This week, I thought I’d talk about some of the series that I’ve read over the years, ones which I’ve enjoyed. I’ve noticed that as an adult, I struggle to maintain enough interest in a series to read it all the way through, and this comes from someone who read all thirteen of A Series of Unfortunate Events. My reading habits have definitely changed – I read a lot less, a by product of having a lot less time to myself. Though I work with books, it doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for actually reading them when one works full time, and has a house to keep. Rather than having the luxury of a whole day or two’s uninterrupted reading a week, I find myself either at work, cooking dinner, cleaning the house or with other plans entirely. I read on lunch breaks and in the evenings, usually just before bed.
However, the joy of discovering a new series is not one lost to me. I adore finding a novel that I love and then finding that the world is so much larger and richer than originally anticipated. Being able to revisit a whole world again and again, finding new things each time is such a joy and one of the things I like the most about reading. But enough of me rattling on – onwards to a natter about my favourite series.
If you know me at all, in any capacity, you’ll know that I absolutely adore Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy (yes, I know – La Belle Sauvage, but for now, I want to talk about the original three novels). I came to them during my early teens, not long after the film came out – something I saw on a rewards trip from school and not knowing of the source material, actually rather liked the film. I was bought the books by my parents one Christmas, each of them bearing the same front cover from the films – albeit with a slightly different colour-way. I happily opened the first one that Christmas evening and fell wholly and entirely in love. Show me a child that read His Dark Materials and I’ll show you a child who dreamed of having their very own daemon. I longed to visit Oxford, Svalbard, I was as enraptured as Lyra with Mrs. Coulter and even Lord Asriel. I came to believe wholeheartedly in Lyra’s world of daemons and dust – so wholeheartedly that when little Tony Makarios has his daemon torn from him and is found by Lyra, clutching miserably at a piece of dried fish as a placeholder, it felt as though someone had reached inside me and twisted at my heart. I could wax lyrical about this series for hours on end – how I read it as a child and appreciated it for the wonderful, enthralling story it told, and then read it again and again as an adult and I’ve always found something new amongst its pages. I’ve begun my own collection of different editions of Northern Lights, the book that sparked my love affair with Pullman and his world, always popping into charity shops to snag a new edition if there’s one around. My first copy is now dog-eared and the cover clinging on by a thread, but I shall never get rid of it – it was my first doorway into Lyra’s world and I never want to lose that key. I loved The Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass for different reasons (perhaps another, future post) but I’ve rattled on enough for now about HDM!
A Series of Unfortunate Events was one of those series where I saw the books again and again in Borders and never picked them up. Something about the covers put me off – they didn’t seem like something I’d enjoy. However, whenever me and my parents went to York of a weekend, we had a tradition where both my mum and dad would pick out a book from Borders for me to read and choose between. My dad always went for Carnegie medal winners, or great big books about dragons – the sort of thing I’d love now, but not so much then – sorry dad! Mum seemed to err more towards things like The Princess Diaries and my eleven year old self responded better to those. However, one time, dad handed me a copy of The Bad Beginning and it might perhaps be cliche to say, but from then on, I was hooked. Something about the writing – the dark humour and the fascinating words that Snicket managed to explain to his readers without ever being condescending. For a very long time, I was desperate to work ‘ersatz’ into a conversation – its an ongoing goal if I’m honest, and I’m yet to succeed! I loved the epigraphs that spoke of a mysterious Beatrice and the sheer folly of Olaf against the ingenuity of the Baudelaire children, the frustration of needing to know right now what V.F.D. stood for and perhaps especially, the glorious mystery of it all. I don’t think I’ve read a series since with so many books, with such a tangled and ultimately ingenious plot. All thirteen hardback volumes sit proudly on my shelves – they’re not ones that I reread, but they’ll always have a place in my heart, reminiscent of the year that I went back to Borders again and again, week after week, just to pick up the next book in the series and then, and then the interminable wait between the Penultimate Peril and The End – and oh, what an ending!
Up next, Narnia! I have such an odd relationship with the Narnia series. I really enjoyed The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – couldn’t get enough of it! I even went to see the play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I daydreamed of being like Susan and imagined what it would be like to rule a kingdom and y’know, meeting a talking lion.. that would have been pretty cool. Anyway! I enjoyed the first one, so naturally, it was assumed that my enjoyment would linger on to the remaining books in the series. I read the second novel, The Horse and His Boy and to be honest, I don’t remember an awful lot about it – it probably says a great deal that, when double checking the wikipedia page for the running order of the books, very few of them I actually remember. I definitely remember owning the box-set of all the books, but I donated them to charity some time ago, and I don’t own a copy of any of them now. I’d be very much interested to reread them again and see if my apathy still extends to the rest of the series, or if twelve year old me didn’t know a good thing when she read it!
So. That was the quickest of quick glimpses at three series that have played a part in my life. I hope you enjoyed!
I’m currently reading quite a bit of non-fiction for a change – I’m on Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain 1974-1979 by Dominic Sandbrook at the moment. It’s a very long one, but it brings the 1970s into sharp relief and covers lots of ground, from culture to politics!