MY TOP FIVE
THE GREAT GATSBY
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Why do I love a story with
such rotten people in it? THE WRITING. THE SYMBOLISM. THE TIME. No novel paints the frenzied Jazz Age quite like this one. Fitzgerald’s confused feelings of self are so evident in characters Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby. Gatsby’s quest to buy back a youthful and over-idolized love is as beautiful as it is doomed. As many know, Fitzgerald died believing his story was a failure. That is a pity. In his own words, I hope that up there, in his blue gardens, the men and girls come and go like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.
by Daphne Du Maurier
A young woman marries a wealthy widower she barely knows, only to discover that he and his vastly beautiful estate are haunted by memories of his first wife. 'He' has a name. George Fortescue Maximilian de Winter. Maxim to most, including his new wife. Max to a few, including his dead wife, whose name gets title page. And what of the new wife? Timid, awkward and shy, she remains unnamed throughout the entire story. The fatal quality of Rebecca is not to be found in its romance. It's dug deep in the form of jealousy. That's what Rebecca is all about, and it's done beautifully.
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
by Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton commented to F. Scott Fitzgerald that they were each the keeper of their times. Wharton knew the habits, the traditions, and the secrets of 1870s New York. But this novel translates to today. Wharton’s lead character, Newland Archer, is troubled to find the world of his youth crumbling. But when a new light shines through, in the form of his fiancée’s banished cousin Ellen, Newland finds the old ways are like the ‘taste of cinders in his mouth’. I read this novel in my early twenties, and surprised myself by siding with fiancee May Welland. Wharton's work is a treasure.
by Gillian Flynn
Poised and seemingly perfect, Amy Dunne disappears on the night of her fifth wedding anniversary. Amy was the model for her parents' young girl book series, Amazing Amy'. She's amazing, alright. 'Devoted' hubby Nick stands by his innocence while the community and the world watch his alibis unravel one by one. It's really Amy out there, still alive, and pulling all the threads. Nick and Amy. Each get what they deserve in the end. I loved hating this toxic duo. I loved hating them on every single page. Brilliant twists, sharp writing. Gillian Flynn is a genius.
And now for a shameless plug-
ARTIST OF THE BEAUTIFUL –
My current novel out on submission.
Artist owes its breath to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story Feathertop, and the subsequent 1908 play, Scarecrow, or the Glass of Truth by poet Percy MacKaye. In both, a scarecrow is spelled into a handsome young man, and sent to woo an enemy’s daughter. He bewitches everyone until his true visage is revealed in a mirror. In Hawthorne’s work, the disheartened scarecrow is returned to the field. In MacKaye’s, he dies, transforming, as was his fervent wish, into a man. In my darker retelling, our poor puppet is offered a Dorian Gray type of eternity triumphing over humans with heads hollower than his own.
The vivid characters and literary feel drive this story. Bess Dalby, whose cry for revenge sets this tale in motion, lives in an isolated world. The whims of Nature are instinctive to her. The workings of human nature are not, and Bess gives her grievance a worthiness it does not deserve. The ‘artist’ of her scheme is a demon sprung from a weathervane. A mad mix of metal and mischief, Balefire creates a rogue from a wretched scarecrow. When this emissary is found to be lacking, a young friend of Bess’ is convinced to ‘loan’ his youth; for only then would ignorant people see the beauty in him.
The newly formed Jonathan Ravensbane is sent out to annihilate a young couple’s supposed contentment. But, between the dawn and the dusk of his one day on Earth, this creature, conflicted by the youthful voice of longing within him, begins to feel, to guess, and to suffer. With his demoralizing reveal in a bewitched mirror,
Ravensbane’s dream of redemption is ultimately destroyed. His destroyer is none other than his mark, the selfish and manipulative, yet sympathetically insecure, Miss Civette Cairy.
With monsters and misfits, dreams and delusions, Artist of the Beautiful is a love story for Halloween.