The joy of fiction

A woman sitting on a sofa with feet up reading.
Photo by Lenin Estrada on Unsplash

I’ve always loved books and reading and in particular fiction. For many years non fiction has tended to relate to work and study or travel. So it has been fictional story telling that has grabbed my imagination and taken me to different times and places. I wrote recently about my childhood favourites, so this post is about my favourite adulthood reads.

Just like my childhood books, I’ve kept many of the favourites of my adulthood. When I moved just under two years ago I made some difficult choices. I decided to only keep books that meant something special or might want to read again (or finish). I admit I’ve bought fewer actual books recently and have used the kindle app either on my kindle itself or on my tablet and very occasionally phone. But I really do love books, the smell of a new book is special and I always sniff a book when it arrives. The feel of the pristine pages and the excitement of opening it and getting down to a good read. Those feelings are almost erotic in themselves, but I digress.

Some of the best books I have read have been ones I have come upon by chance. For some reasons those that are top of the best sellers or recommended often don’t do it for me. One example would be The Girl on the Train. I found all of the characters irritating. Surprisingly I recently watched the film and unusually preferred the film to the book.

Books I’ve enjoyed recently

One of the most unusual but amusing and interesting books I’ve read in recent years was Hadrian the Seventh by Frederick Rolfe also know as Baron Corvo. The book is about a priest who accidentally becomes pope and was written at the beginning of the 20th Century.. It probably helps if you read a bit about the man himself, so some non fiction. He was quite the character, as is his pope.

I wrote last halloween time about the All Souls Trilogy which I particularly enjoyed last year. Books about witchcraft and vampires etc. hadn’t really been a genre of choice for me. But I stumbled upon the first book after seeing it recommended on Twitter and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. The first book, A Discovery of Witches and is set initially in Oxford, a place I have been to quite a bit. Plus it is where Master studied. I’ve now read (or sometimes listened to) the whole of the trilogy, plus a subsequent book Time’s Convert. It was easy to get pulled into the idea that amongst us are witches, vampires and demons. With the vampires living for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Sometimes one author can take you on all kinds of journeys

I often like to read books that are part of a series, and have found some very good crime mysteries that follow on from each other. Crime mysteries is a genre I really enjoy. I particularly like books written by Elly Griffiths and she is a prolific writer. Her series about Ruth Galloway, a forensic anthropologist is a particular favourite. I’ve just bought the 12th book in this series and am looking forward to reading it soon. The series is set in Norfolk, around the area my mum lives and I’ve often imagined driving along some of the same roads!

Elly Grifiths also writes under the name Domenica de Rosa, and I have enjoyed some of these books, set in Italy. They were a particularly good read last summer as you can feel the ambiance of the Italian summer as you read. Finally she also writes the Stephens and Mephisto books which are set in Brighton from the 1950s onwards. Stephens is a policeman and Mephisto a magician who helps him solve murders.

The joy of Audible Fiction

Just as I enjoy listening to podcasts either in the car or when I am out walking. I also love to listen to audible books. I prefer the spoken word when on a long journey and have listened to many books that way. Sometimes I both read and listen to the same book. Picking up where I have left off with the other method. It’s particularly great with long books and very useful when you feel too tired to actually read. Or of course are driving.

My current audible book (which I’m not reading too) is Wrong Way Home by Isabelle Grey. I’ve some how come into a series about a police detective (Grace Fisher) on book 4. But plan to go back to number 1 after this.

Books of my childhood

Inside pages from the book Mrs Cockle's Cat

I loved reading as a child and still do. I bought books with my pocket money and borrowed them from the library. At Christmas I often received a book or two from various aunts and uncles as well as grandparents. They usually wrote inside the cover so that you knew they had bought them for you.

This week’s Food 4 Thought is about One Book from our childhood. Goodness me, what a tough task. There were and still are so many. I kept many of my childhood books and now have them on the shelves in my little office. They sit among my adulthood favourites, books on nursing and leadership and many more. Including books my son discarded at the end of his own childhood but I can’t bear to part with. That includes a number of Roald Dahl books. I still have Enid Blyton famous 5, What Katy Did, Little Women (and the rest of the series). More contemporary books (from the 1970s) like It shouldn’t happen to a vet which became All Creatures Great and Small. But the book I wanted to talk about – The Girl in the Opposite Bed by Honor Arundel.

I don’t know where it has gone, but am sure I wouldn’t have thrown it out. Maybe there’s another box in the garage I haven’t unpacked yet. This was a book about a girl who is in hospital for a week or two. While there she encounters a girl she doesn’t like at first but whom eventually becomes her friend. But I can’t remember the exact story and can’t check it since it is out of print.

That book helped to define me in terms of my future career. Because after reading The Girl in the Opposite Bed I moved on to books about nurses (especially the Sue Barton stories). As well as others about people who were sick or injured. I must have been a fun loving adolescent!

One book I still have, that is older than The Girl in the Opposite Bed would be is Mrs Cockle’s Cat by Philippa Pearce. This is important not because of the story, though it is a good one about an elderly lady and her cat. But because I was given it as an award at primary school. I wrote a story and won a book.

Since then I’ve continued to write, but mostly for my own pleasure. As I’ve mentioned before I used to write stories in longhand as a teenager and young adult. But until I entered the Smut Marathon in 2018 I hadn’t submitted my fiction to any other competitions. Over the years I’ve lost my confidence in writing fiction and I no longer find it as easy as writing non fiction. Thinking about it, I’m maybe just a bit out of practice.

Next year I’m going to be much more specific about my goals. Later in the month I’ll publish those goals and writing fiction will be amongst them. Because if I could win a prize at around 10 years of age I’m pretty sure I can write something worth while at 57.