The Bookish Time Travel Tag: Lazy Sunday Reading

Sandra from the lovely blog A Corner of Cornwall tagged me for this at a time when I was extremely busy and technology-less, but it’s an intriguing idea. Like Sandra, I initially thought I didn’t read much historical fiction, so it wouldn’t apply to me, but the more you think about it… The original idea, by the way, comes from The Library Lizard, and you can answer as many or as few of the questions as you like, which makes it sound easy enough, right?

foucaults-001WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE HISTORICAL SETTING FOR A BOOK?

Medieval European courts – the Borgias, the Knights Templar, monks misbehaving in monasteries – you get the gist. As a child, I just couldn’t get enough of Jean Plaidy’s historical novels, or The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I suppose the latter two were the Dan Brown of their day, only much better written.

WHAT WRITER/S WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL BACK IN TIME TO MEET?

So many. I think Christopher Marlowe would have been quite fun (with or without Shakespeare in tow) and Chaucer sounds like the kind of guy you would love to go to the pub with, who could tell you plenty of gossipy stories.

I would also love to meet some of my great literary heroines, like Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, but I would probably be completely tongue-tied and fangirling like mad. (And I dread to think what their sharp observational skills and merciless tongues would make of their encounter with me.)

WHAT BOOK/S WOULD YOU TRAVEL BACK IN TIME AND GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

I used to read a lot more widely when I was younger, and books which were by no means appropriate for my age, so I’m tempted to say not much.  But there are some wonderful children’s books which were published after the end of my childhood, which I think I would have enjoyed more back then: most of Diana Wynn Jones, Cornelia Funke, Eva Ibbotson, Neil Gaiman.

WHAT BOOK/S WOULD YOU TRAVEL FORWARD IN TIME AND GIVE TO YOUR OLDER SELF?

ephronWell, I certainly have plenty on my TBR pile to keep me going until I am 120 at the very least, so it would have to be one of those!

At the same time, I can see myself reverting back to the classics and rereading old favourites when I grow old. I will also find comfort no doubt in the essays on ageing, loss, finding some kind of contentment and surviving of more or less feminist writers such as Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron. And of course, lots of poetry.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK THAT IS SET IN A DIFFERENT TIME PERIOD (CAN BE HISTORICAL OR FUTURISTIC)?

I’ve never been very good at selecting just one or two books when it comes to such questions. Besides, I always think of at least half a dozen even better choices after I’ve given my final answers. So here is a small sample:

Orwell’s 1984 seems futuristic, and probably was at the time it was published, but I’ve lived through a period and in a country which was very, very similar to it, so it is simultaneously historical to me.

And of course it has nothing whatsoever to do with the recent adaptation starring Jim Caviezel...
And of course it has nothing whatsoever to do with the recent adaptation starring Jim Caviezel…

I also loved all of the Alexandre Dumas books when I was a child and played at being the Three/Four Musketeers with my cousins during our endless summer holidays (I was always a fan of Aramis, by the way, and am pleased to see that the recent TV adaptation has him every bit as seductive as I imagined him/myself to be at the time). Nowadays, however, I probably prefer The Count of Monte Cristo.

There are also a small number of books about war which really marked me: Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Liviu Rebreanu’s Forest of the Hanged, for non-English perspectives on the First World War; Michio Takeyama’s Harp of Burma and Masuji Ibuse’s Black Rain for the humble ordinary Japanese person’s perspective on World War Two.

Bucharest, Palace Square, from the 1940s. From orasulluibucur.blogspot.ro
Bucharest, Palace Square, from the 1940s. From orasulluibucur.blogspot.ro

Olivia Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy is also about WW2, but from the civilian perspective, showing the whole political, diplomatic and social lead-up to the war. Frightening, because it still feels so relevant today.

I can’t say I loved them, it’s more that they shattered me. I think they should be required reading for all those who decide to go to war with such gung-ho spirit (and I simply cannot believe that Donald Trump selected the Remarque book as one of his favourites).

SPOILER TIME: DO YOU EVER SKIP AHEAD TO THE END OF A BOOK JUST TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS?

I may have done this on occasion… (mumble, mumble, hangs head in shame). But I am quite scrupulous about only reading the last 2-3 paragraphs, so usually I don’t really understand what is going on. That is why I appreciate books which don’t have a major twist or denouement on the very last page.

IF YOU HAD A TIME TURNER, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

chateauvoltaireI may enjoy reading about the cruelty and backstabbing of medieval European courts, but I wouldn’t want to go live there. I think I might have enjoyed working in the laboratory Madame du Chatelet and Voltaire created together at her chateau in Cirey-sur-Blaise, or else join Voltaire a few years later at his chateau in Ferney and be a much more witty and well-read companion in his old age than his rather frivolous niece Mme Denis.

