On My Bookshelf // Midsummer Reads

I'm not the only one who thinks that bags feel weird and too swishy and light when they don't have a book in, right? Forget a book to take along with you and it feels as wrong as not taking your purse or phone. Most of the time I don't read it; it's just nice to know that it's there. That's why if you were ever late to meet me I wouldn't be bothered at all because I'll just find a perch to read on. We're only talking up to 20 minutes late, mind you. Any more is taking the Michael.

As you may have read in my last post, I finished my teacher training course about two weeks ago and since then I have been doing all the catching up that I wasn't able to do when teaching the delightful teenagers of London why Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most duplicitous characters. I've caught up on my running schedule. I've caught up on Orange is the New Black. I've caught up with friends I haven't seen in yonks. I've caught up on my scrapbook. I've caught up with Norfolk. And I've finally caught up with reading.

I'm not a crazy fast reader. When I was studying literature at university I'd have to give myself a page target for each day just to get through the texts before my seminars. I re-read passages and pick books up and put them down. For some reason, the more intricate and descriptive a book, the more time it will take me to read. I find it's like a really good dinner. You want to savour each mouthful because the slower you eat, the longer it will last. Well, these books have all slotted into that category. I've got three very tasty reads for you.

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

Cider with Rosie is a beautiful read. Technically, it's a memoir of the author Laurie Lee and it's wonderfully nostalgic. There is a romanticism to his accounts of growing up in the countryside in post-war Britain, but this this in no way detracts from the painstaking detail of the descriptions surrounding the country, from the frozen fields to the intimidating height of summer hedgerows in the eyes of an infant. I'm a great lover of dialogue that is written to reflect the accent and dialect of the book's inhabitants; it's comforting and hugely immersive, especially when it encapsulates voices from the country. There's a common voice of realism and unflappable honesty that made me feel a little homesick. The memoir is split into 'memories' so to speak, which makes it a great book to pick up and put down.

'Granny Trill and Granny Wallon were rival ancients and lived on each other's nerves. In all their time as close neighbours they never exchanged a word. They referred  to each other as "Er-Down-Under" and "Er-Up-Top"; for each other was an airy nothing, a local habitation not fit to be named.'

Snug Rating: 4/5

Meadow Land by John Lewis-Stempel

I was drawn to this book after scrolling through Amazon for a book about the countryside. I was missing home and the earthy, country smells that come with warmer months but that you just don't get in London. This book filled a little gap in my soul. It covers one whole year from the perspective of a farmer as he observes a meadow in the Herefordshire hills. I have a hugely fond spot for Herefordshire after spending most of my summers growing up on a farm near the Black &White villages, so this book connected with me right from the off. The writing is beautiful and intricate. You can tell that the author has taken time to look, to really look and hear and smell and feel what each moment in the meadow holds. I feel like I've been in that meadow. If you need a dose of countryside, Meadowland is for you.

'There is a kind of life in death. The winds, snows and floods of winter have scraped the countryside clean, ready for a new start. The last lingering leaves on the oak are down, trees and hedges are X-rays of their former selves, and the two grey squirrel drays are blots in the framework of branches.'

Snug Rating: 3.5/5

The Virgin and the Gypsy by D.H Lawrence

This novella is widely known as the foundations for Lady Chatterley's Lover; another of my favourite novels and equally as indulgent to read. The book is a short one at around 150 pages, so can be read in a couple of days easily. Lawrence has some beautifully poignant moments in this novel and handles ideas of sexuality and morality in a delicate yet starkly modern way. The story is set in rural England, where a gregarious young woman meets the nomadic namesake of the book. Cue a 'coming-of-age' style awakening of her sense of self, agency and independence at a time when women were having hundreds of tiny battles under the authority of parents who maintained Victorian ideals at the beginning of the 20th century. I can see why this novella was so frowned upon at the time. It's pretty saucy in parts. Ooo-er. Don't underestimate the beautiful writing though. It's a total treat.

'The girls, in their Russian boots, tramped through the damp grass, while the deer watched them with big, unfrightened eyes. The hart trotted away mildly, holding back his head, because of the weight of his horns. But the doe, balancing her big ears, did not rise from under the tree till the girls were almost in touch.'

Snug Rating: 4.5/5

There we go. A list that makes me think that I'm gasping for a bit of country air, muddy boots and pack-up lunches. Sure, I do romanticise about the country, but I truly believe that my happiest memories and greatest feeling of calm comes from being outdoors with a peppy companion and slightly ill-chosen footwear.

What's been on your reading list of late? 

Have a happy weekend!

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