I’m cheating. This isn’t a real “if you like” this week.
I’d intended to do an “if you like” on romances set in the 1920s and 40s. (Thanks for the suggestion, Lora!) But then I started re-reading Melissa Nathan’s Persuading Annie. I hadn’t read it since, oh, 2004 or so. It immediately sparked a series of associations with other books I’d read and loved back then and hadn’t really read since.
So here, instead of an “if you like”, is my “best of 2003-2006” reading list, the books I was reading and loved then. It’s something of a potpourri.
— Melissa Nathan, Persuading Annie.
Everyone always adapts Pride and Prejudice— why not Persuasion for a change? This is a clever, snarky, modern take on Persuasion. (My favorite Nathan novel, though, is and continues to be The Nanny with Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field as runner up).
— Sarah Caudwell, Thus Was Adonis Murdered.
I used to haunt the late, lamented Wordsworth Books in Cambridge in the hopes of finding a new Sarah Caudwell on the shelves. These witty British mysteries are narrated by a law professor of indeterminate gender (probably the best unreliable narrator since Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody), chronicling the adventures of a group of young barristers, who seem to keep stumbling into… murder. And tax codes. Sadly, due to the untimely death of the author, there are only four books: Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, The Sirens Sang of Murder, and The Sibyl in Her Grave. Oh, and did I mention that the covers are illustrated by Edward Gorey?
— Patricia C. Wrede, Mairelon the Magician.
I’d originally read this as a teenager, but I rediscovered it as a law student. This Regency paranormal YA (way ahead of its time!) follows the adventures of a Regency guttersnipe who finds herself apprenticed–rather accidentally– to Mairelon, a traveling magician. But is Mairelon what he seems? Anyone who likes Georgette Heyer should read the Mairelon books (the second is The Magician’s Ward). She has the same faultless sense of comic timing and Regency slang.
— Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
While we’re on Regency paranormal…. I rushed home from class to read this novel for several straight hours back in 2005. The idea of an alternate England, where magicians were being used in the war against Napoleon, was utterly fascinating.
— Diana Gabaldon, Lord John and the Private Matter.
This was the first of the Outlander spin-off mystery novels, featuring Lord John, a side character in Outlander.
— Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle.
“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression”, writes the narrator of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. The truth of the matter is that hot baths and I Capture the Castle are the best cures for depression, something I figured out during law school. There are few things so bleak that a bit of bubble bath and I Capture the Castle can’t help.
— Alexandra Ripley, New Orleans Legacy.
This was another rediscovered book. I’d read it years before but only rediscovered it and truly fell in love with it in law school. It’s an old fashioned epic romance/ swashbuckler/ whatever-you-want-to-call-it about a young woman’s coming of age in mid nineteenth century New Orleans, complete with voodoo, evil relatives, family legends, and, of course, a dashing rogue.
Other books that shaped those law school years for me included Elizabeth George’s Lynley novels (I saw A Great Deliverance on PBS, bought the book, and that was that), Kate Ross’s Regency-set Julian Kestrel mysteries (Cut to the Quick, et al), and Charlotte MacLeod’s Sarah and Max mysteries (The Family Vault, et al), which were even more fun because they were set in Boston and so was I. I also re-read all my old Judith McNaughts that first year of law school, even if it meant going down to the B&N in Downtown Crossing and buying replacement copies. Paradise and Remember When got me through Torts without committing a tort.
Do you have books that act as time capsules for you, bringing you back to certain periods in your life?