How can any bookworm resist this delightful mix of reminders of childhood favourite books and funny self-deprecating humour of a woman whose life has been shaped by them? Not me!
Lucy was a bookworm from the word go, she remembers the familiar The Hungary Caterpillar with his holes with the same affection she recalls Sugarpink Rose, written by Adela Turin and Nella Bosnia and published by a 1970s feminist collective, this book sadly didn’t appear on my bookshelf but I now wish it had. Visits to the library, sitting quietly reading under the benign eyes of various women as her mother ran her gynae clinics all are bought to life, a story of an era as well as a story of the books that Lucy sought out in each destination.
In the introduction the author proclaims of her childhood books:
They made me who I am.
And I feel the same way. Would my own past be the same if it hadn’t spent hours exploring lives of fantasy and of hard reality, and those particular books that came on the journey to becoming an adult with me, must surely have altered the person I am? Through the book which provides the reader with a light touch to the history of children’s publishing, the author explores some key books – those where she had her own personal light-bulb moments, proving that books can and do expand the mind, even if they are flights of an author’s imagination but as Lucy Mangan tells us:
You hear a lot about books expanding the mind – less gets said about its occasional usefulness in battering your expectations of life down to manageable proportions. But it really ought to be credited with both. High hopes are the thief of time and contentment.
Yes, not only does this book appeal for the sheer nostalgic value, the author being only a few years younger than me seems to have had a pretty identical pile of books to read as well, but it is the first book this year that has had me laughing out loud at the humour that winds itself around my favourite subject. The other plus of reading this book having been born in same era, is that there is that recognition of a time that will never return. After all I think those of us born in the Seventies were left to our own devices a whole load more than any generation that followed us and these glimpses of that lost time are now even more firmly linked to the books that I read.
As this is a book about books, and even better many of the books that guided me through childhood to emerge into the big wide world I should probably tell you what to expect. The book is structured chronologically so we have the picture books, early readers, school and the slightly longer books with chapters via a pleasant detour through the Puffin Post, onto those classics such as the Railway Children and through to pre-teens (who most definitely had not been invented in the early eighties) to Judy Blume before we launch into books with rude bits in them, followed by the marketing dream Sweet Valley High before easing us into adult fiction.
The books are numerous, the author’s natural delight at most of the books not at all at odds with those natural prejudices which somewhat dictates our choices. There are descriptions of those moments where the passing of a bookworm’s chief enjoyment onto the next generation with mixed results with all those milestones that accompany us through childhood made this an absolute delight to read.
I will leave you at the ending where yet again the author exactly mirrors how I feel, she was writing this book for me!
Adult reading – by which I mean reading adult books at a roughly adult age – is different to reading children’s books at as a child. It is still my favourite thing to do, it still absolutely necessary to me, I still become fractious and impatient if I do not get my daily ‘fix’ – but the quality of the experience is different. I do not get absorbed as easily or as fully. I am more pernickety.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Random House UK for providing me with an advance review copy of Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading. I could honestly spout on about this book for ages, it was a brilliant read and one where I hadn’t got to the end of the first chapter before I pre-ordered a copy of the hardback to delight me in the future too and for ease of referring to the list of books helpfully compiled at the end.