Wednesday, 14 March 2018

There's reading and then there's reading...


In this household, where I live with my spouse and two hugely loved rescue dogs, we have multiple versions of every device Apple has ever produced. If I'd wanted to read books in electronic form I could've done so on my phone or one of the iPads just for starters. But I'd cast furtive glances at various devices used by friends who are avid readers, after which I quite suddenly persuaded myself that a Kindle would be handy for trains, planes and automobiles (when I wasn't driving) and also for reading at night on those many occasions when I wake to the demons at 3 am but feel bad switching on the light to read.

Spouse loves little more than buying things online so I'd barely voiced my tentative interest in a little Kindle Paperwhite before one arrived in the post, rapidly followed by a girly-pink Bonjour Paris cover.

The lovely Sabine, a Twitter friend from Ohio, had put me onto the Brother Cadfael chronicles, a series of mysteries (21, I think) by Ellis Peters, featuring a Welsh Benedictine monk living in England in the early 12th century. They are historically accurate, linguistically authentic and Brother Cadfael himself is a gem, as well as a dab hand at identifying murderers and dishing out his own—usually fairly benign—form of justice. So he was perfect for my first foray into the use of my Kindle. I read one volume in hard copy then the next two on the Kindle. No drama.

Very soon I discovered how alarmingly easy it is to buy books for this new device. Basically, identify the book you fancy and press BUY. (Here lies trouble, if you don't watch yourself.)

But the next book (are they really 'books'?) I purchased was Tracy Farr's The Hope Fault. And here was a different ball-game altogether. It's a beautifully written story, though 'story' is perhaps the wrong word. Not much happens. A family heads off to pack up a holiday house that has been sold - a husband, an ex-wife, the new wife, a new baby, a son, a cousin, an aunt/twin/sister-in-law. Absent but significant is the matriarch Rosa, about to turn 100. The language is lyrical, the interior lives of all the players are exquisitely and quietly drawn - their talents, their secrets, their fears, their needs, their histories. Best of all, their care of and love for each other. The structure is clever and enticing. I read it very quickly. On my Kindle.

But what a shock when I finished it! Oh there's a titchy little percentage sign down the bottom to tell you how far along the way you are but who looks at that when you're involved? So suddenly it's over! You can't close the book, look back at the cover, read the bit on the back again, flip back to that part where you'd like to check on something again and worse that that, you can't decide who you'll pass it on to next! No clutching it to your chest and thinking 'Sue's going to love this! I can't wait to hand it on.'
So maybe I'll read some things on this new perky little device and other things I'll read in real books. That'll mean I can still browse bookshops for hours on end and never come away empty handed.

I'm sure I'll get used to it, this Kindle device, maybe one day even forget how I ever got by without it. Meanwhile I have this nagging, slightly guilty feeling that I've betrayed someone. Therefore, all those fabulous writers whose books I've loved, and whose next book I await with such anticipation, their work will still end up on my bookshelves, on paper, with the beautiful covers they've agonised over, awaiting the orange spot I stick on the spine to remind myself in the future that I've read it. Then I can still have the joy of physically handing it over to a trusted friend and saying 'You must read this!'


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