The Time and Place Book Tag was created by Jen Campbell more than a year ago. I decided to do it, rather belatedly, after considering the possibility of giving away my three horrible Jane Austen’s Wordsworth Classics editions, but deciding to keep them because I associate two of them to a specific time and place in my life.
I decided then to do a blog post about the books that I remembered reading at a specific point in my life. However, I recalled having already seen a similar content around and, after some research, I rediscovered Jen’s video on YouTube. The Time and Place book tag consists on choosing 10 books from our shelves that we associate with a specific time and place in our lives, and explain the story behind the choices and what the books are about. I’m going to cheat a bit, since I’ve only chosen seven books.
Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I bought these two novels in an independent bookshop in Soho when I was visiting London back in 2010 and read them one after the other. So, my memories of buying and reading them are quite similar. One day I was strolling through the streets of Soho with my friends and some weeks later I was back in Portugal commuting from University to home, after attending my master degree’s classes, while enjoying these two novels by Jane Austen. I clearly remember those being rainy days, when I had to wait for trains for ages.
Persuasion focus on Anne Elliot who breaks her engagement to Frederick Wentworth after being persuaded by her friend that the match was unworthy of her.
Sense and Sensibility is pretty much about how two different sisters deal with love in a society where status is quite important, one being impulsive and the other more concerned with social conventions.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I clearly remember having Pride and Prejudice (more accurately the Portuguese translation of it) on my bedside table at my room while I was in University studying for my bachelor’s degree and a friend of one of my flatmates coming in and asking me to borrow it as soon as I finished it. That happened sometime around the beginning of 2006. At the time, I was not even reading that many books for leisure, but I became really interested in the novels by Jane Austen after watching the Pride and Prejudice film adaptation directed by Joe Wright.
As all of you probably know, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of the Bennet sisters after Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley move to their neighbourhood. It wittily follows Elizabeth Bennet as she has to deal with the issues of upbringing, wealth, class and marriage. This is my favourite novel by Jane Austen so far.
The Innocent by Ian McEwan
I read The Innocent by Ian McEwan at the beginning of last year and have a vivid memory of being on a train going to Oporto for a job interview while being astonished by the most surprising part of this book. Something really twisted happened in the story and I couldn’t stop reading, when in fact I should have been preparing what to say during the interview. I didn’t get that job, but it really was an unforgettable train journey.
This book is set in Germany during the Cold War and is mainly about the loss of innocence. Leonard Marnham, an English post office technician, is recruited to work in a secret tunnel under the Soviet sector built by the British and the Americans to gain access to the Russians’ communication system. While in Berlin, he has a secret relationship with a German woman, leading to a gruesome outcome.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina remains the only Russian classic I have read so far. I remember reading it in 2012 at the waiting room of an hospital, where my mother had an appointment, while being quite worried about my master’s degree dissertation. I was really trying to focus on the novel, which I was really enjoying, but at the same time I couldn’t stop wondering if what I had been writing for my dissertation made sense or not.
This classic is, overall, a story about the various forms of love. While married Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky have an affair that makes them the target of disdain, Levin and Kitty forge a close bond. But it also sheds light on the Russian feudal society and the new political ideas being born in the 19th century.
1984 by George Orwell
I decided to read 1984 back in 2009, because I had read somewhere that Muse’s album The Resistance had been inspired by Orwell’s book. I wanted to know how many of the ideas behind the songs of that album by one of my favourite bands really resembled the story being told in the novel. So, I remember reading the book in bed and having the booklet of the CD on the bedside table in order to check the lyrics.
1984 is a dystopian novel that takes place in a time of perpetual war, government surveillance and public manipulation. Power is exercised by a single party, whose leader is known as the Big Brother. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth as a rewriter of historical events. He has an affair with Julia, who shares his loathing of the Party.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as soon as it was published, during the summer of 2007. It was the first book I read entirely in English (before I had only read books translated to Portuguese) and I carried it with me everywhere until I finished it. I remember being at a pastry shop with one of my flatmates and discussing how it was like reading Harry Potter as a 21-year-old and if I was having trouble understanding everything in English.
This is the seventh book of the Harry Potter series and… I really don’t need to say anything about it, do I?
In case you haven’t watched Jen’s video, please do!