Last week by more accident than actually planning the post I wrote about my weekend where I had immersed myself in books. The reason being it was Persephone weekend and I had spent Saturday catching up on the BBC 2 Programme My Life in Books. This programme has continued this week and I recorded all five to enjoy this Saturday just gone as due to the fact that some nights I do not get in until gone 1800 or I am out again so I do not get to watch them as they are broadcast.
So the 10 people who shared their lives in books were Sister Wendy Beckett & Laurence Llewellyn Bowen, Jeanette Winterson& Alistair Campbell, Trinny Woodall & Robert Harris, Duchess of Devonshire & Elizabeth McGovern and Larry Lamb & Sarah Millican.
A much more eclectic mix of people than last week. And they were as interesting especially when you knew little about them. Alastair Campbell and Jeanette Winterson were particularly interesting. I have always been secretly impressed by the way Campbell portrays himself and the way he talks and communicates. Probably why he was a spin doctor. I have never read his books. I am not interested in politics which is what puts me off, but hearing him talk about books some of which have nothing to do with politics was good. I was interested in his thoughts on depression as a sufferer he knows the power that books and writing can have. As a fellow sufferer I concur with all that he said, and also the follow up thoughts by Winterson.
In contrast I had never seen, read about or read any of Jeanette Winterson’s books that is something which I will rectify this year. I was utterly fascinated by her stores of Mrs Winterson and her description of smuggling books into her home to read. Imagine not being able to read books and only have the bible read to you. Winston actually picked the Bible as one of her books. But not in its religious context but in the fact it is an example of language. I had heard of Oranges are not the Only Fruit but did not relate the two. Has anyone out there read any of her novels?
The novels and authors chosen were delightful. Yes the classics are featured, Bronte, Dumas, Flaubert, Eliott et al. It was good to see some Agatha Christie – and that was Sister Wendy’s choice. Christie reaches many people in many walks of life but transcends them all with the ultimate murder mystery detective fiction.
The contrast of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire and Elizabeth McGovern who played Lady Cora in the wonderful Downton Abbey was very intriguing. A real life Duchess and a fictional Countess. An American and an Englishwoman. All the contrasts. The Dowager’s eyesight is obviously failing as both McGovern and Anne Robinson read passages out of the books she had chosen. Her surprise book at the end was delightful. A book dedicated to her and signed by Evelyn Waugh with absolutely nothing written on the pages, knowing she would never read the book!
The book that I picked up from this programme was The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. I have heard of the title but never read the book. A book about the joy of reading involving the Queen. Another one to add to my list of books.
In this set of programmes it was good to see that non-fiction and reference books were also important in their life as well. A cookery book which McGovern read with such flare. She wants to read the recipe (although does not cook) and not all the stuff that goes round them to flesh out the book. Larry Lamb had the Times Atlas, his point that books have educated him throughout life and continue to do so. All recent book choices reflect this I think.
The combination of guests work and I really hope that the BBC go back to this programme and make some more. There are plenty more people out there and plenty of books!
Saturday 5th March was also World Book Night and the great big giveaway. I would love to have given books away but I did not know who to give them to and I am a shy sort of person so could not have just given them out to complete strangers! However an evening of programmes about this was excellent.
I enjoyed Sue Perkins in The Books We Really Read on BBC 2. The presenter, looked at the bestsellers that festoon our bookshops year after year and why do people read them and why are they so popular. Concentrating on three particular genres; Crime, Thriller and Romance.
Perkins was honest about the fact the she is a bit of literary snob that she has not read many bestsellers at all and now she feels guilty that perhaps she should indulge in what the thousands of others have done and read some. They are bestsellers after all what do they contain that makes them such. I related to this, because I feel that I am a reverse of literary snob, I have read very few what I would call ‘literary’ books such as Perkins refers to. Her favourite book being Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
So we are taken through Thriller’s, Lee Child for example. An author I have never read. Crime, Agatha Christie and a wonderful look at her own near Torquay. Perkins has read these. Romance, Sophie Kinsella was popular. I only read her first Shopaholic book recently and was not that enamoured by it. Other authors were mentioned, Jilly Cooper, Jackie Collins, Dan Brown, Dick Francis and so many more could be seen on the revolving book stand Perkins was sent and which seemed to be following her around.
Do we know why these books are so popular, well the stand point Perkins was coming from was plot. When reading the Man Booker Prize books a number of the 134 books to read had very little plot. Her opinion not mine. However, perhaps having to read 134 books in a very concentrated amount of time I think that you might need some light relief from it. Books are popular because people like escapism, they like to learn, to be educated, to be taken to another place, to see a result, to find themselves, the list for me is somewhat endless.
Whilst in Devon, Perkins helped on a mobile library and it has brought back so many memories for me. Having used our mobile library where we lived for a long time. I still have the little tickets for them, long before everything was computerised! I might wander back down the lane of the mobile library in a post soon to concetrate my thoughts.
So what else on this weekend in books. I finished my second book in the Great Crime Caper, review can be found here. I have also got into reading Bitter Chocolate by Lesley Loko a bit more now. It is quite a large book nearly 600 pages but it has now captured me and I am locked into finding out what happens.
Finally Sunday (like last week) sees me settle down to watch South Riding. This week is the last part, and I am eager to see how such a story will end. Surely the story never ends? I am looking forward to perhaps giving the book a go, next time I am in the vicinity of a bookshop. I am staying out of their way at the moment. There is always a lot of month left after the money!