Sometimes I come across a book so wonderful that moving away from the printed page feels painful: the real world is dislocated from the reality that the book has provided for me, and it feels too cold and shallow compared to the richer, more nuanced and textured world the book creates.
The first time it happened to me was about thirty years ago, when I read Doris Lessing’s Martha Quest series and realised that Lessing was speaking directly to me. I can still remember lying in bed reading the book late one summer evening, the windows open to the rustling chestnut trees, the light fading from the sky until a shimmering darkness blanketed the windows.
Then there was Margaret Drabble, whose earlier novels accompanied me through my teenage years; Penelope Lively’s The Road To Lichfield; Sybille Bedford’s Jigsaw; Janette Turner Hospital’s Charades; The People Of The Black Mountains, by Raymond Williams; Ian McEwan’s Saturday; Julia Leigh’s Disquiet (ignore the Amazon reviews: this is a gorgeous book), and her earlier book, The Hunter; Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and the fabulous non-fiction book The Snakebite Survivor’s Club: Travels Among Serpents by Jeremy Seal which I read just before it, which added so much to the Kingsolver text.
And now it’s happened again, with Sue Gee’s Reading in Bed, a glorious book which Sally Zigmond likes just as much as I did. If you can’t get hold of a copy of this one then just buy any of Sue Gee’s books: she’s such a wonderful writer that I bet even her shopping lists are good; and tell me which books remain with you, years after you’ve read them. My bedside pile is down to just double figures now, and I feel a need to restock.