For those who found themselves at the British Library last weekend, standing in close proximity to a girl with watering eyes who had been brought to tears by the original manuscripts of Jane Austen, I do apologise. What can I say, I was pretty impressed.
I’ve loved books and reading for as long as I can remember – to the point where my older brother (who didn’t share this same love) would pay me to read his school books and report back to him. This love meant that years of studying literature (everything from Shakespeare, Looking for Alibrandi Anna Karenina, Dickens, Austen, Fitzgerald and, lest we forget, that somewhat random book about the Hume Highway) were hardly a chore.
So when I found myself at the British Library (for an Alice in Wonderland exhibition), standing in front of the original handwritten manuscripts of authors whom have educated and entertained me over past decades, how could I not be in awe?
Though it sounds quite naive, it was somewhat humbling to see these physical artefacts which confirm that these authors whom I’ve revered were once actual living breathing people in this incredible city. To share this with them, albeit separated by a few centuries, is pretty special.
This got me thinking about my favourite British books and how my understanding, experience and appreciation of them has changed since living here. And because my absolute favourite part of reading a fantastic book is when you get to share it with someone else, today I thought I’d share three of my favourite books to get you feeling a bit British.
High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
I’m not going to lie, I only finished reading this book last week after a dear friend shared it with me – so I fully appreciate that I’m a bit late to the party with this one. I loved every second of it – the heartbreak, the stream of consciousness and the familiarity of Hornby’s prose really do make you feel like you know Rob and many people just like him. I know this was turned into an American movie and that’s just something we all have to live with, but the book is just so London and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s practically a rite of passage.
Reading any Austen will make you feel like retreating to the countryside to frolic in the woods or to balls in big mansions or to Bath. However, Sense and Sensibility is my personal favourite (Colonel Brandon – what can I say, perhaps I am a hopeless romantic after all!). Austen’s irony and social commentary has never felt more pertinent since moving here and I reckon she’d be fascinated to know that little has changed.
Every time I go to Kings Cross, I almost feel like checking that the Hogwarts Express is definitely, 100%, absolutely not hiding behind a magical wall at the station. And when I visited Edinburgh, in particular, the cafe where J.K Rowling penned most of the first novel, it really felt a little bit magical. I grew up with Harry and with the final book released in my last year of high school (at the time, it polarised the common room into corners of those who had finished reading it, those who hadn’t and those who didn’t care) it’s always carried a wealth of emotions with it for me.
Who knows, maybe us Muggles really are all missing something??
Over to you! Any favourites to share?