I’m at the end of a week off. After becoming known in the office as the person who never takes any of her annual leave*, I came to my senses and decided to take a Whole Week Off. It’s been blissful, I’m not going to lie. I’ve spent far too much money, watched far too many make-up and beauty tutorials on YouTube (we’ve all got our time-wasting habits), and have sort of temporarily moved in with Drummer Boy. But that’s a whole other blog post in itself, so I’ll hold that thought for now.
But best of all, I read a whole book in the course of about a day.
That didn’t used to be an achievement. I’ve always been a fast reader – I remember ‘racing’ Laurence Chacksfield in Year 5 to see who could be the first to finish Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I did 636 pages in the space of two afternoons (and won, most importantly). Not bad for a ten-year-old. But now I’m lazy about reading anything longer than 1200 words during the week. Spending all day every day typing, retyping and re-arranging words has made me loath to try and absorb any more of them when I get home. This week, however, I had time, glorious time, so I dove headfirst into Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty.
It’s a well-paced thriller/crime drama (it manages to pull off being both) about a successful scientist who begins an affair with a rather mysterious chap, and is later attacked by a colleague. These sets of circumstances collide – somewhat predictably – in a grim fashion. While the plot itself is unspectacular, the writing is taut and elegant, and the characters are proper, well-rounded people (you feel you could know them). Sometimes, novels that flip back and forth along a timeline can be frustrating, but in this tale, it’s skillfully done.
I got a hefty stack of books for Christmas (some of which are there on the right), but have barely made a dent in it yet. I have very nearly finished Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (second from bottom), and have been totally awed by it. She covers everything from the complexities of girl friendships, to how we deal with rape and sexual assault, to how, in our culture of 24-hour news and constant social media updates, we respond to tragedy and disaster. She is wise and eloquent, but her wisdom is shot through with humour and empathy, so reading her work is like spending an evening in a quiet bar with your cleverest, wittiest friend. Two stand-out chapters are the one where she conducts a complete, scathing and brilliant post-mortem on the Fifty Shades [of utter wank] phenomenon, and the aforementioned chapter on tragedy, from which the following lines are taken:
“I have never considered compassion a finite resource. I would not want to live a world where such was the case.”
Now there’s a thought that rings in the ears.
Truth be told, I’d love to do this in video form – a sort of “here’s what I’m reading this month” vlog (and I shudder at that word, it’s a heinous portmanteau), but I lack the equipment and editing skills, and I’m paranoid that when played back, my voice would sound like an overexcited nine-year-old’s. Still, it’s an idea I might hold on to.
*For ages after I started, I felt bad about taking any more than two or three days off – because a) my struggle to remain sane and anxiety-free when I have nothing to do is well-documented, and b) I was initially genuinely worried that I would forget how to do my job.
Have a slice of sunny pop-rock – I know nothing about this band, but this is a catchy little number.
Alternatively, there’s this – it’s one of my current favourite running songs, and it’s also almost faultless.