Welcome to Lilly’s Little Library. In these difficult and often frightening times, I find reading offers me a place to hide and somewhere to escape.
If you like reading, or would like to start but just don’t know where to begin, here are a few favourites of mine for you to try.
Now my tyrant of an editor tells me that I can go on ‘a bit’ (I can’t even spell verbose), so I’ve limited myself to 5 choices. These are books that I have really enjoyed during the last year. They are all by female authors; apparently men don’t read fiction written by women; see I told you I was Transgender!
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. A beautiful female story, set in Old Testament times. It is a first person account by Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, who famously had twelve sons. Deeply affecting, ‘The Red Tent’ combines rich storytelling with an insight into biblical women’s society. The story took me into a women’s world that I didn’t have the opportunity to experience growing up and could only imagine. The beautiful writing examines the close bonds that tie the women together and the rivalries that pull them apart.
‘The Shipping News’ by Annie Proulx. I have read many of John Stienbeck’s American Classics and now I have found his female equal, or possibly even better. Stienbeck’s sagas are often very bleak and I’m a girl who likes a happy ending. No spoilers, ‘The Shipping News’ is a story of friends and family, finding happiness in the small things. The detail in Proulx writing is fabulous, it’s not always an easy story but her words paint glorious images, in high resolution. You have to read every word but it’s so worth it.
‘Alias Grace’ by Margaret Attwood. Unlike many of Margaret Attwood’s novels, which are set in an often dystopian future, this is an historical novel, but has a familiar and important theme; what women have to do to survive in a man’s world. Will it ever change? Oh I hope so and soon. Unlike the very obvious subjugation of the women of Gileadan, Grace’s story is set in 19th century Canada but the forces at play are just as insidious. Who am I to judge but Margaret Attwood’s writing is so brilliant. Here, you are the judge, is Grace guilty?
‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman. Recommended by a dear friend, who found this novel helpful at a difficult time; it is a story for our time. Our heroine has learnt how to survive, but not how to live. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls she built around herself, changing her life. It is a very relatable story, almost a Trans story, an outsider, desperately trying to find a way of coping in our complex, rule ridden, disapproving society.
What is it a caterpillar, turns into? Have you blossomed recently? What will happen to Eleanor?
‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith. I generally don’t like biographies but this punk icons memoirs are different. These books are beautiful, poetic. ‘Just Kids’ describes Patti’s early life and then moves to her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Both struggling artists, they suffer for their art, living on a shoestring, striving for acceptance and patronage. The story covers their time living in the famous Chelsea Hotel in NYC, and their encounters with some of the other bohemian folk that lived there too. I remember seeing Patti Smith on The Whistle Test in 1976 and I’ve loved her ever since. This isn’t a story of drink fuelled excess (yes, I’m looking at you Chrissy Hynde), this is a true love story.
Please, if you like these books, or have any recommendations for me to pop in my handbag, I would love to here from you. I’ve just ploughed my way through Hilary Mantel’s first two books on Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII; now that Hilary can go on a bit as well! I’ve just started a lovely story by Rose Tremain, that at it’s heart is the tale of a Trans Man, titled ‘Sacred Country’.
Rester prudent, and keep reality at a good two metres.
Love Lilly x