Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Magic

I read Charlotte's last post wincing sympathetically. I too have fillings that are only just hanging on in there and despite a genius dentist who has somehow managed to keep them that way I know that sooner or later – very probably sooner – the sad wreckage will be beyond even his skills and it will be the full works. And when the day comes, I too will take refuge in books to take my mind off it.

Books are the stress meter in our household. When we're feeling relaxed on holiday we take on big books – biographies, thought-provoking novels, topical non-fiction, the odd classic we've always meant to read but hadn't got around to before. Normally we read an eclectic range of pleasurable  fiction of the sort you can pick up and lay down as time allows and get easily back into the story again. But when it's all just Too Much, there's only one solution.

Georgette Heyer. I've read her books so many times that I could just about recite some of them verbatim – large chunks, anyway.  For minor problems, the nearest one on the bookshelf is enough. For a major stress situation, only the strongest dose will do: The Grand Sophy, undoubtedly her very best book. Maybe you don't agree with me – my husband doesn't – but you're all just wrong. I'm on my third copy now and even that's starting to look a bit battered.

Many years ago when I was a student (make that many, many) I had a couple of summers as a camp counsellor in Connecticut. It was a wonderful experience and it has given me a life-long affection for Americans. I made great friends with a girl who lived in California and with the aid of a $99 bus ticket I set off to visit her by Greyhound. It took me, if I remember rightly, three nights and four days, only getting out to stretch my legs at bus stations.

You do see life on a Greyhound bus. I met all sorts and with the exception of the ratbag who when I was on the way back stole the bag containing my money, passport and air tickets, people were friendly and kind. But morale gets low at bus stations in the middle of the night and of course I was desperate for reading matter too. The book stands weren't exactly Barnes and Noble but one night I saw to my amazement a copy of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, one of my very favourite books. (If you haven't read it, run, don't walk to your nearest bookstore and demand a copy.)

I was feeling tired and low and not a little homesick when I started reading. I don't know how long I read for but when I looked up I was completely disorientated by the view from the window of the Arizona desert. I was so caught up in the magic of the story that I was expecting to be passing through the English countryside.

I'm sure we've all had the exerience of getting  an email from someone who says that a book we have written has helped them so that they have briefly managed to lose themselves in the story as an escape from pain, worry or grief. This is the most precious reward a writer can have. How privileged we are to have been given the ability to do that.

1 comment:

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