I took a reading holiday this week. Nothing heavy. Nothing challenging. No note-taking or quotation-jotting, just reading for the pleasure of it, for a little light escapism and, I hoped, a few laughs. It ended in tears.
My Grandmother sends her regards and apologises. Fredrik Backman.
See, I didn’t even take a proper photograph but the rhubarb tart is apt as my Granny grew rhubarb against the rear wall of her coal shed. Every time she made a tart she would give us a stalk of raw rhubarb to dip in the sugar bowl while she recounted the provenance of her rhubarb stools (no laughing, that is the correct term!), and the secret of their remarkable flavour (horse manure) with all the pride of a Burgundian vintner.
‘There’s something special about a Grandmother’s house. You never forget how it smells.’
I did say no quotation-jotting, didn’t I? I couldn’t resist marking a few pages in this ridiculously quotable book. In fact, I have already seen a fake hand-painted wooden sign with this one on it:
‘Nothing is really gone until your Mum can’t find it.’
In this house that would be corrected to ‘until Teenage Daughter can’t find it’ as she is our official finder-of-stuff.
The book is about a clever little girl who has a very special relationship with her Granny. In fact, it seems that Granny is her only real friend, the only person in the world who even speaks the same language. And then, Granny dies.
That much I knew before I started which was the reason why, despite rave recommendations, I put this book on the long finger for a few months. I wasn’t certain I could hack a good book about a Granny dying.
‘Sorrow and loss are constant, but if we all had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we wouldn’t be able to stand it. The sadness would paralyse us. So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it.’
Elsa’s Granny has spent all seven years of Elsa’s life telling her stories of a faraway make believe land. When Granny dies she leaves a trail of apologetic letters which bring Granny’s fairy tales to life and reveal that Granny wasn’t always the superhero Elsa believed her to be.
‘the best stories are never completely realistic and never entirely made up.’
It’s a lovely book, brimming with imagination and wit, about love and loss and the power of stories to heal the breach.
One. Sarah Crossman.
My Middle Daughter knows good books. I know I’ve said this before but, truly, when she hands me a book and says, ‘you should read this Mum,’ I know it will be something special.
I began this book at lunchtime and couldn’t put it down. I carried it with me on the school run and read while I waited for the bell to ring. I held it aloft from splashes while I stirred the dinner and managed to overcook the eggs. I brought it to bed and read to the end while Husband sat beside me face-timing his sister through changing a blown socket fuse. That last bit kind of ruined the ending for me, it was hard to cry with ‘STOP, NO, Don’t touch that one, it’s LIVE’ as a running commentary beside me. But cry I did.
One has all the hallmarks of YA literature. Unusually brave teenagers take on the world, fall in love, get kissed and discover how to live as individuals. One pushes that stereotypical formula to the limit by presenting the teenagers as conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi, named for Hitchcock’s leading ladies. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a quick, emotionally-charged read or anyone trying to tempt a reluctant teenager into reading.
The List of my Desires. Grégoire Delacourt.
This is a tiny book, let’s say petit, about a French woman in her mid-forties who writes a blog. She makes lists of what she would buy with a lotto win but realises that it’s the lists, not the lotto, that keep her going.
‘Because our needs are our little daily dreams. The little things to be done that project us into tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the future; trivial things that we plan to buy next week, allowing us to think that next week we’ll still be alive.’
This was my favourite of the three books. It’s a sweet and stylish parable, small but perfectly formed.
A list of my desires (a list, not the definitive list because it changes daily and that is the point):
New tea towels and towels.
A hoover that doesn’t come apart in three places when it hits a rug.
Fancy rose-scented soap from the English market.
A pale pink cardigan for the summer.
Maybe a pale green one too, for a change?
Cereal bowls and spoons.
Yarn. Blue and pink and pale green to throw over a comfy reading chair in the kitchen.
A comfy reading chair for the kitchen.
A fountain pen. The kind you fill from a bottle of ink. I used to have a lovely one.
A shade tolerant plant to fill a big pot in the dark corner of the patio. Any suggestions? I’m leaning towards an Acer.
A Fingal Ferguson knife. Such codswallop, I know. It’s not as though I even know how to use a knife properly but we did say desires.I can’t even bring myself to put my name on the two-year waiting list because it seems such a silly indulgence. But still, beautiful tools bring a particular satisfaction.
A wall. It’s very embarrassing these days to admit I dream of building a wall around my garden but there you go. I want a secret garden to go with my secret door.
Secret door. Oh yes, I got that one, which probably seemed the most unlikely.
Dream big, it’s the dreaming that matters.
What is on your daily dream list? I would love to know.