We begin with The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Shamefully, it’s a book that I read (*ahem* skimmed) during high school and one that I haven’t revisited. I really should give it the attention it so obviously deserves.
Another book that I skimmed (but somehow retained) during high school was The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Not the usual fare for a teenage girl, I picked it up because I was studying (and very much enjoying) modern European history. The Leopard is about the Italian civil war, which leads me to Jonathan Grimwood’s ripping good read, The Last Banquet. In this story, the main character, Jean-Marie d’Aumout, finds himself held prisoner in the thick of Italian civil war.
But of course The Last Banquet is predominantly about the French Revolution and for that you can’t go past what is considered one of the greatest novels of all time – Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. It’s a doorstop of a book (it took me the good part of one summer to read it), so lots of people opt for the musical instead. And yes, I do enjoy a bit of Les-Mis-stage-action.
Which brings me to another book adapted as a musical (that I also really enjoyed) – Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I saw the stage production when I was in London earlier this year. I’m still singing the tunes – truly spectacular and musical creator, Tim Minchin, stayed true to the story. I’ll be first in line for tickets when it comes to Australia (in 2015) and, as I said to a musical-loving-friend, “It shits all over Annie.” Really.
From one children’s book to another, Matilda leads me to my childhood favourite – Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley. The thing I loved most? The map at the front of each collection of stories (below). Combined with the fact that my dad was a lecturer in geography at the time and many of my preschool years were spent on Melbourne Uni geography field trips, it’s little wonder I like maps.
So I end on The Map That Changed The World by Simon Winchester – it’s historical ‘fiction’ at its best and if you love maps, all the better.