I've been re-reading a lot of Diana Wynne Jones lately. She was an author I adored as a child/teen, and I still adore her today. In fact I think I adore her more, as her books seem to get better every time I read them and unpick another thread. I read Fire and Hemlock once a year, and every time I discover something new.
But it's been making me think of some of the other books I devoured and worshipped as a child. And I must say my reading choices were not always as inspired. Here's my top three books on Lili's Adolescent Bookshelf of Shame:
1. The Clan of the Cave Bear (and sequels)
Yeah, you can say that you're reading it for the Realistic Prehistorical Blah Blah, but let's face it. We read it for the sex. For the throbbing members and Pleasures (particularly in later volumes) and the rest of the rather limber and creative lovemaking that those wacky cavemen got up to. Also, are we really supposed to believe that one girl invented the needle, the spear-thrower, the bra, firestarters, surgical stitches, domestication of animals (including horseback riding), and was the first person to figure out that sex = babies? For serious?
2. The Mists of Avalon
This came in the very deepest part of my crushed velvet, crystals, Loreena McKennit-loving phase. I loved it. Celtic jiggery-whatsit. Strong feminist themes. Mythology. Except, on revisiting it as an adult, I realised that the so-called Strong Women are in fact, weak, indecisive, antagonistic, manipulated and manipulative, and all seemed to be completely obsessed with Lancelot, whose barely-sketched character was just the wet, empty husk of an underwear model. (although, Arthur/Lancelot/Gwenhwyfar threesome? hot.)
3. Everything by David Eddings
This was my real obsession. I read those books over and over. I eagerly awaited the next one, and shelled out all my hard-earned pocket money for a shiny hardcover big enough to beat someone to death with. Oh, Garion. A pig-keeper with a secret destiny. A fiery-tempered redheaded princess. I WONDER IF THEY WILL GET MARRIED. Meh. And don't get me started on the racism. OH the racism. The western world is ruled by a tiny tiny island up in the top left hand corner of the map where it rains a lot. My, how very much the Chereks are like Vikings. What nice, loyal people they all are. Like those nice
French Mimbrates, so noble.
But wait! What happens when we move further east? Snake-worshipping poison-loving jungle-dwelling eunuchs, that's what.
Oh-ho, and now what? Further east? Self scarification? Worshipping evil gods? Ritual sacrifice? We'd better
KILL THEM ALL gently encourage them to become more like us! Because we're better! Hurrah!
What about you? What once-loved books now make you cringe?