During the initial months of ‘Lockdown’ my reply would have been ‘’what reading?‘’ I had no appetite for it, or for the concentration it would require. A daily stumble through national headlines, keeping abreast and focusing on the best of the worst, was more than enough to sap my mental capacity for the remainder of the day.
With the dog days of summer came a bit of settling and I began to flick through chapters of unread books on the shelves, a word, a sentence, a paragraph drip feeding my soul, but a lot sitting there still found themselves falling short of the moment. Too dense, too, well, just plain wordy! Then I struck gold, I caught the first episode of ‘The Offing’ on Radio 4, their book of the week by Benjamin Myers, the narration was beautiful and I was hooked. It’s a coming of age story set on the Yorkshire coast very much in the style of Laurie Lee or to my mind even Dylan Thomas. I had to buy the book and soak up the scenery and characterisation for myself, here was a point of connection, a gentle affirmation of life.
Feeling more courageous I turned to my last purchases from Waterstones, both sharing similar themes. I was missing coastal walks with my beloved greyhound and ‘Salt on Your Tongue’ by Charlotte Runcie, and ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn just fitted the gap. I’m waiting for the sequel to come out in paperback, hardbacks take up too much valuable space.
A nod of recognition as I walk past the stationery section of a well known supermarket, ‘A Single Thread’ by Tracy Chevalier, yes but I wanted to read her previous book first ‘The Last Runaway’. Good reads both of them, unexpected turns, page turners that left me feeling uplifted by a sense of possibility.
A friend recommended ‘The Summer Book’ by Tove Jansson (of Moomin fame), spacious writing and childlike imagination, initially drawn by their brevity I was captivated by the simple magic and have now almost finished her book of winter stories, ‘A Winter Book’, it seemed apt during last week’s snow.
One thing leads to another and so ‘Winter Walks’ on The BBC found me following up Imtiaz Dhaker, (born in Pakistan and raised in Glasgow), after listening to her poem ‘Arc’ read by Simon Armitage. Likewise Amanda Gorman the American Poet Laureate, after hearing her read so passionately ‘The Hill We Climb’ at Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony – what a wonder!
Always a joy is Elly Griffiths with her series of archeological murder mysteries set on the North Norfolk coast with Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Nelson. Number thirteen is due out next month, each plot line stands alone but you would miss out on the character interactions of the investigation team if you skip and honestly you would miss out so much. – If I ever have another cat I’m going to call him Cathbad.
Any day now I am awaiting the arrival of a parcel from my local independent book shop. This is a new initiative and the package will contain two short books of previously unpublished short stories and at two weekly intervals there will be a lunch time Zoom session to chat about them. Hot off the press and I get to talk to real people albeit at one remove. Sandwiches and a mug of coffee, what is there possibly not to like?