Dear Reader - I am sorry I have been absent for a while, I do hope you have not been waiting for my 'recommendations' before you picked a book to read ... otherwise your Kindle will be cobwebbed, your bookshelf dusty and your neglected library card lurking down the arm of the sofa! (or is this just my sad housework-free status?!) I am back after far too long of a break, and I have read such good books that I hardly know where to begin ...
I just finished Emma - an absolute classic by the talented Jane Austen. It's been on my TBR pile for years - not when I was made to study Mansfield Park for my A Levels (Arrrgh! way back when!) but more recently - since 1995 when I began to love all things Austen, Pride and Prejudice being my favourite (and it's modern-day incarnation Bridget Jones' Diary).
Emma is a young lady, a little bit opinionated and definitely spoilt, but she and her family outrank all her neighbours, and her lone parent (her father) is in weak health, so it is not surprising that she gets a little above herself and runs amok trying to arrange love-lives and friendships as if she was playing a game with dolls. Austen apparently decided create a heroine who only she would like, but as reader you are privvy to all the thoughts which run through Emma's mind, so your sympathies and understanding are very much engaged - for this reason the book presents Emma better than the film (starring Gwyneth Paltrow) and the TV adaptation.
The modernised version of this novel is Clueless (starring Alicia Silverstone) and the parallels are very clever, it remains as witty & well observed in the social "Do's & Don'ts" of its time as the JA original.
It is strange, when you realise that so much of the conversation and action in the book is not 'live' but reported (as heard by Emma) - this is particularly effective for Miss Bates, who could witter on for England, and win a gold medal!
I highly recommend this book, and it has made me want to read more of JA's writing, perhaps I can finally revisit Mansfield Park - decades after my studies put me off it!
In contrast - although not as different as you might think - the next book I recommend is The Third Wife : Lisa Jewell. LJ is well known for her books labelled 'chick lit' but they contain so much more than romance & following a lead female character through her life of juggling career & family. This book in particular has a dark edge to it, a central character is killed off right at the beginning and the story unfolds through the eyes of those left behind, as well as with flashbacks from when she was alive.
The family is large and sprawling - Adrian has married 3 times - so there are complicated family dynamics (which LJ observes so well), secrets galore and a 'stalker' element which is a little menacing. Throughout I couldn't forget the mystery of the death at the start, was it an accident or was it suicide? Who can be trusted and who is dangerous, under their veneer of 'nice'? I found myself imagining this being made into a film - with a great British vibe (that Richard Curtis does so well). The story was very compelling and kept me guessing until the end, although I had begun to suspect some characters of dark deeds - and was not proven wrong!