Sunday, 17 October 2021

My life in seven books by Tracy Darnton

I moved house during the last lockdown and have joined a village book club. I've blogged before about the book club I'm in with fellow writers where we dissect YA and MG titles (link here if you'd like to read it). But this one is a different beast with people I don't know well. It'll get me reading 'grown up' books away from the PB, MG and YA I consume but the primary purpose is to meet new neighbours. 

The next meeting is my turn to do my life in books as a way of introducing myself. Seven books summing me up. As usual, I'm massively overthinking it. But first impressions matter, don't they? Hands up if you've never judged someone by the paperbacks on show in their hall.  This is about more than favourite books: it's about books that say something about me, my childhood, adult choices, ambitions and aspirations. 

It's personal. 

And how much to share? Should I explain why I'd save my Mrs Pepperpot box set above any other book and risk blubbing on a stranger's shoulder? Or preserve the stiff upper lip and talk instead about saving up to buy the Famous Five books. Or how I learnt by heart all the poems in my hardback Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasury. 

Will they understand why I'd pick Fix-It Duck over my much-loved Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility? Because I think I'd like the nostalgia hit of remembering reading books to my kids when they were little. And I'd hate to leave out Peepo which has the power to remind me of my grandparents. 

If I wax lyrical about Nineteen Eighty-Four and Keep the Aspidistra Flying and describe my teenage Orwell phase, they might think me very earnest. My A level set novel Catch 22 was my favourite book for years but I'm not so sure I'd enjoy it now. And where does TinTin fit in? Or Douglas Adams?

Some books have become entangled with films and stage productions for me. Shall I share that I re-read The Great Gatsby and Room with a View most years, and that when I first read E.M. Forster I wanted to be Lucy Honeychurch in a floaty dress falling in love in Italy but  have ended up as Cousin Charlotte with the erratic boiler. 

Does being a fan of unreliable narrators in The Crow Road and Engleby suggest I'm a person not to be trusted? Is it OK to admire Ripley?

Will they be interested in the books that made me become a writer for young people... We were liars, The Chaos Trilogy or the masterpiece of Cosmic, made all the more precious for the shiny copy I was given on Mothers' Day. 

Which William Boyd novel should I chose? What about Anna Karenina or The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Good Soldier, Wide Sargasso Sea? My love for Anne of Green Gables? Ooh, how could I forget Agatha Christie? 

Why am I not remembering any recent reads? It's going to look like I haven't read an adult book for years. I loved The Girl with the Louding Voice and Where The Crawdads Sing but it's too soon to know if they 'bookend' a time in my life. It's hard to compete with those books from your formative years. A good friend gave me Lucy Mangan's Bookworm last week. It seems like a good time to start reading it. 

With some trepidation I ask my oldest child to sum me up in a book. He recognises this as a potential diplomatic incident and offers up 'World's Best Mum Annual 2021'. I have trained him well. His younger brother suggests immediately The Hungry Caterpillar which sends me down a rabbit hole of existential soul searching. I decide not to ask my husband...

I retreat to my bookshelves and pick seven to take to book club. I hope they like the books. I hope they like me. Because I'm the sum of all I've read in my years on the planet. Books change you - ducks, caterpillars, Gatsby, Ripley and all. 

Tracy Darnton is the author of YA thrillers The Rules and The Truth About Lies. She is currently lost in her bookshelves. You can follow her on Twitter @TracyDarnton

1 comment:

Mystica said...

Our reading takes us back definitely. Mallory Towers would be unknown to my eight year old grand daughter whose Australian authors have a different vibe! Then on to Austen who is soppy for my daughters! and so it goes on and on. As you say adult reading I have to think a bit
Shantharam, Inhaling the Mahatma both impressed me. I like your mix too.