Friday, October 17, 2008

A quiet place to sit and read . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

Do you have a favorite place to read? Mine is just about anywhere I can sit down, open a book, and not be interrupted. Well, not too many interruptions. I usually read in bed a few minutes before going to sleep, to get my mind off my day. And I read in the car (yes, with someone else driving) read in the bathroom, read on the couch, and my fave place, read on the sun porch. It's warm and it's quiet. Ahhh. I've also been known to read in a small boat while hubby trolls the honey holes for unsuspecting fish, or under a tree, or on the rocks beside a beautiful lake during a camping trip, because having a view to look up at and appreciate every so often really enhances the reading experience for me.

Two of my favorite reading experiences took place at different bed and breakfasts while traveling. The first was at a B&B in Louisville, KY, where we'd gone to meet friends and spend a quiet weekend. The house was Victorian style, very old, and very beautiful. I was quickly drawn into the library/parlor area where I discovered a hardback copy of an Agatha Christie mystery I'd already read. Whenever the rest of our group was napping or dressing for dinner or whatever, I'd sneak down there and read. The experience let me imagine what it would have been like to actually live there in the past and enjoy life in that beautiful parlor.

The second experience took place on our way home from my very first book conference, the Virginia Festival of Books, back in '02. My first book was due out in a few months and I wanted to meet my publisher and his other authors, so off we went. One of the most enjoyable parts of traveling for me is to happen upon a place we haven't been before and probably never even heard of. Coming home on this trip we spotted a restaurant that was part of a huge old house, possibly a farm house, and we stopped there for lunch. On discovering they had a vacancy for the night, we booked a room. We spent a good bit of time exploring the beautiful grounds, in full bloom at that time. Then hubby went to our room to take a nap and I went to explore the inside of the house. On the top floor I discovered a room with three full walls of windows facing the river outside. At that particular spot the river becomes a small water fall, fully visible from that room. I curled up on the couch with one of the books purchased at the book festival and alternately read and enjoyed the view.

As I said, my fave spot now is on our sun porch because it looks out on my small flower garden, the trees that surround our place, and the occasional deer wandering by.

And what do I bring to these places to read? Most often a cozy mystery. I don't much like the really dark stuff, and I certainly don't enjoy being in a serial killer's head while he's dispensing with his latest victim. Ick. I like light reading, easy entertainment. And that's what I write. So why is it that my most favorite book is probably not a true mystery, and it most certainly isn't cozy? It's WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson. You probably already knew that if you've read this blog for long. But I also have a new second fave. THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Dianne Setterfield. And it's not cozy either. So what is it about these books that stuck with me? Pretty much just that: the stories stuck with me long after I put the books down.

If you were to ask me whodunit in some of my favorite cozy mysteries that I read last year, most likely I couldn't tell you. I enjoyed the reads but they didn't stick in my mind. I could probably read them again and not remember whodunit until near the end. Mostly because I read for enjoyment, not information, BUT if the author does manage to teach me something new, as Tony Hillerman has done in his mysteries, I won't complain. And I'll do my best to remember it.

I think Setterfield's novel struck me (not to mention stuck with me so well) because the lead character LOVES TO READ. She describes her reading pleasures and I can see myself living in that scene. And she's a writer, describing the difficulties of getting thoughts from brain to paper. I can identify with her. From the reviews I've read, THE THIRTEENTH TALE appears to be one of those books that readers either love or hate. No middle ground. Well, put me firmly on the "loved it" side. Now I'll have to thank my book club members who chose it. By the way, this book is supposed to be our November read, but having finished the October read well ahead of time and finding myself a few pages into the November selection, I quite simply could not put it down. So I spent a very enjoyable day on the sun porch, reading and listening to the birds. Don't you love it when you can't put a book down? When you just have to know what happens next to the characters? Ahhhh.

Sooo, do you have a favorite reading memory you'd like to share? Either about the book or the place where you read it? And do you have one place where you do most of your reading? Please share it. Who knows, the Deadly Daughters might want to join you there some time. I'll bring the cinnamon coffee. Someone else will have to do the cookies.

1 comment:

Sheila Connolly said...

Many (many!) years ago I was working in London for a summer, and friend invited me to spend a weekend in The Country, where she was working as an au pair. The place turned out to be a 17th-century manorhouse (then in use by a local university to house visiting professors).

I spent one wonderful sunny afternoon reading Donleavy's The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, whilst sitting with my back against the ruins of a small Renaissance chapel.

Then there was the time I read The Three Musketeers (in French, because I had run out of English books) in a small Paris hotel a couple of blocks from where the book took place.

And the time I bought a copy of Bridget Jones' Diary in England before it was released in the U.S., and my nine-year-old daughter and I fought to read it, chapter by chapter, as we drove around the country (luckily my husband was driving).

Now I just read in bed, and hope the TBR pile doesn't fall on the cat.