Why reading is good for your health

So I started reading Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy and didn’t like it. Four pages in I felt bridgetlike giving up. 10 years ago – 15? – I loved Bridget. She was the poster girl for all us chubby rather foolish individuals who wanted their Happy Ever After. But the latest book all felt a bit passe, a bit forced. The ‘comedy moments’ were not really comic – it wasn’t really believable (not that Mark Darcy falling for Bridget was ever believable). Having said that there is genuine beauty in the writing – moments of emotion which gave me a real pang. So while it didn’t have the magic of the earlier books, I’m glad I finished it.

Still, what winds me up is that Bridget attracts all these men, just by being ridiculous. I am frequently ridiculous, and nobody has ever fallen in love with me because of it (or because of anything else really). Well someone did when I was 11 but I was so furious with him nobody has ever dared since – and he certainly didn’t look like Colin Firth nor Hugh Grant. And since when has anyone been loved because they are “just the way they are?” If that were true self-help books would have died out with the dodo. (Who could have done with reading one so he could learn how to fly.)

Helen Fielding is as bad as Richard Curtis for making us think that fluffy stories like theirs happen in real life.

Still, it’s fun to dream.

Speaking of special women – I finally got my hands on Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt. This is one of those books which has been sitting on my wishlist (belonging to the company which Shall Not Be Named) for about 3 years, as I waited for it to come to my library. Until I decided not to wait anymore and ordered it like a Real Grown Up. I’m so glad I did. It’s a haunting, beautiful and devastating story about the Pendle witch trials in the 17th century. Oof, I put it down and felt all empty and sad but in a good way.

And, speaking of haunting – The Haunting of Hill House is a distinctly disturbing book. Again in a good way. I was expecting it to be a bit different because I got Shirley Jackson mixed up with Shirley Conran and Savages which I read when I was far too young.

Rocks In The Belly by Jon Bauer made me cross because I kept expecting it to be better than it was. It had some real insights into what it is to be a child, but those insights just kept going on, and on, and on…

You Came Back was better. The story of a couple who have lost their son, and started to move on with their lives – only to be told that he haunts their old house. I really couldn’t see where it was going, and it was nerve-jangling and devastating. Christopher Coake, the author, puts his hand into your chest and wrenches out your heart. Ouch. (In a good way)

The King’s Grave, by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones, was about a haunting but not a ghost – Philippa is haunted by Richard III. She is the driving force behind the dig for his grave under a car park (of all places – you’d have thought they might have noticed) and strongly believes that he has been much maligned through history. Being a history lover I was gripped by the search for Richard’s bones and when the skeleton discovered turned out to be his I was quite emotional. Langley does get a bit carried away with her obsession for Richard but hey why not, we’ve all been obsessed with mysterious men (Macaulay Culkin for me) and without Philippa Richard would probably have lain under that car park for another 500 years. The argument is now to decide where he is to be buried; people have suggested Gloucester, but surely the poor bloke has suffered enough.

Her Privates We read as if the author (Frederick Manning) was sitting on the shoulder of the soldier he wrote about. Which he was as he lived through what his protagonist, Bourne, experiences during the Somme. It’s about the men of the war, not the soldiers; brutally honest, funny, devastating, almost unbearably graphic at times. One of the best books I have read about World War 1.

Rivers of Destiny – oh Barbara, not one of your best, but really, does it matter, when you write such fabulous historical fantasy. The present-day story in Erskine’s books always pales when compared to the ancient world she weaves around the reader. The research she puts into her work is phenomenal and really pays off. She’s one of my favourite “rainy day” authors. Curled up with a howling gale outside and a mug of hot chocolate. And a burning fire and a dog, if possible, please.

From the mists of time to the fluorescent light of the furture: The Circle by Dave Eggars is addictive and horrifying and so bloody REAL. The creeping vine of whoever it is who wants to know all about us and to connect us all to each other forever has already got a strong grip on society, and our world is getting uncomfortably smaller. Anyone who has ever used the Internet, read this book. And be warned.

But don’t stop going online, obviously. Don’t stop reading and connecting with people. Just keep it to a minimum – like, articles which make you think (so STAY AWAY from the mailonline and who looks thin/fat this week), and recipes you can make with stuff in your cupboard (not bizarre things only stocked in very large branches of Wholefoods), and discussion forums where you make friends for life, and odd little blogs about odd little lives with reading recommendations dropped in unexpectedly, like juicy blueberries in a rather stodgy muffin. Consider it, perhaps, one of your five a day.

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6 thoughts on “Why reading is good for your health

  1. Lovely stuff, Elly. But I have to disagree on one of the issues you raised. I still believe we can be loved by just ‘being who we are’. This may be naive but I’m sure of a lot of your happily married/partnered friends can back me up here! Or I bloody hope they can! Keep believing, my darling, and don’t let that bloody 11-year-old boy shape your future!! xxx

  2. You made me laugh out loud (in the overly quiet office I might add) with your comment about Richard having suffered enough. I am also going to read that book as I recently read Loyalty by Mathew Lewis about Richard III being misunderstood and made a scapegoat and it did a very good job of convincing me! Can you also please just let me know whats so bad about the online book place what cant be named? I must be out of the loop…

  3. Oh,You always make me laugh, and also well up a bit in all your posts, Elly! Why you aren’t a published writer I’ll never know! Get some stuff out there and see what happens, woman. The Haunting of Hill House is also one of my very favourite books ever – have you seen the film (made in the 60’s with Claire Bloom) – one of the few adaptations that isn’t 100 times worse than the book. I owe you an email, too – will crack on with that at weekend. Pete says Hi xxx

    • Thank you mate! Maybe because I don’t work enough at it 😉 I’m determined to make more of an effort. I haven’t seen the film but have added it to my Lovefilm list. Look forward to hearing from you and *mwah* to Pete, Dex’s distant cousin xxx

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