memories of the ’80s – The Cider House Rules by John Irving

CiderHouseRules.jpgThe mid 1980s was a fertile writing time for author John Irving, who published his sixth novel The Cider House Rules.

Set in the 1930s and 1940s America, the story centers around Homer and his relationship with Wilbur.

Homer is a young orphan who becomes close to the orphanage’s director Wilbur. He eventually becomes like a son to Wilbur, and trains to become a doctor, and discovering Wilbur’s secret  – that he does abortions.

As a young man Homer becomes friends with Candy and Wally, when Candy has come to the orphanage to have an abortion. He returns with them to their home in Maine, and secretly falls in love with Candy, and becomes her lover after Wally is missing and presumed dead during the war.

Candy become pregnant and gives birth to their son Angel, and Wally returns, assuming the task as Angel’s Father while Candy and Homer continue a secret affair, with Homer returning to the orphanage to become director after the death of Wilbur.

Irving’s story of a unusual families and the societal pressures of the time period show the vulnerability of women as well as the compassion that comes from those who decide to protect the weak.

Published in April 1985 by William Morrow, Irving’s novel was a success, hailed by critics and landed on the New York Times bestseller list, dominating the number one spot in June 1985.

In the next decade Irving adapted the novel for the screen for a movie directed by Lasse Hallestrom, earning him an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay..

memories of the ’80s – The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin

Front CoverIt started with one book – and has turned into a series beloved my several generations of readers – The Baby-Sitters Club.

Starting with an idea from an editor at Scholastic Books, writer Ann M. Martin developed the first book, which was to be the first of a four book series.

The main characters are Kristin known as Kristy (president), Claudia (vice president), Mary Anne (secretary), and Anastasia known as Stacey (Treasurer) while Dawn, Mallory, Jessica, Abigail, Logan, and Shannon are also members of the club. (alternate officers).

The girls are all 13 years old and live in upper middle class Stoneybrook, a fictional town near Stamford, Conneticut, where many of the adults go to work.

Each book focuses on one of the main characters, the kids they take care of as baby-sitters as well as a typical teen girl side plot like dealing with parents or siblings, vacations, school issues, dating, boys, responsibility, independence and all the drama of being a teenage girls.

Little did Scholastic know that the series would strike like wildfire and that after book six, printings were increased to 100,000 and the series was to be expanded from the initial plans for four books to 12 books.

Starting in 1986 with Kristy’s Great Idea, Martin would write 35 more titles, with the additional books in the series ghostwritten by several writers, but over 40 written by Peter Lerangis. The series now includes over 200 titles.

The series proved so popular that is spawned many additional series – the Super Specials, Super Mysteries and Special Edition Readers Requests as well as companion series such as Baby-Sitters Little Sisters, California Diaries and graphic novels.

Still publishing in the 21st century, the series is for mainly written for tweens – those girls who aren’t children and not yet teenagers – and yet are beloved by so many for the fun and laughter, as well as the tips for growing up.




memories of the ’70s – Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton

In the mid 1970s, young adult fiction was tackling the tough issues of growing up – and one of the books of the time period that exemplified many teen realities was Rumble Fish.

Written by S. E. Hinton (who also is the author of The Outsiders), the story centers around Rusty-James and his older brother, The Motorcycle Boy.

The brothers live with their Dad, an alcoholic who regularly disappears on drinking binges, while their Mum took off when Rusty-James was young.

Rusty-James hangs out with his friend Steve and his girlfriend Patty, plays pool, acts tough and idolizes The Motorcycle Boy, who regularly leaves the claustrophobic environment of the house, trying to leave the past behind.

Through flashbacks, Rusty-James thinks about his childhood and the way his life has changed, but thinks the only way to be strong is to fight.

Meanwhile Rusty-James is creating the bad reputation for himself, especially in fights versus his rival Biff and against gang members.

He doesn’t believe The Motorcycle Boy that this isn’t the best way to live – and tries to convince him that he should stay instead of wanting to go back to California where their Mother now lives.

Hinton’s focus on the bravado of youth, the determination to become independent, the pressures of a peer group and the reality of growing up are embodied in the relationship between Rusty-James and his brother.

For readers in the 1970s, the themes were common, but finding them in books wasn’t as popular. Young adult fiction allowed young teens to find stories that reflected their reality – old enough to understand yet not old enough to really do much in the face of so many negative situations.

Hinton’s novel was published in 1975, and was awarded two awards – the School Library Journal Best Books of the Year and the ALA Best Books for Young Adults.

memories of the ’80s – Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

At the beginning of a new decade, the launch of a unique book series started jumping onto bestseller lists across North America: Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel.

The Earth’s Children series focuses on the possible interaction between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnum humans.

Auel spent hours in libraries and at archaeological conferences to learn about the current research into these two groups.

