Listening to: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5; Weather: cloudy and fresh, 15°C
One of my three sisters lives in Yorkshire, in a country where books are valued like nothing else. She and I meet up on Skype usually on the weekends, and I not only get to live vicariously through her (my dream is to live there), but also I get read to. To my chagrin, she’s a far better reader than I am, aloud.
Usually our chats (this one over two hours!) consist of discussing food (today was Italian apple pie, roasted veggie pizza, and baked macaroni), weather (over there lovely: sunny and breezy and dry), National Trust places (too numerous to list), and books (and pheasants; I’m in love with pheasants). We’re always each talking over each other, pulling books off our shelves and reading bits aloud, telling each other we must read such and such, and OH! This one…
On her part, several antiques were proffered (she much prefers second-hand, and while I appreciate them, I’m a new-book lover): a children’s book my mom used to read as a child (can’t remember the title now, from 1934); one by Enid Blyton about her nature walks called Nature Lover’s Book, with gorgeous sketches of flora and fauna; one by P.G. Wodehouse, whom she absolutely enjoys and recommends because of the hilarity (which I did get a sample of); and then also one by dear old Roald Dahl, God rest his perfect literary soul (it’s Roald Dahl month, did you know? The 13th is his birthday), called My Year. I can’t believe I haven’t read it, am mortified to admit I haven’t read any of his adult books. I need to read more of him, since I do love his writing so much.
From My Year she read me a section on apple picking and why children no longer climb trees to pick apples (Dahl speculates this is because they have too much pocket money to spend on crisps and Coke and it’s all thus made them sluggish and disinclined to do things like climb trees for apples.) The section was excellent and funny, typical Roald Dahl, and of course I’ve added the lovely book (illustrated by Quentin Blake, of course) to my wish list, which you’ll see on this site to the right in the sidebar.
It’s funny and earnestly sweet, when I think of it, how we carefully hold up covers and pages to the screen in an effort to show each other what the other must experience. That’s why we end up reading aloud, because web cams just aren’t that good.
I also added Howard’s End is on the Landing by Susan Hill to my wish list. My sister read a section from that one as well, a book about a year of reading. Like many of us, Hill had a bunch of books she owned that she hadn’t yet read. Ambitiously, like many of you (forget me, I know I’ll never succeed), she imposed on herself a book-buying ban, but for a year (imagine!!), and pledged to read the books on her shelf instead. Howard’s End is her voyage through those books. From what my sister read, it sounds quite good.
Lastly, while looking up another book she’d mentioned, I found BookBrowse (which I think I’ve been on before), on which was featured this gem: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. It’s a mystery by Helen Grant. This is what Random House has written about it:
Not since The Elegance of the Hedgehog [which I just bought but haven’t yet read] has a book arrived in America from Europe on such wings of critical praise and popularity. The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is an unforgettable debut—at once chilling and endearing, haunting and richly insightful—the story of one girl’s big heart and even bigger imagination, and of a world full of mystery, good, and evil.
It isn’t ten-year-old Pia’s fault that her grandmother dies in a freak accident. But tell that to the citizens of Pia’s little German hometown of Bad Münstereifel, or to the classmates who shun her. The only one who still wants to be her friend is StinkStefan, the most unpopular child in school.
But then something else captures the community’s attention: the vanishing of Katharina Linden. Katharina was last seen on a float in a parade, dressed as Snow White. Then, like a character in a Grimm’s fairy tale, she disappears. But, this being real life, she doesn’t return.
Pia and Stefan suspect that Katharina has been spirited away by the supernatural. Their investigation is inspired by the instructive—and cautionary—local legends told to them by their elderly friend Herr Schiller, tales such as that of Unshockable Hans, visited by witches in the form of cats, or of the knight whose son is doomed to hunt forever.
Then another girl disappears, and Pia is plunged into a new and unnerving place, one far away from fairy tales—and perilously close to adulthood.
Marvelously morbid, stunningly suspenseful, and exceptionally winning, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a new coming-of-age classic, and the most accomplished fiction debut in years.
Check out this first sentence: “My life would have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother had exploded.” Sounds excellent, yes? Enough that I wanted to share it with you and thus had the idea to write this post. Read from the book by following the link I gave you above on the title. I dislike the cover on amazon and this book, the one I’m showing you, looks much nicer in all, cover and typesetting. To a large extent, that’s important to me, to my reading experience.
Oh. Doesn’t today feel like an especially perfect day for book buying? I WANT TO SHOP!!
So. What books have you found while browsing that you’ve recently added to your wish list?