What are Ann-Marie MacDonald ten favorite books, and what makes them special to her?
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
"What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer -- and why?
Reading was such a formative part of my childhood (along with Loony Tunes), that it is difficult to pin point the most influential book. But, under an interrogation light I would probably have to say Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. "
- The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
"This book is so painful, yet beautifully written that it acts as a salve to the wound it inflicts. Layers of meaning and perception are at play here all threaded through a compelling narrative of a father in search of a missing child. It's a book that combines naked, basic emotion with a sophisticated intellectual and spiritual quest, and thus works on the multiple levels that I relish as a reader, and that I think are at play in life all the time. "
- Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
"So deliciously and unhurriedly oppressive in its depiction of a young man in the late nineteenth century whose flicker of potential is slowly smothered, that reading it is like biting down on a chronically, but not acutely, painful tooth. The scene with the pig's ear is my favourite. Again, reading and self-betterment figures strongly here, as do the basic emotional food groups: love, jealousy, desire, etc. Like the best books, it illuminates its social, historical and political context, which is why it continues to speak to our own. "Nothing is not political" is my grammatically challenged motto. No one and nothing operates in an historical void. "
- Howard's End by E.M. Forster
"This too is a page-turner: will she marry the "wrong" man or -- perhaps worse -- fail to marry him? Will her sister ever find out what was really in the will? More compelling though, is the sense that runs like a premonition through this book, that the world is about to explode -- Forster is writing just before the outbreak of the First World War. We see a microcosm of European relations within the Schlegel family and among their friends. The book also operates as a snapshot of the British class system and old-style patriarchy before it crumbled like so many Berlin Walls. "
"A narrative feast. Jane Eyre grows up. A portrait of an era wrought with details as fine as the stitches used in those medieval hunting tapestries at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Like Charlotte Bronte, Maryanne Evans wrote under a man's name, and her heroine, Dorothea Brooke, navigates the political and moral perils of her time."
- Harriett the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
"The first thing I ever wanted to be was a comedian. The second thing was a spy. I think I have somehow managed an approximation of both. Harriett and her friend Sport lived lives that were far outside my experience of family -- divorced parents, nanny, urban environment -- but they rang so true that I was transported. These kids were kids on kids' own terms, not literary inventions to flatter grown-ups' ideas of what children are about. "
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"This was the most influential book of my early adulthood in terms pure literary thrill. "Magical realism" is a term coined for Márquez and the Latin American school of authors of which he is a stellar example. It describes the liberties with physical reality that Márquez takes and offers to us as part of just another ordinary day. The scope and narrative daring, the passion and political intelligence are soaring. "
- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
"Davies combined magic, Jungian psychology and mystery with very real-world quests, often set in an academic or artistic world. Fifth Business is among his best. What I call "fate lines" run just under the surface of the narrative, causing ordinary events to resonate with the power of myths that are as old as the oldest civilizations. Davies also gives us the choice between opting for concrete explanations of extraordinary events, or blatantly miraculous ones. In Fifth Business, he poses the question, "What is a saint?" And a few other choice ones too: are we (or at least some of us) governed by fate? Is it possible to outrun the past? "
- Northrop Frye on Shakespeare
"The late Professor Frye was an internationally renowned academic and literary critic. Most of all, he was a lover of stories, of poetry and language. That love was infectious, and to read him is be illuminated by the knowledge that all stories are at once very very old, and pregnant with undreamt-of possibilities. I love many of his books but this is my favourite because he goes through a cross-section of Shakespeare's plays and really shows how they are built, and what they are made of (naturally, they are made of stuff older than themselves.) Shakespeare performed the alchemy of transforming the familiar into the unforeseen, thus treating his audiences to that delicious combination of surprise and recognition -- the chief ingredients of comedy, drama, romance, tragedy, the gamut. "
- The Quiet American by Graham Greene
"Again, this is an author whose work I love. I pick this book because it continues to be timely. Set in Vietnam before American combat involvement, it tells the story of what happens when national security agendas subvert democracy in the name of promoting it. The quiet American of the title is a young idealistic CIA agent, undercover in Vietnam. He hooks up with a seasoned, somewhat jaded, British journalist. The two become bound up in a lethal and unpredictable world of shifting alliances. The journalist reminds me of a more sophisticated Rick from the movie, Casablanca. Neither character would be the first to idealistically salute any flag, but they are bitingly honest and end up doing more for democracy than most flag-wavers ever do. "
- I Don't Know How She Does It? by Allison Pearson
"If you had a book club, what would it be reading -- and why?
If I had a book club we'd be reading I Don't Know How She Does It? by Allison Pearson. It's about a working mother running the gauntlet of career and families. It's very funny and very painful, and written with that wonderful British deftness. It stirs up a lot of muck that we, as women and men, would like to think we've risen above. Another book club selection would be the nonfiction work Scattered Minds by Dr Gabor Maté. Whatever you think about ADD (and even if you never think about it) you will be surprised and utterly engaged. It's a fascinating, deeply humane book, both clinical and personal. With so many kids on medication nowadays, this is kind of a must-read. "
- Drunkard's path by Deanna Young
"If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be -- and why?
There is a poet whose work I love. Her name is Deanna Young, and her book is called and her book is called The Drunkard's Path published by Gaspereau Press. Like Carol Shields, she takes the minutiae of life and builds something lyrical, moving and profound. "
Ann-Marie MacDonald Who?
Acclaimed author, playwright and actor Ann-Marie MacDonald, is the host of CBC's award-winning biography series, Life and Times. Ann-Marie's debut novel, Fall On Your Knees attracted a huge international readership and won critical acclaim.
Her second novel, The Way the Crow Flies, is an international best-seller. This follows her earlier success as a playwright and actor.
Her works for the theatre include the play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), which has enjoyed more than fifty productions worldwide. MacDonald has also acted extensively on stage and screen where her work has garnered many awards including the Gemini. Her literary works have earned her the Commonwealth Prize, the Governor-General's Award, the Chalmers Award, the Canadian Authors Association Award and several Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Her play. "Belle Moral: A Natural History" opens this summer at the Shaw Festival.
"I'm a documentary junkie, and people's stories fascinate me, both because of what they choose to reveal and what they reveal quite unconsciously," says Ann-Marie of her role as host of Life and Times. "I like being surprised by a story that I thought I knew."