What were you reading when …

cover Merely stretching out a hand towards certain books on my shelves can pull me back to a particular time and  place. There’s A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, the first book I read in New Zealand. And Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore takes me back to a miserable trip round the South Island with my daughter and her newly-ex boyfriend. Now I have an earthquake book: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

Freedom saved my life.  Not in a bullet proof vest way, but as an escape from all things earthquake. I read it by torchlight the first night and to the thrum of the generator  for days after that. I knew it was a great read from the very first pages when I wanted to write down quote after quotable quote. Like this one, which describes Patti as she tries to adapt to a new neighbourhood:

She was already the thing that was just starting to happen to the rest of the street.

Franzen makes much of the link to freedom and choice in this book, but to my mind this is a book about falling for the bad boy, marrying the good boy and then failing to grasp that lurking in every good boy is a demon lover who will become someone else’s bad boy if you are not very careful.

Another bookish event happened to me on the day of the earthquake. I finally decided to  read a graphic novel. George at Linwood went to a lot of trouble to select one for me. No sooner had the book been issued to me than the earthquake struck. I remain a graphic novel virgin. Even I can see a sign when it is writ that large.

So, what were you reading on February 22? And what have you been reading since? Do you have books that remind you of different times and places?

14 thoughts on “What were you reading when …

  1. Helen Lowe 11 March 2011 / 8:44 am

    I was reading my own work in progress, “The Gathering of the Lost”, which is the next in series to “The Heir of Night”, as part of completing the revision/edit stage, when the earthquake struck. Afterward I had to hunt amongst the debris for all the pages thrown everywhere by the shaking. Since then I have not had a lot of energy for reading in between all the cleaning up and trying to gte back into the writing, but have just started again with Ian McDonald’s River of Gods.

    For a fun graphic novel read I would start with Girl Genius: Volume 1: “The Beetleburg Clank.” (Yes, it’s ‘steampunk’—and of the very best kind.:) )

  2. robertafsmith 11 March 2011 / 9:30 am

    Jules wrote this on FB, I think it is a really valid comment:
    Julie Williamson Morning Roberta. I persevered. I truly did. 6 weeks and half a book later I finally gave in – freedom had very little to do with my personal journey with this wretched book & it was such a relief to hear a reviewer on National Radio – the Irish Lass – say quite blatantly that she just doesn’t enjoy stories about mid-western dysfunctional families. Yayyyyyyy. At the time of the Quake – I’d been perusing the Power of Now/Eckhart Tolle. Go figure!!!!

    • robertafsmith 11 March 2011 / 9:31 am

      It’s great that we don’t all love the same books. Right now I am reading Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (this in my quest to read all the Booker prizewinning books). Unusually for me (I love books about India – I have a special weakness for books with paisley patterns on the cover) I am really struggling with it. Think I will change over to The Hut Builder by Laurence Fearnley.

  3. Marilyn Slater 11 March 2011 / 9:45 am

    I was reading Alan Bradley’s ‘The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie’, all comfy-cosy in bed when the quake struck & reorganized my bedroom furniture and trinkets! It’s a fun book to read by candlelight. However, since I got the power back on I’ve been reading ‘Vlad – The Last Confession’ by C C Humphreys. A book much, MUCH more suited to daylight or its electric equivalent!!!
    All the best to you all,

  4. valerienl 11 March 2011 / 11:03 am

    I have been re-reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. When the earthquake struck, I had started Greenwitch. When I was a kid, I loved reading Alfted Hitchcock and the Three Investagators. I picked up part of the series when I went to Kaikoura, so am debating, do I start on them or continue with The Grey King.

  5. Allison 11 March 2011 / 7:43 pm

    To cope with extreme work stress (not a par I know), I’ve been seeking nightly solace in Venice. Oh all right “Venice” by Jan Morris, not the city itself unfortunately. Or not yet. Jan Morris is the most gifted, wisest and most entertaining travel writer I’ve ever come across.

  6. Ansa Liebenberg 12 March 2011 / 7:11 am

    I note Allison’s comment re work stres – yes, incomparable when thinking of the earthquake. I’ve also found myself in the trenches with work (policy, changes…). So, the Sebastian Faulks that I picked up at the time, On Green Dolphin Street, was just a beauty: the passion and partings of an affair… need I say more?

  7. robertafsmith 12 March 2011 / 9:28 am

    So many good reading suggestions here and the ONLY one I have read is The Power of Now. Shall have to add the others to Bibliocommons when we are back in business again. Valerie’s The Dark is Rising has got to be the best earthquake title, along with Helen’s The Gathering of the Lost.

    • Helen Lowe 12 March 2011 / 9:50 am

      ‘The Gathering of the Lost’ isn’t quite a ‘real’ book yet, but given events worldwide I think maybe I should be reading Tim Powers “Earthquake Weather” for “apt” titles–or Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”?

      • robertafsmith 12 March 2011 / 12:26 pm

        Oooh Atlas Shrugged – that takes me back. The Gathering of the Lost is a brilliant title by the way.

  8. Michael A 12 March 2011 / 5:25 pm

    Didn’t enjoy Freedom much – the man needs an editor! As for me, I’ve lost a house full of books to the quake and am reduced to reading my daughter’s “The Killing Joke” by Anthony Horowitz. Definitely not a YA book and, although starts well, has become a little bit too clever nearer the end. I think EQC want me to list all my books for the Contents Claim – can you imagine having to do that???

    • robertafsmith 12 March 2011 / 7:49 pm

      No I cannot – bit like watching your whole life pass before your very eyes. Which in my own little way I have just done by cleaning out the pantry this afternoon. Why did I buy three different types of mustard – now all past their sell-by-date?

  9. tulip 15 March 2011 / 3:42 pm

    CCL copy of J R Ward’s Craven (awful book, can’t un-recommend it enough). I was eating my lunch at the time so there’s a lovely bright yellow curry stain from about page 261 onwards, FYI.

    • tulip 15 March 2011 / 3:45 pm

      oops – at the time of the 22 Feb eq, I should have said.

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