In Praise of the Indulgent Re-read

Image courtesy of bookkunkiesanonymous.blogspot.com

Remember when you were young, and you used to read your favourite books over and over? There were even books that I used to re-borrow from the library and sleep with under my pillow, not bothering to open them because I knew them so well -- I just craved the totem of their physical presence. I had read them so many times that I knew them almost by heart.

These days I don't re-read so much, and when I do, it tends to be those same childhood favourites that wormed their way into my heart all those years ago. (The exception is the Harry Potter books, which have been re-read aloud many times because my children insisted on it.)

But I do allow myself one indulgence, which is Antonia Forest. When I recently filled a gap in my Forest collection with Falconer's Lure, I decided to continue with a re-read of the whole Marlow series. This is a prospect of pure delight; in the last week, I've powered through Falconer's Lure, End of Term, Peter's Room, The Thuggery Affair, and I'm now in the midst of The Ready-Made Family.

My Marlows experience has been immeasurably enhanced by reading the books in tandem with a Livejournal read-through from a couple of years ago, which comprises an expert chapter-by-chapter commentary, followed by a lively and thorough discussion, unpacking resonances between the books, pinpointing obscure literary references, debating time-lines and possible future developments, character consistencies and inconsistencies, and sharing favourite lines.

This is my only experience of such a read-through and I don't know if it's a common phenomenon, but I can't imagine another series that would benefit so well from this kind of close attention... except, now that I come to think of it, Harry Potter!

There's a scene in The Thuggery Affair where the character of Jukie declares his belief in an after-life that fits whatever the individual believes: if that's true, I'd like my heaven to be an endless supply of Antonia Forest novels, please.


  1. I still haven't got around to seeking out Antonia Forrest -I expect the Op Shop will drop one in my lap some day. Kate, I think the indulgent re-read is sometimes the necessary re-read; an act of self-soothing in a world that seems strange and unsafe at times. Mine are the complete Jane Austen and my favourite Elizabeth Goudges - the Damerosehay trilogy - plus some 1930s best-sellers by once famous but now forgotten American writer Kathleen Norris. Happy re-reading!

  2. I think you're so right, Susan - it's like wrapping a warm blanket around yourself on a chilly night! I am just rediscovering Elizabeth Goudge and realising what a huge influence she's been on me as a writer. I've bought myself Linnets and Valerians as a birthday treat and that will be a re-read that I'm really looking forward to! I haven't heard of Kathleen Norris but given our taste seems to be so similar, I will keep an eye out for her books too :-) Thanks!