And then the time comes when you realize that your great, nostalgic re-reading project was a bit premature. I read the two wonderful first chapters before I realized that with all the school work and other obligations left to do I wouldn’t be able to immerse myself in the pleasures of rereading to the extent that I had wished. There are also at least four books (namely, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Shadow Scale, Bone Gap and Saffy’s Angel) that are tugging at my attention on my nightstand, so I’ve decided to put His Dark Materials briefly aside, at least until the summer break starts when I’ll be able to give this grand project the attention and peace of mind it deserves. Meanwhile, I’ve embarked on smaller reading adventures, such as The Brides of Rollrock Island (30 pages in, and oh, the prose, the story!!) and The Blood of Flowers, which is the book I’ll be reading for the next meeting of the book club.
The first time I read Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy I must have been around 12-years-old. Lyra’s world, especially the concept of daemons, made a great impact on my imagination and there was a special feeling about the whole trilogy that I loved to remember for years to come. I re-read Northern Lights when I was around 16 and still loved it, and in the past couple years I’ve been planning to re-read the whole trilogy again, especially when I bought the gorgeous edition from The Everyman’s Library two years ago for the purpose. It was also then I discovered this wonderful fanforum with discussions all things Pullman and His Dark Materials. Sadly, it isn’t active anymore, but it’s still a joy to read the threads.
With a planned first-time trip to Oxford in the summer coming up, I’ve once again started to think about re-reading the trilogy. Now that the book has been on my nightstand for a month or so and I recently finished Wake somehow the choice for the next book to read feels so natural. Why not start now? I’ve been meaning to do it for so many years now, and I’m also very curious about how I will experience these old favorites as an adult. To make it more rewarding I’m planning to write down some thoughts that come up during reading on the blog, if there’s something new that has struck me in the text, or just to quote bits I like and share general feels and nostalgia.
So, earlier I wrote about the fact that Sarah Waters visited my local library here in Sweden, which I didn’t think would happen in a million years! I thought I would tell you a bit about that occasion.
The 14th of April it was happening, Sarah Waters was coming to Uppsala! I couldn’t believe my luck and was very excited of course. The night before, I wondered which book I should take with me if there would be a booksigning, should it be Tipping the Velvet, or The Little Stranger? Or The Paying Guests? Which one is the easiest to share my feelings about if I get a chance to talk to her? (And what should I wear? Is it very obsessive of me to think about that too? etc)
I eventually chose The Little Stranger. The English Bookshop in town arranged the occasion and the event was hosted at the local library, where an interview would be held and afterwards the audience would have a chance to ask questions.
The evening started with Waters reading the wonderful excerpt from The Paying Guests where Francis talks to Lily Barber for the first time and is confronted with the everyday intimacy she as host and they as lodgers now will share. I felt like a beaming light-bulb during the reading, because I had watched another interview with her on youtube a while ago where she had read the same excerpt for the audience and all I could think was ‘Oh, my God. This is really happening!!!’.
Then came a very interesting and good interview, where the focus of the talk was The Paying Guests (recently translated into Swedish), and where the discussion went onwards to queer womens’ stories and place in history, ‘hidden history’, class, and to be a woman in post-war England during the 20’s. It was illuminating, engaging, everything you could wish for in an authors’ talk!
And afterwards there was a booksigning, and of course I had already imagined what great things I would say, how we would have a short but engaging conversation about the book and have a moment of great understanding, because of course that is what happens when you love a book and meet the author of that loved book, right??
Well, not necessarily. I overheard my two friends speak to her in the relaxed and calm way I hoped I would soon be doing (although afterwards both confessed they were really nervous and didn’t feel they said anything important), and then the turn came to me, and I was a bit overwhelmed, and then immediately longued into what I hoped was a quick but enlightening and intelligent explanation of what I liked about The Little Stranger. When I was finished there was a pause and then she politely reminded me why I had given her the book; ‘Your name, please’, and I thought, of course, and started spelling it out but, as I realized later, somehow, SOMEHOW, I managed to forget how ‘i’ in English is pronounced and just went with the Swedish pronounciation (which is the same as an English ‘e’). So, naturally, she signed the book with a personal greeting to ‘Noeme’. And then it was all over.
