A Novel Experience...

“That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”  
Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Sometimes when life feels painful, overwhelming or difficult, or even just slightly dull, the only thing that can make it feel better is reading a book.  Immersing oneself into someone else's story, can sometimes be the only thing that allows you to get away from real life and enter into another world entirely.  Novels by Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Jane Howard or Mary Wesley are particularly interesting to me, and I always love reading a good murder mystery, especially from the 1930s and 40s.

Although I've been a bookworm for most of my life, in the last year when my life has been quite tough, I've increased the number of novels I've read and recently I've even joined a book club to get into the habit of reading different books I'd otherwise never know about.  It was through a book club that I learned about a wonderful book 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society' by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  It seems on the surface to be a novel about 1940s Guernsey and the German occupation, however it is really about community, friendship, love of books and the importance of these in our lives.

“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.”
― Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 

Novels can reflect something of our human experience, the pain, misery and confusion as well as the joy, friendship and love.  If we are lucky, the characters' lives can chime in with our own feelings and thoughts.  In the best of novels, love stories aren't simplistic and constantly happy, but they acknowledge that people are flawed and even the best of people are capable of inflicting hurt and confusion.  People can be redeemed in life as well as in a story, but the reality is always somewhat more messy. 

In Matt Haig's wonderful book 'How to Stay Alive', he suggests things that can help with depression and recommends books as a way of understanding ourselves as well as other people.  Even if we aren't depressed or having an awful time, books have always shown us what it is to be human.

"Every book written is the product of a human mind in a particular state. Add all the books together and you get the end sum of humanity. Every time I read a great book I felt I was reading a kind of map, a treasure map, and the treasure I was being directed to was in actual fact myself."
― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive 


As I struggle with life changes, when feeling confused and as “My worries travel around in my head on their well worn path” I know that there are stories there on the bookshelf to soothe my weary soul. 

“People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are.”
― G.K. Chesterton