I wasn't going to do this, but half the fun of reading is the choosing and chatting about and the choices. I was going to make a quiet selection and just get down to it, but I seem to be dithering about the titles, which I at least have narrowed down to only four. I was going to keep the choices reasonably short in length and nothing too close to the storyline of the James novel. I have at least succeed on the latter count. I think the four I have are all very different even if they are mostly a little longer than I was planning. But, hey, with a good story, sometimes you just don't want it to end, right?
Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert -- "Based on his own youthful passion for an older woman, Sentimental Education blends love story, historical authenticity and satire to create one of the greatest French novels of the nineteenth century." It begins:
"On the 15th of September 1840, at six o'clock in the morning, the Ville-de-Montereau was lying alongside the Quai Saint-Bernard, ready to sail, with clouds of smoke coming from its funnel."
Monsieur Frédéric Moreau has just matriculated, age eighteen, and is returning to his home in Nogent-sur-Seine from Paris.
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow -- This is one of the titles on the Modern Library 100 best list. "In this extraordinary chronicle of an age, such real-life characters intermingle with three remarkable families, one black, one Jewish and one prosperous WASP, to create a dazzling literary mosaic that brings to life an era of dire poverty, fabulous wealth and incredible change." It begins:
"In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview Avenue hill in New Rochelle, New York. It was a three-story brown shingle with dormers, bay windows and a screened porch. Striped awnings shaded the window. The family took possession of this stout manse on a Sunny day in June and it seemed for some years thereafter that all their days would be warm and fair."
What do you think--this must be the wealthy WASP family?
The Knight of the Maison-Rouge by Alexandre Dumas -- I really love Dumas. I would pick one of the musketeer sequels but they are pretty hefty tomes. "Paris, 1793. The onset of the Terror. A brave Republican named Maurice rescues a mysterious and beautiful woman from an angry mob and is unknowingly dragged into a secret Royalist plot involving the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, and her enigmatic, fearless champion, the Knight of Maison-Rouge." It begins:
"It was the night of the tenth of March, 1793. The bell at Notre-Dame had just struck then, and each stroke rang out clear and distinct, one after the other, before flying off into the ether like a night bird soaring from some bronze nest, sad, monotonous, and resonant."
I wonder if there is any swordplay? Hmm.
The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- I had first pulled The Great Gatsby out for a potential reread, but I want to read it alongside one of the nonfiction books that has come out recently as it would make such a perfect pairing. I don't have any of the other books, so another look at the pile netted me this one. "Fitzgerald's second novel, is a largely autobiographical depiction of a glamorous, reckless Manhattan couple and their spectacular spiral into tragedy." It begins:
"In 1913, when Anthony Patch was twenty-five, two years already gone since irony, the Holy Ghost of this later day, had, theoretically at least, descended upon him."
With each new book on the pile and that first glance I think, yes, this is the one! And then I pick up the next book and think, yes, this is the one! So you see my dilemma since they all sound really good and I want to read them all. So now I will dip into each story and flip through the pages and read little bits here and there and then agonize over the choice a little more. Not that that will make the decision any easier, but I should be able to whittle a book or two from the pile.
Whichever I choose, I am determined not to take the next four months to read!