Saturday, 21 February 2015

When a book is an ice pick... Sue Purkiss

'A book ought to be an ice pick, to break up the frozen sea within us.' (Franz Kafka)

I first came across this quote from Kafka some years ago, when I was putting together a collection of books which I hoped would appeal to some of the young offenders I was working with, and it's always resonated: a book - the right book - can have tremendous power, can't it?

For some reason I thought of it today - perhaps it was because I just heard Ruby Wax on the radio, talking about depression, and a series of mental cogs creaked rustily into motion and came up with Kafka. (I remember doing German at A-Level. We really weren't very good, and when we were presented with Kafka's short stories, with ants crawling out of a hole in the palm of someone's hand, men turning into beetles etc, there was a great deal of head-scratching - was it us, or was it him?)

And then I got to thinking, what would be my 'ice pick' book? A book that changed the way I felt, or perhaps was just a comfort at a difficult time? I always find it difficult to choose, but rather oddly, this is the one that keeps popping up in my mind's eye.

And this is the next one.

 What would be your ice pick book? It would be great to have some suggestions in the comments!


Anne Booth said...

'Heidi' was definitely one for me too as a child, as was 'Anne of Green Gables', where (am quoting from memory) 'a lonely orphan cried herself to sleep' . I think as an adult, 'Once' and the following 3 books by Maurice Gleitzman (but particularly 'Once' and 'Then') are major contenders, and for an ice breaking scene - the one in Philip Pullman's 'Northern Lights' trilogy where the child is separated from his daemon. This is the ice pick of all ice picks for me - I was reading it in bed and started crying so much that I woke my husband up. It still makes me ache inside to think of it.

Sue Purkiss said...

Oh yes, Anne of GG! I always remember the cherry tree outside her bedroom window. And Philip Pullman - absolutely.

Joan Lennon said...

Interesting question! I think for me it would be the Rosemary Sutcliff books because of the way they offered me the past - "All of this - look! - it's yours!" That kind of feeling of vistas opening out inside me.

Nicola Morgan said...

It's an interesting and good question but I don't think I can answer it! So many books, so many ice picks.

Sue Purkiss said...

Yes, I know, Nicola: so many moods, so many contexts, so many ice picks!