Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Really old books you should have read

A patron came to the reference desk today and asked my help to find "a really old book that I probably should have read a long time ago." She had a specific book in mind, of course, because her book club was going to read it (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith), but I loved the line taken literally, and thought, What really old books could I recommend to people? After all, not everyone wants to read the latest bestseller, but even if they do, they need something else to occupy them while sitting on the holds list waiting for the book to come back from its previous borrower! So I started thinking about authors...and the first to come to mind was...

Daphne Du Maurier
Bowker's author biography says:

Born in London, the daughter of an actor, Gerald Du Maurier, and granddaughter of the novelist Goerge Du Maurier, Daphne Du Maurier was educated in Paris. In 1932 she married Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Browning and moved to Cornwall, where she lived most of her life....

Du Maurier's tightly woven, highly suspenseful plots and her strong characters make
her stories perfect for adaptation to film or television. Among her many novels
that were made into successful films are Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, Frenchman's Creek
(1941), Hungry Hill (1943), My Cousin Rachel (1952), and The Scapegoat (1957).
Her short story "The Birds" (1953) was brought to the screen by director Alfred
Hitchcock in a treatment that has become a classic horror-suspense film.
Everybody knows Rebecca (right?), partly because it still turns up on school reading lists (and I always recommend it as the least stuffy alternative), but that's just the wonderful tip of the iceberg. Try My Cousin Rachel, about two bachelors (uncle and nephew) whose lives are disrupted forever by a beautiful Italian cousin who beguiles them both; The King's General, one of the best historical fiction novels (and romances) I've ever read, about Sir Richard Grenville and the civil war between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads; or The House on the Strand, which combines science (potions that enable time travel) with Cornwall history. Frenchman's Creek will satisfy the new appetite for pirate novels with a romantic old tale (haven't YOU always longed to run off to sea with a handsome swashbuckler?), while Don't Look Now is a collection of short fiction whose title story set in Venice is truly creepy. If you like any or all of these, there are more I haven't mentioned; and don't miss Du Maurier's biography, Myself When Young, or The Glassblowers, her fictional reworking of her own family history.

More really old books you should have read in future posts...

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