July Reading

For some reason, July became my lost-in-books month (a lot less stressful than a month being lost-in-space, like the old TV program, and far fewer annoying robots too – always a bonus). After going through a bit of a literary dry spell when I couldn’t bring myself to pick one up, let alone get more than a couple of pages in, I suddenly couldn’t get enough. It helped that all of them held me gripped till the last page, in some cases dragging that completion out for as long as possible.

I sobbed like a baby through the last quarter of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (and the last five pages of the Colour Purple) but finished uplifted and happy; found myself challenged and engaged with foreign writing (thanks to my birthday treat to myself from Peirene Press); I was transported away from it all by The Old Ways and developed the alien (to me) urge to camp under the stars:

“As the sun finally fell, I lay on the machair, hands behind my head. Time, briefly, felt not absent (the islander’s dream of ahistory) but rather multiplied in its forms. Orange mites traversed boulders. Xanthoria parietina photosynthesized. Puffins shifted in their roosts, the tide gathered northwards pace. Rainwater that had fallen three days earlier filtered down inside the fissures of Eilean Taighe, the body of the pollock stiffened in the black bucket by the bothy’s door, and the summer loosed its summer light, as it had done for uncountable years, across the sea, the island and my body, a liquid so rich I wanted to eat it, store it, make honey of it for when winter came.”

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But my favourite was consumed within a space of three hours one afternoon when things were feeling particularly difficult and I needed to escape my own four walls: The Camomile by Catherine Carswell. It did what it has done since I first discovered it at the age of 17 – made me feel reassured in my own decisions:

“If I had my wish I would drink a potion of forgetfulness and be laid in a great cool bed in a room with high windows thrown open to the sound of the sea and the salt smell of the sea. How I should sleep! And how I should wake next morning, and stretch, and laugh with joy at being able to start thinking again of the wonder of being alive.”

And now I’m off work for Two Whole Weeks. There is decorating to be done, a wilderness not even attempting to masquerade as a garden to be tamed, friends and family to see, and a couple of ill-thought-out DIY tasks to undertake. But first, oh but first there is a trip to the library, followed by a trip to the bookshop because if I can’t find “All The Birds, Singing” in one place, it had better be in the other.

Please don’t make me buy it from Amazon.

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