Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
A true literary masterpiece! It takes a while to get used to Woolf’s way with words (her writing flits backwards and forwards in time and space, and alternates without warning between view points) but reading Mrs Dalloway is well worth the effort. Once I got used to her ‘stream of consciousness’ style of story telling, I couldn’t put the book down. The story takes place on a single day in Central London in the early 1920s. Clarissa Dalloway – a respectable lady in the twilight of her life – is preparing to host a party at her Westminster home. As we observe her preparations for the party, we learn about her life and meet a whole host of other characters. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Mrs Dalloway.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
I bought my copy of The Metamorphosis at Kafka’s house in Prague when I was on a school trip way back in 1999 but only read it last week! I don’t know why it took me so long, as it is a tiny novella (about 100 pages). It is also incredibly easy to read. In a nutshell, The Metamorphosis tells the story of Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman, who wakes one morning to find he has turned into a beetle. It becomes obvious quite quickly that the story is taking place in some sort of parallel universe, since his parents and sister, although disgusted by his transformation, accept what has happened with a fair degree of pragmatism, and try to accommodate Gregor in his new form by clearing out his bedroom to give him more space to manoeuvre his bulky body. Despite its slightly bizarre subject matter, I would definitely recommend The Metamorphosis.
Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones
I bought Mr Pip at Whitcoulls just before Christmas, unaware that its author, Lloyd Jones, is a New Zealander and lives in Wellington! It was a fortuitous discovery, since I had been wanting to read more NZ literature for some time. Having said that, Mr Pip is not set in New Zealand; the story takes place on a small island in Papua New Guinea during the blockade of Bougainville in the early 1990s. The story is written in the first person, from the perspective of a young girl called Matilda, who, over the course of some 200 pages, describes a three- or four-year period from her childhood. Parts of Mr Pip are funny and charming; others are harrowing and immensely sad. A central theme of the book is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, a novel that is read to Matilda and her class mates by their teacher, Mr Watts; the only white man on the island. It is very clever how Jones manages to weave Great Expectations into his own novel, and I would strongly recommend Mr Pip. The novel was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been made into a movie, starring Hugh Laurie.
UPDATE ON MY NOVEL:
I am now eight chapters into my second draft and I am feeling positive about the changes I have made so far. The feedback I received on my first draft has been really helpful and has enabled me to refocus. I am aiming to have my second draft finished by the end of the summer, ready for another edit!