Readings from Northanger

Recently I have been re-reading Northanger Abbey with a lovely group of Jane Austen enthusiasts – most of whom are far more knowledgeable than I am.  I have so enjoyed our discussions and I have learnt a lot from them.

The first time I read Northanger I didn’t get it at all.   I had heard that it was very funny and I couldn’t understand why.  Then I learnt about gothic novels and read it again.  It turns out that it is indeed hilarious and I have loved it ever since.

The plot has a great deal to do with that (of course) but I also love how heavily books feature in the story.  As a bookish teenager I very much identified with Catherine – I too have spent much time living more in my fictional worlds than in the real one.

I have also very much appreciated the books I have discovered within its pages.  Like many people, I was pushed to read The Mysteries of Udolpho by Catherine Morland and, although the sentences are long and have far too many commas, I enjoyed it.  An even better discovery was Fanny Burney who I read partly because she is mentioned in Northanger and partly because I knew Jane Austen herself enjoyed reading her.  For me she was far superior to Mrs Radcliffe.

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From there I went on to discover several other 18th century authors including Maria Edgeworth who I loved.  I have not yet embarked on any of Samuel Richardson’s novels but I have no doubt that I will at some point.

For now though I have returned to the gothic and am about to start Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto.  This one isn’t mentioned in Northanger Abbey but I’m sure that Catherine and Isabella would have adored it.

Working and Reading

With the re-opening of shops this week, I have been called back in to work. I spent a long time thinking about the perfect book to take with me – it needed to be nice and cosy but not too gripping because I wanted to be able to leave it at work when I went home.

In the end I decided on Pat of Silver Bush. L M Montgomery is always the best comfort read for me and, although I remember thinking that Pat was very similar in character to me, I haven’t read it for quite some time. I hoped that would mean I would be drawn into the story and it would be a distraction if things got too stressful at work.

In fact, I have hardly read at all over the past few days. We are working shorter days which means we get less time for lunch and I only get through a few pages. Then when I get home I am completely drained and just want to collapse on the sofa in front of the television (I have been binge watching Miranda and it is just as wonderful as I remember).

Hopefully though I will settle back into work fairly quickly and I’ll soon be reading more again. I am very much looking forward to my day off and the extra hours of reading time that will bring!

Swallows and Amazons

Last weekend I finally sat down to watch the 2016 film of Swallows and Amazons. This was one of my favourite books growing up and I also loved the 1974 film so I was looking forward to the film with some trepidation but mostly excitement. As soon as it started I was taken back to my childhood. The setting was of course stunning and the costumes were just perfect.

I was not at all prepared for the storyline though. Whilst it was loosely based on the book, the adaptor seems to have felt that the book was far too boring for a modern day audience and that a much more exciting plot needed to be added. For me, Swallows and Amazons is a wonderful, gentle book about a group of children playing make believe and exploring the Lake District. This film did not convey that feeling at all.

Not only that – the children seemed much more argumentative and not nearly as nice to each other as I remembered. In fact, I did immediately start re-reading the book and can confirm that the original children were much friendlier. The film also made them far more incompetent than the book. I didn’t see that it was really necessary for them to lose their entire food supply before they even arrived on the island. Susan is meant to be a pretty decent cook and the idea of cold, miserable, hungry children just seemed odd.

Having said all of that, I think the film itself was actually very good. If I hadn’t grown up loving the books I would have adored the film – my only gripes with it were where they have significantly changed the plot. Which does make me wonder why they had not just written a spy story with their own characters.

The next evening I did go back and watch the 1974 film. It is certainly not as exciting as the new one but it gives me much more of the happy, peaceful feeling of the books. I was very glad to find that I still loved it just as much as I did as a child.

Comfort Reading

At the moment, reading is a very important escape for many of us. For me, that takes the form of comfort reading. I do not want to be reading books which make me miserable and if that means I spend a few weeks or months reading only children’s books then I am okay with that. In actual fact though, there will probably be at least some cosy crime books consumed, if not some nice middlebrow fiction (my Mum is currently reading the Mrs Tim books by D E Stevenson and making me want to read them again).

I am just getting to the end of The Cricket Term by Antonia Forest. I borrowed the first book in the series from the library many years ago and loved it but have only come across one of the intervening books in the meantime. I love this series but I do need to find the rest of the books – and probably the first one again – as there are a lot of passing references to events about which I know nothing!

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I very rarely make myself a set reading list but I have gathered together a few books which I think will be good for me at the moment. I am about to read Daddy-Long-Legs for the umpteenth time and will probably finally read my lovely, hardback, unabridged copy of The School at the Chalet. I am yet to read Catherine Aird’s latest book – Inherintance Tracks – and now may be the time when I actually get around to reading some books I have seen recommended many times – including The Penderwicks and All-of-a-Kind Family.

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I am also just getting to the end of listening to Pride and Prejudice and have already decided that I will go back and re-listen to the Needlecraft Mysteries series by Monica Ferris. I listened to almost the entire nineteen book series (my library doesn’t have the last one yet) within a few months last year and they are exactly the kind of cosy mystery which I know will be comforting right now.

What is your go-to comfort read? I would love to have some more recommendations!

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!

Tiny Bookshopping

I have posted before about my love of tiny bookshops and I have a new one to share today!

Last week I went to visit my Uncle and found this lovely little book shed outside a church.  It was dark and we were too incompetent to be able to turn the light on but this is exactly why we have torches on our phones!

I spent a very happy time rummaging through the boxes and shelves – which were beautifully organised and far more user friendly than many I have seen.  Of course, I couldn’t leave without actually buying a book so I bought three (because why not?) and marched happily along the road clutching them to me.

As I said, it was dark!

I was very pleased with my selection too – Mother Goose illustrated by Arthur Rackam, a copy of Dorothy L Sayers’ Unnatural Death to replace my falling apart copy and a signed(!) copy of Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson.  I just read my first Atkinson – Transcription – and I loved it so I am very excited to have another to read!

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!

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.