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Friday, 25 September 2015

Literary love

*A warning. I will be talking books here, they may be books you have read, they might not. They may be newer stories, or old ones. I promise I'll try not to include spoilers, but I apologise now if one or two slip out.

My bookcase is overstuffed. Gone are the days when the books lined up neatly next to one-another, smartly displaying their spines and hinting at the wonders within. Now it resembles a post-war battlefield, with novels scrambling on top of recipe books, autobiographies buried under a mountain of Harry Potter. It makes me ridiculously happy. Because the more chaos on the shelves, the more books are living on them. I would rather this than the dreaded Kindle. I know, I know, many of my friends LOVE theirs, preaching to me about their benefits. But something about them feels off, there's no personality there, and no smell. Stories should smell, whether it's the crisp 'new book' whiff when you first open the cover, or a musty, old, mysterious pong emitted by a dusty old tomb. Either way, books should whiff in my world.

I loved reading since I was little. I consumed my lower school library at an alarming rate and had to resort to either re-reading the same stories or begging my parents to buy/loan more for me. Not much has changed really.

My reading is going through something of a renaissance. I got into a loop of Philippa Gregory's Cousins War novels, and George R. R. Martin's monster Game of Thrones collection. There is not one thing wrong with this, both authors have produced some of my recent favourites, and I'm silently willing Martin to hurry up and finish the next book before I have a heart attack about Jon Snow.
But I decided it needed to drag myself into some different literature.

I used to be part of a (now non-existent) book club. Hosted by 2 lovely ladies who work at my local Waterstones, we used to congregate at the store after closing once a month and discuss our recent reads. I met some truly great people and read some brilliant books that I otherwise probably wouldn't have stumbled across. Unfortunately due to dwindling numbers the group stopped. I'm still holding out hope it will reconvene in the future. So I am now holding my own one-woman book group, making it my ambition to read any text my ink-stained fingers can grasp hold of. Starting with the pile I had left from my book group.

One of the best books I have ever read stemmed from joining my fellow book lovers in the back of Waterstones. Songs of Achilles had been catching my eye for a while. When it was my turn to suggest the list of 6 books we would be choosing to read that particular month, there was no hesitation, it went to the top. Luckily my fellow members agreed and voted it in. Author Madeline Miller gives her take on The Iliad tells the story of Achilles and Patroclus, and how their relationship blossoms despite their obvious differences. The character development is brilliantly executed, making you really care for them and offering a depth to Achilles character that I've yet to find elsewhere. Rather than just portraying him as the doomed hero, she demonstrates his ability to love, to care and to be torn when his loyalties are being tugged in more than one direction. She made him more human. I am a fan of Greek mythology, and sometimes find it difficult to enjoy the take of others on these characters. But Miller has an obvious affection for them, taking a well-known and well-worn story and giving it new life, delivering it with compassion and enthusiasm. Once I read a book, I tend to pass it on, either because I want to share the story with somebody else, or I just want it out of my house because it's a disappointment. This one has stayed firmly tucked away on the shelf, and will be doing so for the foreseeable future.
Once I've finished a book, the perusal of the shelves begins again, and I have to find something to take my mind away from the previous read. A few weeks ago I found a copy of The Night Circus looking forlorn in the corner so I decided to rescue it. Instant favourite. In a whimsy-filled, modern day fairytale, Erin Morgenstren has created some of the most vivid, enticing imagery I have ever read. A unique idea, her story follows a competition between the proteges of two magicians, Marco and Celia and the mysterious night circus that acts as their arena. Initially not even knowing who their opponents are, the circus is created by their collective talents, introducing a wealth of exotic, wonderful characters. It is beautiful, mesmerising in it's detail, charming in its heart. Please don't be fooled by it's 'fairytale' description, it is an epic tale of love, an enchanting slice of fantasy, it whisks you from wonder to wonder. Another one that will be staying on the book shelf, and if Le Cirque des Reves appears in a field near me anytime soon, I'll be the first in line for tickets.
I have consumed many a book in recent months, some I have loved, some I've liked, some I've given away hoping never to see them again (Room, I'm looking at you here). I won't throw them all at you now, but I will write about more of them in the future. If you love a good book and enjoy reading, please take a look at the 2 above. They are incredibly different to each other, and different in general. I received so much pleasure from reading them both, I'd love to share that with you :)  

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