Friday, 10 August 2012

Reading along the map book

I did pack two books when we went on holiday. More of them if I ever get around to finishing one and starting the other. What happened, in fact, was that as we drove across Bodmin Moor and found ourselves ensconced in a hidden Cornish cove for a week I wanted to read stories that recorded the crashing sea outside my window, reflected the beauty edged with awe, and that were maybe even a little bit scary after dark with strawberries abed and PC across the Bay for his nightly tipple. The cottage had no phone signal, adding to the sense of timelessness, but did boast Kindle-friendly wi-fi, so down the Whispernet came Jamaica Inn. It actually came second, but we're going in the order in which I physically encountered the setting of the books that became my perfect holiday reading!
I read Notes from an Exhibition a long while ago, but because we were visiting Tate St Ives and the Hepworth House and Garden this was such an apt book. Gale's description of Hepworth felt sacreligiously irreverent compared to the hushed respect of a visit to her home. But this is an exquisite tale of families and love and emotional distress. Of the damage that we can do to each other and ourselves. I love many things about this book, but the tender importance of the peace found by all the characters in their Quaker connections is very moving. At the minute I'm reading a book of Gale's short stories, Gentleman's Relish. I lifted it off the library shelf as soon as I saw that it included a story of a bored housewife. I wasn't disappointed!
Our journey from Cornwall into Surrey took forever and a half because of a flooded road. So I had lots of time, not driving I hasten to add, to look in detail at the map. And decided that the great and most surprising length of Chesil Beach merited a dip into the prolific McEwan library. If you have been reading Fifty Shades of Grey*, well, this is the book for you. It will purge you of all those images immediately! This is the third McEwan book that I have read. I very much enjoyed Enduring Love but having endured Solar to the very end couldn't say the same of it. Chesil Beach is a gem of craftsmanship.
Finally reaching Southampton for an overnight stay we skirted the edge of the New Forest. Last week one of the BBC commentators said that the Olympic Opening ceremony was his kind of history lesson. Children of the New Forest is mine! Fans of Cromwell may not agree. I think I'll try this with the boys as a bedtime read in a while. Very strong descriptions of the wholesomeness of quiet, industrious, faithful living.

We visited Chartwell on our one rainy day in Surrey. (Betty, maybe Chartwell isn't actually in Surrey?) I haven't finished yet, but Churchill has just been thrown from power in the Election that immediately followed WWII. This is a very moving book, very interesting indeed. Mary Soames is writing from her diaries, and from the letters and diaries of her father, mother and friends, and it is a fascinating insight into the life and politics of that time. I can't help imagining that the balance Mary Churchill maintained between horrified service and champagne receptions was not the experience of my maternal grandmother, racing with two babies to her bomb shelter which lay right beside Belfast Docks, prime bombing site for planes wanting to blow up the many ships under construction and repair just yards from her home. But still, it's great book!

The Kindle copy was significantly cheaper than the paper copy, which is prominently displayed in the very lovely National Trust shop at Chartwell, where they also have very nice cream teas. The Kindle copy of everything I've whispernetted so far, despite the VAT, is significantly cheaper than the paper copy. Not that I think anything does replace the tactile pleasure of pages, but for spontaneous holiday reading the Kindle really came into its own. Not least because two of the books were free. I had imagined that this was because they were "classics" but last night I was able to get a handful of titles free from Amazon's list of 100 Free Kindle Books, so all in all I'm deciding that it's a useful reading tool. As is Carrickfergus Library to which I fear the strawberries will be decamping. Don't tell Diane in Grove..

* I have not been reading Fifty Shades of Grey!


Elizabethd said...

Nor have I...nor would I.

I agree with you about Kindle,wonderful for a holiday when books might be in short supply, but there is nothing to beat a 'proper' book!

M.K. said...

Wow, Mags, I am IMPRESSED!! That's quite a pile of books, and they all sound interesting. I especially like that last one by Churchill's daughter. I love non-fiction. I love your footnote that you are NOT reading 50 Shades of Gray (I'm not either) -- I did wonder - haha!! How do you plow through that many books so quickly? You must be a fast, good reader.
I agree that the Kindle is excellent for travel -- how else can you take so many books along? And they do have a constant list of free books that seem to rotate. A FB friend occasionally recommends one to me. If you do find a good free one, let me know, okay? I'll go snatch it up.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

I enjoy Kindle for novels because they are less expensive but for resource books, only the hard copy will do.
A hidden Cornish cove sounds delightful!
As to the gray book...never heard of it until yesterday and from the little I read, it won't be in my home, much less on my reading list.

Betty said...

Hi Mags, Chartwell is by Westerham - I would have thought Surrey but google maps says kent - it's not far from here though... why not 50 Shades? it becomes a love story - badly written but still worth a read, all about trust I would say. I got mine on Kindle and found I can read much faster on there! I do like the quality and feel of a good book but am growing to love my Kindle. Betty x

Pom Pom said...

I am happy to hear that you have NOT been reading that awful book.
I have been reading The Children of the New Forest at your suggestion. I have too many books on my tablet at the moment, but I like it!

Jane and Chris said...

I'm another paid up member of the 'Have not, will not read 50 Shades of Grey' club.
Jane x

GretchenJoanna said...

I would love to read that book by Churchill's daughter, and I probably would not have known of it if I weren't reading your blog :-)
My daughter and I visited Chartwell some years ago, and his library was one of my *most* favorite places to be - so special to be able to put my hands and eyes on the books of that remarkable man.

Heather said...

Mags, now I know why you never get a crochet project finished - you are way too busy reading thoroughly good books! See you at crochet club on Wednesday .....

Gumbo Lily said...

My DD and I went to Chartwell back in 2005. We absolutely loved it. Your book pile all looks very interesting.

Fat Dormouse said...

I love Patrick Gale - I think his books are so well written and they're books I happily go back to again and again. I have just finished the Steig Larsson "Millenium" trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo et al) and really enjoyed them. I'm now reading a Sansom book "Winter In Madrid" which is excellent too.

I've bought Mr FD a Kindle for his birthday - he wanted one, mostly because it's another gadget/toy, I think. We shall see how much he uses it! I think I might be tempted myself, to be honest. It would certainly have reduced the weight of my luggage!

Lorraine Ogilby said...

Sounds like you had a lovely time!!! We are heading down to Bantry Bay tomorrow with our kindles and frantically checking out new books onto them. I am a card carrying member of the "not reading 50 shades" book. You must check out fifty shades of grace. As for children of the new forest, my nanny bought me a copy in 1981 and it is one of my favourite books!!!!! See you soon and enjoy your weekend.