So Different and So Similar Pairs of Books

Two books can have significant elements in common and still tell different stories. Characters may face similar situations, but their individual choices take the plots in completely different directions. The themes of two novels may be similar, but the action, the characters and the writing style ensure that they are ultimately distinctive and readers are still experiencing a fresh story.

I’ve read (at least) four pairs of books that are both different and similar for various reasons.

 

História do Cerco de Lisboa (The History of the Siege of Lisbon) by José Saramago + The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

These two novels have in common being my least favourites, so far, by José Saramago and Daphne du Maurier, two authors I adore. This is not the reason why I chose them to be part of this post. Both of them are also set in two different time periods, which are connected by a man. The tribulations that the characters face, however, are completely different. Continue reading

Favourite Opening Lines

By the time that we finish reading most books, the opening lines have already vanished from our memory. A selected few, however, linger on, long after we close the books and start new ones. They remain forever imprinted in our mind. My favourites are long and short, summarise the premise of the book or just leave readers wondering. There’s not a specific characteristic that distinguishes all of them.

 

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – May 2020

This edition of my monthly favourites is significantly shorter than the latest ones. It consists only of a book and a song. May obviously wasn’t a fruitful month, although I highly enjoyed taking part in the Daphne du Maurier reading week and in two of the Lauren and the Books’ cosy reading nights.

My favourite book from the ones that I completed in May was The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier. Two men, one English and the other French, meet at a station buffet in France. What is unusual is that they look exactly the same. They have some drinks together and, in the following day, the French Jean de Gué disappears taking with him the narrator’s clothes and wallet. When Jean’s driver arrives, he fully believes that the narrator is his employer. As the resemblance is so irrefutable, the narrator ends up assuming Jean’s place. I enjoyed discovering progressively more about the past of the characters, who are presented for the first time not only to the readers, but also the narrator. This is a compelling novel, full of convincing dialogues and written in an absorbing style.

Music-wise, I kept listening to one of HAIM’s newest songs, ‘Don’t Wanna’. I’m looking forward to listening to the new album in its entirety when it’s released. Continue reading

‘The Scapegoat’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

Even if two men look exactly the same, the way in which they interact with other people is bound to be different. The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier offers an interesting perspective on how such disparities in behaviour have consequences in the lives of others. The main allure of this novel is to discover more about the past of the characters, which explains their current behaviour, at the same time as the narrator, particularly because they wrongly believed that he had the same knowledge as them.

The narrator is a lecturer on French history and language from England who at the beginning of the book was travelling around France. While at a station buffet, he saw a man, Jean de Gué, whose appearance and voice were exactly like his. The resemblance was undeniable. It was like looking straight into a mirror. They drank and had dinner together. Jean de Gué was eager to know more about the narrator’s life and was particularly interested in him not having a family, something that he considered to be freeing.

Jean decided to rent a room for the night and they had a few more drinks there. When the narrator woke up the next day, Jean was gone and had stolen his wallet and clothes. Jean’s chauffeur was there to pick him up and was fully convinced that the narrator was his employer. After unsuccessfully trying to explain that he was not Jean, he gradually ended up deciding to also assume the place of his doppelgänger. But it was only when they were getting close to Jean’s house that he completely realised the full extent of what he was doing. Continue reading

Favourite Characters by Daphne du Maurier

Many of Daphne du Maurier’s books stand out thanks to a magnificent creation of atmospheres. The characters that she crafted are not less remarkable, however. Some of my favourites are not necessarily the most perfect human beings or ones that I identify with, but they feel real and live off the page. They are characters that are not easy to forget.

 

Mrs de Winter

The first name of the narrator and main character of Rebecca remains a mystery for the entirety of this outstanding novel. At the beginning, she is an exceedingly insecure and timid young woman, who lives in the shadow of Mr de Winter’s deceased first wife, Rebecca. She becomes much more confident by the end, though. Despite her diffident personality, Daphne du Maurier managed to make her relatable.

 

Mary Yellan

Jamaica Inn also has a great main character. Curious, feisty and determined, Mary Yellan reveals great complexity. Although she is brave, she occasionally succumbs to fear. She has good intentions, but doesn’t always address her aunt with kindness, something that she is aware of, as she reconsiders her behaviour. I loved her interactions with Jem Merlyn. Continue reading

Books I Almost Loved

Very rarely do I rate books with five stars. For that to happen, a book has to be perfect in every regard in my opinion. I can’t even have a minor complaint. As I decided early on not to use half stars on my ratings, I always award four stars to books that weren’t flawless but that I almost loved. Only by reading the review can my high esteem for such books be fully perceived. The following eight books fall under that category.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

This retelling of an Ancient Greek myth resembles a fictional memoir. Circe, the daughter of Helios (the god of sun) and Perse (a nymph), was sentenced to exile as a punishment for using witchcraft against her own kind. Throughout the book, Madeline Miller delves into the meaning of love and the fear of losing a dear one. The prose is gripping and the characters feel truly real, thanks to a tangible portrayal of emotions, particularly those of Circe. However, the book loses a bit of its enchantment when Circe tells stories about Odysseus.

