Thursday, 15 November 2012

Books To Get the Imagination Firing

by Matilda

I recently took a break from city life to retreat for a while under the shell of home life. Rural Ireland. Home cooked meals, quietness and long walks by the wild Atlantic. I always feel in competition with the ocean. Who has the most turbulence? My thoughts can feel pretty big at times. But the ocean wins hands down every time. It shoves everything out as you fight for breath when a sudden wind sweeps up from the bottom of the cliff or a flyaway spray that you never saw coming soaks you with more intensity than a power shower.

The first day I ventured out it looked like someone had brushed the ocean and the cliffs clean with a fine artists brush. Not a hint of seaweed, spray or a rock out of place. It was like stepping into a postcard. The waves swelled in an almost peaceful way – full and complete. My thoughts had a field day – this they could compete with. I started thinking about imagination. I regularly get ‘stuck’ when writing, as if I’ve hit the Wall and wondered how to get over that.

I found the answer or so I thought in a second hand bookshop in my nearest town. It’s not the kind of place that should have a bookshop, let alone a second hand one. It opened without fuss a few months ago, unassuming and modest. Even it’s name ‘Books and Things’ doesn’t allude to the treasures that lie inside. On this particular day – the kind with the lingering heavy grey clouds – I pushed open the door of ‘Books & Things’ hoping to find relief from the wooliness in my head. I was hit with a surge of heat from the two bar heater inside the door. There were two people in the shop, having tea and catching up on the day’s newspaper.  I was greeted with a friendly hello but with a hint of ‘feel free to do your own thing’. The shop floor dipped slightly towards the back, causing everything to slant. I knew I was looking for something special that day. Before I knew it, I’d five books in my hand. But the treasure was John Connolly The Book of Lost Things.

I hadn’t heard of this before but the cover intrigued me. A red cover with a winding ivy creeping up the cover.

I initially thought this was a children’s book but I wouldn’t like a child to read this. The story is set in London in the middle of World War 2.The protagonist, David, is mourning the loss of his mother, his father’s re-marriage and new baby to boot.  He appears to suffer frequent anxiety attacks and his grip on reality begins to slip as he begins to hear his most prized possessions – his books – talking to him. He begins to see the Crooked Man in his room and hears his mother calling him to save her. He stumbles into this other world while escaping from a German bomber plane. Here, he encounters some familiar fairy tales – Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin  - and not so familiar tales. Connolly follows the Brothers Grimm inspiration with tales of bestiality, homosexuality and violence. It’s un-put-down-able.

I’m not a fan of fantasy usually but this caught my imagination and wouldn’t let go. There are many levels to this book. As with all fairy tales there is a moral to be explored as well. The strength to keep going, to find yourself and not give up on those you love or could love.   This book is well worth a look and it certainly fires the imagination to show you that you can get past the Wall.

photo credit: <a href="">hira3</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

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