My Life in Books

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For my first post on my blog I thought I would give an insight into my reading as I think you can tell a lot about a person from the books we read. So in homage to the BBC series I give you:

“My Life in Books”

The first book I remember being in my life is one I was given as a gift before I could even talk, let alone read! It is an encyclopaedia called World Of Wonder Encyclopedia. My dad bought it for me in 1978 when I was only 2 years old – he was always very keen for me to be a good reader and be full of knowledge – I can at least say he got his first wish. This book has been referred to throughout my life for little facts and figures and was always my first point of reference when tackling school homework. Even though it is in a bit of state an quite out of date – there are no references to mobile phones or  xbox – my 13 year old daughter sometimes uses it when she’s doing homework. It’s an item I hope will never be lost or destroyed as it has just always been there for me.

The second book in my compilation is the first ever grown up novel I ever read. I have been a member of our local library since I was 5 which was the age you could become a member back then, I used to go regularly and was allowed to borrow 3 books on my child ticket which could only be form the children’s section, however when I was 11 I was old enough for a grown up ticket and could have 6 books at a time. The first book I got on my grown ups ticket was Ghost House by Claire McNally. I chose it because it looked the scariest book on the shelf and reading the blurb seemed to confirm it. I wasn’t disappointed, it was and still is one of the scariest ghost stories I have ever read. The plot is basically your typical ghost story – family move into their dream home hoping to live happy ever after then discover they have malevolent spirits living with them. The spirit in this book is a Victorian gent who thinks that the female protagonist is his long dead lover and he sets out to destroy anyone he sees as a threat. It is a very easy read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a quick simple scare although whenever I read a chapter before bed I always had to read something else straight after to clear any scary images from my mind to prevent me having nightmares.  Goodreads.com have the tag line – “not even Amityville Horror can prepare you for Ghost House“.
My third book is much more mature. I accidentally discovered Fingersmith by Sarah Waters back in 2002 when it was a brand new book. I applied for one of those book club memberships that are always on the back of the tv mags with introductory offers on books like buy five books for 99p. This book is one of my favourites. It is a gothic story and very Dickensian, the author is regularly referred to as “lesbian dickens”. It is about a young orphan called Sue Trinder who has been brought up by a family of thieves – finger smiths, much like the boys in Oliver Twist. Sue is persuaded by the groups leader, ‘Gentleman’, to play a key role in a scam he has masterminded. Sue must gain employment as ladies maid to rich, naive Maud Lilly. She must then push Maud into the arms of Mr Rivers, who is of course ‘Gentleman’, who then strips her of her inheritance then dumps her in a madhouse. However there is a brilliant twist and the novel becomes a much darker tale of violence, abuse, betrayal, secrets and some erotic girl love – although it is nowhere near as explicit as the authors first novel Tipping The Velvet. Everyone must read this book because it is so full of twists and turns it keeps you gripped till the last page, and you can NEVER predict what will happen next.
My penultimate choice is The Lancashire Witches by William Harrison Ainsworth. Published in 1976 it tells a story based loosely on the true story of the Pendle Witches. This book was a bit of a challenge as it is quite a difficult read because it is written in strong Lancastrian dialect which is also of the period it was set in. It starts in the 16th century in Henry VIIIs reign, around the time he was dismantling the monasteries, when a Cistercian monk is falsey accused of witchcraft and condemned to death by is rival, Brother Paslew. The monk sells his soul to Satan and escapes. He is granted the powers of a warlock and returns years later in the guise of Nicholas Demdike to witness Paslews execution for treason. Paslew curses Demdike’s offspring who become The Lancashire Witches. The rest of the book is set in the 17th century during James 1 reign. Mother Demdike, Nicks descendant and powerful witch, and her clan face rival witches. Demdike raises innocent young Alison Device as her own and tries to corrupt her innocent ways. Ultimately the book becomes a struggle between heaven and hell but no one has happy ending. The author is local to the area so would have grown up with the legend of the Pendle witches so has loosely based this book on facts from the true story, for example he includes accounts of William Hopkins who was fundamental in the trials of the nine witches executed at Lancaster castle. However it is like Harry Potter for grown ups with witches flying on broomsticks, shapeshifting into their familiars and disappearing in balls of flames. I love this book because it is a story about one of my favourite subjects and set in my favourite time period – Tudors and Stuarts reigns. The only thing that would make this a better book for me would be a character based on my all time female heroine Anne Boleyn who was also allegedly a witch.
My last choice is a very sentimental one, and like my first is non fiction and hails back to my childhood. It’s my grandad’s Collins Gem pocketbook of wild flowers. When I was little I spent most of my time with my nan and grandad, I was basically their kid not my mum and dads! Anyway every Sunday morning while my nan cooked the best Sunday roast ever my grandad and I would go for walks in the local countryside. My grandad was a very rare breed and I know I will NEVER meet another man like him if I live to be a 100, he adored nature and his love of the countryside rubbed off on me. When we were out on our walks he would teach me the names of wild flowers and if there was one we weren’t sure of he would reach into his pocket and pull this little book out and look the ‘subject’ up. The book is broken down into colours,leaf shapes, and flower types for ease of reference. If we couldn’t find it in the book we would pick one, but only if there were more as he had a rule never to pick a flower if it was a single specimen, and press it between the pages to take home for further research. This book was like our bible. I hadn’t seen him for months before he died as he was a loner and preferred his own company but when we went to empty his bungalow I found it and to see that he had written inside it “to Michelle love Grandad Ken” made it the most precious possession I now own.

My Guilty Pleasures include anything by Martina Cole, I have every book she has written although its fair to say I prefer her earlier work. I also like Mark Billingham’s books and Mandasue Heller,  a northern version of Cole. My favourite literary classic has to be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

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