By, Kate Robbins
Five books that changed my life? WOW, that's a pretty big claim. I think it would be easier for me to list the five books that I absolutely adore and that have stuck with me over the years for various reasons. It's a brutal task to widdle down to five, but here's how it shapes up. These aren't in any particular order either. That's simply not possible.
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
I have a really old, beat up copy that used to belong to my Dad and it, of course, reminds me of him. Unlike most books I now read on my Kobo, I was always aware of this book's length while reading. But the payoff was huge. I swear reading it was its own workout. Having said that, it's the ultimate story of revenge. Edmond Dantes has been wronged and it lands him in prison to rot. They say revenge is best served up cold. Well Edmond gets his revenge, but does he really win?
I loved this story and lemme tell ya, Jim Caviezel does a pretty fine Edmond Dantes in the 2002 movie. Surprisingly, the film adaptation was not a disappointment. So if you want something thick, dark, and intense, pick up The Count of Monte Cristo. I now have copy on my Kobo. I wonder how long it will take me to read this time.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
No shocker there right? The first time I experienced this story was an old VHS copy from a bad CBC signal. Didn't matter. I watched the entire A&E mini-series in one sitting. Poor hubby tried unsuccessfully to get my attention several times and finally gave up to go out with his buddy.
The Bennets have a problem. They have five daughters and no son to inherit their small estate. As such, upon his death, Mr. Bennet's country manor will be entailed away to one Mr. Collins, his younger cousin. Poor Mrs. Bennet feels the effect of their trouble keenly and often professes her anguish over the injustice saying they will be, "...left to starve in the hedgerows." Second eldest Lizzy Bennet swears she will marry for nothing short of true love. And it will not be to the arrogant, insufferable likes of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Even if he does have ten thousand a year and a grand estate in Derbyshire.
Colin Firth will forever epitomize Mr. Darcy. They can remake this movie a million times and I'll never forget this version. After I watched the movie about ten times, I sought out the book. Surprise, surprise, Dad had a copy in the bookshelf. :) Then I got a copy from a friend, then I saw another copy I liked. Ok, so I have a book fetish. It could be worse. I've now read the book and seen the movie so much that friends won't watch it with me anymore because I quote lines. Everyone's lines. "Oh Mr. Bennet why must you be so tiresome!"
The best part of the A&E adaptation of the novel? Austen's brilliant dialogue is intact. Capital, capital!
The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton
I was at the prime age for the movie adaptation when it came out in 1983. My bedroom walls were plastered for quite a while after that with posters of Tom Howell, Matt Dillon and all da b'ys. I had a lot of John Taylor posters too, but that's a post for another day.
The Outsiders was published in 1967 and captures the social struggle of kids from both sides of the track. From Kobo: "Ponyboy can count on his brothers and his friends, but not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids who get away with everything, including beating up greasers like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect--until the night someone takes things too far."
The Outsiders is a coming of age story focusing on the barriers that exist between social classes. Many stories featuring the underdog have a HEA. This one doesn't. That's what I love about it.
The Life of Pi, Yann Martell
God I loved this book, and now my 13 year old son is reading it and I can't wait for him to finish so we can talk about it. I have two copies in print and only one in my house. I have gotten it back from one person and then said, "You have to read this book," to another. I now have it on my Kobo too. Perhaps that's the only way I'll keep it.
Martel weaves so much magic into this story which on the surface is a straight on tale of a young boy's struggle to survive, but underneath is so much more. This book was definitely one of the more memorable book club discussions we've had. I think we were equally divided on how we interpreted it and ultimately what it all meant. This book was thought provoking, poetic, and reading it was like watching a painter create a masterpiece.
I haven't seen the movie for this yet, as I've been waiting for Nicholas to finish it so we can watch it together. :)
Blindness, Jose Saramago
Ok, so if you're planning to read this book, know that once you pick it up, you won't put it down. Saramago's style is jarring at first but the lack of punctuation makes the writing more dense and works to pull the reader further into the story. There were times I was physically ill reading it, but couldn't stop. This is the kind of book I will only read once. The story is so gripping and raw that I honestly don't think I could put myself through it again. And I don't really need to. I remember it in vivid detail from reading it some ten years ago.
I haven't seen the film, and I don't think I will. It's a brutally powerful story and I have my takeaway from the book. Having said that, the story explores the fine lines that hold our society together and how quickly they snap when faced with severe adversity. I think the reason this story got to me so much was because of the very real possibilities Saramago explores. And I'm not talking about the virus itself. I mean the social breakdown that follows. You don't have to look far to see the author is on the mark.
Honourable mentions (I widdled #4 and #5 spots down to five books and struggled to select the last two. Here's the other three.):
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee - Ahhhh Scout. What can I say? You've stayed with me forever.
Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov - Totally fell into the author's trap, then figured it out and WOW!
Rush Home Road, Lori Lansens - I bawled like a baby.
Into the Highland Mist.