I had borrowed this book from the library a long long time ago and I somehow happened to pick it up after like 3 books and read it in a span of two days! This was the first time I was venturing to read a Banville and thank god, I did decide to pick it up. A short novella – around 97 pages and riveting!
This book is a letter written by the narrator – who is nameless and has entered the Irish countryside to finish his book on Newton only to discover and re-discover his own denied passions and emotions. His cottage is situated in a place called Fern house where he encounters a strange lot of people – Edward, Charlotte, Edward’s Sister Diana and her husband Tom, Ottilie – Charlotte’s so-called niece and little Michael. As the narrator gets engrossed in their lives, he loses focus of the book, only to drown it. This is a classic juxtaposition of how Newton one fine day gave up on science and took to alchemy.
This book is one of a kind and when I say this, I really mean it. Banville conjures a mystery, a love story, a discovery sometimes and beauty of language so rare these days in most novels – and where else can one find such a combination and being told in 97 pages!! Wow!!
I do not know when or why I fell in love with books, however I did and now there is no turning back. It is like time. I can never look back and what has passed has come to passed and there is nothing I can do to undo it. I look at the number of books I own (close to 4000) and I am appalled. I really am. As to how less these books are. As to how I can add to my collection. As to how the house needs more shelves and the lack of space thereof. Books are strewn all over the place. In the living room. In the bedroom. In my mother’s room. In the kitchen also I think. Under the bed. On the shelves of course. Just about everywhere.
The love for books is something which cannot be explained and yet I attempt to. The thought of picking up a new book. The idea of smelling it. The pure magical experience of imagining a book and its characters and the setting as you read it. What other hobby or what other passion could take you to a different land without getting up from your arm-chair?
Books have also played a critical role in my life. There have been times I have not met men for a date since they were not readers. I wanted my very own Roark and if I was in a wild mood, then I needed a Heathcliff. Sometimes I wanted to become Catherine and others I was satisfied in being Oliver Twist, just to know what it would be like to be an orphan. I wanted to be loved like Miu from Sputnik Sweeheart (happens to be my favourite book). I wanted to experience an adventure like the one in Treasure Island. I want Edward McCullen to hold me in his arms and sing me a lullaby. Enough of the ranting already. My point is this: Why aren’t there more readers in my country?
Well that has also changed, thanks to the likes of Dan Brown and Chetan Bhagat (shudder shiver!). I wonder how people read them. Yes I admit. I am a literary snob (though I have had my share of Shobha De and Jackie Collins as well). I remember the time I was introduced to reading. I was 5 and was gifted an Enid Blyton by my mother. I have not stopped reading since then. My neices and nephews are 6 and 5 years old and they do not know of Enid Blyton. They never will. I hope they do. I tried to introduce them to her magical world but in vain. They did not try reading what I had gifted. I was sad and then somewhere down the line I let them be.
I am so glad that my man reads. He reads a lot and may be would like to read even more. Just that he does not get the time. My mother reads and so does my sister. I think we are a very different species. The species who reads. I know of so many of my friends who read and I love them for it. I love you my books. This is one love that will never end.
As Virginia Woolf says,
The true reason remains the inscrutable one – we get pleasure from reading. It is a complex pleasure and a difficult pleasure; it varies from age to age and from book to book. But that pleasure is enough. Indeed that pleasure is so great that one cannot doubt that without it the world would be a far different and a far inferior place from what it is. Reading has changed the world and continues to change it. When the day of judgment comes therefore and all secrets are laid bare, we shall not be surprised to learn that the reason why we have grown from apes to men, and left our caves and dropped our bows and arrows and sat round the fire and talked and given to the poor and helped the sick – the reason why we have made shelter and society out of the wastes of the desert and the tangle of the jungle is simply this – we have loved reading.
So I bought a new copy of “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen as mine has come of age. The binding is in two with pages strewn all over the place once I even attempt to open the book. So now that I have a brand new copy I am re-reading it and loving it as much as I did while reading it 4 times before! Love this classic…
The next book that I am reading with “Mansfield Park” is “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. It is the Mahabharata told from Draupadi’s perspective and till now it is going great! Can’t wait to finish these two…