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April 19, 2020
In this week’s Le Journal we pick our top five books to uplift and inspire, provoke thoughtfulness, offer escapism and most of all, to make you laugh.
‘Delight’ // JB Priestley
In the years following the Second World War, there didn't seem much to smile about with rationing still in place and the horrors of war fresh in our national memory but as J.B. Priestley illustrated in the classic 1949 'Delight', there is pure joy to be found in even the simplest things.
JB Priestley, a self-confessed malcontent, put together a collection of essays examining simple pleasures in life, celebrating everything from knocking back a solitary G&T to the joy of NOT going to a party. Something in here for self-isolators everywhere.
‘Right ho, Jeeves’ // PG Wodehouse
Widely judged to be the greatest comic writer if all time, many a reader turns to PG Wodehouse’s idyllic world of capers for the laughter cure in dark times. ‘Right Ho, Jeeves’ is the second full length novel featuring his iconic characters Jeeves and Bertie Wooster in which several terrible misunderstandings occur and facing chaos, Bertie turns, yet again, to Jeeves who swiftly and ingeniously saves the day.
As Caitlin Moran puts it, “To have one of his books in your hand is to possess by way of a pill that can relieve anxiety, rageiness, or an afternoon-long tendency towards the sour. Paper has rarely been put to better use than printing Wodehouse”, we can’t agree more.
‘Rivals’ // Jilly Cooper
The uncontested queen of the ‘bonkbuster’, the journalist’s 1980s erotic fiction launched its entirely own genre. Completely of its time, the authors Rutshire Chronicles is still well loved for both her depiction of the glamourous world of show jumping and affectionate descriptions of Cotswolds countryside with all the intrigue that county life brings.
Rivals is the second of the Rutshire Chronicles, and Jilly’s own personal favourite. Set in the fictional English county of Rutshire, it sets its stall out right from the first page following the fortunes of a local TV station with larger than life characters, love affairs and Dynasty-style shenanigans that keep you gripped to the last page. The Sunday Times declared its combination of drama, sex and good social comedy as ‘undputdownable’.
‘The Old Man and The Sea’ // Ernest Hemingway
This mid-century classic tells the story of an epic battle between an aging, experienced Cuban fisherman, Santiago, and a large marlin, the greatest catch of his life. The story opens with elderly Santiago having gone 84 days without catching a fish, and now being seen as "salao", the worst form of unluckiness.
Rather than a laugh-a-minute read, this timeless novella depicts the sustaining power of hope. There is beauty and reward in perseverance which soothes the mind when life’s challenges overwhelm.
‘Oh, the Places You’ll go!’ // Dr Seuss
The last book written and illustrated by children's author Dr. Seuss in his lifetime, the book concerns the journey of life and its challenges which resound for adult and child alike.
Unforgettable characters, stunning illustrations, and of course, glorious rhyme is all expected from a Dr Seuss book but in our current situation does it have even more to give? For all of us taking the opportunity during the current lockdown to evaluate our priorities and plan for how we will personally move on from this crisis in a positive way, we offer you a quote from the book as food for thought:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
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