Tag Archives: #literature

Seven Books From Adulthood That Have Stayed With Me

World Book Night in the UK is an event where volunteers disperse books to people who don’t normally read as a habit, and as a keen reader myself, it got me thinking about which books have stayed with me as an adult. These are the ones that instantly spring to mind:

KRAKATOA THE DAY THE WORLD EXPLODED by SIMON WINCHESTER – Brilliantly researched and well written book that chronicles the regions socio/political and economic history. The gradual understanding of geological processes and elementary evolutionary studies are explained. Numerous sources detail the human tragedy of the volcanic eruption, the repercussions of which still echo to this day. A global event reported through history, science and sociology.

A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS by FANNIE FLAGG – This is a beautiful heart warming story about community, friendship and unshakeable faith. An injured red cardinal enchants a town, befriends a little crippled girl and heals a broken man. When the bird dies everyone feels lost but his spirit returns to help the girl. A fractured community reunites and couples form over a magical Christmas.

SEABISCUIT THREE MEN AND A RACEHORSE by LAURA HILLENBRAND – Another well researched book that chronicles the story of how three people came together and made a champion out of a small misunderstood horse. I felt every emotion reading this equine sports biography, which details how Seabiscuit became “the people’s champion” thanks to a benevolent owner, understanding trainer and intuitive rider. You can read my Seabiscuit blog here:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/seabiscuit-arkle-parallels-between-two-once-in-a-generation-horses/

JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL by RICHARD BACH – A beautiful simple book with a great mandate for living that is a perfect example of my mantra, “why be a sheep if you can be a shepherd”. Jonathan remains true to himself and is cast out from his flock as a result. But he receives enlightenment and wisdom which he tries to pass on to future generations. There seems to be a distinct Buddhist element to the story through various levels of consciousness.

UNKNOWN SOLDIERS by MARK LEECH – A Major with no battle experience is deployed to a French village to oversee the clearance of the WW1 dead. Through his interactions with relatives of the deceased and dealing with his battle weary charges, the Major begins to realise the full meaning of soldier solidarity and appreciate the true cost of the war. This is a hauntingly poignant tale which seems to easily convey the colour of World War One, the drab brown of the cloying mud, which engulfed the troops and choked their spirit, but could not destroy the camaraderie of the trenches.

WHO SHOT JFK by ROBIN RAMSEY – Details gathered over the years are condensed into a narrative that offers a brilliant introduction to the subject matter. It debunks ideas along the way, but also highlights areas where evidence has been repeated in different forms. It seems to try to remain objective and neutral throughout, and brings together strands of information from over the “lifetime” of the crime. Depending on your viewpoint the conclusions drawn are outrageous and utterly ludicrous, OR horrifying, audacious and yet shockingly believable.

FIRST MOTHERS by BONNIE ANGELO – Read how a mother’s influence shaped a son’s development until he became the man who called himself President of the United States. This is a fascinating glimpse into the childhoods of boys who grew up to hold the highest political office in the USA. From Franklin Roosevelt to George W Bush, we see how family dynamics and the personalities of the “first mothers” helped mould the characters of their sons, in the formative years.

As a child I was a prolific Enid Blyton reader and my substitute adult equivalent is Maeve Binchy, therefore I deliberately did NOT mention any of her books. I find Dan Brown novels real page turners that provide me with a sense of adventure. The innocent times discovered through my BOBBY BREWSTER childhood reading has been unearthed in the MISS READ series, and the vague sense of wonder I got from Bobby has matured into something more profound in Mitch Albom’s writing. You can read my childhood books blog here:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/seven-books-from-childhood-that-have-stayed-with-me/

In closing, an honourable mention MUST go to Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock, which is indelibly seared into my consciousness for having taken a year (at least) to read! My reading style is one book at a time, with sometimes days or weeks passing between my put down/pick up actions. If scientific concepts are involved I like to puzzle over them to fully comprehend their meaning, and so several parts of this book were re-read as a result. On finishing it, my husband laughingly said “you do realise in the time it’s taken you to read this book, you could have completed a Masters course!”

