I have previously gone on, at some length, about TV, and I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m a square-eyed couch potato.
So to remedy this, I have decided to pick five books (this is a lie) that have left a lasting impression on me.
You know, the sort of books that are a total immersion experience, the type that really take you there.
The books that stay in your head long after you turn the final page, popping up unexpectedly from time to time, begging to be re-read.
Now, I’m not intending to do deep dissections of any of these books, I leave that to fellow bloggers with a greater skill at analytical literary critique. And besides, that would involve spoilers, something I am not a fan of. I’d rather you went and read them for yourself.
I have been a voracious reader since I was a child and I could write a whole post on books that stay with me from those days.
Many of them inform my choice of “grown up” literature to this day.
Here are a few I would recommend that your inner child re-reads, or discovers for the first time. (well, maybe not the schoolboy high jinx of the ’50s)
After all this is an age when businessmen can sit on a train reading Harry Potter, so why not revisit some genuine childhood classics.
It’s worth the journey…
Apart from the wonderful Jennings stories, which I read when I was very young, Trillions by Nicolas Fisk was the first book I remember reading that cast kids as the heroes, the ones who knew more about what was going on than the adults for a change. A Sci-fi book about unexplained, sentient crystals that fall from the sky in their trillions, giving them their name.
We all know that the most vivid pictures are in our imagination, and I still recall clearly the images of the strange structures they built in my head.
He also wrote Space Hostages, a thriller about kids trapped in a runaway space ship.
Both ignited my interest in Sci-fi at an early age.
(At this point, I have realised that I may indeed end up writing a “whole post on books that stay with me from those days” so I apologise in advance for my digression)
If they were my first experience of reading science fiction, then my first brush with – for want of a better term – “fantasy” was probably Astercote by Penelope Lively, a tale of two children who discover a mysterious mediaeval village hidden in the woods.
I remember it having a very grown-up feel to it. It made me feel as if I was reading literature, not just a story.
A book that made even more of an impression at the time was Elidor, Alan Garner’s remarkable, darkly gothic contemporary (in 1965} fantasy novel about Manchester teens battling dark forces.
And a unicorn.
The dual-reality/parallel universe theme unsurprisingly features heavily in my list of adult fiction too. (assuming we ever get there)
It seems odd, considering the number of crime thrillers that I’ve read in more recent years, that none of my childhood fictional memories feature spies or child detectives, and although I hungrily devoured the adventures of The Famous Five and The Secret Seven, we didn’t have the likes of Charlie Higson’s Silverfin novels to fire our imaginations. So maybe it’s ’70s TV cop shows that are responsible.
A more down to earth type of fantasy fiction, Stig of the Dump by Clive King was another classic, making me envious of Barney, the boy who had a caveman for a secret friend.
It all seemed so possible. No fairies, no magic, just a feral boy, living on forgotten waste ground.
Anyone lucky enough could stumble upon something like that by accident.
But by far the most direct influence on my fantasy reading preferences – primarily National Treasure Sir Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld™ series, of which I’m a huge fan – has got to be visionary Finnish author Tove Jansson‘s series of Moomin books.
My introduction to these delightfully quirky, yet strangely dark and melancholic stories was Finn Family Moomintroll, a saga of funny, unlikely, and downright bizarre characters, the Moomins, Snufkin, the Groke, Thingummy and Bob, and Marmeluke, amongst others.
Their discovery of a magical top hat leads to many extraordinary adventures, and the humour with which the tale is told only adds to the charm.
Jansson herself was in many ways a tragic character, and this sometimes comes thorough in her work, but there hasn’t been anything like it since.
Ok, so, having got that out of my system, I had better get started on what I was doing at the beginning.
Where was I?
Oh, yes, those five books.
Right, I shan’t get sidetracked this time, promise.