Gill Chedgey’s Ten Books and Why I Acquired Them

Article published on November 10, 2017.

In the latest instalment in our ‘Ten Books and Why I Acquired Them’ series, Gill Chedgey details ten tomes that have been lurking on her shelves:

This list is compiled in the spirit of other reviewers’ lists of ten books, but with a slightly different slant. As a reviewer, I prioritise review copies to the extent that I find my personal TBR shelves getting fuller and fuller with books I want to read but can’t find the time to do so! I thought it might be fun to pluck ten books from those shelves that I want to read and detail the provenance and motivation behind that desire.

1. Paris by Edward Rutherfurd – My mum loved Rutherfurd’s books. She read them all. She was a silver surfer who was signed up to his mailing list and for a while truly believed that he was emailing her personally to tell her when publication was imminent. She had received an email advising her of New York’s publication and was excited about reading it. Sadly, she died before that happened. So I bought a copy and read it for her and in her memory. It is my intention to continue to read his books for her. Paris is the next one on my list. My mum read to me every single night from the moment I was old enough to listen and I’ll never forget the books we shared together.

2. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – I received a hardback copy of The Mountain Shadow to review and I had to sign an affidavit that I would not disclose anything prior to publication! I enjoyed the book in all its glorious and wordy paradoxes. The person from the review body who facilitated my copy was an enthusiastic Roberts fan and cited Shantaram as one of her favourite books. I promised to read it and duly acquired a copy. I will keep that promise, although I cannot say when.

3. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – I recently reviewed a copy of Genuine Fraud and loved the irony of the title. For if the writer had not acknowledged the immense debt owed to Patricia Highsmith at the end of the book I might have written a scathing review implying plagiarism of The Talented Mr. Ripley! I am so curious to read this earlier book of hers – just to see!

4. The Spencer Family by Charles Spencer – A good friend persuaded me to accompany her on a recent trip to Althorp. I knew nothing about the place except as the home and supposed last resting place of Princess Diana. I was pleasantly surprised at the rich and long history of the house. I was also surprised at how prolific a writer Charles Spencer is. So, as I exited through the gift shop, I bought myself a copy of this book together with one of those leather bookmarks you used to get in all the gift shops but are quite rare nowadays. I have loads of them, it’s where books and history fuse for me!

5. The Farrers of Budge-Row by Harriet Martineau – Budge Row was a street in London. It ran almost parallel with Cannon Street and was a kind of extension of Watling Street. I’ve studied the history of it as much as I can. Richard III travelled down the street one time! Why the interest? My mum lived there as a child at number 26 until it took a direct hit in the Blitz. The street no longer exists in name but the recent Bloomberg Development has acknowledged its existence with Watling Street and created a walkway through the complex that follows the original path. The completed development has recently opened and I can’t wait to visit. My cousin found out about this book and I managed to track down a copy. It’s a reproduction of an original copy which was located in the library at Harvard. It’s fictional, but as you might expect from Martineau, there’s much social theory and some politics.

6. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens – I think Dickens was my first taste of the ‘classics’. I was a kid and I watched David Lean’s Great Expectations on TV. Abel Magwitch scared the crap out of me and I found the only way to deal with that was to read the book. I must have been ten or eleven and my teacher at the time made some kind of comment which made me feel both praised and chastised at the same time! But it began a lifelong love affair with Dickens. However, I’ve yet to read this final novel.

7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – After being totally consumed by Jess Richards’ City of Circles, I find myself a little obsessed with magical realism. I find I’m seeking out the genre more and more. And from what I’ve read, this book seems to be essential reading for devotees of that genre. So when I saw this in a charity shop it would have been rude to pass it by. Just reading the blurb made me think it’s my kind of book.

8. Thin Air by Ann Cleeves – I love Ann Cleeves. This is just one I plucked off the shelf as there are several just waiting, tantalisingly, for me to read them. This one is part of the Shetland series. My favourite, though, is the Vera series. I find the character so droll, so flawed and so human. But Jimmy Perez’ll do too. Cleeves’ plots are always intriguing.

9. My Life in France by Julia Childs – I watched the film Julie and Julia. I loved it. Meryl Streep is one of my favourite actresses. So this book is a mystery because I’m not sure if I’m going to enjoy it. Because, irrationally, I’m expecting Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci and I know I’m not going to get them! I’m going to get Julia Childs. So I’m intrigued to start reading it.

10. The Queen’s Necklace by Frances Mossiker – I’m a history nerd. Not just English history either. Marie Antoinette is one of my heroines. A political pawn and a victim of bad PR. It wasn’t called trolling in her day but that’s what she suffered. And so much of what was said about her was believed. ‘Let them eat cake (brioche)’ was attributed to her, although but the phrase first appeared in print when she was only six years old. This book is about an incident during her reign that suggested she was involved in a crime to defraud the crown jewellers of a diamond necklace. However, it seems likely the queen was innocent of the convoluted plot and the victim of ‘offline’ fraud and identity theft! I’ll be interested to see what this writer’s take on the affair is.

Gill Chedgey
November 2017

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