World Book Day
World Book Day has sort of crept up on me this year. But I can’t let the day pass without something on my blog about books, so a section of this post is taken from one I wrote last September when I was doing my A-Z alphabet challenge when B had to be books, and some is new.
I LOVE bookshops and libraries. I find it painful to walk past a bookshop without going in. And of course, once I’m in there, it’s almost inevitable that I’ll find myself at the till clutching my next ‘fix’. Libraries exert a similar pull, but there’s something about a new book that nothing can compete with. My husband says that for me books are like orphaned children – I have to give them a home and love them!
Reading has been an essential part of my life since I was a small child. My earliest memories of reading are the Noddy and Big Ears series, quickly followed by Enid Blyton’s Famous Five Books. I then moved on to books such as Fourth Form at Mallory Towers and Sue Barton: Student Nurse and can remember loving all the books in both series. I used to go to the library every Saturday and take out four books – I seem to remember having finished them long before the week was up!
Around the same time, I read and loved Heidi, Black Beauty (read that over and over again) and Little Women together with the other three books in that series. Think I got my early feminist ideas from the character Jo.
At school, we read Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot and I enjoyed all of them. My English teacher was mad about Jane Austen – she used to say that heaven would be finding out there was a stack of Jane Austens she hadn’t read. I didn’t read Eliot’s Middlemarch until I was at college, when my English lecturer said it was the novel for the adult. Still not sure what he meant, but it sounds good! Dickens in one of the big names that I wasn’t all that keen on, but it always seems heretical to admit that.
In my late teens and twenties I read people such as Thomas Hardy, DH Lawrence, Graham Greene, EM Forster, Solzenitsyn and Doris Lessing. I remember reading Greene’s The End of the Affair and Rosamund Lehmann’s The Weather in the Streets compulsively when romantic adventures didn’t work out as planned! It was comforting to read about other people’s pain – even fictional ones.
It took me a while to come to Virginia Woolf, but having done so, I really enjoyed her novels, although they’re not easy reads. I got a lot out of reading her writer’s diaries and gaining insight into her creative processes, her feminist thoughts in A Room of One’s Own, and her essays, such as Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown where she explores the importance of creating believable rounded characters. Some years ago, I visited Woolf’s home in Sussex, Monk’s House and Charleston farmhouse where her sister, Vanessa Bell lived with a brood of children and artistic visitors. The contrast between the two homes – one barren and ascetic, the other colourful and exuberant – is a fascinating insight into their lives.
At one time I was doing a course on post-colonial literature and I read all of Nadine Gordimer’s books and loved them. I think that might be the only time I’ve read all the books by an author one after the other. But it’s fascinating to see the range and variety offered by a writer such as Gordimer.
Now, although I’ve always got a book on the go, I don’t seem to read as many as I would like. People often ask me who are my favourite writers and I find it a hard question to answer. Over my years of reading, I’ve loved, liked and hated books that I’ve read. Some just haven’t done it for me and I no longer bother to finish those. When I’m asked for my favourite, the thousands I’ve read swim through my mind, and I usually find myself giving some pathetic response. However, some favourites of mine include ‘The Secret Scripture’ by Sebastian Barry, ‘The Story of Lucy Gault’ by William Trevor, ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters, Rose Tremain’s ‘Music and Silence’ and Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. Oh dear, by naming those, I feel as if I’m betraying all those others I’ve loved.
Just as I find it hard to pass a bookshop without going in, I find it equally difficult to get rid of my books. Consequently, my bookshelves are groaning under their weight. One of my bookcases contains mainly books I’ve had for years, and will probably never read again, but sometimes I stand and stare at them, recalling their and my interwoven history.
I was jogged into remembering World Book Day by a similar thought in a lovely post from Jo Phillips today http://joannegphillips.wordpress.com/ where she says I wish I had kept every single book I ever bought, and kept a list of every library book I ever borrowed. Because all of my life is there, to be read.
And that’s it – if you love books, they share your life, they make you happy and sad, laugh, cry, think, wish and hope. What more can you ask for?