I was fortunate to meet Sydney-based columnist, journalist, and author Jacqueline Maley a few months ago when she came to my apartment to sign copies of her debut book, The Truth About Her. We actually recorded my podcast that day, so I was able to speak to her in depth about why she chose each of the following books. You can listen to it here.
From a classic tome she reads over and over to a book by an underrated Australian writer, here are the eight books Jacqueline would take to the sands of a deserted island.
Buy The Truth About Her from Book Depository, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I’m reading this again right now – it’s my all-time favorite book. I love Jane’s independence and integrity and the way she strives to master some parts of her personality while holding on to her true self. She adheres to her values uncompromisingly, even against great adversity. Jane has this intense struggle to maintain her self-esteem while fulfilling her underlying desire to be loved. Ultimately, her self-esteem always wins, and in that sense Jane was a revolutionary heroine.
Buy Jane Eyre at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
This book really intrigued me on several levels – the structure is intricate and it drags through time in a masterful way. The subject of the book is close to my heart – who owns a family story? And the disorder and tenderness of the complex mixed family is so well represented. It’s also multi-perspective, which I think is really hard to do.
Buy Commonwealth at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
This book is dark and wild and crazy and I loved it. When I read it, it opened up a new way of writing for me – Moshfegh writes freely and makes her protagonist (in a moral sense) very ugly, even though she is physically beautiful. There is tension in the structure as it takes place in New York in the year before 9/11, so the reader knows what’s coming but the characters don’t. It’s a very clever device.
Buy My Year of Rest and Relaxation at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Actress of Ann Enright
There was an interplay between this book and Green Road that I love so much too. The actress is about a mother-daughter relationship and the ruin of a passionate, strong woman who lives in a misogynist world. It’s about creating myths, the portrait of a woman who creates herself from scratch. I love the portrayal of motherly love and how it is written from the perspective of a daughter who retains a childlike awe and idealization of her glamorous mother.
Buy actress from Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
The master of Colm Toibin
This is Toibin’s masterpiece on the life of Henry James and an incredible psychological study of the great writer. It is not structured like a traditional narrative, but rather focuses on significant times and relationships in James’ life. Toibin’s tone is tender and knowing and reserved and just perfect.
Buy The Master at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
Everything is possible by Elizabeth Strout
It was a tough call between this one and Olive Kitteridge. This book is Strout at its finest – it depicts the inner workings of ordinary people in such a human, funny and sad way, it’s just masterful. All of life and all of humanity are in this book.
Buy Anything is Possible at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Fathers and Sons of Ivan Turgenev
I read this book last year and was impressed by how modern its subjects were, even though 19th-century Russian is about the struggle between generations and how the younger generation despises the ideals of the elderly, and the dismay of the elderly, that their finely worked out principles are ravaged by the young! It’s just a fun romping around and tragic too, because Turgenev is one of the Russian greats – they don’t tend to write happy books.
Buy fathers and sons at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Elizabeth Harrower’s watchtower
Harrower was such an interesting, brilliant and (still) underrated Australian writer. This book is an incredible portrait of female oppression and psychological torture. It really is the first and last word when it comes to portraying an abusive domestic dynamic. It’s heartbreaking and heartbreaking to portray the domestic danger
Buy The Watch Tower at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
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