Book choice for June 2008

Rebecca [suggested by Siobhan Fitzmaurice]

front cover

A young, naive woman who is the paid companion of an obnoxious rich woman is taken along to Monte Carlo.  While she smarts under the rudeness and gauche behavior of her employer, she meets the dark, handsome widower Max de Winter.

What follows is a love story and a ghost story of a woman haunted by the powerful presence of the former mistress of Manderley.  We never learn the name of the heroine as she marries Max, moves into the rigid but elegant life at Manderley and tangles with Mrs. Danvers, Manderley's fearsome housekeeper.  What unfolds is not only a mystery but a story of obsessions and evil.

Du Maurier creates an unforgettable atmosphere of decaying beauty, frightening spirits and horror mixed with love and death.

This month's read also has its own Wikipedia page from where the above synopsis is borrowed.

About the Author

Daphne was born in 1907, grand-daughter of the brilliant artist and writer George du Maurier, daughter of Gerald, the most famous Actor Manager of his day, she came from a creative and successful family.

She began writing short stories in 1928, and in 1931 her first novel, 'The Loving Spirit' was published.  It received rave reviews and further books followed.  Then came her most famous three novels, 'Jamaica Inn', 'Frenchman's Creek' and Rebecca'.  Each novel being inspired by her love of Cornwall, where she lived and wrote.

Further information on her website, or Wikipedia page.

 

Shortlisted for this month

The nominator can now decide whether to bring one, two, or three books to be chosen by the group (or mandated in the case of only one book being selected).  This month, Siobhan suggested three books, the others being:

Spasm: A Memoir with Lies

Spasm: A Memoir with Lies

Between the ages of 13 and 17, Lauren Slater was epileptic.  Surgery stopped her seizures; but by then the psychological reflex was ingrained - the habit of invention to fill the gaps in her memory and experience.  She'd learned to lie.  She may even have lied about her epilepsy.  She may never have had it at all.  Her memoir is a work of non-fiction that uses the freedoms of fiction to shape the story of its author's life.  It embroiders and embellishes, exaggerates and imagines.  Above all, it builds on metaphor, most significantly the metaphor of illness, to express complex truths about the self that simple documentary fact could not describe.  It is an autobiography with an unreliable narrator: an exploration of growing up with gaps, or truth in fits, and a meditation on the meaning of autobiography itself. [review from amazon.com]

About the Author

Lauren Slater has a Wikipedia page and a personal website whereon you can read the uniformly glowing and upbeat biog of her, where she's referred to rather tersely as Slater.  If you want something a little more realistic (or at least not so relentlessly positive) you'll have to search for it yourself.

 

Austerlitz

Austerlitz

Sebald writes about a man (Austerlitz) who despite his lushly satisfying intellectual life of an architectural historian finds himself in search of his roots.  That those roots were blurred by the atrocities of Hitler's Kindertransport program (Jewish children were sent to England by parents hoping for their safety as the wings of evil flapped menacingly in the air) only makes Austerlitz's journey to self-discovery the more poignant.  His revisiting the sites of his true parents in Prague and Marienbad and Terezinbad, Paris, and Belgium produce some of the most beautifully wrought elegies found in the written word.  His walking among the horrors of the obsessive compulsive Hitlerian Final Solution Program is devastating in the way that only researching one's history from time-lapsed memories and visual stimuli can create.

Some readers may be put off by the initial rambling technique of getting to the journey that fills the first quarter of this book, not helped by getting adjusted to the pages-long sentences and lack of chapters or pauses.  But reflect on the fact that our own minds never stop when obsessed with the desire to know and understand our place in the universe and these inital trivial roadblocks will fade.  Eventually Sebald's style leads you into not only a story of great magnitude, passion, and tenderness, it does so with some of the most liquidly gorgeous prose you are likely to encounter. [amazon user review - what was he on do you think?]

About the Author

Sebald grew up in Wertach Bavaria, one of four children of Rosa and Georg Sebald.  From 1948 to 1963 he lived in Sonthofen.  His father joined the Reichswehr in 1929 and remained in the Wehrmacht under the Nazis.  His father remained a detached figure, a prisoner of war until 1947; a grandfather was the most important male presence in his early years.  He was shown images of the Holocaust whilst at school in Oberstdorf and recalled that no one knew how to explain what they had just seen.  The Holocaust and post-war Germany looms large in Sebald's work.

Sebald studied literature at the universities of Freiburg, Germany, Fribourg, Switzerland and Manchester.  He became an assistant lecturer at the University of Manchester in 1966 and settled in England permanently in 1970, joining the University of East Anglia (UEA).  In 1987, he was appointed to a chair of European literature at UEA and, in 1989, became the founding director of the British Centre for Literary Translation.  He lived at Wymondham and Poringland whilst at the UEA.

Sebald died in a car crash in 2001.  He was driving together with his daughter, Anna, who survived the crash.  He had married Ute in 1967.  He is buried in St. Andrew's churchyard in Framingham Earl, close to where he lived.

(from his Wikipedia page)

 

Previous Months' Book Choices

May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006