It’s interesting to read a well-established classic, such as Carrie’s War. The plot and characters are instantly familiar and comforting. It’s the literary equivalent of pulling on a favourite jumper.
Despite this familiarity, key moments in the book, when Mr Johnny attacks Frederick with a pitch-fork or when Carrie and Nick are spooked walking through the woods, remain vivid and fresh. This, perhaps, is what defines a ‘classic’; a story that not only withstands being commonly known but actually flourishes and becomes richer the more times it is told.
As mentioned here, one of my first books after returning to reading was The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. This is a great read, a page-turner with enough excitement and plot twisting to engage even the most reluctant of readers.
I’m currently reading it with a Year 6 book club – five boys who had to be cajoled and bribed with popcorn before they agreed to give it a go. They love it. It has a reality that they connect with – London landmarks, tower blocks, a swear word or two, imperfect adults and snippets of technology.
What lifts this book above the fray is the subtle treatment of Ted, the main character whose brain has ‘a different operating system’. It is Siobhan Dowd’s description of Ted’s Aspergers which transforms this book from thriller into something more powerful.
The second post is so much easier. The pressure is off.
Now, truth be told, I should have started this blog about six months ago, maybe even this time last year. That was when my life as a reader began to emerge and re-form after the painful, sleep-deprived, I-can’t-speak-let-alone-read period known as early parenthood.