“Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather…”John Keats
I am writing this surrounded by books. My books, my partner Geoff’s books, our parents’ books… This has always been the condition of my life. I grew up in a home stuffed with all kinds of books, every room filled with them. I read from a precociously early age (it helped having a primary teacher for a Dad) and I am told I tended to pick up whatever was on the shelf in my bedroom. This did not only include children’s books. I don’t remember much of that, a few snippets, probably of old favourites I returned to regularly. I do remember being so ahead in the reading system at school that my teachers made me ‘prove’ I could read the rather tedious ‘Janet and John’ stories, before allowing me to find something else from the shelf.
When Geoff and I began looking for a home in France, a room to serve as a library was a prerequisite; by the time we had been married three decades, and my brother John had offloaded the remaining family books still in storage with his former employers… well, let’s just say, there where a great many cases to be packed when in 2012 we decamped across the Channel. And of course, as neither of us can pass a second-hand bookshop, or indeed a charity bookshop, and people keep writing wondrous new books, the collection has grown.
I do, occasionally, discard the odd volume. But it is something of an anathema to me, tantamount to throwing away a pet, or a child… Even now, I try to take a book with me if I know I will be alone or unoccupied for any length of time. When I commuted daily I got through many novels, especially sitting on railway platforms. They are companions, very useful for avoiding unwanted conversation as well as passing the time for an anxious introvert like me. Nowadays I have an embarrassingly enormous ‘to read’ pile (44 at the last count), but I am knuckling down and making progress. That said, I have no doubt I will die, if not buried under, then definitely surrounded by the books I was ‘going to read next’…
So, anyway, all this is by way of preamble to me telling you that it is my intention to write a regular book review, either of ones I have recently encountered, or of old favourites I think you might like. As in music, film and just about everything else, I have quite an eclectic taste in reading, from Stephen King to Stephen Fry, Alister McClean to Alexander McCall Smith, Atwood to Wodehouse. And not just fiction. In fact, I am going to start with this:
Watch this space!