Sometimes bookendipity works mysteriously and randomly to the power of ten when you least expect it, but to the point where it actually sends shivers down the spine, and that happened this weekend.
Picking my way around the stack of books arriving for Dartington Ways With Words I decided I needed a bit of a method. One huge and seemingly insurmountable Mount Everest of books reaching to the ceiling and waiting to be read within the next month can induce anxiety even in me, and so I created ten little walk-up-able Dartmoor Tors. One for each day of the festival and the events I'm hoping to go to, just to help contain my eye and organise my reading over the next few weeks.
It's been difficult to drag myself away from The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift and my lovely tactile ribbons, but Ways With Words calls and I picked up two quite different books, Selective Memory by Katharine Whitehorn and Ferney by James Long.
Off went the chaps to start clearing the river bank in readiness for the season's salmon fishing and I settled down to one of those dreadful afternoons; you know the ones, where I'm on my own and the house is completely quiet and peaceful, a terrible sea of calm and tranquillity when all there is to do is read...can you imagine how I hate it?
The shivers started as I opened Ferney and I surfaced about a hundred pages later realising that if ever there was a novel that sat in the palm of the hand of The Morville Hours then this was it. Not in a monastic way but in that indefinable passage of time way.
As Mike and Gally move into their derilect Somerset cottage, the presence of Ferney, an old man who seems to know far more than it can be possible to know about the house, appears to sooth the troubled Gally whilst completely unnerving her history lecturer husband. As the past begins to impose on the present I realised I was reading a fictional account of so much that I have imagined happening recently in my reverie about those invisible footsteps of history.
If you plan to read The Morville Hours you could do no better than slot Ferney in alongside, the two complement each other perfectly in a strange way and I'll share more thoughts about Ferney soon. I learn that James Long also writes as Will Davenport, his writing style sits very comfortably with me, I will certainly be reading more.
Katharine Whitehorn's excellent and very funny memoir Selective Memory then got a look in with this,
' The memory makes its own selections, its own decisions about what is fun, interesting or even excruciating to remember, and what is simply too boring to store. The brain apparently sees thing A and thing C, and if it is puzzled by the gap, officially fills in what it thinks should be there, thing B; then you remember that, and when you've recalled it two or three times it's a genuine memory - but of the last time you ran this construct past your consciousness.'
but Katharine and Ferney seemed to have made a connection too as Ferney recalls,
'Next up were the familiar big events, the ones he'd been over a thousand times, and they were like a painting to him, but a painting that was covered in layer after layer of old varnish, so that he had to take great care that what he could still see was the original and not the retouching of memory because every time he took them out to look he added another layer.'
I was hyperventilating by this time as those fantastic arcs of light sparked and connected across the pages, and was only returned to earth by the sound of four dogs barking like crazy out in their kennel. This is the signal for the Land Rover to have turned in at the top of our lane, far too distant for me to have heard it but good advance warning that I am becalmed on the sea of tranquillity no longer and it's time to return to shore and put the kettle on.
Aren't books amazing?