Nine Book Quotes that Perpetually Haunt Me

They say a good quote will stick with you for life. These are some books with quotes that seem to linger in my brain long after I can remember the plot of the books they come from. 

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 

“She loved the sea for its storms alone, cared for vegetation only when it grew here and there among ruins”

Madame Bovary

This book alone could fill a list of quotes that I think are truly beautiful. It was one of the first classics I ever read that I truly felt breathless by certains sentences. Despite reading this five years ago, it is this quote that I continually return to over and over again. The idea of loving something purely for destruction is so intense and so evocative.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

“Because we were not in our country, we could not use our own languages, and so when we spoke our voices came out bruised.”

We Need New Names

This breathtaking book follows Darling, who lives in Zimbabwe, as she migrates to America for a better life. This line is one that I remember punching me in the gut as I read it on the bus on the way to school. The kind of quote that makes you put your book down and just let it hang in the air. A voice being ‘bruised’, damaged, contorted because it isn’t speaking its first language was such a visceral idea to me. 

White Teeth by Zadie Smith 

“Where you come from it is customary to boil vegetables until they fall apart. This does not mean,” said Samad tersely, “that it is a good idea.”

White Teeth

Couldn’t be one of my lists without some Zadie Smith in here! White Teeth isn’t actually my favourite Smith book, but it is jam-packed with quotes that I love. This one is a particular favourite, spoken by Samad on the frontlines of the war to Archie. It displays the cultural clashes that occur in this book, but giving ‘the Other’ a chance to retaliate. It also displays Smith’s quick wit and humour which is one of my favourite things about her texts. 

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.”

Lolita

I will never shut up about how Lolita is one of the most misunderstood books of all time. This quote alone proves Nabokov’s ultimate goal: to make us sympathise with a narrator that we on no ground ever should. It pushes the power of narrative to the edge of its ability, showing the power of language. There is so much subtly to his narrative that I can understand how people may view it as condoning the relationship, but the opening pages (acting like an exposition) clearly disprove this reading. 

Persuasion by Jane Austen

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.”

Persuasion

The only Austen I will ever like. Persuasion was the first classic I ever read on my own accord. There was something so exciting and new about reading a book that was written like this for the first time, and I was swept away by the prim and properness of it all. I also think it is the most passionate and emotive Austen book; there is real pain in both Anne and Wentworth. 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë 

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

Wuthering Heights

A classic line, but one that has stuck with me ever since I read Wuthering Heights. Having now fallen in and out of love since reading this at 15, this line remains pertinent. God I just think Heathcliff and Cathy is one of the most tragic love stories I’ve ever read. Their lingering tragedy just echoes throughout the text. 

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me’.”

The Waves

The Waves by Virginia Woolf was one of the first modernist texts I had ever read, and despite its challenging format, it was one of the most beautiful books I had ever read. This line in particular is one that stuck out to me four years ago, and still to this day stirs something inside.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

“‘It became, in a way, every room I had ever been in and every room I find myself in hereafter will remind me of Giovanni’s room”

Giovanni’s Room

Of course, of course, this book had to make it onto this list. Giovanni’s Room is packed full of my favourite quotes, but this one in particular is so gorgeously tragic and evocative. David is trapped in Giovanni’s room but also in his own queerness, something he will never be able to shake. 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

“None of them really wanted to listen to someone else’s story anyway; they only wanted to tell their own.”

A Little Life

This recent read of mine was jam packed full of beautiful passages and lines, but this one sums up something I have noticed in real life beautifully. It couldn’t be any more true; so many people in this world only care about themselves and the words they want to say. 

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