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Pairing Literature

Echoing and projecting from Molly’s post on pairing literature, I’m naming some reading pairs that would be of interest. While Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours encompass similar and dark events on one day, they are not prerequisite to one another.

The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje) / The German Woman (Paul Griner). Both novels revolve around a nurse during the first and second World War. They convey the sense that people who have suffered emotional fury of war cannot go back but won’t go forward as if the past hadn’t happened.

The German Woman (Paul Griner) / Suite Francaise (Irene Nemirovsky). You will find vivid delineation of hunger, depravity, and loss of human dignity in these books that set in Second World War.

The Piano Teacher (Janice Y.K. Lee) / Lust, Caution (Eileen Chang). Interested in literary thrillers on espionage in the East? These books would intrigue you from page one.

Giovanni’s Room (James Baldwin) / Maurice (E.M. Forster). I mentioned these twin titles in the GLBT literature. Both novels delve on unrequited love and they break my heart.

The Gargoyle (Andrew Davidson) / The Echo Maker (Richard Power). These novels contemplate the notions of memory and the conception of time.

Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky) / The Gentle Axe (R.N. Morris). The Gentle Axe is a quasi spinoff of Dostoevksy’s classics as the main character is the inspector Porfiry.  It just occurred to me that R.N. Morris has released a new book that is the sequel to his Moscow crime series.

Ulysses (James Joyce) / The Oddesey (Homer).

Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston) / Sula (Toni Morrison). These two focus on two women who unservingly hold on to what they believe in living a life that is not dictated bysocial standards.

If you’re interested, you can find my reviews in the Moleskine Book Reviews page.

21 Responses

  1. Great list! The book Ulysses Annotated also suggests Hamlet as background for Ulysses.

  2. My book club did The Hours and Mrs. Dalloway together several years ago. Both are wonderful books and as a pair the produced a lot of interesting conversation.

  3. This is a wonderful list! There are a couple that I’ve read and now need to find time for its pair. How about Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea?

  4. I enjoyed reading this list of pairings. The Gargoyle is a book that I have thought about picking up from time to time. If I do and like it then I have another book to read after it!!

  5. This is great! I’ve got a similar idea perking in my Lifetime Learning Plan where I’m coming up with blocks of four books that go together and at least one of them has to be non-fiction.

    Lezlie

  6. Very nice list, thanks for putting this together. Now you’ve got me thinking about pairings in my own reading… I may have to attempt my own post one of these days.

  7. What’s interesting is that some of these are paired because of similar themes while others are paired simply because one author took the “pair” and developed a new book or story from there, clearly and unashamedly drawing inspiration from the other work. Or basing the new book off the old, established work. Very different types of pairings but fascinating nonetheless.

  8. How about Jane Eyre and The Wide Sargasso Sea? This is fun to ponder.

  9. Great list! I think this would be great thing to do for a reading group discussion.

  10. rhapsodyinbooks:
    Thank you for the reminder. When I’m ready to read Ulysses, which I rushed through in college without really knowing what happened, I’ll read all three—Ulysses, The Odessey, Hamlet—together. That’s a literary project!

  11. CB James:
    Would you be interested in attempting any of these pairs? 🙂

  12. JoAnn:
    Thank you for the reminder. I read Jane Eyre for the first time last year, and have never read Jean Rhys. I should go get Wide Sargasso Sea. I have read how this book is quintessential of colonialism.

  13. Staci:
    The Gargoyle is a fun book to read despite all the criticism. It’s a page-turner.

  14. Lezlie:
    Your reading plan sounds like something I would do myself. For example, I was on the roll of books that were set in Hong Kong (my hometown) in the first half of 20th century. In addition to Lust, Caution and The Piano Teacher, which are fiction, I also read Gweilo: Memoir of a Childhood in Hong Kong.

  15. Ali:
    I’ll look forward to reading your pairing ideas. 🙂

  16. Biblibio:
    You really nailed them. I’m usually not a big fan of spin-off, but R.N. Morris’s book does intrigue me.

  17. Frances:
    You’re the second reader who makes the same comment. I’m seriously considering Wide Sargasso Sea now. 🙂

  18. iliana:
    Yes. C.B. james’s book group read The Hours and Mrs Dalloway together. This list (I’m sure would not be it) will gove book groups lots of ideas.

  19. Jane Eyre and Rebecca may be a pair.

  20. rhodoraonline:
    Now that I have Rebecca and Wide Sargasso Sea, the comparison would be fun.

  21. Another kind of pairing: The Ciderhouse Rules (John Irving) and David Copperfield (Charles Dickens) / Mister Pip (lLoyd Jones) and Great Expectations (Dickens again).

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