I always feel a bit suspicious when someone says that they’ve just read something and think I will really like it. For a start, it says something about what they think of me and if I don’t like it, might suggest that they don’t know me as well as they thought. No pressure then.
Both of the the books I am going to talk about today were recommended in such a way. Both times, I was not immediately convinced that I would like them but because the two friends were avid readers and generally had good taste. I gave it a go.
The first book is The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. I was not looking forward to starting to read this book for a couple of reasons. It is about a girl with Down’s Syndrome and having lived with a brother who, although he didn’t have Down’s, was physically and mentally disabled, I was worried what emotions the book might bring up for me. My brother had died not long before I read this book and there were a lot of feelings that I didn’t want to examine too closely.
The second reason I didn’t want to read it was more mundane. I
was worried it would be like some dreadful American movie that gets shown on daytime TV in order to make housewives cry. I am not good with sentiment or melodrama (unless of course, it is me being melodramatic. Obviously, that is different.)
Of course, the book is nothing like this. It is emotional, definitely, and it did make me think about my own feelings towards my brother. That was a good thing, in the end, and helped me understand the way I was feeling. The ending of this book is truly hopeful and life-affirming. I would never have picked this book for myself and was immensely grateful to the person who suggested it to me.
I’m not sure why I was so positive that I would not like The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. I think I thought it sounded a little clichéd In fact, it is a magical tale about grief, anger and the power of myths and fairy tales. Connolly successfully gets inside of the head of the main character David, a little boy who has just lost his mother and the point of view is consistent and convincing. He shows clearly David’s lack of understanding of his situation.
As the story continues, David becomes less and less attached to reality. He has blackouts and hallucinations where he is in another land; a land of woodsmen and wolfs, trolls, enchantresses and The Crooked Man. As David’s attacks grow worse, he hears his mother’s voice asking him to rescue her and his adventure truly begins.
Like all fairy tales, this story is instructive and also moral. It is a story of the difficult transition out of childhood when you start to learn life’s lessons. It’s also a book that is about the importance of reading and
how much books can help you when life becomes difficult. This is a view that I wholeheartedly support.