Auel’s story revolves around a five year old Cro Magnum girl who survives an earthquake, but her family and camp have disappeared. She wanders aimlessly, attacked by wild animals and on the brink of death is found by a Neanderthal medicine woman, whose home and fellow community have also been displaced by the earthquake.

Adopted by the new community, the girl is named Ayla and soon is thought to be good luck as they discover a safe cave for the community to inhabit. Unlike herself, the Neanderthal’s have limited speech and use sign language to communicate. As she grows, Ayla continues to conflict with her new family and struggles against the rules that are placed upon her being a female and an outsider.

Auel’s historical book of the Ice Age was first published in 1980 by Crown Publishing and earned an endless list of positive reviews including one from The New York Times.

In consequent years, the series continued to include six books, which detailed the world of the humans in the Ice Age as well as revealed the universal story of survival, conflict, love and family.

The book was adapted for the big screen in 1986, starring Darryl Hannah, in which she rarely spoke, making it a unique film of the decade for its odd production with almost no dialogue.

For the book world, this historical fiction series stood apart, choosing to go back into the depths of time far beyond the usual bounds of history to reveal the early beginnings of mankind.

memories of the ’70s – Watership Down by Richard Adams

In the early 1970s, a fantasy novel about the life of rabbits in England became a bestseller on the literary lists: Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Inspired by his home in Hampshire, England and the writings of British naturalist Ronald Lockley in his book The Private Life of the Rabbit, Adams started telling stories to his daughters about local rabbits.

Encouraged by their devotion to the stories, Adams started to write down the tales, translating his struggles faced during WWII into how the rabbits would be struggling in their world. Adams created Lapine, a rabbit language used in the novel.

Rejected six times by publishers, Adams persisted and Watership Down was published in 1972.

The story rotates around Fiver, a runt rabbit who has extra-sensory perception, who sees into the future that the rabbit warren will be destroyed. With the help of his buddy Hazel, the rabbits flee the warren to find a new home, and face obstacles in their search for a safe new place with pals Bigwig and Silver.

Seen as an allegory, the novel focuses on the universal truths such as survival, struggle between tyranny and freedom and the rights of the individual versus the rights of a group.

Winning the Carnegie Medal in 1972 as the best children’s book of the year and the Guardian’s Children Book Prize, Adams book received rave reviews as well as became recognized as an important addition to British children’s literature.

In 1978, the book was adapted and made into an animated film – and its lasting effects has made the book one of the 100 best British children’s books of all time.


memories of the ’80s – The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Published in 1984, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera focused the turbulent year of 1968 and the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Kundera’s five characters, sugeon and intellectual Tomas, his photographer wife Tereza, Tomas’ mistress Sabina, her Swiss lover Franz, Simon, Tomas’ son from a previous marriage and Karenin, Tomas and Tereza’s dog, provide the insight into the dramatic changes to Czech society.

As the characters deal with the effects of the loss of freedoms and Communist rules, the history is revealed within their relationships. Based loosely on Nietzche’s theory of eternal recurrence, Kundera’s focus is that each person only has one life to live and must somehow deal with what he or she is given.

The beautiful prose of Kundera, originally written in Czech in 1982, was translated into French 1984 and published by Gallimard. Exiled book publishers 68 Publishers, based in Canada, published the Czech translation, with Faber & Faber publishing in the UK and Harper & Row in the US publishing the book in English.

Receiving accolades from reviewers and literary fans, the book was adapted for the big screen starring Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Stellan Skarsgard and Lena Olin in 1988.

Nominated for numerous awards including Oscar, Golden Globe, National Society of Film Critics Award, Independent Spirit Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards, the film won a BAFTA and Boston Film Critics Awards.

Despite the praise and the fact that Kundera was active during the making of the film, he said the film had nothing to do with the book, and has refused to consent to ever allow his books to be adapted for another medium ever again.

For culture fans, these two creations brought to light existentialism, history, politics, war, love and relationships, in the backdrop of Kundera’s Czechoslovakia.

memories of the ’70s – Helter Skelter

Four years after the grisly revelations surrounding the actions of cult leader Charles Manson and the Manson Family came the book, written by the lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi: Helter Skelter.

The name comes from a theory that there would be an apocalyptic race war, which Manson believed would happen on Earth.

Los Angeles prosecutor Bugliosi, working with writer Curt Gentry, recounts the investigation, arrest and prosecution of one of the notorious figures of the late 1960s – cult leader Charles Manson.

Manson and the Manson Family were convicted of the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, actress Sharon Tate and several other victims.

Published by W.W. Norton in 1974, the true crime book became a bestseller, despite the three years that had passed since the convictions in 1971. In 1975, Helter Skelter won the Edgar Award for Best Crime Book.

Seven million copies of the book sold, detailing the world of Manson and his followers and how police investigators investigated to find the evidence to prove they had committed murder.

In 1976, a tv movie was done based on the book, once again showcasing the bizarre and twisted view of the world created by Manson. Still imprisoned in California, Charles Manson’s story has become an integral part of pop culture history.