My August reading diary is definitely a map of all the directions my heart has been tugged and pulled in this month – a mix of pony books while I’ve been pouring my evenings into looking after my own star pony; The Unmumsy Mum Diary for a bit of hand-holding company in the midst of the pride and heartache of my two wee ones growing up; and Jane Eyre joining the list of classics I’ve discovered are my 2020 go-to reads, somehow the most absorbing to get lost in when a proper escape is needed from what is still a very strange year.
The Swallow Tale by K.M.Peyton & A Pony To School by Diana Pullein-Thomson
The first book I read this month was K.M. Peyton’s The Swallow Tale, one that’s been on my shelf since childhood but not one of my very favourites that I’ve read over til I know it well, so quite fresh to me as I read it for the first time in so long. As with any pony story I found plenty to get lost in in Rowan’s falling in love with the wild and captivating Swallow. I followed it not too long after with a Diana Pullein-Thomson book, A Pony to School, one I hadn’t read before but had picked up a few years ago in my old favourite second-hand bookshop when they had (to my joy!) literally a bucket of old pony books. Both of these were very old-school classics and reminded me of the way I used to read when I was young, tearing through so many different books indiscriminately- just as long as they had horses in them – and learning lots of different ways of viewing and handling a life with horses as a result. Those among them back in the day whose values most closely mirrored mine – Ruby Ferguson’s Jill, and Elizabeth Lindsay’s Mory, Josh and Cara – are those that have stayed on my bookshelf and been re-read over and over, seeing my Charmer’s own character and story mirrored so perfectly in Black Boy’s and Midnight Dancer’s; – but it was actually really fun to go back and read completely different perspectives. Even if I could never take quite the same approach to horses as the Hawes of High Hawes did in Swallow (though much more as Babar and her “shabby” pony Black Diamond did, my stand-out characters of this book!) or use the old-school methods of Christina and Augusta in handling Clown and conquering his rearing habit in A Pony To School; there’s a common ground in the world of horses no matter the differences and as I worried and fretted over my own boy, I loved being lost in some proper classic pony stories – a genre I unashamedly love!
The Unmumsy Mum Diary by Sarah Turner
I’ve followed Sarah Turner, aka The Unmumsy Mum, on her blog and social media for a long time, and have read all of her books in the past. This month I found myself re-reading her second – and my favourite – The Unmumsy Mum Diary. Documenting life with her two sons at the time, Henry and Jude, during a year that saw Henry begin school and Jude navigate toddlerhood; I really enjoyed this book. I’ve always appreciated Sarah’s honesty about parenthood, but I think what shines through despite the telling of all the bad with the good is her huge and unwavering love for her children, and that mix of joy and sorrow I’ve come to learn comes along with watching every stage of their growing up going by so fast. This month as my biggest baby took off to playgroup to start making her own experiences for the very first time away from us, and my littlest too strained and stretched and wrangled her way to new stages in record time, desperate to sit up and join in with everything her sister can do; I was so aware of how quickly time goes by and how much I want to make the most of every single moment, and it made me feel comforted and uplifted to read all the emotions I could feel written down in someone else’s diary, and have some company in all the ups and downs of a busy and transforming month for the little ones.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
I’ve been meaning to read Jane Eyre for so long and finally got to it this month. It’s always been a favourite of my sister’s (which usually means I’ll definitely love it!) but I’d given it a couple of abandoned attempts years ago back at uni – where I studied English literature and we covered Wide Sargasso Sea so touched on it but never actually studied Jane Eyre itself – and I had never got back to it. Picking it up now, I found it so easy to read and so compelling. I started reading on the night of the most incredible thunderstorm we’ve had here in years, the perfect set-up for discovering the shadowy Thornfield Hall with all its mysteries; and I found myself completely swept up in Jane’s story from start to finish, simply loving her strength, resilience, intelligence and passion in every situation she found herself in. This is such a wonderful book, with such a wonderful heroine at its centre – so ahead of its time in so many ways, romantic, gothic and completely captivating; and I’m so glad to have read it at long last!
August would normally be a big book month for me, as it would tend to find me taking at least one venture over to the Edinburgh Book Festival, to sit with a coffee under twinkling lights in the beautiful garden in Charlotte Square, listen to talk after talk in the Spiegel Tent and file into the auditorium for a ticketed event or two. This year, of course, this was not to be! But I was really pleased to find that they put on such a wonderful online programme, streaming live and many events available on YouTube afterwards – so in spite of staying home, I’ve spent a couple of evenings this month enjoying some talks from favourite writers.
I will listen to more I am sure as there have been so many interesting authors involved, but so far I have enjoyed Ian Rankin, who I always to love to hear, talking about his next Rebus book A Song for the Dark Times (definitely going on the to-read list!); Val McDermid and Jo Sharp discussing their collaborative collection of essays Imagine A Country, contributed to by some of Scotland’s most prominent voices; and Bernardine Everisto talking to Nicola Sturgeon about Girl, Woman, Other, which I enjoyed reading so much earlier in the summer. I always think it’s such a privilege to hear writers speak about their work and it was wonderful to be able to listen to some amazing people I admire so much talking so passionately about books and the world we’re living in today, all from the comfort of home!
Have really enjoyed reading this month and as we move into September, my very favourite season upon us of autumn leaves and cosy nights in, I’m so looking forward to my next reads. Have a lovely week all. Xx