Saturday, 12 September 2020
TO GIVE BOOKS AS GIFTS? OR NOT?
Few sentences will make my heart sink lower than when someone hands me a very prettily packaged parcel on my birthday that's obviously a book and says 'Linda, you will absolutely LOVE this book.' Friends and relatives tend to assume that becauee I write I also read voraciously and in genres in which I do not write. There's a reason for me not writing in other genre ... some things I simply do not take to and reading, say, Regency romances for one (and apologies to all those wonderful writers of Regency fiction out there) is something I wouldn't choose to do. Over the years I've had many gifts of books that I have enjoyed but an awful lot more that I haven't. But the giving of books as presents? Have I done that? And did the recipients like them as much as I did? I rarely give books as presents these days because I had a severe rapping of the knuckles a few years ago. I have a long-time friend whose chosen reading I was pretty sure of - historical or period, a bit political, upstairs/downstairs scenario, well-written with a cracking story and a bit of romance thrown in. So I bought a book by a friend of mine (no names) that ticked all the above boxes and wrapped it prettily and gave it to her. Oh my! Was I taken to task for it! She told me in no uncertain terms that books are very personal things, like underwear, and we wouldn't choose underwear for our friends, would we? And lots more in that vein. So I've rarely given books as presents since. That said, I have given friends copies of my own books but only if they've shown real (not just polite) interest - and not every time I have a new book out. So, back to the beginning. I'm not about to list the books I've been given as presents that I dropped off at the charity shop as soon as was decently possible. But here are I few I'd probably never have chosen for myself which I have enjoyed. OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout (American). As one puff quote has it 'These pages hold what life puts in; experience, joy, grief, and the sometimes-painful journey to love'. That I'm round about the same age as the heroine in this book might have had something to do with why I enjoyed it so much! When an American friend gave me MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides (Greek-American) my heart did that sinking thing. This was so not going to be me. It is, for those who've not read it, about a hermaphrodite. It has a sweeping timeline. My friend was waiting for my comments so I obliged. And I surprised myself and learned a lot about the human soul and biology in the process. Back in the day when the town where I lived had a bookshop and when I was given book tokens as presents to spend therin I used one token to buy LAST KISS GOODNIGHT by Teresa Driscoll. Confession time here. I know Teresa. Before Covid and lockdown we met up on a regular basis with other writer friends in Exeter for lunch. Teresa came to one of my booksignings so I returned the compliment and bought this one. I knew from the cover alone that it was going to break my heart. So I didn't open it. For four years. But then came lockdown and I picked it up again and I am just so very glad I did. It's a wonderful book. I like the writing style - some very short, sharp sentences. Some with just one word. Dialogue that's not in the least bit flowery. Definitely a keeper, this one. I was bought RULES FOR VISITING by Jessica Francis Kane (American - I think) for a joke really. Living by the seaside I am hostess to a constant stream of friends and relatives all the year round but mostly in summer ... although not this year for obvious reasons. A friend who visits often gave me this and in the back where there is a list of what to do and what not when visiting he wrote, 'I do my best. All engraved on my heart in stone.' This book is one that's going to stay on my bookshelf as well. Are you noticing a theme here? I have a fancy for the American writing voice. Anyway, that's fiction as gifts done and now non-fiction. Those who know me well know I love gardening. I've been on many 'garden' holidays, here and abroad, and so books on gardens are always welcome and they never make it to the charity shop. A few years ago I was given Jackie Bennett's (English) THE WRITER'S GARDEN which very neatly packaged all my loves in one. I've also got a book on Monet's Garden and Aberglasny which I take out and look at time and time again. I was going to put pictures of the book covers of all the above into the text but Blogger and my server have changed things since I last posted and although I took them off the internet and they seem to be in my picture file I'm not allowed to add them to this for some reason. So here's another picture to remind you of the theme of this blogpost. Happy reading, everyone, by whatever means the book gets into your hands.