Books masquerading as diaries

How many of these have you read?

We’ve written before about how important diaries are for tracking things at the office, but also keeping a record of what’s happening at home.  But in what other ways have diaries been used?  How about as inspiration for authors?


Robinson Crusoe
When it was published in 1719, Robinson Crusoe was a runaway success; an adventure story and metaphor for an inner journey.  Crusoe’s journal recounts his battles to survive on the seemingly empty ‘island of Despair’ – that’s why one of the most enduring images is when he comes across someone else’s footprints.  Defoe is said to have drawn on the story of Alexander Selkirk, a real-life castaway who spent four years on an island off the coast of Chile.


I bet you didn’t know this reads like a diary.  Entries are written by Bram Stoker’s characters, the primary one being Jonathan Harker, a lawyer that visits Count Dracula in Transylvania to help him find a house in England.  Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina Murray carries on the story in her diary and in letters to a doomed friend.  Dracula was partly set in windswept Whitby and the town now hosts a Gothic music festival.


The Color Purple
This powerful novel from 1982 is narrated by Celie, a young black girl growing up in the American South of the early 20th century.  She survives monstrous abuse at the hands of her stepfather and husband, but eventually learns to trust people (the book raised eyebrows with its lesbian storyline).  Alice Walker’s distinctive voice brings together a whole history of social struggle about gender, race and equality.  It also became a film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.


A Diary of The Lady
When Rachel Johnson, Boris’ sister, took over as editor of The Lady in 2009 she had no actual experience of editing a magazine (let alone one started in 1885).  Rachel set to, trying to drag it into the 21st century.  Maybe you saw the Channel 4 documentary that recorded her tussles with staff and The Lady’s family of owners. This book is her entertaining account of the first year and a half at the title.


Turtle Diary
Probably best known for writing Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban had a sense of the magic and sorrow of everyday life, which his why his books entrance children and adults alike. Turtle Diary (also a film with Glenda Jackson and Ben Kingsley), consists of the ‘diaries’ of two lonely people – a bookshop manager and children’s writer – who are obsessed with liberating two turtles in London Zoo and taking them to the sea.

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