(Afterwards I thought, I probably said things she had heard before and sometimes you’re just a person in a line and that’s okay, maybe she just wanted to be done with it, and this is not personal at all, and besides, she’s a beloved author and is probably used to idolization, and isn’t it kind of weird that we idolize people, I mean everybody is only human, and why should anyone heap a ton of expectations on a small moment etc.)
Of course, in hindsight, it probably wasn’t as anticlimactic as that, I mean I managed to tell her what I wanted. But I came to the conclusion that, at least for me, meeting an idol isn’t a good idea. It’s too much like meeting a crush when you’re a teenager and give everyday happenings a ridiculous amount of weight.
I’m really happy with adoring books and adoring authors at a distance, otherwise I’ll just have a ton of expectations that couldn’t possibly be fulfilled when meeting them in real life (and spell my name wrong).
How about you, have you ever met a favorite author, and how did you feel about it?
The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice. I decided early on, that this would be one of the books to read in the summer (I think it was the cheerful colors of the cover that made me think it would be a perfect ‘summer book’), and also I hadn’t read anything of Eva Rice before, so this seemed a good choice to start with. It’s about ‘the roaring 60’s in London’, but also about growing up in the country, adolescence, sisterhood, loving horses so much that you sneak into the rich neighbour’s stable and ride her horse, about friendship, dreams come true and crushed. There were a lot of things I enjoyed in this book, especially the early parts, when the main character Tara and her older sister Lucy grows up, how they experience their first crush when they barely know what a crush is (Tara), or become utterly and hopelessly infatuated with the beauty of Victorian architecture when up until then beauty has been your one defining trait in the eyes of the world (Lucy).
I don’t know why I eventually, and definitely towards the end of the book, became a bit disenchanted with the whole story, when there was so much I enjoyed and was touched by, and when it all started out so promising. I can’t really put my finger on it other than the fact that I maybe expected something more, or some other kind of conclusion? Maybe it is also the feeling that while the early parts of the books that details the main character’s childhood and early adolescense, everything happens quickly and the years rush by in the later parts. (But I’m not even sure if this was really the case or only my memory of it). So, an enjoyable read that still left me unsatisfied somehow.
I didn’t want to leave this post unfinished, so here comes part two (out of three) of a short-ish wrap-up of the English (or available in English) books I managed to read last year:
After I read Cuckoo Song I was so intrigued with Frances Hardinge that I immediately started to read her most known book, Fly by Night, about twelve-year-old orphan Mosca who is terribly underappreciated after her father has died and her only friend is Saracen, the murderous goose of her home village. Her father taught her to read in a world where being able to read is not expected of you, especially not if you’re a girl. Mosca has a great hunger for words and when Eponymous Clent comes to the village and verbally seduces everyone only to be thrust into prison when the people become disenchanted with him Mosca makes the decision to save him and follow him on his journey to the city of Mandelion, where intrigues and a revolution is on the way.
I LOVED this book. Such wonderful, lovely characters and conversations and and words (‘chirfuggin’) you can’t get enough of. I also loved how the world Hardinge creates here is inspired by the British 18th century in many aspects. I wish I had the book here so I could shower you with quotes but both my copies are on loan to family and friends, alas…
So, from time to time I try to breathe new life into this blog. I thought it was going well in December, with the two part-summary of read books during the past year, but as you see I only wrote the first part. What happened? My master’s thesis happened (and is still happening), and general future angst and not-having-it-togetherness motivation-wise, vast procrastination and not wanting to do anything in my spare time that even remotely resembles a task (discovering netflix might also had something to do with it). So there…
However, I’m trying again, since I still read books and want to articulate the feelings they give, and I still like the idea of a book blog in order to train my English in a more casual way.
I actually have some bookish news, Sarah Waters visited my local library (!! more on that later) and I’ve joined an actual live book club here in Uppsala, for the first time in my life! We read one book every month, a book no one else has read before, and that the majority of us want to read or have no objection to read (so not necessarily books from your TBR-pile). I think I’m going elaborate on the pros and cons (for me) with a book club in a later post. I have read some good books too that I’ll be happy to write about, but until then I hope I’ll manage to be a bit more active on this blog :)