Hillingdon Libraries Staff were given a new challenge this month, reread your favourite novel as a teenager… Now as an adult. What do you think about that beloved book after a few years? Unsurprisingly, our novels are all classics this time. We read and review a fiction book on a set theme every month, for you.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I read this wonderful story at school. There are plenty of books I have read and forgotten about. This story has stayed with me, not because my literature teacher stopped each student reader to discuss in depth each point after every couple of pages but because I wanted to keep reading on without interruption. This story is set in the deep south of the Unites States. Atticus in small town lawyer, an honest quiet man who is bringing up his two children with the help of a sensible, down to earth, wise housekeeper. As the story develops the reader gets to meet the neighbours and discovers a real feeling of what life was like for the children, Scout and Jem during a hot dusty carefree summer back in the 1930’s. I was enjoying getting to know the family and neighbours, even finding out about the creepy guy who never comes out during the day. Then something terrible happens. A woman is attacked by a man, a black man. Atticus becomes our hero as he defends this poor unfortunate innocent man who also has a family that love him dearly. There is never any question that Atticus will always do what is right and ensure the accused man will get a fair hearing. We know all along he didn’t do it – we just need Atticus to prove it. The moral of this story runs deep. We should all treat others how we would want to be treated ourselves. So many times I turned the page and was shocked by people’s judgmental ignorance and stupidity, then reassured by the wisdom, kindness and sincerity of Atticus Finch and a very few other townsfolk. This is a fascinating book that I re-read just before Go Set a Watchman was published. The author Harper Lee must have drawn from personal experience. She must have witnessed so much prejudice and seen the vast difference between social classes and colour. I’d like to think she based the character of Atticus on a person who really existed, what a joy it would be to meet someone like him.
5 out of 5 stars. Barbara – Ickenham Library
2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
From the opening sentence, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’, I was completely absorbed. Part romance, part suspense novel, ‘Rebecca’ is a real page-turner. The young woman, whose name is never revealed, is swept off her feet by glamorous widower Maxim de Winter who comes to stay at the hotel in Monte Carlo where she is acting as a companion to wealthy Mrs Van Hopper. She becomes the second Mrs de Winter and after a honeymoon in Italy they return to Maxim’s West Country estate, Manderley, which is presided over by the intimidating housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, who undermines the young bride at every turn. Gradually the young Mrs de Winter pieces together the facts of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca’s, life, marriage and death – drowned in a boating accident in the cove. Reading this novel for the first time as a teenager I had seen neither the film nor the TV series and so had no preconceived ideas. I had every sympathy for the naive and unsophisticated young woman who, married to a man twice her age, has no notion of how to deal with the staff on his estate, all of whom appear to have been devoted to Rebecca. Re-reading it as an adult at times I wanted to shake her! However, I still enjoyed it enormously. Despite having been written in 1938 and presumably set at around that time, it does not seem terribly dated, possibly because there is no mention of any world events. Definitely still a really good read.
5 out of 5 stars. Carol – Northwood Library
3. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
Reading a masterpiece by one of the greatest European intellectuals at 18 was probably too ambitious. After over ten years it was a more reasonable challenge. I loved ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ since the first time, but the second reading gave me much more to think about. Umberto Eco was an Italian academic, essayist, literary critic, semiotician and novelist. He wrote a remarkable number of essays and 7 novels. “I am a philosopher, I write novels only on the weekends” he told The Guardian in 2015. ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ is the richest novel I have ever read, infused with Eco’s ideas, erudition and wit. His historical murder mystery ‘The Name of the Rose’ is better known, but Eco showed more of his genius in this book. Eco put together a 50 thousand volume library, mostly dedicated to everything false, and to forgery and conspiracy. So ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ can be seen as a complicated device to explain and laugh at conspiracy, false information, and mistrust in knowledge and education. The whole ‘Da Vinci Code’ is mocked here… 15 years before being published. In a time when conspiracy theories and false news are almost mainstream, Umberto Eco’s ironic voice is more relevant than ever. I plan to read this book in a few years’ time, and I am sure there will be more to discover.
6 out of 5 stars. Federico – Northwood Library
4. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
I suppose I was an early teenager when I first devoured Treasure Island, and on revisiting it for this exercise I found it just as compulsive. Replete with classic pirate-speak such as “Shiver me timbers”, it remains a rattling good yarn, cleverly told mainly from a boy’s eye view – that of Jim Hawkins, the cabin boy. (Problems of first person narrative mean that one chapter is narrated by Dr Livesey.) I’d forgotten how many deaths there were in it, and how many times Long John Silver changed sides. He remains an irresistibly charismatic character, and one for whom the author had a sneaking sympathy. If I ever saw a film or TV version, I can remember nothing of it, so the characters and plot were still waiting to be reactivated in my brain, as with all good books. This is a great read.
5 out of 5 stars. Mike – Eastcote Library
Have you read any of these? What was your favourite book as a teenager? And in case you are a teenager, what are your reading? You can borrow all these books from our catalogue. Thanks for reading!