FAVOURITE BOOK (IF YOU HAVE ONE) THAT INCLUDES TIME TRAVEL OR TAKES PLACE IN MULTIPLE TIME PERIODS?

yankeeFor a while I couldn’t think of any, as I’ve avoided books such as The Time Traveller’s Wife (call me prejudiced, but it feels more like Dr Who episode than a novel I could lose myself in). But then I realised that I do have an old favourite: Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is very funny and clever, and also a scathing satire of American and British society and politics of the late 19th century. Another book which remains hugely relevant still today (sadly) and which deserves to be far better known. I can feel an urge to reread it coming on…

WHAT BOOK/SERIES DO YOU WISH YOU COULD GO BACK AND READ AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME?

Probably most of the crime fiction series I like, since once you’ve read them, you can never ‘unknow’ the perpetrator and the plot twists (although in my pre-reviewing days, I have on occasion borrowed a book from the library and wondered why it seemed vaguely familiar, only to discover right at the end that I had in fact read it before). A moment of silence please for the awe-inspiring Martin Beck series.

 

 

14 thoughts on “The Bookish Time Travel Tag: Lazy Sunday Reading”

  1. Oh, there are so many in there I would agree with! The Martin Beck sequence is a thing of great beauty. And “Black Rain” changed the way I thought about things big time. I too wish I’d encountered Diana Wynne Jones when I was younger – but I still loved her in my 20s!

  2. I do love your answers to this, Marina Sofia. And I know exactly what you mean about enjoying reading about a particular historical era without actually wanting to go live there. For some reason, I find the Victorian Era interesting, but there is no way I would ever want to actually live there. I find the Age of Englightenment fascinating, too, but – same thing. I might have wanted to get into some of those debates, but not actually live there.

    1. Mind you, it would be nice to able to pop in and out of certain time periods, just to see historical events unfolding… and then return to the safety (?!) of the present day.

  3. I’m so pleased you found some time for this Marina. Your glancing reference to The Time Traveller’s Wife made me smile. The photograph of Jim Caviezel made me smile even more! I lingered a little on that section😉

    As I would expect, plenty here that I’ve not heard of and several that I have and have never got around to reading. The Mark Twain has gone straight to the tbr list – just the title makes it cry out to be read! And several others are following suit… sigh….

    1. So sorry to add to your TBR list, although you did ask for it…😉
      I’m sure that I often get things wrong by refusing to read certain books (like The Time Traveller’s Wife or The Miniaturist) – it’s my perverse tendency to avoid those books which have become too popular.

    2. I was going to add a picture of Santiago Cabrera who plays Aramis in the BBC adaptation of The Three Musketeers (which is silly but fun) – he’s a child of diplomats and spent part of his childhood in Romania (probably around the same time I was there), so there is the additional appeal. So, just for you, here he is…

      1. Oooooh thank you! 😀 (I loved that series – great fun!) I’m with you by and large regarding being averse to the most popular books: I can’t face Gone Girl or Girl on a Train for example. There’s another sector I seem to struggle with too, which includes The Miniaturist and also The Goldfinch. Why this is, I don’t know. I want to read them… I feel that I *should* read them…. That’s probably it: I baulk at the word *should*!

  4. You skip ahead?!! Shocking! Go stand in the corner and no chocolate for a week!

    I also would love to visit the past but not necessarily live there, though the present is becoming so awful the past is beginning to look more attractive by comparison. I’m not sure if I could have coped with medieval clothes though – thank goodness for elastane…😉

    1. Let me clarify my position: I do not skip ahead regularly, not even frequently, just on the very very rare occasions I’ve been unable to stop myself from biting my nails, I have sneaked a little peek… with 99% of the time no satisfaction, guaranteed!

  5. I love so many of these – particularly The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco, and in my teens I read as many of Jean Plaidy’s books that I could borrow from the library. And The Three Musketeers, which I read in French at school (I can’t remember enough now to read much in French), and also the Balkan Trilogy (although I still have the third book to read). Unfortunately I ignored the hype and read The Time Traveller’s Wife – I really disliked it!

  6. Ooooh I love Dumas. I loved Rupert Everett being dastardly in the last series. Virginia Woolf would be terrifying – altogether ground opening up impossibly terrifying.

  7. What a fun idea.
    I love Dumas too. I”ve never heard of this Twain, I’ll look it up.

    I would love to go to Budapest at the turning of the 20th century and meet up with the writers of Nyugat.

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