Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?

Welcome to this month’s Literary Column with Jessica Norrie. This is the tenth post from Jessica and the final one for the time being as she is well into writing her next book and will be focusing on that in the New Year. I am hugely appreciative of her knowledge and the time she has spent on putting these posts together for us, and this month’s is no exception.

Ahem! Shortly I’ll have a significant birthday present from Transport for London of free travel on bus, tubes and some trains. If you’ve never tried people watching from the top deck of a London bus, put it on your bucket list. But I’ll need a book for those long underground rides. Where better to start a stockpile than rereading bestsellers published in the year of my birth? When I googled them I was surprised and rather moved to find how many I’d read and how they still resonate. (Do this for your own year of birth and see if the same thing happens. Obviously, I read them at appropriate stages in my life, not when they first appeared!)

The covers shown here are from the editions I read. Cover design fashion over the years is fascinating. Most of these books now look different, but they’re all still available.

My birth year saw some fantastically high quality children’s fiction, but in schools some pupils were still stumbling at the first post. So “Dr Seuss” was commissioned to write a book using only words from the first reader.  The Cat in the Hat burst into life, and you can read the fuller, fascinating story here

Having mastered that, children could discover  The Treasures of Green Knowe, published in the UK as The Chimneys of Green Knowe. I’m amused by a current Amazon review that says “There isn’t much action”. If time travelling 200 years for a rescue mission that includes climbing the chimneys of a haunted house with a blind ancestor isn’t much action, what is? Incidentally, throughout this series, L M Boston wrote quirky, independent female characters, including elderly and disabled ones.

Another female character whose ill health leads to wider worlds was created by Catherine Storr in Marianne Dreams. Just the book for any budding psychoanalysts out there. I now discover it’s the start of a series, but this first one is complete, weird, and memorable in itself.

An audience that would now be called Young Adult could learn a lot, as I did, from The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Anyone still seeking to know why single, intelligent, lonely and/or “different” women are so easily categorised as witches by suspicious narrow minded societies, will find the saddest and most exciting of well researched signposts here.

Even with a diet as rich as this, the child reader moves on, and I was pleased to be reminded of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. It was a first introduction for this white middle class first worlder to the richness of African writing, a completely new perspective for me in my late teens. Achebe’s prose is poetic, his story moving, his world evocative. This is the clash of white arrival against black tradition; missionary against culture; city against tribe. It’s still required reading; things are still falling apart.

To my shame, I’ve never been a huge reader of poetry. But the late teens were a great time to discover E. E. Cummings, whose last collection, 95 Poems was born in book form the same year as me. Try him. If you’re in the right mood, his stars and wordplay, his individual punctuation and eroticism and wit and wonder and poignancy will play your head space with. If not, leave it for ‘anothertime soonever’.

Off I went to university, including a year in Paris where I wrote my dissertation on Simone de Beauvoir. So I probably knew then, and rediscover now, that the first volume of her autobiography was published in English on New Year’s Day of the year I was born, as Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. Looking at recent reviews, people (women, mostly) are still finding it readable, funny, perceptive, and angry. It seems the #MeToo generation could still learn a lot from de Beauvoir.

I have fond memories of lying on the sofa, heavily pregnant with my first child, gobbling up films that my husband gloomily predicted we’d never be able to watch uninterrupted again. One was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so good that I didn’t bother reading the book for years. When I did, I seem to remember wincing at some of the views. Stick with the film, I’d say.

Skip two decades when I must have been reading other things. The daughter who’d have heard “Moon River” as she shifted about waiting to be born, was living in Palermo, Sicily, as part of her Italian degree. I had the pleasure of visiting twice, and The Leopard was an entertaining fictional guide to the history, climate, politics, gastronomy, and characters I came across.

It was fun discovering this list. Goodreads has lists of world bestsellers for most years – do have a look for yours. The guidance you get from the books on it beats any star chart. Oh, and there’s another important birthday on the horizon – Happy Christmas all, when it comes around.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught, full time, part time, adults, children, co-authored a text book and ran teacher training. In 2008 she was inspired with the idea for “The Infinity Pool” and it appeared as a fully fledged novel in 2015. Meanwhile she sings soprano and plays the piano, walks in the forest and enjoys living in and using London. She looks forward to writing more in the future.

Jessica Norrie

About the Book.

In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Nice holiday read  on 29 September 2018

I enjoyed reading this book during my summer holidays. It gets you thinking about the way we interact with local communities and the environment during our few weeks away in the sun. The book is a nice mix of crime, romance, philosophy, and social constructs.

Read some of the many excellent reviews and buy the book:

and on Amazon US:

Find more reviews on Goodreads:

Connect to Jessica


My thanks to Jessica again for a wonderful post that introduces us to the books that entertained and engaged her during the various stages of her life so far.. Whatbestsellers were released in your year of birth… and how many have you read?

You can read all of Jessica’s previous posts in the directory, and I am sure that you join me in thanking her for all the stunning books that she has introduced us to:

24 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?

  1. Loving this post. I read Marianne Dreams when I was a child. I can’t remember any details, except for the fact I often borrowed it from our local library and I loved it! Just off to discover the books for my birth year.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a fascinating post. I was most struck by how Jessica aligned the books with her growth as a person. It shows once again how powerful reading is and how necessary new ideas and an immersion in the imagination are to the maturing human. I quickly looked up the most famous book titles of my birth year, and there is some wonderful sci-fi from Vonnegut and Asimov, as well as Michener’s Hawaii – the first “big” book of my reading life, which enthralled me. Thanks so much for the post, Jessica, and for hosting, Sally. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – Christmas book promotions, Music, Humour, great food and fantastic guests. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Seventh Day of Christmas with guests Jessica Norrie and Marjorie Mallon | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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