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Book recommendations, please?

Another week, another weekend, hallelujah!

The perfectionist in me thinks I should get to dealing with email and responding in LJ, but the me in me says, "Eh. Do what you want." So I am.

I should be able to name ten books that fit this description in a heartbeat. But I can't. I can't call even one to mind, though Heidi comes somewhat close. I'm looking more for novels written for an adult audience than young adult, but either will do. Here are my criteria, such that they are:

1. Something you recall as having been good from a storytelling point of view. If it had a writing style you weren't crazy about, or if you thought it needed a serious edit, that's okay. Rec it anyway.

2. Something that begins with the main character as a young child, let's say somewhere between 2 and 6 yrs old.

3. The character is taken through various points in life up to adulthood, but not to death. Let's say it can end anywhere from about 20 yrs old on up to maybe 65ish.

4. This is a bonus: not a single cataclysmic event, but more a series of critical experiences that lead up to some kind of change or decision in the main character's life.

If you can think of novels, or I suppose even short stories, that meet that description, I'll be eternally grateful. I'm especially interested in looking at how authors of these kinds of tales manage the transitions between large chunks of time.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 26th, 2003 12:08 pm (UTC)
The Beth Book by Sarah Grand. A feminist novel from the 1890s, I think, published in paper by Virago Press. I found it very involving, and I think it began with the actual childhood of the main character, and took her through middle age.

There's also a book by Mary Wesley--it might be The Chamomile Lawn, which fits this description and is wonderful.
Apr. 26th, 2003 12:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you! *scurries off to Amazon*
Apr. 26th, 2003 12:10 pm (UTC)
It's been awhile, but does Jane Eyre fit your requirements at all? That's the only one I can think of off the top of my head. Although, I can't recall whether you see her at various points in time, or just at the orphanage and then at Mr. Rochester's. I must confess I've seen the movies many more times than I've read the book.

I'll keep thinking ;)
Apr. 26th, 2003 12:12 pm (UTC)
Maybe so! I have a Bronte collection...guess what I'll be doing this afternoon? :-) Thanks!
Apr. 26th, 2003 01:10 pm (UTC)
How about Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?
Apr. 26th, 2003 01:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, interesting. Joyce is someone I haven't read much of, but that Mint mentions now and again. I hadn't thought about it in this context, but it might be a great call. Downloading from Guttenberg immediately.
Apr. 26th, 2003 01:55 pm (UTC)
David Copperfield? Nicholas Nickleby? Great Expectations? Lots of Dickens, actually.

Little Women. (Of course Alcott doesn't TRULY focus on one person, does she? Unless you think Jo is the main character, which I rather do. And of course we pick up with Jo et al as teenagers.)

And for a slightly different, lighter, yet delicious tone, Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate. Love this.

Er, for a different kind of fictional journey, Ian McEwan's Atonement. Briony is older, but still a child at the beginning of the novel.
Apr. 26th, 2003 02:45 pm (UTC)
Atonement is one I'd turned up in my amazon search...glad to hear it fits. The reviews indicated that it might. I probably need to go back and look at some of Pat Conroy's stuff, too. And the Dickens was my dear hubby's first thought as well. Great minds think alike. Muchos gracias!
Apr. 26th, 2003 02:01 pm (UTC)
Well, it's sort of a good match for your criteria: *The World According to Garp.* John Irving is a weird and effective writer, and the story of Garp is a really, really interesting one. It starts before he is born (so it doesn't start, "I am born"), and he does die at the end, but it's a terrific bildungsroman if slightly variant from the form.
Apr. 26th, 2003 02:02 pm (UTC)
Well, also, *The Secret Garden,* although it's more for children. Frankly, I still love rereading it, although I read it more for the mysterious hunchbacked uncle now, not the story of the girl.
Apr. 26th, 2003 02:45 pm (UTC)
Irving is one of my idols, though I've shied away from re-reading his. Fascinating that I didn't immediately leap to adding his to my list! Secret Garden is also a good call. Thank you...
Apr. 26th, 2003 03:35 pm (UTC)
Well, another possible Irving, then--have you read *A Prayer for Owen Meany*? I have not, and I can't remember why. But from what I know of it, it seems to fit your criteria.

What a fun set of limitations. All kinds of diversity in this list!
Apr. 26th, 2003 02:13 pm (UTC)
Try 'The Woman Warrior' by Maxine Hong Kingston. It's not a traditional story and it hops around a lot in time (in a non-linear fashion as well as just time gaps, as I recall), and it's possibly more about family and cultural identity than the narrator's life story as such, but it could fit your bill.
Apr. 26th, 2003 02:17 pm (UTC)
Virginia Woolf's 'Orlando' may also fit. I can't remember what age the main character starts out at, though.
Apr. 26th, 2003 02:43 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, two new ones. Many thanks for the rec's. I want a wide spectrum, and these two will help broaden the scope!

(still thinking on the s/b recs, btw...)
Apr. 26th, 2003 02:39 pm (UTC)
I immediately thought of The Physician by Noah Gordon when I read your criteria.

I saw that freixenet pointed out the World according to Garp (one of my all-time favourites)by John Irving. The Hotel New Hampshire by the same author would also fit your criteria.
Apr. 26th, 2003 02:40 pm (UTC)
There's someone out there who giggles when she sees Irving recommended, I suspect. Those are all very good suggestions...:-)
Apr. 27th, 2003 09:42 pm (UTC)
Chiming in late, after the polls are closed-

Tree Grows in Brooklyn- Betty Smith
Bastard out of Carolina- Dorothy Allison

and then- not a novel, but I'm throwing in anyway cause I really liked it- The Liars Club by Mary Karr. It's a memoir, so not what you're looking for.

Maybe if you're looking at LM Alcott, you could try Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom, both about the same girl. Or An Old Fashioned Girl. Which I love. But both girls are over six when the story starts.

It's harder than I thought at first. Most of the books that keep coming to mind are structured more around one big event, or begin decidedly later than 2-6.

It's an interesting question though.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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