Today, after nearly a gap of two years I read a book in one sitting. When I was in school and college I would start books on a Saturday afternoon and read non stop until the early hours of Sunday ignoring my mother and her impatient calls to eat or to turn the lights out and go to sleep. I would ignore all her entreaties and threats and read till the last page had been consumed, finally tumbling in to a satisfied sleep giving reprieve to my aching eyes.
My four years in advertising saw me with hardly any time to myself. As a result most of my reading was done on wonderfully rain sodden weekends. We had a large two seater in our living room and I would sink in to it book in hand. Every now and then I would look out the windows at the large Parsee mansion opposite our flat and at the soaked Naagchampa trees in its garden. My husband and I would make our way down the road to Crossword on weekends and argue all the way home over who would read what first. And once we were home we would fight over who got to sprawl out on the two seater and who would make the tea.
When we moved in to our first home in London I remember the first visit to our local council library. After two years in the library-barren desert that Bombay is, it felt like I'd been given a nice tall glass of Perrier. During those six months of cold, early evenings and disappointing job hunting my library membership and the eight books I was allowed to bring home kept me going. I would bring our duvet downstairs make a hot chocolate and settle down on our sofa to read. Not very different from my book reading sessions in Bombay, except that now it was no longer confined to weekends. I would spend hours inert, but for the flick of my finger. No wonder it took me so long to find a job.
When I started working I joined millions of other Londoners and began reading on the commute to work and home. The Underground is a wonderful place to read, be seen reading and see what others are reading. I have groaned with impatience at times when the arrival of my station and a particularly gripping chapter have coincided. I have read on the short walk from station to bus stop and in summer even from bus stop to front door. But one should choose their books for commute with care. After a week with Jung Chang and John Halliday's Mao The Unknown Years I developed a wrist sprain.
Now I am back at home. Winter is upon us once more. The duvet has been aired and much hot chocolate has been bought (nothing like Green & Blacks on a rainy, winter afternoon). I started my book this afternoon on a Metropolitan line train back home from town. I read as I prepared and consumed lunch, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and dinner. It felt wonderful. All I could hear was the rain, the daily foot stomping from the Swedish family upstairs (I like to imagine they're practising for the local leg of Feet of Fire - Sweden searches for the home grown Michael Flatley) and the crisp whip of pages turning. I could lose myself in the book without having to surrender to the distractions of the real world.
My back hurts and my eyes are burning. I’m sure if I listen hard enough I can hear my mother telling me to go to sleep. I think I’ll listen to her this time. Good night.
(I leave book reviewing to far more able bloggers, but I cannot help but recommend Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris - Confessions of a Common Reader. Every book lover will identify with something in it. As I've read it a little voice has been going 'That's so true!' all the while in the back of my head. The book I read today though was Anita Brookner's Booker Winning Hotel Du Lac. For those that enjoy short stories, The Collected Stories of Colette is wonderful.)