Favourite Female Characters II

Almost six years ago, I wrote a post about my favourite female characters to celebrate International Women’s Day. Since then, I read various other books whose female characters I found as interesting as the ones I mentioned previously (or in some cases even more). Some of them shine because of their compelling personalities. Others may not have an immediately fascinating temperament, but they stand out thanks to their authenticity. Well-crafted characters can be captivating regardless of their traits.

The seven characters mentioned bellow are part of books from various genres, from fantasy to literary and historical fiction. Some I spent a long time with, as they are featured in series, others just a few days. They all have one thing in common, though. They lingered on in my mind. It is also not surprising that three of the characters were created by Daphne du Maurier, since her talent is well known.

 

Althea Vestrit – The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The younger daughter of Ephron Vestrit, Althea is one of the main characters in Ship of Magic, The Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny, the three books in The Liveship Traders Trilogy by the fantasy writer Robin Hobb. Her family has a liveship called Vivacia and her biggest dream is to be her captain one day. She is wilful and feels restricted by the sexist society she lives in. Although she occasionally makes rash decisions, she reflects on her mistakes. She has her own desires, but can adapt them as the situation around her changes. What she experiences throughout the series is deeply affecting. Continue reading

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Unexpected Pairs of Books

Books can be of completely different genres, tell an incomparable story, feature characters with overall contrasting personalities and still have at least one element in common. The following three pairs of books are unexpected, because at first sight they couldn’t be more dissimilar. However, there’s one characteristic that unites the books in each pair. What can connect three classics or modern classics to three fantasy books? While you are about to discover the correlation between two of the pairs, regarding the other one you will have to read the books!

 

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin + Os Maias (The Maias) by Eça de Queirós

I cannot directly tell you what the connection between A Game of Thrones, a fantasy novel, and the Portuguese classic Os Maias (The Maias in the English translation) is, because it is a massive spoiler for one of these books. I’ll just give you a brief summary of their premises instead. At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Robert Baratheon is the king who sits on the Iron Throne. After the death of his Hand, he invites Lord Eddard Stark to assume the role.  However, since the lords of Westeros are playing dangerous power games, families want to keep secrets hidden, the exiled Targaryen’s want to retake their father’s throne and a legendary threat is lurking behind the Wall, peace may be at an end.

The classic by Eça de Queirós, as the title suggests, revolves around the misadventures of the Maia family. After the end in tragedy of the relationship between Pedro da Maia and Maria Monforte, Afonso da Maia becomes responsible for the upbringing of his grandson, Carlos, who later becomes besotted by Maria Eduarda. Besides being a family story, the book also shines a light on the vices of the higher classes and the cultural discussions of the 19th century. Continue reading

First Books to Read by My Favourite Authors

The first book we choose to read by some authors may end up having a significant impact on whether we decide to continue to explore their work or not. When someone asks us to recommend a first book to read by one of our favourite writers, we surely want to mention one that will make that person want to continue to read their books. Which should we recommend? The first one we read? Our favourite? Or some other? I tried to answer these questions regarding my current favourite authors: Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, José Saramago, Eça de Queirós, Jessie Burton and Margaret Atwood.

 

Daphne du Maurier: Jamaica Inn

When we fall head over heels in love with the first book we read by an author, it’s difficult not to keep comparing our subsequent reads by them to it. That’s what happened to me with Daphne du Maurier and the magnificent Rebecca. For that reason, if you still haven’t started exploring Du Maurier’s work, I recommend starting with Jamaica Inn instead. It’s a great novel that will make you want to continue reading her books, while still having her best book (in my opinion) to look forward to.

Jamaica Inn is atmospheric and mysterious. After the death of her mother, the main character, Mary Yellan, went to live with her aunt Patience, who was married to Joss Merlyn. He was the new landlord of Jamaica Inn. Mary soon realised that her uncle was involved in some kind of criminal activity. Throughout the book, there are various instances which shine thanks to a tangible sense of menace. The believable characters and realistic dialogues make the book captivating. Continue reading

Book Club Recommendations – Books Worth Discussing

Spending a couple of hours just in the company of a good book feels like heaven for many readers, including me. But reading doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. The most sociable readers have always the option of joining a book club either in person or online to discuss previously agreed books and have a lively, but respectful, debate.

Generally-speaking, any book is a good book to choose to read for a book club. However, some are bound to spark a more spirited discussion than others. It’s important to choose books that are interesting to muse about, that make readers think, maybe arrive at different conclusions, or look at the characters from different perspectives. I have five recommendations that I believe are good options to read in a book club.

 

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Although Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is full of fantastical elements, it focuses on very human experiences. This book, which is ultimately about memory and traumatic experiences, has as main character Piranesi, who lives in an immense house surrounded by the sea. He joins the Other twice a week to discuss their endeavours to discover some unknown knowledge. His emotions are portrayed with a meaningful subtlety. For such a short book, it provides many topics for discussion. How do memories influence our perception about ourselves? What clues about the ending did readers find? What did readers discern about what was going on in that world at various stages? Continue reading

Five Books Set in Italy

Italy is one of the countries I dream of visiting. How amazing would it be to be able to spend a month travelling around such a stunning place that exhales history in every corner? While I save money to one day go on that adventure, I content myself with reading books set there, either in their entirety or just partially. There are five books set in Italy that I read in recent years and that I wholeheartedly recommend, despite not considering them perfect nor necessarily favourite books of mine.

 

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The casual humorous tone and the subtle irony of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim make a simple plot shine. A group of women decides to rent a small medieval castle in Italy during the month of April. Their reasons for that are different, but those charming holidays will make all of them see their lives in a new light. The evocative descriptions of their surroundings are wonderful.

