“It is the story (I hope) of the reading my whole generation of bookworms did; and it is the story of my own relationship with books; both.” p.21
I have been trying to write this journal entry for days now and I think this journal will be part review, but mostly my own confessions of my childhood reading obsession! I loved this book and will definitely be finding my own copy, since I think it’s a book that deserves re-reading. I loved the fact that this book helps us to examine our own childhood and past. Spufford has a lovely writing style, and there were many incidents which triggered off my own memories. I thought the idea of structuring the book around a central theme, such as “The Forest” worked well, and his use of Piaget’s four stages of development was also effective. There were some wonderful ideas, especially this one about the ‘intangible shoplifting’ of books:
“If your memory was OK you could descend upon on a bookshop – a big enough one so that the staff woulnd’t hassle a browser – and steal the contents of books by reading them. I drank down 1984 while loitering in the O section of the giant Heffers store in Cambridge. When I was full I carried the slopping vessel of my attention carefully out of the shop.” p4.
Many of the books he mentioned triggered memories in me. For example, “Where the wild things are” used to scare the living daylights out of me, whereas Maurice Sendak’s other book Micky in the Night Kitchen was a personal favourite! I was amazed that the first book he can remember reading was “The Hobbit”. I hated this book, and only read it when I was about 11, and that was under duress. I do remember reading “Heidi” as a child, and realising that I was ‘reading’ this book, in my eyes, this was an adult book and I was reading to myself! I shared his difficult in knowing how to jump from children’s literature to adult literature. I had a few difficult years (11-13) when I teetered precariously from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie, before finally landing into adult literature.
I particularly enjoyed the chapter on “The Island” since I ws (and probably still am) a Narnia fan. I thought Spufford’s explanation of CS Lewis’ “Longing” and platonic ideas, was just spot on. Spufford describes the Narnia series as “the essence of book” and for me that was completely right. For my brother, the essence of book was Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings – we had a very divided household at one point!
I could really relate to him when he talks about moving schools, being a boarder and then becoming accepted, his intelligence being taken for granted, he fitted in rather than being the book reading freak. As a child I never really got over that. I wouldn’t play with other kids, I preferred sitting at the side reading! It wasn’t til I got to Uni, that reading became an accepted given. And now as an adult, bookcrossing has given me that same sense of identity. It’s ok to be a fast reader and a reader of many types of books, that it’s okay to be slightly obsessed by books! I just wish I’d kept lists of all the books and sources which shaped me as I grew up. There are seminal books, where I remember exactly the first time I read them. For example, I took “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” out of our local library and took it to Hannover, Germany on my first language trip abroad. I was 14, and that book blew me away!More details here...