Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Retro book club...

I recently purchased a copy of a popular women's publication (and having now embraced the new austerity, these purchases are few and far between). Anyway, I admit I was more tempted to said publication because of the free gift but did I manage to write them an e-mail waxing lyrical about their wonderful edition with the feeble aim of winning the expensive bag prize and expensive pen prize (would look good on ebay). Anyway, splashed across this popular women's publication (hereby to be known as PWP ...cut down typing time thus risk of repetitive strain injury) was the word HAPPY. It was the HAPPY issue, the issue to get us all smiling in these financially messy times (and the free gift was good). Great, happiness, a splendid topic but I don't really need anyone to tell me how to be happy; most of the time I am, sometimes I'm not. Simple. Nevertheless, it was tempting; promising me that "feeling good starts here" and I always listen to sound advice, so I purchased; quid pro quo...happiness tips for increased circulation figures. Right, did it make me happy...no I barely read it because I hardly ever read the publications I buy...I just get frustrated by the amount of advertising I have to wade through; I, however, drawn to the "uplifting reads" section: these are the books that would, apparently, "boost my mood" ( I tend to think a boost to my mood would be having the time to read 1 book, never mind 5 but that's just being sour and this if the HAPPY issue I'm analysing). There were 5 of them; all probably very uplifting in there own way, to some people BUT to include "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" PLEASE!!! Why would this make anyone feel better? OK, somewhat of an exaggeration there; it is a best seller so it must work for some but my inner domestic goddess has bolted (I'm using the fact that we are "being decorated" as an excuse to get out of that one). The other book which didn't quite do it for me was "Charlotte's Web" , now, I loved this book when I was a child...probably would still love it now but it's so unbearably sad. I cried like a leaky tap when poor, old spider Charlotte died and was denied the chance to see her babies grow up. It's like some sort of Greek Tragedy with animals...for kids... hmmmm...maybe going a bit too far but it IS sad.
Well, all this got me thinking that it would be an uplifting venture and, therefore, a very good thing to re-read some of my childhood favourites. The thrill of a good ballet book...pony stories never did it for me. I avidly read Lorna Hill, I think I inherited this from my mother. Oh, the thrills as Jane decided whether she should leave the Wells and marry Guy Charlton (she was 19 and hadn't even kissed him!), the agonies over whether Veronica would pass her audition and become a prima ballerina...this was 1950's Britain and it was all very straightforward. I also had a brief encounter with the absolutely abominable Sweet Valley High. Sweet Valley is awful, no one should aspire to live there. I read these out of loyalty to a "best friend" who was OBSESSED, maybe I thought we could share the experience; now I realise she should have paid me to read them; Sweet Valley High is tedious, actually, this is probably where I first discovered that romance had bypassed me: I didn't give a damn if they got boyfriends/wore purple shoes/had hair that shone gold on a summers day. I recently mentioned to by sig. other that I might have a stab at writing a Mills and Boon, purely as a money making exercise. He laughed like a drain, enough said. No, not for romantic, sunny, happy endings; I did have a thing for Judy Blume, nice bit of social realism mixed with controversy; any book that required a letter from your mum before you could get it out of the school library was worth a read. I am of course referring to the legendary Forever; Forever was one of those read that appeared everywhere, school, guide camp, youth club everyone wanted to read it and primarily read the rude bits...out loud to a group of giggling but slightly embarrassed young teens. The thing with Blume was that you felt she understood the teenaged you as opposed to doling out a fantasy that, lets face it, no one in 1980's Manchester was ever likely to experience.
My stepdaughter (SD#1...I only have the 1, I'm no Angelina Jolie, I don't collect kids) reads books about chavs, Diary of a Chav (each one with it's own subtitle) to be precise. She's an avid and very accomplished reader but she does like her chav lit. Would I read a chav's diary if I was 13 all over again, probably...I'd be curious, but my early encounters with Ms Blume's novel, Z for Zachariah, The Outsiders, even When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, all this and more has left a gritter edge to my tastes. Anyone else have any enduring bookish memories? Please share...

5 comments:

Mrs Trefusis... said...

Hello there: just came across your terrific comment on one of my posts (sorry for missing it when you posted it: I thought it was bang on. But I shan't start because I'll start ranting again (I appear to be having a massive resurgence of feminist sentiment. It's a Good Thing). But on a lighter note, my favourite books as a child were pretty retro: the entire oeuvre of Noel Streatfeild, particularly Ballet Shoes, was an enduring favourite. But the book I loved best was The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. I re-read it recently - and the other books in the series - and it does stand up to the test of time. X

Katherine said...

Ohhh Ballet Shoe I loved that one...I think it was the rags to riches and austere domestic arrangements that got me going. I had a thing for the austere when I was a child; my favourite game was "life in the the war years"; think televisions "1940's House" and you're there. I had a spell of wanting to be a convent nun as well but I think a lot of girls of a certain generation thought the same. I suppose it could stem from the fact that Gillian and Margaret who I played 1940's house with were Catholic. I'd not heard of the Susan Cooper, so thank you for pointing me in the direction, I will encourage my SD#1 in that direction; seems like the sort of thing she would enjoy (wean her away from the Chav books too) and I can have a peek too. It's high time there was a feminist resurgence. Things are getting a bit barking: Anthea and her "Perfect Housewife"; Nigella floating around her perfect kitchen, getting up in the night, with full make up, to feast on rich food and yet retaining the perfect hour glass figure. BLAH!!! Please rant as much as you see fit and I will echo your sentiments. Oh god, I'm rambling again; anyway thanks for looking at my blog. x

Motherhood The Final Frontier said...

Oh, I'm so glad you wrote this post, I've just been asking around for recommendations like this because Four has just grown in to 'chapter books' and I have forgotten most of what I read as a child.
I loved the Little House on the Prairie set which we read together and all the Roald Dahl books. I remember loving a WWII set book called I am David but can't remember the author. Little Women - remember discovering that when I was about 7 and adoring it. The House with a Clock in its Walls series (think there were three of them). I also loved a book called Life among the Savages which was not a children's book but a book by a woman about her and her children which is funnily enough a bit like what we are all writing now but probably written in the 60's. I shall be checking back for other people's recommendations.

Yummy Mammy said...

Judy Blume, Forever. Jeez that just brought back some memories. Think I might still have my copy in mothers attic

Katherine said...

Motherhood, sorry...very remiss of me, should have acknowledged your comment ages age, lost in baby fog at the moment: Life among the Savages sounds interesting, will look out for that one. Dahl never loses his appeal; when I was teaching my Y2's loved the Ms Wiz series by Terence Blacker, anything by Dick King-Smith (all in chapters). Just try and avoid the awful Rainbow Fairies series. Princess books in our house take the shape of Princess Smartypants; The Paperbag Princess (popular SAT text in the UK) and The Tough Princess by Martin Waddell who wrote Owl Babies, again a popular with schools. Just had fun re-reading The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Where the Wild Things Are to S#1.
Yummy Mammy: Ohhhh Forever; might try and sneak it out of the local library; who would be Blume's modern day equvalent? Jacqueline Wilson I suppose.