I’d rather read

There are ways you can pass your time but I just prefer to read as reading brings me so much pleasure.

For several weeks, I juggled my time between what I would rather be reading and performing my professional duty arguing the merits of a couple of cases where the legal issues at hand could have been easily resolved if only the parties  involved had some sense and sensibility.

Perhaps there is this constant restlessness that compels you to search. It is something elusive, maybe you just want to have the sense of epiphany when the writer says something that you totally connect with. But how can you be a hundred percent sure that was what was intended by the writer?

I simply enjoy words and how they are strung  together to convey a thought , an idea or simply an observation about life.

Before when I had to do all that ferrying and errands run amidst my full time work, I  used to exercise a whole lot more , hitting tennis  four to five times weekly and attending yoga session twice  a week was what kept me recharged and  energized. In between school runs and ferrying the children, when I managed to get a spot, I welcomed the wait outside the classes  as I could read a couple of pages of fictions I had but I had to keep my eyes on the cars that were in the queue in case they started to move. I only read fictions that I could easily dive in and out.

Even before the pandemic and the  lockdown that followed, I had not been exercising as much. These days,  walking our dog is part of my morning routine on most weekdays and I am glad to have resumed my gym training at a private gym on Saturday morning.

Often I find my mind being torn several directions and it can be overwhelming. When that happens, reading helps me to unwind and in turn provides me the headspace I need.

I read Ghosts by Dolly Alderton a few weeks ago. It is contemporary fiction set in North London. The protagonist, Nina George Dean is a food writer and the story begins with her turning thirty-two years old on 3rd August 2018. She is at a good place in her career path and earns enough money to pay for the mortgage of her first home, a small one-bed flat  in Archway, on the first floor of a Victorian house. While she knows that she will probably take as long as she lives there to afford to do up her new place, she feels lucky every morning to wake up and look up at the swirly crusts of her Artex ceiling because previously she never imagined that she would ever own a flat in London. She has published her first book, Taste, a recipe book that  ‘also had a thread of memoir spun in between the recipes

The narratives are in Nina’s voice and contain her musings and happenings in her life.  She used to balance a night-and-weekend occupation as a supper club owner with her day job as an English teacher at a secondary school. She managed to save enough to quit and become a full-time food writer. Her first book is a surprise success and she has just completed her second book, The Tiny Kitchen. Her break-up with her first and only boyfriend, Joe has been amicable and they remain good friends and supportive of each other. She has been single for two years since the end of her relationship with Joe. They were together for seven years, lived together for four. After they broke up, she tried to catch up on all the sex with a six-month promiscuity spree and finally decided that she should stop dating and see what really being on her own felt like so since then she started living and travelling on her own for the first time.  Recently she feels ready to start dating again.

Her father,  a retired teacher begins to display signs of dementia  while her mother appears to be re-inventing herself. Nina meets 37-year-old Max via Linx Online, a dating App. Max is an accountant and he reads literary fiction, says the right thing and  asks her to marry him on their first date.  He is very tall, has curly dishevelled hair and rugged looking, is he for real?

She has been really close with her father and she realizes that ‘ while the future might strip him of his self, something mightier remained.’  

She talks to her dad about how she finds adulthood a disappointment and worry.

“‘What are you worried about?’

‘I’m worried I’m not going to live the life I always thought I’d have. I’m worried I have to come up with a new plan.’

There’s no point coming up with a plan,’ he said, shaking his head sternly. ‘ Life is what happens….’”

The premise of the novel  is not groundbreaking but the plot is relatable, nicely paced  and well executed. Issues about finding love in the right place, caring for aging parents, married best friend slipping away and gender biased biological clock ticking are ageless and not limited to the millennials. The author is telling a story that seems mundane but in so far as relationships and friendships, the reflections and thoughts are perceptive and insightful. When Max disappears, she wonders if she imagines love. It is a compelling read and you will devour the story as quickly as you can because you want to know what happens to her and Max. The narratives about getting old and aging parents are poignant and peppered with tender observations about becoming adult. As  life changes  for Nina and Katherine, her best friend in school, there is nostalgia about how things used to be and childhood memories. Nina realizes that she misses her home when her dad was fine. While she is bright and financially independent, she feels like a little girl with a dying dad. When Nina’s dad mixes up his internal timeline, he asks for his mother. In Nina’s narration,

I couldn’t think of anything I would find more exasperating. ‘ I WANT MY MOTHER!” he shouted unexpectedly, discarding my hand.

Perhaps deep down, we are all little girls and little boys, the world is our playground and see what we are doing with it .

Ghosts  is divided into  two parts that comes with a prologue and an epilogue.

These  little captions under Part One and Part Two say it all.

‘It is our imagination that is  responsible for love, not the other person

Marcel Proust

‘ Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind

A Midsummer night’s Dreams, William Shakespeare’

Dolly Alderton‘s debut novel is an excellent read.

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