November 27, 2013 by lucieromarin
Reading books isn’t just a matter of accessing text; all your external senses can be drawn into it, (there’s the scent, thickness, and weight of the page, the choice of font and ink, the front cover) and the better your surroundings suit your book, the more complete and perfect the reading experience is.
(It really is true, by the way, that font and colour makes a difference. When I read ‘In this House of Brede’ in an edition with folkish cover-art and a dark, very rounded font, I loved it. Then I tried to read an edition with a pale front cover and narrow margins…and Brede looked different in my mind’s eye. And I didn’t like it. Also, ‘Twilight’ was around for a good six months at least and no one cared two hoots about it. It only became a romance when they changed the front cover, replacing a grey, distorted female face with a shiny red apple.)
So, the recent days of rain here prompt me to recommend three books suitable for the weather:
1. A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor. So… my recommending this travel narrative is a little fraudulent, as I’ve only just started reading it. However, I can testify that simultaneously reading the author’s opening description of leaving London on a rainy day and listening to the coursing rain is great. As I didn’t like the book’s title, I assumed the blurb was lying when it described the author’s writing as ‘one of the glories of modern English prose’.
Well, the blurb wasn’t lying. Forget everything I said about Jan Morris; this surpasses it!
2. Thornyhold, Mary Stewart. Okay, so this book isn’t one of the glories of modern English prose, but that hasn’t stopped me reading and enjoying it at least five times. This is the soothing British prose that neither challenges nor offends, and it tells the story of a young woman of the late 1940s, who inherits a house in the British countryside, and experiences a kind of magic there. You won’t enjoy the book if you don’t like descriptions of interiors or gardens or housework, and you won’t like it if you dislike any theme of magic or witchcraft…but you also won’t like it if you want your literary magic to be actually occult. I also have a feeling that you won’t like the novel if you’re a man.
You know how it is that being housebound on a rainy day can be all cozy, but that coziness has within it a kind of thrill, which is the feeling of the storm outside ? Thornyhold is like that – cozy, peaceful, and slow-moving, shot through with…something else…
3. Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter, Astrid Lindgren. As a child, I mistrusted this children’s novel deeply; the girl on the front cover had wild hair and looked cross and unruly, (you can see her here) so I took her for bad company, and avoided her. Fortunately, I read the novel as an adult, and can say that it’s wonderful! (and made up for the awful experience of Pippi Longstocking).
When you’re huddled in your room on a rainy day, read about the feuding robbers, the two child-friends, and their escape to the woods, and it feels rather like being one of the unhappy robbers, warming his dripping cave with a good story on a day too rain-soaked for robbery. The difficult woods and tunnels are as much characters of this story as the house is of Thornyhold, and a bit of difficult weather outside makes the perfect backdrop for them.