities – Douglas Preston (a thriller)
    The Godfather – Mario Puzo (who hasn’t heard of Mario Puzo?)
    The Dogs Of Winter – Booy Pyron (a novel)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, sweet! You like Oscar as much as I do. What a genius. Been a fan for years. ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ and ‘The Portrait of a Lady’. Edgar Allan Poe short stories are fun to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for mentioning Poe, Cindy. I left him out, imagining many would add something by him.

      I have always loved Wilde. He wrote my all-time favourite quote.
      “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
      It is a line from the play, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’.

      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lots of good books already mentioned, so, rather than wax lyrical over them, I will add Chaim Potok’s ‘The Chosen’ which is about two young men growing up in Brooklyn, New York, one of whom comes from a strictly orthodox Jewish family. It’s primarily about the latter’s relationship with his father and how this impacts on him, his studies and his desire to be a psychologist. There is a similar story, ‘My name is Asher Lev’ about a Jewish boy who wants to be an artist.

    I thought of another book that’s a little less niche, but I can’t remember what it was now. If it comes back to me, I’ll add it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My favorite detective writer, the Canadian Louise Penny. She takes the small village, limited character mystery to wonderful depths. She sets them in Eastern Quebec, Quebec City and Montreal, all of which we have visited, which deepens my appreciation.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I am charmed by your choices and surprised by Plaidy. I devoured all her books as a teen but have never been back to them. I’m not sure I would enjoy them as much as I did then. They were looked down upon by my parents! My choices would include several mentioned by others like Persuasion, Portrait of a Lady and A Prayer for Owen Meany as well as Pride & Prejudice, Peter Pan, The Princess Bride, Pygmalion, Pickwick Papers, Picnic at Hanging Rock… x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had mentioned so much Dickens, I left off The Pickwick Papers, so thanks for including it. I have never been back to Plaidy either. I was in my early 20s when I read most of them, passed on to me by my Mum, who loved them. I doubt ‘serious’ historians would have agreed…
      Thanks for all the other choices too, Sarah.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think you’ve outdone yourself with your choices Pete! I have a gorgeous book that has all of Beatrix Potter’s stories, illustrations and sketches.😊

    Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Doyle
    Pet Semetary -King
    Pelican Brief – Grisham
    Paradise – Morrison
    Paradise List/Paradise Regained – Milton
    The Parasites – du Maurier
    Persuasion/Pride and Prejudice – Austen
    Peter Pan – Barrie
    Phantom of the Opera – Leroux
    The Phantom Tollbooth – Juster
    Phantoms – Koontz
    Pillars of Earth -Follett
    Pippi Longstocking series – Lindgren
    Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series- MacDonald
    The Plague Dogs – Adams
    Planet of the Apes – Boulle
    Plato’s Republic – Plato
    Playback – Chandler
    The Poisonwood Bible/Prodigal Summer – Kingsolver
    Poor Richard’s Almanac
    Portnoy’s Complaint – Roth
    The Portrait of A Lady – James
    A Prayer For Owen Meeny – Irving
    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Spark
    The Prince – Machiavelli
    The Prince and the Pauper – Twain
    The Princess Bride – Goldman
    The Princess Diaries – Cabot
    A Princess of Mars – Burroughs
    The Prisoner of Zenda – Hope
    Psycho – Bloch
    Pygmalion- Shaw

    Authors: Terry Pratchett, Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Palmer, Daniel Palmer, James Patterson, Bill Peet, Robert Newton Peck, Dave Pelzer, Charles Perrault, Tamora Pierce, Dav Pilkey, Jerry Pinckney, Daniel Pinkwater, Jean Plaidy, Plato, Beatrix Potter, Marcel Proust, Phillip Pullman, E. Annie Proulx,

