I love a good book! I’m a very slow reader and I only read when I’m out of the house. It’s usually when I’m on the bus or train, or whilst I’m enjoying my customary pint of frothing ale at the end of each working day!
The main reason for my slow forward progress whilst reading, is my tendency to read and re-read passages that I like. I even go back over bits I dislike and feel I could express better myself! I know, that’s very presumptuous of me! After all, the book I’m usually reading is always an ‘International Best Seller’ according to the blurb on the cover, so who am I to criticise! Having said that I have to date sold 63 copies of my book The Stranger and Other Short Stories, so I guess I’m fast becoming a literary force to be reckoned with. I suppose I could claim my book to be a best seller. It is in my house anyway - 27 of the purchases to date have been made by me!
As I was saying, I read at a snail’s pace. When I particularly enjoy a paragraph I usually scribe a circle around it and turn down the corner of the page. If you were to look through my bookshelf you’d be left in no doubt about which were my favourites by the condition of them! Whilst I don’t actually plagiarise lumps of books, I do often use features of the bits I like in my own scribblings.
I’ve just finished a book which I enjoyed more than any other I’ve read. Before I reveal it to you let me reprint (plagiarise?) a couple of paragraphs which deal with the task of nappy-changing a baby from the perspective of a mere male!
As soon as he lays her on the changing mat she wakes and starts to cry, that awful rasping cry. Breathing through his mouth he changes her as quickly and as efficiently as he can. Part of the positive press about having a baby was how inoffensive baby poo was, how poo and wee lost their taint and became, if not fun, innocuous. His sister had even claimed you could ‘eat it on toast’ so benign and fragrant was this ‘poo’.
Even so, you wouldn’t want it under your fingernails, and with the arrival of formula and solids it has taken on a decidedly more adult quality. Little Jasmine has produced what looks like a half-pound of peanut butter, which she has somehow contrived to smear up her back. With his head a little fuzzy from the wine on an empty stomach, he scoops and scrapes it up with half a pack of baby wipes and, when these run out, the edge of his one-day travel card. Jasmine cries throughout.
This book, which I so enjoyed, is entitled One Day and comes from the pen of David Nicholls, the author of another of my favourites, The Understudy. It charts the lives of two friends, a boy and a girl over 20 years. Each chapter is written on July 15th of consecutive years. Apart from that I’ll say no more.
I don’t normally take much notice of the plaudits plastered on the covers of books. They are usually nothing more than a few words plucked from a lengthy review, and chosen to show the publication in its best light, even if the rest of the write-up was dreadful. But whilst reading this book, a quote by best selling writer Jonathan Coe stuck in my mind. It said ‘You really do put the book down with the hallucinatory feeling that they’ve become as well known to you as your closest friends’. And this is exactly how I felt by the end of the book. I became so involved in their lives that I could close my eyes and imagine I was travelling life’s rocky road along with them. All emotions were drawn out. Happiness, grief, anger and frustration. One day I’d laugh tears of joy, then another, those of utter despair. I’d feel like hugging them at the end of one chapter then kicking their butts after another.
And then, about three quarters of the way though, a paragraph ended with fifteen words which hit me like a punch in the stomach. It was totally unexpected and cleverly written in a cold matter-of-fact way. I couldn't bring myself to read another word for a couple of days.
Enjoyment is subjective. Because I loved this book doesn’t mean you will. I understand that it is to be made into a movie, and I’m not sure I really want that to happen because the result can so often be a disappointment. I prefer the images to remain the way I saw them in my mind, and not those created by a Hollywood director. But I defy anyone not to get drawn into this amazing novel.
In the words of one of my favourite authors Tony Parsons, it is ‘totally brilliant’.