Seven Books From Adulthood. Image credit abmj
              Seven Books From Adulthood. Image credit abmj

 

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Seven Books From Childhood That Have Stayed With Me

World Book Day in the UK is an event that tries to encourage schoolchildren to read, and it got me thinking about the books that have stayed with me since I was a child.

Two stories from my pre-school years that have remained etched into my memory.

THE SNOW QUEEN by HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN-I had a large format picture book given to me as a Christmas gift by an aunt. The illustrations were beautiful and the tale rather enchanting and it is one of my three favoured festive stories, the others being Hansel & Gretel and A Christmas Carol. But it was a pantomime that switched me onto Hansel & Gretel and I never read the Dickens classic until the winter of 2014. As an adult I got a replacement large format copy of The Snow Queen from my husband who realised how much this story meant to me.

SO NOW TO SLEEP: author unknown-This was a small pink covered book with delightful pictures, given to me by my Uncle Harry visiting from Australia around 1973. The prose was actually a long poem which I found an absolute joy and committed to memory thankfully, as the physical book (and The Snow Queen original copy) is long gone. Despite several Google searches I’ve been unable to discover the author of So Now To Sleep (I’m reasonably sure that was the title), but presume it could be an Australian children’s’ writer. Here are the words:

So Now To Sleep
The sun has set and day is done,
It’s time for sleep my little one,
The animals have said goodnight,
And Mr Moon is shining bright,
Your little friends are all tucked in,
Their sweetest dreams will soon begin,
But wait before you jump in bed,
Your goodnight prayers must first be said,
Talk to Jesus he’s your friend,
And say goodnight at each day’s end,
Ask him to bless the people who,
Live in this lovely world with you,
God bless Father God bless Mother,
And don’t forget your baby Brother,
God bless Granny, Grandpa and,
Boys and Girls from every land,
God bless your Aunts and Uncles too,
And don’t forget God bless you,
So now to sleep drift away,
Tomorrow dawns another day.

I devoured Enid Blyton books and for that very reason I am NOT including her in my list. In Primary Four my class were encouraged to find, read and review books from the small school library stock. Teachers knew I was a Blyton buff so banned me from choosing her so I had to find something else, and I discovered the delights of:

BOBBY BREWSTER by H.E. TODD-Bobby was a young boy who had extraordinary experiences with everyday items. Inanimate objects would come to life, speak to him and dish out a gentle moral code of good behaviour and high standards. Every short story was just a joy to read, so innocent and well meaning in their context. I think these books are out of print now but thanks to the internet I’ve recently purchased a few, and enjoyed a nostalgic trip down my reading memory lane.

In my first year of high school the novel I studied was simply unforgettable and made a huge impression on me.

I AM DAVID by ANN HOLM-David a boy who has only known the harshness of an Eastern Block concentration camp (possibly Bulgaria) is given a brief chance to escape. With few possessions he makes an epic journey on foot across Europe to Denmark, where unbelievably he seems to find his mother. The loneliness, determination, humbleness, innocence of the real world and sense of mission are extraordinary.

For English interpretation exercises we read excerpts from books and I was so enamoured by two pieces that I found them in the local library and read the whole book.

TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN by PHILIPPA PEARCE-Tom stays with a relative and hears a clock chime 13. On investigation he is transported back in time where he meets a lonely girl called Hatty. He befriends her and enjoys many fun times, but each time he meets Hatty she has got a little older. Just before the end of his visit he goes sleep walking and calls out for his friend. Tom is summoned by the elderly woman resident in the building Mrs Bartholomew who was disturbed by his tormented sleep, and he discovers it is his friend from the past. I found it an absolutely enthralling and magical tale.

THE SWISH OF THE CURTAIN by PAMELA BROWN– I read this over the May Bank holiday weekend of 1983. It was about a group of kids (around the same age I think) who put together a play by themselves, doing staging, lighting, advertising etc. How they learned the plot and acted it out, and the strains of ego and terror affecting their friendships. I was so absorbed by the book the TV went largely unnoticed, as did the weather outside (probably wet anyway). I still distinctly remember the feelings I had reading this book, BUT as an adult I couldn’t recall the book title or the author or any central characters name. Internet searches proved fruitless until I came across a Guardian article from February 2014, which listed books that could introduce cultural pursuits such as ballet and theatre to kids. The Swish of the Curtain was about the first one mentioned and I swiftly found a copy to buy online. Within a few pages I’d found my elusive book and felt the same pangs of emotion as a forty-something I’d had as a teenager. There are four other books in the series and I’ve bought these as well because I always wondered what became of the characters as they reached adulthood.

