Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Favorite NYRB Classics So Far

Taking a cue from Thomas at My Porch  and Damion Searls (NYRB editor, translator, introducer and back cover writer),  I decided to do a post on my favorite NYRBs so far. I actually haven't read a lot of them but already five have become firm favorites.

I read The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig before I started blogging and its haunted me ever since. I noticed that not many bloggers have written about it and I think that's a shame because this book deserves to be widely read and Stefan Zweig is such a brilliant writer. I would never have heard of him if it weren't for NYRB Classics.

The Post-Office Girl is both exhilarating and devastating and if a book can conjure those emotions in a reader then isn't that amazing? Christine, a poor, young postal worker in post World War I Vienna is whisked away by her wealthy aunt and uncle to a luxurious Swiss mountain resort. Here she gets to spend a few days as Cinderella. This is a fairy-tale story without the happy ending.

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley has probably one of the most famous opening lines in literature: "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." I read this years ago in a non-NYRB edition and it has a permanent place in my list of all-time favorite books. It's the summer of 1900 and 12-year-old Leo spends the summer at the country estate of one of his friends from school. While there, he falls in love with his friend's older sister, Marian and naively helps her deliver secret letters to her farmer lover and vice-versa thus becoming the go-between of the title. This is quite an emotional novel heightened by the fact that it's narrated by Leo, now in his 60s as he looks back on a time of innocence lost and coming of age in a tragic way.


The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin is a lovely, sweet and well-written novel. Her descriptions make you feel like you are actually holidaying with the characters in Italy. You can almost smell the flowers. Four unhappy women who are strangers to each other answer an ad to rent a villa in Italy together for a month. Once there, they begin to change and find happiness within themselves.






The Chrysalids by John Wyndham was written in the 50s and is set in the future after a nuclear disaster. Young David lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists. Any forms of deviation from the norm in terms of strange plants,crops, animals or humans are either eliminated or banished into the Fringes, a barbaric land bordering their community. Read my full review here.





Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford. I'm been fascinated by the Mitford family for years so if given the chance I'll definitely pick out any book by them or about them. Hons and Rebels is Jessica Mitford's own autobiographical account of growing up in a very unconventional family, her marriage to her first husband and running away together to join the Spanish Civil War. This is definitely a must-read if you're a fan of the fabulous Mitfords.

10 comments:

  1. Hons & Rebels is good, just like a continuation of one of Nancy's novels! I'd like to read The Go-Between and Enchanted April too and had to read The Chrysalids in school, so I don't think it'll ever be one of my favourites...

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  2. I am really looking forward to read The Enchanted April and Hons and Rebels. I am a bit fascinated with the Mitford sisters myself. I waiting for my copies of The Pursuit of love and Love in a cold climate to arrive in the mail and I am really excited!

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  3. I've added the Post Office Girl to my wish list so thanks for the rec.

    I had to study The Go-Between in college so I still remember that one very well, I came across my odd copy the other day which included all my scribbles throughout.

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  4. This NYRB reading week is doing crazy things to my wishlist! I agree about the Enchanted April (it is the only book that I've read out of the NYRB books), it is such a comforting read.

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  5. The Enchanted April is really heavenly, isn't it? I've read a couple of Von Arnim's other books and they're all great fun.

    Here's my last NYRB Week post:
    http://carolwallace.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/william-dean-howells-indian-summer/

    Boy, was this fun, Mrs. B! I loved reading everyone else's posts and getting more ideas. The folks at NYRB must love you and Honey!

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  6. A fine list. Four I have read, though in other editions, and enjoyed. The Post Office Girl I have been intending to read for some time, but the moment has never seemed right. Hons and Rebels will be a priority now that you have placed it in such fine company!

    I have read and written about another NYRB Classic. Details here:


    http://fleurfisher.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/niki-the-story-of-a-dog-by-tibor-dery/

    There's another by my bed but I doubt I'll get to it before the week is out. It's a week that has seen a good few books added to my wishlist - for that thankk you!

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  7. I have to admit, the one book I read this week was the first NYRB I've ever read, but it was fantastic, so I'm anxious to read more. Thanks for hosting this!

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  8. I read the Zweig last year and agree he is a marvelous writer. I also loved Beware of Pity--another NYRB title and want to read more of his work. I wrote about The Post Office Girl here: http://danitorres.typepad.com/workinprogress/2009/03/the-postoffice-girl.html
    I also read the Hartley this year and loved The Enchanted April--all wonderful choices! I've been noting everyone's NYRB posts and wish I could have joined in, but am adding the Wyndham title to my list and have the Mitford on my pile. They seem to have a really great backlist of books. And the books are so beautifully designed, too! :)

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  9. The Post-Office Girl is also my favorite NYRB title. For now at least as this week has added a staggering list of new potential favorites to my wish list. Zweig renders something near perfect in its sadness, an unrelenting train wreck of sorts.

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  10. I just ordered three NYRBs:

    The Dud Avodcado
    The Big Clock
    The Summer Book

    I know these aren't ones that you've read but with all the buzz about the collection I coudln't help picking some up as gifts.

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