Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bibliotherapy: What to read when the clocks go back...



Try as I might to be a rational stoic, my heart sinks when the clocks go back, and autumn turns to winter. It's not cold outside -- rather unseasonably mild, as it happens -- but I still dread the encroaching darkness. So, time to return to The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, which was first published in 1963, but remains as gripping as the day when I discovered it as a child (the Puffin edition in the late 60s -- do you remember the days of the Puffin Club, when a paperback cost 2 shillings and sixpence?).
If Bonnie and Sylvia can defeat the evil Miss Slighcarp -- and outrun the wolves that inhabit this alternate history of England, where King James III acceded to the throne in 1832 -- then I, too, can face up to the black shadows of winter.
Here is the opening paragraph: be of good cheer...

'It was dusk -- winter dusk. Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees. Snow lay piled on the dark road across Willoughby Wold, but from dawn men had been clearing it with brooms and shovels. There were hundreds of them at work, wrapped in sacking because of the bitter cold, and keeping together in groups for fear of the wolves, grown savage and reckless from hunger.'

20 comments:

Lilacs In May said...

I hate the encroaching darkness too. I have a friend who has just returned from Norway where she says they embrace the cold and dark by having cosy candle light everywhere and the Nordic shops stock lots of lovely knits to wear and snuggle up in. She also said there was masses of live music. Maybe we should embrace our inner vikings? Or just embrace a Viking, full stop?!

I love the sound of that book, A Christmas stocking read is now taken care of!

Justine Picardie said...

Know any Vikings? I have two red-headed sons, who look like Vikings, so I could go and embrace them, but they would probably object.
Thanks for making me laugh; I was feeling quite glum until I read your comment.

jaywalker said...

Sorry - but it's warming up and sun shining here! I spent some time in Sweden over several years once and they do use candles, and music events and lights in windows a lot and it is cheering. And I was there because I had found a Viking - but it didn't last unfortunately!

Another bit of serendipity' A friend just sent me this:

Many thanks for your offer of the Chanel book. I finally managed to source it through the library system. I haven't started it yet, though. Aren't the illustrations great? Something strange has been happening to me regarding poetry. Last semester we studied the Ern Malley poems. Recently a thread has begun on an online blog I follow. The book which inspired the thread is the clever book cover about literary hoaxes you sent me from Justine Picardie's blog. Finally, in last weekend's paper there was a review of a similar book which compared it with Katsoulis. If the universe is trying to tell me something, I don't know what it is.

She added: "I've just read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which may interest you. It's a story, not a biography, of Hemingway's first wife and tells how Hemingway started his writing career. I like Hemingway's work but am not particulaly enamoured with the man. My opinion has not changed after reading this book but I did enjoy it. I think you will, too."

Has anyone read it? I've just ordered it.

Lilacs In May said...

Justine, as you say, only connect.
Jaywalker - have you seen the new Woody Allen movie Midnight In Paris? The depiction of Hemingway made me laugh out loud -several times. Was it is his 1st wife who left his completed manuscript on the train?

enid said...

The Paris Wife was not so good but in the Vanity fair they have an article on his letters. I also loved reading Martha Gellhorns letters and biography . She was one of his wives. The best thing to do in winter is cocoon with hot drink large duvet and good book. I am leaving summer to go to London this evening. Justine please let me know if we can meet elacob48@gmail.com

Justine Picardie said...

I do enjoy these threads and connections; listened to The Paris Wife on Radio 4 (quite a good adaption), and felt very sorry for Mrs Hemingway, especially when she lost his manuscript.
Enid, will email you now with a date.

Justine Picardie said...

And I'm longing to see Midnight in Paris! Might have to take myself this weekend.

Bette said...

A lovely extract and a great cover. I love the little box of postcards Puffin does of old book covers - a great present and lovely bibliotherapy as they bring back to mind so many wonderful books.

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jeannette said...

thanks for this, i just had a huge brain f*rt looking out today, the year's first grey and frozen day. i can't get anything done.

Stephen Pope said...

Ah, Joan Aiken - yet another writer with a Rye connection (Henry James, HG Wells, Radcliffe Hall, Malcolm Saville, Rumer Godden, Spike Milligan, John Ryan...etc). Something about the place and children's writers, isn't there...

Stephen Pope said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Pope said...

Timely piece in Saturday's Telegraph about Kaye Webb, legendary custodian of the Puffin imprint and Joan Aiken's commissioning editor...

kairu said...

I loved Midnight in Paris! Hemingway was HILARIOUS.

Somehow I'd never read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, so I ordered it straightaway and read it quickly, as soon as it arrived. Now I'll have to read all Joan Aiken's other books as well...

The clocks turned back for us today, and I woke to brilliant sunshine, again, and a sea of trees still with flame-colored leaves down below...I went to the theatre for a matinee of a play adaptation of Double Indemnity (noir at its finest) and came out into the darkness of early evening. Soon enough the rains will begin, I'm sure, and already I set forth in the morning wearing several goat's worth of cashmere and a sleeping-bag-like jacket from Patagonia that is as warm as a hug and as light as a puff of air...

Stephen Pope said...

Kairu wrote: 'I set forth in the morning wearing several goat's worth of cashmere and a sleeping-bag-like jacket from Patagonia...'

Patagonia...hmmm. Here in Joan Aiken's home town we even have an Andean knitwear boutique that stocks exclusively alpaca sourced garments. (I can see farmed ostriches from my front window too.) Joan wouldn't recognise the place.

Stephen Pope said...

Lizza Aiken, Joan's daughter, makes an appearance in the Telegraph piece on Kaye Webb that I mentioned - here's the link if anybody wants to paste it into a browser to read more... www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/7651245/Kaye-Webbs-Puffin-adventure.html

Jo said...

Sadly the black shadows are only destined to get blacker but there’s nothing like a good book to make those evenings feel cosier.

I was curled up last night with Stella, Your piece on Gucci “And the brand played on” was great! I can’t wait to get the new book to keep me entertained for the long winter.

Keep wrapped up warm! All the best.

jaywalker said...

We also saw 'Midnight in Paris' and thoroughly enjoyed it. The scenes of Paris in both day and night time were glorious. We visited the les Puces flea markets for the first time earlier this year and were amazed at the area it covered. And amazed to see there a boutique of exclusively 2nd hand Chanel. And, yes, Hemingway was very funny. Not sure about the experiment with the colouring - apparently Allen said he was trying it out for future films.

Marina said...

Dear Justine,
my name is Marina Syutaeva, I work for Interview Russia Magazine. I'd like to ask you some questions for my article, and would be highly appreciate if you give me your email.
Thank you so much for your attention.
All my best,
Marina
m.syutaeva@interviewrussia.ru
http://weloveinterview.ru

jongleuse said...

I know I'm rather later to the party but Dido and Pa is also fantastic and very wintry...