blog, books i've been reading, doctor who, kids' books i've been reading

Library Love

Excuse me for being Captain Obvious here, but: aren’t libraries amazing?

Penarth Library
My childhood library. (That's not me in the picture. I'm not quite that old.)

This is the library I grew up in: probably the place that made me want to be a writer.   The children’s section was underground, accessed by a wrought-iron gate, a staircase coated with slippery green moss, and a dank, dripping tunnel.  Going to borrow books was like passing into the underworld – except you got to come out the other side, clutching fistfuls of Roald Dahl and Lucy M Boston.

The tunnel has been replaced by wheelchair and pushchair-friendly slopes – for which hooray, obviously: now the book-borrowing there is done by my smallest niece and nephew, who are a bit wee to appreciate a cod-gothic intro to Story Time.  My borrowing takes place in Oxford, under the amused gaze of a librarian who (correctly) suspects I am not taking out Meg Cabot on behalf of an absent teenage daughter.  But I still have the same sensation of being in a vast papery sweet shop.  There are books!  I can take them away without paying!  And if I bring them back – ok, get this, no, really – they’ll let me have some more!

My last visit did remind me of two downsides of my childhood adventures in that underworld:

I reread a lot as a kid. The instinct is still there: my hand reaches automatically for the familiar titles, because I trust them. And I didn’t know how to move on.  Downstairs the names on the spines were old friends: upstairs books were sorted by genre, and I didn’t have a clue where to start. I fell into a gap: not quite ready for Austen, and deeply scared that I might borrow something too challenging or, erm, porny by accident.  (My pre-teen brain: oh, sigh.)

And now? I’m not sure that would’ve happened.  There are SO MANY GOOD BOOKS – and so many ways to find out about them.  You kids these days, you don’t know how lucky you are, with your gigantically varied YA universe, and your well-informed librarians, and your new-fangled reviewing blogthings on your interwebs…

I take it back. That is me in the picture, and apparently I am that old. Now get off my lawn, you whippersnappers! *waves stick* *throws cat*

I started Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush: lovingly written, and if YA paranormal romance is your bag then I suspect this is cream not milk – but it’s just not my cup of tea. Alice Kuipers’ Life on the Refridgerator Door fascinated me in a writerly way (how much of a conventional novel can you strip away without losing the fundamentals?) but I was left disappointed, mostly by the thought that we as readers probably need those conventions after all.  And then I read Anne Cassidy’s Forget Me Not, which blew me away.  The story of an missing child, which becomes the story of another missing child from almost 20 years before: multi-layered, suspenseful, all in deceptively simple prose that takes you by the hand and won’t let go.  I want to read everything she’s ever written.

I keep leaping out of bed at 2 am to write down ideas.  Then leaping out of bed at 8 to write them properly.  I’m making wrong turns, and there’s still lots to do with the opening chapters before they are on-the-nose right, but the voice is sorted, and it’s all a bit lovely, this new thing.

Raising a glass of Luigi’s finest to Gene Hunt and the Ashes To Ashes crew, who went out with a blinding finale and will be much missed (I’m still not over the departure of The Perm: this is going to be a slow break-up); ducking Lost finale spoilers (cos I’m only on S5 and that’s too many hours of having my brain broken to ruin the ‘ending’); wondering if my life will ever stop revolving around television about wonky time-travel (while watching Doctor Who, obvs).

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7 thoughts on “Library Love”

  1. I had completely forgotten about the dark, subterranean entrance to the childlibrary. What genius decided that the best way to introduce kids to the wonderful world of reading was to send them down dank, cranium-smashing steps into a cellar? These days, if you encouraged kids to go somewhere like that, you’d be dangling from a lamppost in a home-made gibbet within 4 hours.

    That library was a great building too. I could see the belltower from my house.

    I love the word “Belltower”.

    1. It’s a health and safety nightmare! Burn the witch! etc.

      I’m not going to analyse why you like the word Belltower: it’s not going to go anywhere good, is it?

      (Have you stopped being half-dead now then? Hope so. :P)

  2. Well, the lift has now been out of action for SIX MONTHS, so we are back to cranium-smashing stairs. They are, however, indoors and jauntily painted with aliens and sea creatures, rather than dank and drippy. It was really creepy, wasn’t it?

    1. BOO.

      On the plus side, that means you have even more reason to go to the one in Cardiff. Booky heaven and comfy chairs! And those weird blob things in a circle…

  3. Yup, not dead. Was blimmin’ uncomfortable for a bit there.

    I like the word belltower because it feels nice rolling around your mouth as you say it. And you can say it to other motorists while your wife and child are in the car and they’re not going to shout “RARG! NO!” or be traumatised for life.

  4. Now Susie you wouldn’t be perpetuating the stereotype that women who have lots of cats are stick-waving grannies, are you? Next thing I know you’ll be casting aspersions on my knitting.

    Rarg, I am officially adopting ‘belltower’ as my new insult, it says it all. Hope you don’t mind!

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