Tuesday, 10 July 2012

My life in books

Strangely, I've never seen the BBC series of the same name however I do enjoy the section of Easy Living magazine that covers the same subject every month.  I love to hear people talk about books they have loved and I often find something good to read at the same time. It often leads me to think about the books that I have loved throughout my life (so far!) and I thought I'd share them with you here. I'm not going to pretend to be so deep as to explain what influence they have had on my life, if any, they're simply books that I hold dear to my heart for a variety of reasons. 

I'll start with the books I read and loved in my childhood. I must be getting old, I can only remember books that I read to myself as a child. I don't remember my parents ever reading to me and I sincerely hope that this is purely because I can't remember my younger years very well, rather than that they didn't actually read to me at all. Certainly, I'm positive that after I could read myself they didn't read to or with me. That's quite sad isn't it?   Anyhow I'll move on.


The Enid Blyton Book of Brownies was one of many Enid Blyton books I owned and read time and time again, probably because I didn't have many others! The edition I had (and still have in the loft) is the late sixties Dean publication, all of my Enid Blyton books were of this era.  The Book of Brownies was about three mischievous little brownies called Hop, Skip and Jump who tricked their way into a party at the castle and when found out where banished until their found their goodness. Of course, they came good in the end but not after many mishaps and adventures on the way. I adored this book and remember weekend mornings curled up in my bed reading.


Please Mrs Butler was a poetry book that was published in the 1980's and I still have my extremely battered copy. In fact it's residing in my 6 year old's bedroom as we have been reading it together at night before bed. She loves it as much as I did even though it's pretty dated compared to what school is like now! It sums up my own primary school days pretty well, I mean who can forget the excitement that a dog in the playground caused? 

Dog in the playground
Suddenly there
Smile on his face 
Tail in the air

I bet it doesn't happen half as much now, what with all the railings around schools these days. My daughter finds this book hilarious. I think if she had to pick a favourite it would be Emma Hackett's Newsbook but Dog in the Playground will always have a special place in my heart.


Ahh Malory Towers. I can't begin to tell you what this book did to me as a youngster. It made me desperate to go to boarding school. I would have given my right arm to have been dropped off at an old school overlooking the Cornish sea where I could go for midnight swims, enjoy midnight feasts, play lacrosse (what IS lacrosse? do they even play it here still?) and just generally get into the scrapes that Darrell Rivers got into. This was a series of six books but the first one was always my favourite. The picture above is the same cover as the boxset of books I have somewhere. I notice that Malory Towers is still available on Amazon, albeit with a totally new and hideous cover and I'm wondering if it's been updated in any way?


This is a modern cover of a book I was obsessed with when I was younger, Charlotte Sometimes, which was first published in the 1960s. Charlotte is a girl who goes off to boarding school and then discovers she has travelled back in time about forty years, when everyone starts calling her Clare, the girl with who she inadvertently changes places with each night. Clare and Charlotte communicate by writing in a notebook they hide in a bedpost. It's not as lighthearted as it sounds and the book has been described as "haunting" although I didn't find it so. It's quite complex and introducing the concept of time-travel to children is always going to be a bit mind-blowing and I think that is what fascinated me, as well as the historical elements. (Clare is from 1918, Charlotte has travelled back from the 1950's). I've recently discovered that when this book was republished in the 1980s it had a different ending but subsequent editions of this book have the original ending. This means that that the one I read is more than likely the changed version which is quite annoying. I may now have to track an original copy down and read again as I loved this book so much.


Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret? must be a book that every pre-teen can identify with. I'm not sure how relevant it is to today's tweens or whether it would need updating but the age-old issues that it covers surely are still very relevant.  Can you remember that difficult time as you approached puberty, perhaps started secondary school and relationships with both boys and girls got more complex? Margaret describes it all so well. Looking back I can't believe how desperate we were to start our periods and start wearing bras. Cripes, if I only knew then what I knew now I'd certainly be begging God to delay it for a few years. It seemed so important at the time, and heaven forbid you be the last girl to start her period.


I first borrowed this book, Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan from the school library and I vividly remember doing a book review of it when I was in the 2nd year (or Year 8 as it's now known). I read this book several times and still own a copy of it, I was so in love with it I was convinced I would name my daughter Rae like one of the main characters. This was my first introduction to books that were a little bit dark and creepy and it got passed around all of my friends. With hindsight, it's actually very dark and very creepy and quite honestly, cousin Julia was a MANIAC. Still, I loved this book so I'm not sure what that says about me.


