Re-reading Old Friends

I recently watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for the first time since seeing it (twice) in the cinema. I adored it when I first saw it and was very pleased to find that I still loved it just as much.

So much so that I immediately fetched the book off the shelf to read that again too. I haven’t read it for several years, beyond a quick flick through to remind me of the main points before I first saw the film.

As I expected, I still loved the book too. It is such a comfort read for me and it was wonderfully cosy to come back to it. I had forgotten though just how many changes the film had made – I knew there were quite a few differences but it was only reading the book properly which reminded me just how many. Some of them made practical sense but there were some things which I just couldn’t understand.

However, it is interesting to find that I do love both the book and the film, despite those differences. I think the film keeps the same spirit as the book and of course the main plot is more or less the same. They are both beautiful stories and I cannot help loving them. I need more like them please!

Back to School

On Saturday I went to a meeting of my local branch of the Jane Austen Society. I miss a lot of these meetings because I often tend to be working when they happen so I am always extra happy when I can get to one. It is lovely to have a room full of so many Jane Austen enthusiasts and of course the talks are excellent.

I was especially impressed with the talks this month. In the afternoon we heard from architectural historian Amy Frost about the locations used in adaptations of Jane Austen’s work. It is surprising how many of them are just wrong when you actually look at them. I was particularly amused by the locations chosen for Sense and Sensibility – Norland has grown enormously with each new adaptation, while Barton Cottage has shrunk right down. I loved the cottages used in the more recent adaptations but they certainly bear no resemblance to Austen’s description!

The morning talk was also brilliant. It was somewhat more intellectual than a lot of the talks we have – a fact which I very much appreciated. So much so that I was scribbling away throughout the talk and had to pull out my books when I got home to transfer the notes.

This was Anne Toper – Dialogue in Pride and Prejudice: Blunder and Innovation. She was (unsurprisingly!) talking about Austen’s use of dialogue – particularly how infrequently she uses words such as, ‘He said’ or, ‘She said.’ When she does use them it is deliberately for effect – for an example, read the first proposal scene in Pride and Prejudice (chapter 34) and compare the speech attributions with those used when Fanny and Edmund are talking about stars in chapter 11 of Mansfield Park. The intimacy between the characters is entirely different.

I thoroughly enjoyed both talks and loved the feeling that I was properly studying the texts. As ever, I came away completely enthused and thinking that I must make myself more opportunities for similar events.

Listening and Learning

I mentioned in my last post that Five by Hallie Rubenhold was one of my favourite books from last year. It is essentially a biography of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper and is very much a book about their lives and not their deaths – although those are covered too.

It is an utterly fascinating book and I was genuinely gripped by it. I wanted to know what happened to those women and how they ended up on the streets of Whitechapel.

Non-fiction can be a struggle for me. No matter how much I am interested in a subject and want to read the book, I do not tend to pick them up. Instead I go for stories. I can’t really explain it but I love to get lost in another world.

In the case of Five, it had been sitting on my shelf for months just waiting for me to pick it up. Every time I started a new book it was overlooked. Then I thought of audiobooks and borrowed a copy from the library.

It was a revelation. I was hooked and just couldn’t stop listening. Which was potentially awkward at times when I had forgotten my earphones – if someone had walked in on me and just heard snippets out of context it might have sounded odd!

Audiobooks are definitely a great tool and something I will remember the next time I want to read a non-fiction book but am putting off starting it. I should manage to learn much more this way!

A Year of Reading

I’m a little late with my round up of last year’s reading because I wanted to post about Christmas last week.  It is still nice to reflect on the year though so better late than never!

2019 was a good reading year for me.  I’m not overly driven by numbers – it is much more important for me to feel that I have been enjoying my reading.  There were a couple of times when I got bogged down in a book I didn’t much like and which really slowed down my reading but on the whole I can say that I read a lot of books I loved. Most of the time I just wanted to get back to my books.

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That being said, I do know that I read 128 books last year – of which 16 were re-reads – which was a big jump up on the 91 of the year before.  Of course, part of that is because I listened to 44 audio books – up from 14 in 2018.  That definitely helped!

I am not at all good at picking favourites – they change so much depending on my mood.  There are a few which stick in my mind though – I loved Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Waverley by Walter Scott.  Hallie Rubenhold’s Five was fascinating and I was completely hooked by it.