 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

The first book in The Neapolitan Novels is merely the initial taste of the story of a convoluted friendship that will last for years. Elena and Lila have lived in the same neighbourhood in Naples for a significant part of their lives. As readers learn more about the two friends, they also get a thought-provoking picture of Italian society, since their story is complemented by reflections on class, equality, social mobility and the role of education. Continue reading

‘The Flight of the Falcon’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

Daphne du Maurier employed a variety of writing tones in The Flight of the Falcon, showing how versatile she could be. If the first chapters are characterised by a funny undertone, in the rest of the book the first-person narration assumes a much more introspective, mysterious and tense quality. As past and present start to mingle, the story becomes puzzling and even confusing at times. In order to keep a secret alive, one of the characters is not as explored as his backstory and mental state asked for.

Armino, the narrator of the novel, is a tour guide in Italy. He works for Sunshine Tours, a company that organises visits around the country. At the beginning of the book, he is with a group of English and American tourists in Rome. While at the hotel, one of the tourists invites him to his room. Although the narrator clearly refuses the offer, the man still slips a 10 thousand lire note into his hand trying to convince him. Armino decides to give the money to a woman they saw sleeping at the door of a church early on. When she holds his hand, he has a strange feeling and runs away.

The following day, a piece in the newspaper says that the same woman was killed and nothing was found in her possession besides a few coins. The moment he sees her body, Armino realises that the woman is Marta, who worked for his family when he was a child. That realisation makes him want to return to Ruffano, his hometown, a place he left with his mother when he was just eleven years old. Both his father, who was the superintendent of the town’s palace, and his brother Aldo died during the German occupation. Continue reading

Favourite Books by Daphne du Maurier

The time has finally come to enjoy another Daphne du Maurier Reading Week, hosted by Ali. As I still haven’t managed to start reading my choice for this year, The Flight of the Falcon, nothing better than to share with you my favourite books by Daphne du Maurier. So far, I’ve read a total of nine books, including seven novels and two short story collections. They are: Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, The King’s General, Jamaica Inn, The House on the Strand, The Birds and Other Stories, The Scapegoat, Frenchman’s Creek and Don’t Look Now: Short Stories.

Are you curious to discover the four that I cherish the most?

 

Rebecca

The unnamed narrator of this astonishing book is a self-doubting young woman who marries Maxim de Winter after meeting him in Monte Carlo. She moves with him to Manderley, his family home, where her insecurities and doubts are greatly amplified. How can she ever be as perfect as his deceased first wife, Rebecca? The first novel I read by Daphne du Maurier remains my favourite. It is enthralling, enigmatic and atmospheric. The gripping mystery is perfectly accompanied by fleshed out characters. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from ‘Our Wives under the Sea’ to ‘Hotel Iris’

It’s the beginning of the month, which means that it’s time for another chain of books. Six Degrees of Separation is a bookish meme created by Kate from Books are My Favourite and Best. Every month Kate chooses one book to start the chain and we just have to select other six, each connected in some way with the previous one.

For April the first book is Our Wives under the Sea by Julia Armfield, which I haven’t read yet, though I enjoyed her collection of short stories Salt Slow. In her debut novel, Miri is happy that her wife, Leah, has returned home from a deep-sea mission. Leah is struggling, however, as that mission has not ended well.

The title of Julia Armfield’s novel reminds me of the short story collection Diving Belles by Lucy Wood. The main character in the first tale, which is memorably atmospheric, goes under the sea on a diving belle to see her husband. The sea is, in fact, a recurring element in many of the stories featured in this collection. Continue reading

The Book Design Tag

When a book I’m interested in is published wrapped up in a beautiful cover, I cannot hide my excitement! I know that what truly matters is the text inside. However, an appealing cover, gorgeously designed, is always a more than welcome extra. As soon as I watched the Book Design Tag on Lil’s Vintage World YouTube channel, I knew that I had to answer the questions myself. How could I miss another opportunity to share and showcase some of the most stunning books that I have on my shelves?

 

  1. A book you bought primarily (or completely) because of the cover

I bought The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton solely because I fell in love with its gorgeous cover that tries to replicate a cabinet house. When I finally read it, I loved it so much that the first post I wrote for this blog was a review about it, although I had finished it a couple of months previously.

 

  1. A book you want to buy that has a beautiful cover

There are so many stunning books on my wish list that it isn’t easy to pick just one. So, I decided to mention the last beautiful book I added to the list of those I want to buy at some point in time – The Haunting Season. It is a collection of ghost stories written by various authors for this particular purpose. Continue reading

Pairs of Books to Gift this Christmas

Are your dear friends and family members eager to receive books this Christmas? One of the options that will make them love you even more is to present them with two books that share some similarities, so they can compare and contrast. Some of the books I’m about to recommend are on the surface obviously very much alike. However, they are not carbon copy of one another. Not only do their authors have disparate writing styles, but the details of the plot also end up making them unique in many ways.

 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Both Burial Rites and Alias Grace are fictional books inspired by real-life occurrences – two women are considered guilty of murdering two people each. But did they? In Burial Rites, Hannah Kent presents the touching and poignant story of Agnes, whom was sentenced to death after being considered guilty of killing her lover, Nathan, and Pétur in Iceland in the 19th century. While awaiting the day of her execution at the house of one of the officers in the district, she is visited by Assistant Reverend Thorvardur and tells him her version of events.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood focuses on the role that Grace Marks played in the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. While in prison, she receives the visit of doctor Simon Jordan and recalls various moments from her life until then. Grace’s inner thoughts and reminiscences are strikingly turn into words. Continue reading