“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Stephen King, On Writing a Memoir of the Craft.
I spend a lot of my free time reading.
For me, curling up on the sofa with a good book is the ultimate in self care. It ranks above beauty and pampering, exercising and writing. Reading even ranks above dog walks, although only marginally.
What I read tends to reflect my mood. There are times when I want something serious and thought provoking; a book to stir the political or social imagination and thrust me into action. Look back, these moments are when I am at my happiest and most content. When my brain is in a place where it can take intellectual stimulation and push that into action.
Now is not that time. With the house move, uncertainty, long hours working, and constant travelling, my brain requires a different form of stimulation. It requires escape. Another world to disappear into and forget my own stresses. I’ve been this way since a child; sick with a neurological, I spent more time in bed than out in the real world. My escape then was into history; into the world of the Romans and Gauls, the Mongols or the Tudors. Phillippa Gregory and Conn Iggulden were my friends and bedside companions.
With these companions, it is no surprise that I went on to study English Literature for my undergraduate degree and then specialising in Medieval Literature for my post-graduate.
Currently, my escapism has fallen into the realms of folk tales and mythology. I’ve always been drawn to the fantastical elements of folklore and myth where the unexplained is given meaning through the imaginings of the human brain.
Even if science has since challenged the lore of imagination, the tales still hold a certain magic and disappearing into this worlds has become somewhat of an obsession these past few months.
What I’ve been Reading
Katherine Arden, The Winter Night Trilogy is a fantastical blend of folktale with Russian history and adorned with a female protagonist that will leave you with glowing with adventurous rebellion. Two of the three books have been published and I’ve not been able to put either down; The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower.
Graham Joyce, Some Kind of Fairy Tale is an enchanting tale with elements of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene transformed into a modern story of family relations, loss and a grief. It is a beautiful and soulful read that is both tragic and heartwarming.
I love short stories and sleep with an anthology of them by bedside table. They’re so easy to pick up and get lost within for just a half hour and can be easily fitted amongst longer reads. Currently, Elementals by A. S. Byatt sits in the honoured position. I’ve long been a fan of Byatt and have read this collection of tales multiple times, yet I never get tired of the intricacies of elemental legends being retold in Byatt’s unique voice.
Sarah Perry’s, The Essex Serpent embodies the mythic coast of South-Eastern England in search of ancient legends during a period of change. It reveals human emotion and a journey of self awareness following loss.
In Caraval, Stephen Garber blends the lore of the circus with that of the otherworld of the Elves. Seeped in classical tropes and reminiscent of the Fairy ball itself, this tale is sensationalist and will sweep you away in a world not your own.
And finally my current read; Stephen Fry’s wry retelling of the Greek myths, Mythos is seeped with dry sarcasm as he weaves the tales of the Gods and traces their influence on our modern world. It is not truly fiction, but reads as many a good tale. Fry will certainly leave you smirking with amusement.
Have you read any of these? And do you have any fairy tale recommendations? I’m always on the look out of new reads.
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