Next is the even creepier My Sweet Audrina, from Virgina Andrews, known for her rather strange books and dark themes. It was the only book she wrote that wasn't part of a series and was about a girl called Audrina, who had been named after her sister, the first and best Audrina, had been raped and murdered in the woods. Clearly, all is not as it should be though.  I first read this when I was about 14 and reread it last year as I remembered enjoying it so much at the time. It seems I  was drawn to books which were a bit dark, with some mystery, intrigue and weird family members in them even then. Looking back now, whilst I enjoyed it I don't imagine I really fully understood everything that was going on in this book but needless to say, I did immensely enjoy my reread of this.


Pride and Prejudice. It's an old one but definitely a good one. I don't think it needs me to tell you what this book is about, but should you not know for some untold reason, Pride and Prejudice centres around the five Bennett sisters who need to marry "well", as was probably the case for a lot of people in the 19th century. It's light and comical in places and gives you a good indication of what society was like.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife".

You can't help but love Elizabeth Bennett and the wonderfully humorous Mr Bennett, and if you don't want to give Caroline Bingley a slap, then there's something wrong with you.  I have recently rejuvenated my love of Pride and Prejudice by watching the best TV adaptation of a classic book ever made - yes the 1995 BBC series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and now by revisiting Lost in Austen. The jury is out on whether I will attempt the Keira Knightly film version. I plan to lose myself in Pride and Prejudice again shortly, and have downloaded it to my Kindle for when the mood takes me.


Dance While You Can was the first book I read by Susan Lewis, I've since read several more  of her books and recently reread this one on my Kindle as the first time I read it was probably about 1997. (I have a habit of re-reading, don't I?). I loved this book and I completely fell in love with Alexander Belmayne, hook line and sinker. He was a character that stayed with me for a while afterwards, I totally wanted to meet a man like him! It's essentially a romance with a good bit of drama and intrigue and makes a perfect holiday read.  I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed this book just as much second time around and shall probably read it again in the future.


I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this book. The Time Traveler's Wife was one of those books that I just couldn't put down and I felt bereft when it was finished. I must admit to avoiding this to start with, as books with a lot of hype surrounding them normally put me off a bit and I didn't think it sounded like my cup of tea but I loved it and it completely consumed me in every way. I think I waxed lyrical about it to anybody and everybody. If you've only seen the film version, believe me it doesn't do this book justice. I enjoyed the film a lot but the book is so much more detailed and a lot is skipped over in the film, plus they changed the ending a bit. I cried several times when reading this book, the film didn't have the same effect on me. I'm not sure I've read another book yet that I've enjoyed quite as much.


And there it is, for now. It's a bit sparse between the ages of about 20 and 30 as I mainly just read a lot of generic chicklit, none of which was particularly great or awe-inspiring but it was readable in it's own sweet way. I'm reading a lot more now, especially since Mr M bought me a Kindle and I'm surprising myself by reading a whole host of things that normally wouldn't have caught my eye.  I tend to avoid anything that follows the chicklit recipe too closely and love a bit of intrigue and mystery, maybe a time-slip and definitely some twists and turns.  I think looking back at the books I've posted here, I'm definitely a fan of escapism!

If you know of any books you think I might love, then please do leave me a comment, and if this post has inspired you, I'd love to see what your life in books looks like. I'll leave a Linky below so if you do write a blog post (or have already written one in the past), do leave it here so I can check it out - not that I need anymore books in my wishlist!


7 comments:

  1. Fab post, I loved Mallory Towers and can remember the devastation when the next book wasn't in at the library! St Clare's was just not as good.

    I'm a Virginia Andrews fan. The Ruby (can't remember her 2nd name) set is my fave. I'm struggling to get into the one that starts with Melody.

    I like the sound of Charlotte Sometimes, I'll keep an eye out for that!

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  2. That takes me back, I remember those Enid Blyton covers like it was yesterday (rather than, ahem, 40 odd years back).
    I was really into Virginia Andrews at the time, scared myself silly with Flowers In The Attic!
    Have a fab time at Camp Bestival, I've entered a competition for tickets so I'll come and rescue you if I win! x

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  3. Your post bought make some great childhood memories, some of your books were my favourites too or were my childrens. I went to boarding school and we never had as many adventures as the stories in those books!
    Sarah x

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  4. I too enjoyed several of those books too. I was a St Clair's person and was lucky enough to actually go to boarding school! However there were never any midnight feasts!

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  5. I just have to comment when I saw My Sweet Audrina here. Although, I am no longer a VC Andrews fan, her books were a huge part of my teen years. I first read a VC Andrews novel when I was 12. Brings back a lot of memories. Of course, VC Andrews died a long time ago and most of ther series that are out were written and are being written by her ghost writer.

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