Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the wonderful Bionic Book Worm. This week’s topic:
OCTOBER 24 – Top 5 book quotes
Rachel and Steph can attest to the fact that narrowing down the multitude of favourite quotations to just five choices was a Herculean task. Asking a book lover to pick just five favourite quotes seems on par with selecting only five books to read for the rest of our lives! Nonetheless, here are some of my favourites (and I’ve only cheated a little bit this time!):
~ 6 ~
The leaves rustled, close and protective, pressing up against his ears, curled in his fists. They didn’t mean to frighten. They only ever tried to speak his language and get his attention. It was not fearsome Cabeswater’s fault that Adam had already been a fearful boy when he’d made the bargain.
“You think they’re gonna look at you and see an abused kid? Do you even know what abuse is? That judge will’ve heard enough stories to know a whopper. He’s not gonna blink an eye.”
The branches leaned toward Adam, curling around him protectively, a thicket with thorns pointed outward. It had tried, before, to cling to his mind, but now it knew to surround his body. He’d asked to be separate, and Cabeswater had listened. I know you are not the same as him, Adam said. But in my head, everything is always so tangled. I am such a damaged thing.
– Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Have I mentioned that Adam Parrish is one of my favourite characters in all of literature?! Adam’s thought at the end of this passage always make my stomach clench in pain, but it’s such a beautifully written part and I love the development of his relationship with Cabeswater.
~ 5 ~
Jack: How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.
Algernon: Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.
Jack: I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.
– The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Earnest was my first taste of Oscar Wilde’s famous wit. I originally encountered the play in high school and now, more than ten years later, this ridiculous scene of frivolity between the anxious Jack Worthing and his rogueish friend Algy Moncrieff still makes me smile.
~ 4 ~
Cosette, though from another cause, was equally terrified. She did not understand; what she saw did not seem possible to her; at last she exclaimed, “Father! What can that be in those wagons?”
Jean Valjean answered: “Convicts.”
“And where are they going?”
At this moment a the cudgeling, multiplied by a hundred hands, reached its climax; blows with the flat of the sword joined in; it was a fury of whips and clubs; the prisoners crouched, a hideous obedience was produced by the torture, and all fell silent with the look of chained wolves. Cosette trembled all over; she asked, “Father, are they still men?”
“Sometimes,” said the man of misery.
– Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Hugo’s writing is such that there are several Les Miserables passages that could go here, but this often overlooked passage hits me right in the heart, as ex-convict Jean Valjean is confronted with a visceral reminder of his past, while adoptive daughter Cosette, who remains ignorant of his status as an escaped convict, is by his side. Fun Fact: This is actually the passage I chose to have printed on a custom book scarf several years ago!
~ 3 ~
“You’re Jude St. Francis. You are my oldest, dearest friend. You’re the son of Harold Stein and Julia Altman. You’re the friend of Malcolm Irvine, of Jean-Baptiste Marion, of Richard Goldfarb, of Andy Contractor, of Lucien Voigt, of Citizen van Straaten, of Rhodes Arrowsmith, of Elijah Kozma, of Phaedra de los Santos, of the Henry Youngs.
“You’re a New Yorker. You live in SoHo. You volunteer for an arts organization; you volunteer for a food kitchen.
“You’re a swimmer. You’re a baker. You’re a cook. You’re a reader. You have a beautiful voice, though you never sing anymore. You’re an excellent pianist. You’re an art collector. You write me lovely messages when I’m away. You’re patient. You’re generous. You’re the best listener I know. You’re the smartest person I know, in every way. You’re the bravest person I know, in every way.
“You’re a lawyer. You’re the chair of the litigation department at Rosen Pritchard and Klein. You love your job; you work hard at it.
“You’re a mathematician. You’re a logician. You’ve tried to teach me, again and again.
“You were treated horribly. You came out on the other end. You were always you.”
– A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life destroyed me, as I suspect it does just about anyone who makes it through. Yanagihara’s prose is so devastatingly beautiful that again there are any number of quotes I could choose. I had enough distance from this book that a particular quote didn’t instantly spring to mind and I was leaning towards one on friendship (which I also love) but then I scrolled by this one and every single one of those feelings came rushing back. It’s such a beautiful passage. More moving in context, but still wonderful.
~ 2 ~
“Inej turned to go. Kaz seized her hand, keeping it on the railing. He didn’t look at her. “Stay”, he said, his voice rough stone. “Stay in Ketterdam. Stay with me.” She looked down at his gloved hand clutching hers. Everything in her wanted to say yes, but she would not settle for so little, not after all she’d been through. “What would be the point?”
He took a breath. “I want you to stay. I want you to… I want you”.
“You want me.” She turned the words over. Gently, she squeezed his hand. “And how will you have me, Kaz?”
He looked at her then, eyes fierce, mouth set. It was the face he wore when he was fighting.
“How will you have me?” she repeated. “Fully clothed, gloves on, your head turned away so our lips can never touch?”
He released her hand, his shoulders bunching, his gaze angry and ashamed as he turned his face to the sea.”
Maybe it was because his back was to her that she could finally speak the words.
“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.”
– Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Gah! Do I really need to say anything more? All the building sexual tension, the reliance that these two characters have on each other and the feelings between these them, which have always been present, but never before voiced, and it comes to a head in this wonderful scene. Inej’s last line gets me every time.
~ 1 ~
“Go away and bleed to death,” said his onetime saviour sharply. “On behalf of the female sex I feel I may cheer every lesion.”
“Remember, some live all their lives without discovering this truth; that the noblest and most terrible power we possess is the power we have, each of us, over the chance-met, the stranger, the passer-by outside your life and your kin. Speak, she said, as you would write: as if your words were letters of lead, graven there for all time, for which you must take the consequences. And take the consequences.”
– Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett
In my eyes, Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series is sheer mastery of the craft of writing. There’s a reason so many prominent authors (including Ellen Kushner, Leigh Bardugo, C.S. Pacat, and Guy Gavriel Kay) admit to being inspired by her works! I could easily create a Top 5, 10, probably even 50 Lymond quotes. I don’t think these are my favourites of all time, but they fit better out of context, and aren’t a page or two in length. The two I’ve chosen also complement each other well. Both quotes are words said by the same character in the same book. Margaret Erskine is a great underappreciated minor character who speaks plainly to Francis Crawford of Lymond. I would love to steal the words in her first quote to use against someone particularly heinous, but it’s the advice she gives in the second about the impact we can have even over acquaintances and people who barely register in our lives, and how devastating the impact can be should we abuse or remain ignorant of the power of our words, that stays with me, and with Lymond.
Those are some of my favourite quotes of all-time, what are some of yours?