Monday, 28 July 2008

Escapism from the midsummer heat.


There are times when you really want nothing more than to climb into a whole different world for a while and get away from your normal life. OBVIOUSLY books are the answer - every book on your bookshelf is a door which opens somewhere else. I always thought the perfect analogy was the Wood Between The Worlds in The Magician's Nephew; a forest full of pools which, jumped into, take you to another world a million miles and years away. It also has to be fiction - I love my comics, and there are superb series I read over and over again (Sandman and The Invisibles for starters) but written prose has the advantage that your mind provides the faces and places, which is all part of the self-hypnosis of escapism. Being greedy, and (as I may have mentioned) an addict, sometimes one book isn't enough and I need a trilogy (His Dark Materials re-reads very well, especially now there are Lyra's Oxford and Once Upon A Time In The North to flesh it out, and Lewis's The Cosmic Trilogy). Worse, sometimes I need more, a bigger series, although by the time a series gets that large the pickings are lean. I have to leave a sizeable gap between re-reads of The Chronicles Of Narnia and The Dark Tower as I know them too well. Occasionally I toy with the woefully underappreciated Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard, whose drossy TV adaptation ruined it. I did read the entire Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett - mock me as a tweedy old bat if you want (it'd be inaccurate, for a start, on at least two counts, and the "old" is debatable too) but it managed to be historically accurate, fascinatingly detailed, and gripping. Also the joy of it being a series meant that, like The Sopranos, a small and seemingly unimportant story line that seemed to peter out in book 2 became a major plot point in book 4. Not sure why the Renaissance appealed more than the Napoleonic wars... but there it is. Also it had far more in the way of female characters (the book series, not the Renaissance). I keep being recommended the Patrick O'Brian series, which would keep me going for a fair while, but I have to admit that two things put me off - one is the relentless blokedom they seem to encourage (war, ships, all-male camaraderie, rum, Napoleon, etc) and the other is Russell Crowe. I apologise to any fans thereof (therewhom?) but if I'm going to invest time and imaginative energy on a whole new world I don't want to be tripping through it hand-in-hand with a tiny-eyed soap-dodger with anger management issues. But let other pens dwell etc etc. So there we have it - I need some large-scale escapism. Please don't suggest Proust or Anthony Powell - otherwise I'm open to suggestions. Hurry before I melt...

12 comments:

Rol said...

I'm afraid I'm no expert on this particular genre... though I envy you the time to regularly re-read series and authors you enjoy. I struggle just to keep afloat with the new stuff!

LucyFishwife said...

Any genre is fine! I'm in the mood for sweeping grandeur, epic length of story... although failing that another dark mocha iced frappuccino would do (I buckled and bought one, and sweet baby Jesus it is the very ambrosia of heaven.)

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I tried so hard to HIDE that photograph.

That was SO embarrassing - I'm still picking bits of dress out of my calves as we speak! ;-)

LucyFishwife said...

Oh Laura, the trials of being a supermodel. Serves you right for sitting too close to the fire in flammable make-up...

titiansmodel said...

Er.. Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning or if you feel able to cope with the Christian allegory (and Narnia suggests you can) any of the Elizabeth Goudge collections, which have a lovely "all's well with the world" feeling, true escape reading, although more parochial than heroic

Steve said...

If you don't mind something that is a little trashy (but not too much) and very sci-fi / fantasy, you could try Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series... 10 books so far and still not finished. Not so much a world as a whole solar system. When you resurface the recession will be over and Labour will be back in power after the Tory take over...! ;-)

LucyFishwife said...

TM- LOVED "Fortunes of War", but what a good idea, will reread it. Haven't read any Elizabeth Goudge apart from "The Little White Horse" - Thank you for the hint, will give her a try! PS Am off to Liberty's tomorrow to check out new perfumes. Think the Comme des Garcons "Energy C" range may get some sniffage..

Steve - Actually I do like fantasy, and I've had the Robert Jordans recommended before. Isn't he terminally ill? Poor love may not end up finishing the last one so hope to God he's got some good collaborators. Unless it's J V Jones I'm thinking of. Thanks! Will have a go!

mantua maker said...

Have you read the Orlando Trilogy by Isabel Colegate?

Brother Tobias said...

I haven't read them since I was a child, so maybe they're a bit romantic novel/lightweight-ish, but D K Broster's 'Flight of the Heron' trilogy used to work for me. The O'Brian series is good (he knew his sailing, and didn't have his characters reefing the main sheets or anything crass like that). But he does re-use elements in the later ones, so they are best not read consecutively.

Like the artwork - not your work?

LucyFishwife said...

MM - will give them a go, but only if you can promise me they're ABSORBING.

BT - Gosh I haven't read them since I was about 11. Will definitely re-read! I have a female friend who loves the P O'B so may still give them a go.
Not, sadly, my artwork! Not, even sadderly, me either, although I could be convinced it was Laura...

Wandering Jay said...

Hi, i am new to your blog, but i wonder why Proust is not in your "to read or to re-read" list. I hope to finish Swann's Way soon, given that i can have more free time to read.

LucyFishwife said...

Hi there WJ! - I have been slightly resisting Proust ever since a friend told me she found it over-wordy and difficult to read, not unlike Henry James... Having said that, another friend is about to embark on it this summer, so I'll wait and see what he says.