 

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

The first book in The Farseer Trilogy is not only a story of court intrigue and lust for power, but also a true interpretation of human emotions. When he was 6 years old, Fitz was left by his grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. Some years later, he started being trained as an assassin in secret. The detailed and absorbing writing style is one of the highlights of this fantasy book. Unfortunately, the last chapter is not as thorough and some events are just briefly mentioned. Continue reading

Book Haul – March / April 2020

During strange times, there’s something calming about reading a book and get immersed in a fictional world, reason why I had to buy some books! This haul features classics, fantasy and historical fiction. I’ve already finished one of the books, and the others I expect to read soon.

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time more than ten years ago. It was the first book that I read by Jane Austen. Having now read all of her major novels once, I decided to reread it, but this time in English, as I had previously read the Portuguese translation. So, I bought a beautiful Vintage Classics edition.

 

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

In the second book in The Farseer trilogy, Robin Hobb continues to tell the story of Fitz, as he faces grave danger and is asked to make sacrifices for the good of the realm. I expect this instalment to continue to explore human emotions and to also be full of court intrigue. Continue reading

Authors I Discovered Thanks to the Bookish Community

Blogs and YouTube channels mainly focused on books are a fantastic resource for readers, if I can say so myself. Thanks to various bloggers and youtubers, I discovered some authors whom I had never heard of before and whose books I also haven’t seen displayed in bookshops in Portugal since then.

When I started thinking about authors that I learnt about thanks to the bookish community, six names immediately sprang to mind. But this is by no means an exhaustive list.

 

Daphne du Maurier

It may be a surprise to some of you to see Daphne du Maurier’s name on this list. But, being from Portugal, she was a complete unknown to me. It was thanks to either Lauren from Lauren and the Books or Simon from SavidgeReads on YouTube that I decided to read the magnificent Rebecca. Since then, I’ve also read Jamaica Inn, The King’s General, My Cousin Rachel, The House on the Strand and The Birds and Other Stories. Her work is, generally speaking, atmospheric, full of vivid characters and sprinkled with mystery. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2019

2019 was a complicated reading year. I read various praiseworthy novels, short story and poetry collections. In terms of genres, my reading was as varied, featuring classics, literary fiction, fantasy and myth retellings, for example. So far, I’ve read 34 books and will probably finish another one in the following days. However, I decided not to finish eight books, a number higher than ever before, if I’m not mistaken.

This was also the year when I chose to reread a book again after probably decades without doing so. Thus, I had to decide whether to include rereads in my favourite books of the year or not from now on. I decided against it. This post only includes books that I read for the first time during the year, irrespective of date of publication.

I don’t tend to rate books with five stars very often, because they need to be completely flawless for that to happen. This year I only rated one book with five stars, and it was the one that I reread – O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis) by José Saramago. The majority of the books that I rate with four stars are still great, though. Some of the five books that I selected as my favourites of 2019 are indeed almost perfect, in my opinion. In reverse order, they are: Continue reading

Daphne du Maurier: A Queen of Atmospheric Novels

Daphne du Maurier may have been born in London in 1907, but it’s Cornwall, where she lived for most of her life and died in 1989, the main setting of several of her books. Boasting a craggy coast, inspiring coves, sandy beaches and clifftops filled with flowers, the region fits perfectly with her atmospheric stories. It’s not difficult to fall in love with her writing style. Vivid characters, a gripping prose and a sprinkle of mystery turn her novels into enthralling reads, even if they are not always perfect. She published her first novel, The Loving Spirit, in 1931. This is not the book she is best known for, though.

Rebecca is probably her most famous novel and, without a doubt, my favourite so far. After marrying Maxim de Winter, the unnamed narrator moved with him to his family home, the iconic Manderley. Being an insecure young woman, she already felt inferior to his deceased first wife, Rebecca. Living in Manderley only amplified her doubts and apprehensions. While she didn’t know how to deal with the staff nor was she familiar with her husband’s routines, Rebecca seemed to have been perfect. And Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper, was always there to remind her of that.

Accusations of plagiarism were raised regarding the book. Carolina Nabuco, a Brazilian author, believed that Daphne du Maurier had plagiarised her novel A Sucessora, although it had only been published in Portuguese at the time. She considered that the initial storyline of both novels was very similar, but she never sued Du Maurier, who claimed that she had never heard of Nabuco’s book before. The American Edwina Levin MacDonald went as far as filing suit in 1941. The complaint was dismissed, however. Continue reading