Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another World

I was scratching around yesterday looking for a blog topic - I felt pretty bad for neglecting my blog so much lately! - and one helpfully showed up on the bus this morning. If I didn't spend so much time on buses I'd never think of anything useful.

Backtrack a few days.

I was at work and I'd forgotten to bring a book to read at lunchtime. Had one picked out and everything, just forgot to throw it in my bag. This is a catastrophe in my world, just so you know.

Luckily I work in a pretty well-serviced suburb/village/town, so I hit the charity shops and the second-hand bookshop looking for something. I didn't find anything, but I did see a copy of The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. I already own it and have read it lots of times, so I couldn't justify buying a second copy even if it was just what I fancied that day (it isn't Forever Amber and I'm not a week from home, after all) but at least I had my next book picked out.

I restarted The Secret History yesterday and I was reading it on the bus this morning. As I've probably said ad nauseum because it annoys me, my bus journey can be anything from forty minutes to an hour. Today it was closer to forty minutes, but I can't remember the last time I was so absorbed in a book. Bearing in mind I've read The Secret History before, lots of times, and I know every last little plot twist.

No spoilers follow, if you haven't read it.

It was the part that took place over the winter break, when Richard's college closes for two months and he has to move off-campus in the coldest Vermont winter for twenty-five years. I've never experienced that kind of cold (aside - my dad once told me that on a business trip to Norway one winter, he left his hotel on the first morning and when the air hit him, he thought he'd forgotten to put his trousers on). I'm Irish, and all we do is whine about the weather, so I like to pretend that I have, but I haven't. We don't get extremes here.

But the sense of place was evoked so well. My bus stop sneaked up on me, and I got off the bus feeling like I'd just woken up. It was a surprise to see Dublin in 2010 and not Hampden in the 1980s.

What books have done that to you? Has any book ever drawn you in so completely that looking up from the page feels like waking up?


  1. Hi!
    Dancer by Colm McCann did that for me. The writing is very physical, its a wonderful read. Better than his latest, I think. There's a chapter where a character is strutting his stuff through the city's night world and the writing is so tightly paced and rhythmical that you are there, breathing the air, and when you get to the last sentence- the chapter closes with a seventies finger snap.
    I've never read The Secret History, thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Oh

    A Terry Pratchett book always gets me transported elsewhere!

    I'll pass on Secret History. I read it and er... well let's just say I never missed my stop when I was reading it.


    Take care

  3. I love it when that happens! 'Running for the Hills' by Horatio Clare did that for me. I love that book!

  4. I love when that happens. I experienced this sensation with 'Madame Bovary'

  5. Reading your post reminds me of the time I worked in Washington D.C. and had to ride the train from Fairfax, Virginia into D.C. Fortunately I always got a seat so I could read, the only time of the day that I could. I remember one incredible book I read: a true story called Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng. This was a book that gave me the feeling you're talking about. Absorbed in the book, I was in solitary confinement with Nien Cheng. Then the train stopped, and I "woke up" to my ordinary work-a-day world in the United States.

  6. There have been a fair few books that have affected me in that way, but I think the one novel that literally made time stop for me was "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak.

    A simply stunning read.

  7. Hi Ellen,

    As a matter of fact...I had this happen to me on a book I was writing. I got so into what I was creating that by the time I stopped - I couldn't remember if it was early morning or at the end of the day. I had to leave my "CAVE" windowless den and go see if the day had passed me unnoticed or if I needed to get the day going.

    Pretty bad, huh, when you can't even remember the time of day you're at...but it's a true tale!


  8. Hi Ellen,
    I have had this happen so many times in my years of commuting,
    I drive more now, so I think its safer to put the books down, but my kids are used to me not seeing them when they come to my car at school run time, I tend to get lost in every book I read.
    Reading a book at the moment called Desperate Journey by Julie Ellis, which I find very hard to put down.

  9. That happens to me pretty often. Unless the book isn't very engaging, I tend to be completely immersed and surprised again by the real world. Since I fly for work every other week, this means I often annoy flight attendants who are trying to offer me a soft drink.


I love comments!