I’ve always read a lot – so much so that I wonder if I came out of the womb clutching a book (while talking too, I’d imagine!). About three years ago, I started to keep a reading journal and I’m on to notebook number two. My entries are quite long (I know, I have trouble being brief!), at least two pages of A5, sometimes more. I note the date and how long it’s taken me to read the book in question; a score out of 10 (I’m quite harsh with this – in the same way contestants on Strictly Come Dancing yearn to get a 10 from Craig, but without the b****y comments!); a discussion on what grabbed me about the story, characters and the way it was written; and end with a list of themes I can see in the novel. My friend Zoe (she’s a writer too, and a crafter – see her blog at: http://craftygasheadzo.blogspot.com/) also keeps a reading journal but with entries much shorter than mine, though no less able to bring forth the detailed responses she had when we discuss what we’ve been reading (which we do often).
Perhaps you’d like to join us in keeping a journal of the books you’ve been reading, even if it’s just a list of the titles? When you look back at the end of the year and see how much and how widely you’ve read, what you’ve liked/disliked and why, and realise that you’ve not only responded to it but participated in the debates it raises (if only in thought), you feel chuffed, clever and creative – and so you should!
This week, I treated myself to reading ‘The Distant Hours’ by Kate Morton. I discovered her as an author last summer when I read ‘The Forgotten Garden’, which was her second book – and LOVED it. I adore the language with which Morton writes, the room she gives both her plot and narrative to evolve, and I care deeply about her rounded, flawed characters. Once I’d read one of her books, I had to read the next and so I snapped up a copy of ‘The House at Riverton’ (her first novel), and fell for that one too. I’ve got about one fith of ‘The Distant Hours’ left to go...and I hear it whispering to me now, tempting me back into its pages – but before I immerse myself in Morton’s world once more, I’ll share with you some words from my reading journal, and a picture that could be an actual photograph of me (if only I looked like Kate Winslet!):
‘The Forgotten Garden’: Well written, with beautiful and deft language peppering the pages, this story is intricately plotted and richly realised – wonderful! A dense narrative, it never feels rushed or indulgent – it is just what it is meant to be. Eliza’s embedded fairy tales are decent, good stories in their own right, but also form layers of storytelling which extend the whole, woven experience.
‘The House at Riverton’: Fabulous – an absorbing, excellently written story, delving into the past and the multi-layers of the present, particularly in terms of memory. The characterisations are fantastic and I love the way they breathe on the page, even the smallest ones. The themes of secrecy and guilt and redemption are seamlessly drawn into the narrative, and I was stunned and saddened by the eventual conclusion.
I found this fabulous drawing through a Google Image search, included in someone else’s blog – they’d posted it in February 2009, where they’d seen it on The Portrait Society of America’s website (but I couldn’t find it there – it must’ve been removed!). The drawing is untitled by Antonia Franck – and I love it so much, I’ve printed it out, framed it and put it on my bookshelf!