Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Book that Twinkled

Linda Gillard's Star Gazing
Stumbling around urban Surrey in a stressed stupor one day, I headed to Waterstones in search of a book. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, exactly, but I knew that I needed a book. And a coffee, but that would be found later. The store was closing in twenty minutes, and I needed to find a literary oasis before half-past five. I read blurb after blurb, thumbed cover after cover (with care- I love books, after all) but just couldn't find that je ne sais quoi paperback which I desired.
They say not to judge a book by it's cover, but I'm glad I did, because the intriguing inky sky on this particular find hinted at the pretty prose within. I read the summary on the back, already making my way to the till. Set in Scotland too, oh- this book was for me, fan as I am of escaping to the Bonnie Land.
A romance novel, set in Scotland- how original, but actually it was. Never have I read a novel from such a perspective as this, that of a middle-aged, blind widow. Surprisingly, the novel doesn't make you pity Marianne, but almost envy her for 'seeing' the world from this different, different perspective. She experiences the world through her other senses, and in a world so obsessed with image, it was not just a breath, but a whirlwind, of fresh air to read a book which reminds us that we have five senses (at least!) and that, in the world, there is so very much more than meets the eye.
Gillard's characters are real, you feel as if you could have passed them in the street this morning. They don't so much jump off the page, as jump onto it. Her powers of portrayal are not only good, they're imaginitive. She teaches us to listen, to realise the beauty which lies in hearing, and how sounds can create aural paintings for the ears, and pen melodic poetry in the mind.
The tale traverses tough issues, but with a soothing rather than an abrasive touch. As her character's find their own little tinkles of happiness, so will you and I defy anyone not to be moved to reflection by the dreamy denoument of the plot which germinates from a fairytale cooincidene but wends its way through decidedly real issues with a rugged, but very real-world, hero, Keir....the plot which will keep you guessing, while giving just enough clues to satisfy curiosity!
The title would suggest a novel about staring at the sky, but in fact it urges you to use every sense but sight. However, as a novel, it certainly twinkles...and brings a little sprinkle of ethereal to the everyday.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Favourite Book?

At a Creative Writing group recently, I was asked what was my favourite book. As a bit of a bookophile, this had me a little stumped. It's like asking someone's favourite colour....of course, I have preferences, but it's variable what I'll prefer from day to day, season to season....anyway, I digress....I answered, 'Sophie's World'.
Jostein Gaarder's philosophical little gem may seem an unusual choice. Would I not prefer a love story, perhaps? Well, I'd say it is a love story of sorts- the love of learning is a thread which weaves itself adeptly through this novel-cum-History-of-Western-Philosophy. As Gaarder quotes, 'Wisest is she who knows she does not know.'
These words are simple, but profound, and remind us of something children do without hesitation: they question, they wonder. Gaarder reminds us of how we should never lose our capacity to wonder- this reminder earnt the book a place in my mind and my heart. It not only made me think, but it made me think about thinking itself. Sometimes it's not the books that answer all life's questions, it's the ones that ask them in the first place.
It may have been written with a young audience in mind, but pick up a copy nonetheless....you'll be as eager to read Sophie's letters as she is.