1. The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard
Why should you read it?
Endemically clever in both attack and delivery of the subject matter, The Real Thing is a masterclass in how to approach those tight, relationship driven story lines in new and interesting ways.
Why did I read it?
Definitions of love have been playing on my mind—no doubt coinciding with the annual celebration of romantic traditions for the festival of Saint Valentine on February 14.
Specifically, I’ve found myself wrestling with the notion of two people who love each other but in ways that are not conducive to the relationship, spectacularly captured in the famous quip from Terrance Rattigan’s Freddie Page: ‘Look, you always said that I don’t really love you in the way you love me. That’s not my fault.’
Really, it is this musing that led me to The Real Thing. And it’s Tom Stoppard. I’ll read anything he writes.
I noticed that you never went to Amsterdam when you went to Amsterdam. I must say, I take my hat off to you, coming home with Rembrandt placemats for your mother. It’s those little touches that lift adultery out of the moral arena and make it a matter of style.
2. High-rise by JG Ballard
Why you should read it?
Because any book that starts with the protagonist barbecuing an Alsatian on the balcony of a high-rise flat has got a point to make.
The endorsements on the dust jacket proclaim it to be ‘prophetic’ and ‘visionary’ which are not untrue given Ballard’s keen observations that could just as easily be applied to today’s society, despite being written nearly 40 years ago.
On a personal note, I prefer the original endorsement supplied by the Guardian and featured on the front cover of the original 1975 edition: ‘A hideous warning.’ Three words that accurately capture the essence and the message at the heart of this novel.
Why did I read it?
Curious serendipity and a hankering for a dystopian adventure.
On a practical level, being drunk was almost the only way of getting close to Eleanor Powell. Sober, she soon became maudlin, wandering about the corridors as if she had lost the key to her own mind.