Tea or Books? #20: first vs third person and Cider With Rosie vs My Family and Other Animals

Tea or Books logoHappy birthday us! We actually passed our birthday by a couple of weeks, but this is the first podcast after the big day. Can you believe it’s been a whole year? And it might be our longest episode yet.

In episode 20 we tackle first person vs third person (with, spoilers, some confusion and no research at all) and two wonderful childhood memoirs – Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee and My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. It’s a tricky decision, guys (and, of course, the correct decision is to read both).

Check out our iTunes page (rate! review! I’m sick of the ‘not enough ratings to show’ text) or listen via your podcast app of choice. And don’t forget that my brother has a movies podcast that you might enjoy too.

Let us know which you’d choose in each category! Here are the books and authors we mention today…

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
Orphan Island by Rose Macaulay
The Rain Girl by Herbert Jenkins
A Cup of Tea for Mr Thorgill by Storm Jameson
A Favourite of the Gods by Sybille Bedford
Cazalet Chronicles series by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Poor Relations by Compton Mackenzie
Speaking of Love by Angela Young
Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman
Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Emma by Jane Austen
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Art of the Novel ed. Nicholas Royle
Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Rose Macaulay
Beryl Bainbridge
Muriel Spark
Barbara Pym
Ivy Compton-Burnett
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Richmal Crompton
Margaret Atwood
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Impassioned Clay by Stevie Davies
The Great Gatsy by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker
Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Laurence Durrell
William Shakespeare

11 thoughts on “Tea or Books? #20: first vs third person and Cider With Rosie vs My Family and Other Animals

  • June 22, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Happy Birthday. Will pop back in a bit to listen… With a cup of tea, of course… And cake (any excuse!)

    • June 25, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks Christine! And tea/cake are essential for listening, of course.

  • June 22, 2016 at 8:25 am

    I have a complicated relationship with Cider with Rosie… I studied it at Grammar School and loved it on my first read. However, I re-read it after analysing it in depth and couldn’t stand it! I’ve tried to start it a couple of times recently but just couldn’t get into it so abandoned it again. Which is a shame because I’d like to read his later adventures. Maybe I should just skip the first book and read the rest!

    • June 25, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      Oh that is a shame! Maybe I should make sure not to re-read – or at least not too thoroughly – though I am keen to read the rest of the series.

  • June 22, 2016 at 10:31 am

    In the Edible Woman Margaret Atwood starts and finishes the novel in the first person, but the middle section, still purportedly written by the narrator, is in the third person, and reflects her sense of uncertainty about her role in life and her own identity. It always takes me (and the narrator) a while to realise what is happening, but I think it works really well – she’s able to stand outside herself and record her thoughts and actions as if it’s all happening to someone else and she has no control over events.

    • June 25, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      What an interesting concept! I’ve had mixed-to-low success with Margaret Atwood, but that does like it could be a good’un – if the concept works.

  • June 22, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Hi Rachel and Simon! I’ve been teaching a lesson today about narrative perspective, and we agreed that second person is impossible. I can’t think of any examples of short stories or novels that use this narrative voice successfully….can you?

    Also, Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby is a terrifying and completely gripping example of a first person narrator. So chilling….I genuinely couldn’t sleep for fear and the need to read on!

    Finally, I’m really enjoying the pod-cast as well as your blog, and ‘Booksnob’, which I have been reading for a while. I’ve made some purchases based on some of your recent posts so thank you so much! The Lost Europeans beckons!


    • June 25, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      Hiya Emma – so glad you’re enjoying the podcast, thanks, and great question! How did we not remember to talk about second person narratives? I can’t think of any that I have read, but I think it could be a really interesting technique if done well… hmm…

  • July 9, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    Writing as a first person narrator requires the author not only to see inside the head of his or her creation but, in a sense, to actually become that character. I suspect this is easier for liers, fantasists or actors. Barney Norris is the latter, which may explain why his debut novel, Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, works so well. After a third person prologue – the best opening to a novel I have read this decade – we are presented with the accounts of five individuals associated with a car crash in Salisbury. They are of different ages and both sexes, but they all share a sense of loneliness and loss. The first narrator is a flower seller and part time drug dealer whose language is as colourful as her products (the flowers that is). I did struggle a bit with her section as I have a particularly strong loathing for her favourite expletive, but the quality of the prologue encouraged me to persevere, and I am so pleased I did. It is extremely sad and yet I still found it a reassuring read during some difficult recent days. As a very modern book it might not be your cup of tea, Simon, although the cathedral city setting might appeal. You may also be annoyed to discover that the writer is your junior by a couple of a years!

    I see that Harriet has already reviewed it well on Shiny New Books:

  • November 23, 2016 at 7:11 am

    I’m several months behind but I am so enjoying your podcasts! I’ve downloaded all of them on the phone and they are just the thing when I am in the car. I was trying to think of authors who did both first and third person narration and I did come up with two that I don’t think you mentioned. First, Charles Dickens did both — Great Expectations and David Copperfield are in the first person, and Bleak House alternates between Esther Summerson’s narration and the omniscient third person, which works really well (it’s my favorite Dickens novel, it’s wonderful, and the 2005 BBC adaptation was just brilliant).

    Also P. G. Wodehouse wrote a lot of books in third person, but the Jeeves and Wooster novels are first person told from Bertie’s perspective, which are so funny, especially Bertie’s slang. I think they wouldn’t be as funny if they weren’t told in the first person.


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