EXPLORING THE MIDNIGHT WORLD (Piccolo Explorer Books)-an early purchase from The Chip Club magazine bought from saved tuck shop money. The pictures look like hand painted masterpieces and unveiled the world of animal life active during my bedtime sleep in the countryside and garden. But wildlife from around the world was discussed through desert, jungle and cave environments, and topics such as night sight, a sixth sense and living light were reviewed. It tapped into my sense of wonder about the natural world, and I still remember my utter delight when David Attenborough discussed tarsiers from SE Asia a few years ago. They were depicted in this book and it was love at first sight. To this day I need to be able to locate this little treasure on our book shelves. If my childhood books were threatened by fire this is the title I would save from the flames.

In closing a special mention must go to Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang the first books to ever make me cry.

Childhood Special Books. Image credit abmj70
              Childhood Special Books. Image credit abmj70

The Snow Queen on Stage

This festive season (7th-23rd December) Wild Ivy Theatre are performing The Snow Queen at Above the Arts Great Newport Street London. I watched their delightful interpretation of this classic story by Hans Christian Andersen on Thursday 17th December and for 45 minutes was immersed in the simplest most embryonic form of theatrical story telling.

Above the Arts only opened in March 2015 and is a sixty seat auditorium on the first floor above the Arts Theatre. The venue is rather like a large living room where scenery can be placed around the space, with open benches for viewers situated within the same area. This results in an immersive feeling where the audience can easily become an integral part of the performance. The constraints of a tradition theatre setting are removed, resulting in a much more free feeling experience. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a perfect way of introducing young children to theatre performance, by making it a less daunting prospect.

The four actors of the theatre group inhabited all the major characters with great aplomb. Gerda, Kai, Mother, Father, Maid, the Snow Queen, Reindeer, Raven and a fleeting show from the White Fox were all brought to life with a great energy and a lovely sense of fun. Every exaggerated body movement, facial expression and voice change brought storytelling to an elevated level. Stage props were minimal and just sufficient to give a setting context and the costumes simple, basic yet convincing. As there were only four actors and 45 minutes of action these facts helped guarantee a seamless transition between characters to progress the story. Sometimes less is definitely more and it also meant that the imagination of this big kid was fully engaged, for example I chuckled inwardly when the owl voice-overs came on as I envisaged Jane Horrocks (Little Voice) sitting wide eyed in a tree!

After the show I made a point of telling the actors how much I enjoyed their performance. They mentioned that some artistic licence was incorporated within their storyline, and I shall have to re-read the book to remind myself of the nuances of the tale. But the adaptation and setting it was performed in took me back to my five year old self marvelling at a picture book delivered by Santa. The innocence and wonder of an enchanting story that had my imagination fired on all cylinders as a child came flooding back forty years later watching the Wild Ivy Theatre. For that I thank them dearly.

There are three favourite stories I have always associated with Christmas. This production means I have now seen them all performed on stage. In 2013 I saw Hansel and Gretel performed by the Scottish Ballet in Glasgow. My love of this story I believe comes from seeing it as my first pantomime around 1977. The Alistair Sim black and white film A Christmas Carol has always kept Charles Dickens classic tale close to my heart, although I only read the book for the first time in Christmas week 2014! To my delight I watched a one-man show of A Christmas Carol performed by Simon Callow in the larger Arts Theatre in 2012. He was sensational making every expression; word and slight movement speak volumes. I thought at the time I was seeing a mature actor at the height of his powers give the ultimate theatrical master class. In a similar way Wild Ivy Theatre gave an acting master class in the purest storytelling form. The actors may be in the early part of their careers but if this is a glimpse of their potential I’m sure they will go far. Having seen many theatre shows in my time to think of Wild Ivy Theatre and Simon Callow in the same sentence is praise indeed from me. See a Wild Ivy Theatre production if you can it will be worth the effort.

The Snow Queen poster. Image credit abmj70
The Snow Queen poster. Image credit  abmj70