As for reading resolutions for the new year, I have stopped setting myself firm reading lists as for me they creates too much pressure and stop me enjoying the books so much.  The only resolution I really have is to read the books which bring me joy.  I so much loved reading my cosy books over Christmas that I want to carry on doing the same all year round and not pressure myself into reading books I think I ought to read.  That sounds like a pretty good year to me.

Jólabókaflóð

I am sure that by now most of you will have heard of the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð or book flood on Christmas Eve. If you haven’t, in Iceland it is traditional to give each other books on Christmas Eve and then settle down to read them and eat chocolate.

For several years I have wanted to adopt this practice for myself and this year, finally, I managed it.

We actually had company for dinner so we couldn’t spend hours reading but once they had gone we shared our books and settled down to finish the day. I received a lovely copy of Dear Enemy – the sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. It is one I have read before but I wanted a nice vintage copy because my previous one had been print on demand and didn’t contain the pictures which add so much to the story.

I wasn’t disappointed either – I loved the pictures and was once again swept up by the story. It was the best way to wind down on Christmas Eve and I will definitely be hoping to do the same thing again many times in the future.

Cosy Comforting Christmas

Christmas reading time is here! One of my favourite things about Christmas is the long, dark evenings which can be spent in front of the fire with a board game or a book. It is just so cosy and wonderful.

It has to be the right kind of books though and I have made a tentative stack of books I may read over the next few weeks. Or possibly not. The whole point is to read exactly what I want and what makes me happy.

Most Christmases I try to read lots of my favourite children’s Christmas stories but this year not all of the books are obviously Christmassy. Some of them do have hidden Christmas scenes – I am reading What Katy Did at School primarily for the wonderful Christmas box the girls receive – but what I really want right now are cosy comfort reads. In fact, I have been looking forward to these books for weeks – which makes me think that perhaps I should read more of them throughout the year!

I have just finished reading Daddy-Long-Legs (I still love it as much as I ever did) and have moved on to Katy which I have not read for years. I know I am going to thoroughly enjoy the next few weeks!

Do you have Christmas reading (or other) traditions? I would love to hear them.

Queen Victoria

Last week I got to go and see Lucy Worsley talking about Queen Victoria. I was lucky enough to get to see her Jane Austen talk last year and she was brilliant so I was very excited about seeing her again.

It was blowing an absolute gale on the way over but I had such a good time. Lucy Worsley is a great speaker and of course the subject matter is so interesting.

Naturally, I couldn’t leave without buying a book. I loved the Jane Austen at Home book which went with last year’s talk and so I really wanted all of the books on offer. In the end though I stuck with the book about Queen Victoria which actually related to the talk. I am so looking forward to reading it!

Kindred Spirits

This year I am starting my annual Christmas re-read of Little Women a bit early as I am doing so in the company of some lovely people on Instagram – the Kindred Spirit Network.

Social media is a bit of a tricky topic for me – if I spend too long scrolling – and on a bad day too long can be five minutes – I end up feeling very down and it really isn’t good for me.  On the other hand, I need to use it if I want to promote my blog.  It is difficult for me to find the right balance sometimes.

However, a huge positive side of social media – and Instagram in particular – is the connection I can so easily make with like minded people.  I love having a book club with real people I can talk to in person but none of them really enjoy the same books as me.  Yes, it makes me read a wider range of books and that is great – but sometimes I just want to read a cosy, comforting book which I love.  It is even better if I can share that book with other people who love it just as much as I do.

I am therefore very much looking forward to a couple of months spent curled up with Little Women (and Good Wives – they are usually published separately in the UK).  I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening.

Crafting with Audiobooks

I have written before about how much I love audiobooks but I have realised recently that I have been listening to them more than ever.  Before I discovered I could download audiobooks from the library onto my phone I had a limited supply of books – my choice isn’t limitless now but it is much wider.  I am listening to books almost constantly – in the car, working in the stables – any time I can’t read an actual, physical book.

The increase is very obvious when I look at my reading log.  Last year I listened to 13 audiobooks – so far this year I have heard 39, with two months still to go.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been working hard on a pair of crochet socks – I often have spells when I am very enthusiastic about crochet and don’t want to be doing anything else.  Audiobooks are perfect for that as I can lose myself in the story whilst still having both of my hands free.  The only downside is that I have been reading far fewer physical books and I do miss the act of sitting down with my book.

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It has also meant that I can’t necessarily read the book I really want as I don’t have access to it in audio form.  I am, however, reading a much wider range of books – I tend to just browse until something takes my fancy.  I’m sure it’s very good for me!