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Some classic novels listed there Pete, and it’s always great to see what others add to the mix. Here are two non-fiction titles to add – first, for foodies, “Provence 1970” is a great memoir of M.L.K. Fisher, Julia Child and other great Foodies in the south of France during a time of major change in the food world. Now to Hollywood in the 90’s, when Julia Phillips tore the cover off of the petty backstabbing, egos run amok era of this town in her scathing memoir “You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again.” Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Books by James Michener have always been my favourite. In most of his books he starts from millions of years ago and about the different animals that lived in that particular area. Reading about that period when there were no human beings, the thought comes to mind that with the coming of humans , destruction for the sake of destruction began. His POLAND is one such book. He tells us about history of Poland through the lives of three families. Regards 🙂 Lakshmi Bhat

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As you know Pete, my favorite author is Terry Pratchett. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Pratchett Almost 25 years ago one of my graduate assistants (Dena, if you are out there, thank you again) introduced me to his book Truckers. While Truckers is listed as a juvenile book (audience), I loved his use of words. From Truckers I moved into his Discworld series and return there frequently; if for another reason, reading Terry Pratchett is pure entertainment for me from his footnotes to his dialog. Never mind that the novel setting and rather unusual species of some of the characters are entertainment in their own right. While his stories have a deeper subtext and convey moral lessons if a potential reader is concerned he or she will be converted, forget that fear and just enjoy Pratchett’s turn of phrases.
    Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great choices – Dorian Grey is one of my favourite books!

    My ‘P’ choices would be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will by Judith Schalansky (the perfect cure for wanderlust); and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (a darling little book, which will make you think the world a brighter place).

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I expected lots of comments about the Austen novel, so I left it out. I did enjoy it though, also the wonderful BBC TV drama adaptation. I don’t know your other choices, so they are welcome additions.
      Glad to hear that you like the Oscar Wilde book as much as I do.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Prince- by Rory Clements, the 3rd in his Elizabethan murder mysteries featuring John Shakespeare (William’s Brother). Kinda like C.J.Sansome books only faster moving.

    I know it’s a P on his first name rather than last, but didn’t want to leave out Paul Hoffmans’ amazing trilogy beginning with The Left Hand of God. A dark alternate history, and you either love it or hate it, I did the former.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Throughout the 1950s, my dad was the civilian pilot for the US Army Corps of Engineers, so I have to add the book about the plane he flew and loved the most. It is ‘The plane that changed the world: a biography of the DC-3’ by Douglas Ingells.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Robbie. Bunyan’s Pilgrim was on the badge of my secondary school. And our school song was the hymn, ‘To Be A Pilgrim’. The area was heavily associated with Chaucer too, and the tales of the Canterbury Pilgrims, with many places and streets named after characters. By the time I left school, I was ‘Pilgrim-ed out’! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How lucky you are, Pete, to have learned about Chaucer and Pilgrims Progress at school. We never learned about these wonderful works and I studied them on my own after school. We are flying to England on Wednesday next week. I am so excited and we are going to Canterbury Cathedral AGAIN.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Canterbury is still a magical place, although full to the brim with tourists of course, and sometimes hard to find a parking spot. I hope that the weather improves for your visit. The sun is out this afternoon, so a good omen!
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  16. Who can forget King’s “Pet Semetary” and in the military category: I know of at least three books titled “The Pacific War” – 2 by Americans and one by a Japanese author. [lol – I couldn’t go wrong there, eh? ]

    Liked by 1 person

  17. When I read ‘Grisham’ I thought you were going to mention (The) Pelican Brief. I’m not sure that I have read the book, but I loved the film. Rosamunde Pilcher was someone I loved to read back in the ’80s – her stories often set in Cornwall and I am sure influenced me into wanting to live here. Her son, Robin Pilcher writes some decent novels too. I am sure that Cornwall is full of German tourists due to Rosamunde’s books and films – she has a huge following in Germany.

    And I shall introduce you to Mo Hayder’s crime and thriller books about Jack Caffrey, by mentioning Poppet. Not the first in the series, for that you need to go back to Birdman. Her books are not for the faint-hearted either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read much by Grisham, Jude, but probably seen all the films based on his books. I expected some mention of ‘The Pelican Brief’ in ‘P’. The only Pilcher book I can recall reading was ‘The Shell Seekers’.
      Thanks for your other suggestions too.
      Best wishes, Pete. x


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