Friday, 16 August 2013

Reading Matters


The sheer excitement of choosing holiday reading as a child still comes to mind whenever I select which books to take on holiday. Armed with my well earned pocket money I usually had saved enough to purchase 2 or 3 Armada paperbacks to read whilst we were away. These cost 2/6 each each - a vast sum in those days. I remember reading my way through a lot of Enid Blyton books as a child - the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, Mr Galliano's Circus, the Malory Towers series etc., etc. Although her work was to come in for much criticism in later years I think that Enid Blyton's writing was responsible for my lifelong love of reading. Now many moons later the thought of what to read on holiday still keeps me pleasantly occupied some time before we go. Our recent holiday provided me with some enjoyable reading although only one title was gardening related.

For the long train journey down to Portsmouth I read my way through James Runcie's 'Sidney Chambers and the Peril of Death'. This is the first of an anticipated series of six books featuring clergyman and detective Sidney Chambers. The first book is set in 1953 and follows Sidney as he unravels several mysteries. There are several moral dilemmas for this gentle character and some in the background hints of ensuing romance. The book consisted of several short stories which took me by surprise as it was not obvious at first but several characters featured throughout. A very gentle and very English read I enjoyed it enough to have ordered the next title in the series from my local library. 

Over the sea to France where I had chosen a French related theme for the remainder of my reading. I started with Gregoire Delacort's 'The List Of My Desires'. This book has been a best seller in France since its publication in 2012 and has now been translated into English. The main character is Jocelyn. At the age of 47 she is running a haberdashery shop and spends some of her spare time running a sewing blog. She is reasonably content with her lot in life until an event of life changing implications comes her way. I'm not going to divulge any spoilers but there's an unexpected twist or two as the tale unravels. My only gripe about this book was that it was not long enough.

Next was Claire King's debut novel 'The Night Rainbow', the paperback version of which has landed on the bookshelves here very recently. Set in southern France its narrator is a five year old little girl Pea whose world has been turned upside down. It is revealed very early in the book that her father has died and this event coupled with another tragedy has a devastating effect on Peas's mother as she is left on her own to raise her family. There is much sadness in this book but the overriding emotions are of joy as Pea and her sister make a most unlikely friend who helps their mother to move forward. Pea has a great love of the outdoors and there are many references to the natural world seen through the eyes of a child. The fact that we briefly visited Provence last year helped to give this book a real sense of place. I thought that this was a beguiling read and was one of those books that I did not want to put down.

Finally my last holiday read which is still a work in progress. This is 'The Road to Le Tholonet: A French Garden Journey' by Monty Don.  It came out not long after the BBC series 'Monty Don's French Gardens' but its scope is wider than gardens and it explores what makes France unique. The author visits gardens along the way but as well as describing these gardens he makes many references to French culture. This is not a glossy book and some reviews have come down on the lack of photos in the book. There is no attempt to provide comprehensive illustrations or plans of the the gardens which might disappoint some people. Instead there is but a handful of black and white photos in the book some of these featuring a youthful Monty and friends. I found that this did not detract from the book in the least. It made me perhaps concentrate harder on the author's words as I developed a mental image of what the gardens looked like. I recently struggled to find a photo to illustrate a blog post and ended up including a photo that wasn't really relevant. The book reminded that words can paint pictures too, so perhaps if I'm brave I might post one or two photo free blog posts in the future. This is an ideal book for reading in bite sized chunks so perfect for a holiday.

All my books were on my faithful Kindle which has made transporting books on holiday so much easier and has put an end to the debate whether there is enough room in the suitcase to slip in an extra one. Now back at home I'm looking for more reading matter especially as the evenings seem to be getting shorter already. What have you read or will be reading on your holidays or if you are staying at home this year? All recommendations welcome.

10 comments:

  1. I loved Enid Blyton books as a child, I was an avid reader and a library regular. There's a couple of books you've mentioned there which I've now put on my 'books to read' list as they sound like I'd enjoy them. I can usually get through four or five books on holiday but this year I caught up on magazines which I'd had hanging around since the beginning of the year. I think I've definitely learnt now that I just don't have time to keep up with magazines.

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    1. Me neither Jo - the magazine pile lives in a state of permanent state of being on the verge of collapse :)

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  2. I think we must all be of an age, Anna, as I also loved Eniid Blyton when younger! I keep my book reading for bedtime and am more likely to dip into a magazine during the day - I don't really have time for these but I can't resist Gardens Illustrated, The Garden and Which Gardening! I'm currently reading the White Queen, having got a bit confused as to how everyone was related in the BBC series of the book but, on your suggestion, have got The Bee Garden lined up on my Kindle app (on ipad) and also bought Maureen Little's book "The Kitchen Herb Garden". Both looked jolly good and I love a good plant read! Thank you for your excellent suggestion! Am currently travelling back and forth to Hampshire to stay with/look after v elderly parents so the Kindle app is a definite travelling boon!

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    1. I've just finished 'The White Princess' Caro which I enjoyed although it does take a while to get your head round all the cast of characters :) Hope that you enjoy Maureen's books. I'm saving them for the winter. I've found my Kindle a godsend as I've been up and down a bit over the past five years or on a similar mission to yours. Take care and hope that you are getting some time for your gardening activities.

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  3. Why not reread some childhood books - CS Lewis and E Nesbit? Or early adult favourites (I love Austen and Gaskell)? I am currently re-reading some of my Bill Bryson books when I have the rare window of opportunity like a train journey.The best books are always worth rereading, aren't they?

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    1. Oh I may do one of these days Cathy :)

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  4. I'm another who developed a love of reading through pocket money bought Enid Blyton. And haven't kindles transformed reading, I love being able to take a library with me without lengthening my arms. I will look out the James Runcie book, sounds really nice.

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  5. I expect that JK Rowling is today's equivalent of Enid Janet so let's hope she does as good a job. The Kindle has been a blessing as far as I'm concerned helping to maintain my sanity on some long journeys. Still prefer a book but they are not always practical :)

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  6. I was a big fan of Enid Blyton as a child too. I was at a boarding school from a very young age, in one of my first end of term reports the headmistress wrote "Karen must learn to realise that *** (the name of my school) is not Malory Towers.
    :)
    Obviously Enid Blyton, together with Agatha Christie books were banned at my school. What a treat to see your image for this post, brought back lots of memories.

    Isn't the kindle a marvellous thing, thought I would hate it, but I love it. Sadly I have no book recommendations for you.

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  7. Oh fancy that Karen - hopefully your school was as much fun as I imagined Malory Towers to be :) The Kindle has been a godsend to me despite my initial reservations and it co-exists most amiably in my world with real life books.

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All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.