In an unprecedented move I’m actually early with this month’s post rather than late. November has not been the greatest. I had a heavy cold when it started, and the cold became sinusitis and a chest infection, then the chest infection became suspected pneumonia, a diagnosis downgraded to bronchitis only after spending six hours having all sorts of fairly unpleasant tests in hospital. You can tell I’ve been really ill, because I haven’t even felt like reading, and if I have read I’ve wanted a well-thumbed comfort read rather than something new.
However, despite a sluggish month, my grand total of new books read for the year is now 61! Back in January I set myself the target of 52 new books in 52 weeks, and so I thought I should go back through these posts and count up how I’m doing, and see what I have to manage in December. But I’ve smashed it already. It’s been a really good resolution, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the push to try new things rather than just relying on my favourite comfort reads, although of course there’s been a lot of that too.
Anyway, my November reads:
Five Go Parenting by ‘Enid Blyton’
You’ll probably have seen these spoof Enid Blyton books around in the last couple of months. This one arrived as a fantastic surprise for me one rainy afternoon because my parents thought I needed cheering up and sent so sent me a little treat. It was accompanied by a notecard instructing me to read it while Sophia had her nap, with my feet up on the sofa and with a mug of hot chocolate to hand. Well, everyone knows you have to do what your mother tells you…
I did just that, and I really enjoyed it. I was a huge Famous Five fan as a child, and hugely enjoyed re-discovering them with Anna as we read the entire 21 book series together over the last year or so.
The vintage-style illustrations in these editions are absolutely perfect, and the gentle satire on the difficulties of modern parenting (favourite moment: Julian and Anne pretending to be Catholic in order to get the child they’re looking after into the best local school!) absolutely suited my need for amusing distraction without intellectual exertion!
The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer
If you want comfort reads you have to go a long way to beat Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. Sparklingly witty dialogue, loveable heroines, devastatingly attractive heroes, hilarious and achingly romantic plots. I thought I’d read all of them, but I was browsing around looking for something to read, and The Nonesuch caught my eye. It’s one of a number of lovely hardback books I inherited from my great-aunt a couple of years ago – mostly book club editions from the 1950s and 1960s.
The first treat about this book was that when I opened it, my aunt had written her name and the date (1964) on the inside cover. This is one of the things I love about books, and why my Kindle, with all its convenience, could never replace them in my affections. In 1964 my dad was still at primary school. The Beatles were at the start of their career. Mary Quant was just pioneering the mini skirt. The death penalty was yet to be abolished in Britain, homosexuality was still illegal, and the contraceptive pill had only been available for three years. The internet was still a generation away.
I can imagine my great-aunt coming home, maybe having been to tea at her sister’s and read a story or played a game with her little nephews and niece, looking forward to the new Georgette Heyer that arrived from her book group that morning. She opens it and writes her name and the date, begins reading and is instantly transported into Heyer’s magical Regency world. Fifty-two years later, I come downstairs after putting her nephew’s grandchildren to bed, and open the same book, begin reading, and am transported to that self-same world. And because this is 2016 I then blog about it! The word and naught else in time endures…
Living Dangerously by Katie Fforde
Katie Fforde, my other comfort read heroine! I have no idea how many times I have read this book, but I love it every time. Bizarrely I have now caught up with the heroine, Polly, in age terms. When I first read Living Dangerously I was about fifteen, and thirty-five seemed absolutely ancient.
At one point in the book an unpremeditated night of passion leads to her considering whether she could be pregnant, and I remember genuinely thinking that of course she couldn’t be, she was far too old. And feeling a little sad for her that, although she ends the novel in romantic bliss, she probably wouldn’t be able to have a baby because of her age. Now, thirty-five myself, I have a (still, just) one-year-old, and a very high proportion of my mid-thirties friends and contemporaries are up the duff or have new babies. I sometimes can’t believe I was only 27 when I got pregnant with Anna as it seems so…young!
But even though I read this first as a teenager, living with my parents, studying for my GCSEs, as footloose and fancy-free as it’s possible to get, I still love it just as much twenty years later when I read it as an escape from the responsibilities of a house and mortgage, two young children and a novel of my own waiting to be completed.