Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Women Who Read Are Dangerous

Is there anything brings greater pleasure to a bibliophile than a longed for Amazon delivery? Arriving home from work this afternoon, I found a box sitting in the porch - I have treated myself to two books I was hoping Father Christmas might bring, but which were clearly too inflammatory for his sleigh: The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters (thus rendering my last post, in which I said my next journey Mitfordwards would be an attempt to trace Wigs on the Green, a blatant lie), and the beautiful Women Who Read Are Dangerous. Neither are books I intend to sit and read from cover to cover, but rather will be dipped into. And of course, my first move when I had ripped the box from around them was to dip.

The Mitford epistles cheer me nearly as much as Wodehouse. The style, the humour, the ludicrous abbreviations and nicknames transport me to another world. More on these as I read.

Women Who Read Are Dangerous was brought to my attention by an article in The Guardian shortly before Christmas. I looked for it, unsuccessfully, in Waterstone's, and decided in the end to order it blind online - after all, how wrong could I go with such a title? I am not disappointed. It's a lovely large hardback, chock full of colour plates; simply, paintings and photographs of women reading. The Virgin Mary, in 1333, hides her devotional book from a visiting angel; in 1952, Marilyn Monroe loses herself in Ulysses. The commentary is intelligent, interesting and captures its reader perfectly:

"She is young and in her own bed. Her parents allow a certain amount of bedtime reading, but all too soon her mother or father will come to turn the light out, tell her that it's time to sleep. The door will be left open when the parent leaves to to ensure the light stays off. The girl will wait until she hears her parents' voices in another room, knows they are occupied with other matters. Then she will make a cave under the blankets, open her book inside the cave.
This girl knows the value of a good flashlight; she leaned that from Nancy Drew. She will read until she falls asleep, and neither her parents nor anyone else will ever be any the wiser."

My own childhood could not be better captured by my own hand. And if you gasped at its accuracy with regard to your own, I urge you to order yourself a copy of this delicious publication.

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