Books

Tolkien, Badass Journalists and Long French Novels

I was discussing favourite childhood books with a friend the other day, and we got onto the subject of classics. “I loved The Mill on the Floss“, I told her, “and I was worried I wouldn’t like it when I reread it again a couple of years ago, but it was as wonderful as ever.”

“Hang on,” she replied, “The Mill on the Floss was required reading in Preliminary Honours in 1961. You were a precocious brat.”

Yes, yes I was.

We ended up finding a mutual favourite in C.S. Lewis – who doesn’t love the Narnia, after all? – and then she mentioned Tolkien.

I have tried so hard to like Tolkien. But I just don’t.

When I was eight, I read The Lord of the Rings (precocious brat, remember? 😉 ). It did nothing for me. I tried reading it again a few years later, to see whether it was an age thing. It wasn’t.

As a teenager, I read The Hobbit. I thought it was crap.

And all through my life, people have been nagging me to watch The Lord of the Rings. “You’ll like the films,” they crowed, “even if you hate the books, you’ll like the films! EVERYONE likes the films!”

Nope, not me. I finally sat myself down at Christmas last year and made myself watch all three of them, so I could say I’d definitely given them a good chance.

I nearly died of boredom.

So when Rosy told me I should read Farmer Giles of Ham, a Tolkien favourite of hers from when she was a child, I was initially resistant. Then she sent me a copy, and it was a tiny, skinny little book, and I had a train journey coming up, and I thought… oh well, why not? Go on then.

Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien

Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. TolkienThis book is, in a word, charming.

It’s a children’s book, and it’s about a farmer who’s a bit crap at a lot of things but who runs his farm well enough and lives a simple life. He’s not an overly brave man, nor an overly cunning one: just your average person.

Then one day a giant comes over the hill, and Farmer Giles of Ham accidentally saves the village from certain destruction.

Overnight, he is turned into a hero – and when a fire-breathing dragon comes flying into Ham, to whom will the villagers turn to defeat it but their heroic friend?

It’s completely brilliant. The writing style, the way it transports you into the story, the details – I fell in love.

It almost made me want to try reading The Lord of the Rings again.

Almost.

I Will Find You by Joanna Connors

I was in my local library the other day, and I did that thing where I pick up a book and take it home to read even though I currently have so many books in my to-read pile that I had to make it into a to-read bookcase instead:

Reading List

But I Will Find You just sounded too compelling to leave in the library. What if I forgot it was there, and never returned to borrow it?

I Will Find You by Joanna ConnorsIt’s a true story, written by its protagonist, Joanna Connors. She’s a journalist who was raped while on the job as a young woman.

The rape affected her life in a multitude of ways, including her relationship with her husband and children. It also made her job harder; she felt afraid of many things which her mind related back to being raped.

So the thought of her going out on a mission to find her rapist and come to understand him is really quite stunning. But that’s exactly what she did.

Connors traced the man who attacked her and ended up learning all about him and his background, through interviews with his family and friends, as well as searching through public records to verify what she was told.

I Will Find You is a brilliant book – a feat of journalistic endeavour and a rousing hymn to the power of determination in overcoming one’s fears.

And now we switch to French.

L’Incroyable Histoire de Wheeler Burden – Selden Edwards

L'Incroyable Histoire de Wheeler Burden - Selden EdwardsEnfin, je l’ai fini !

Mais en fait je l’aimais tant que je voulais le lire lentement afin de vraiment savourer ce roman. Ce n’était pas seulement un roman mais un objet d’art, une véritable tapisserie qui tisse l’histoire et l’intrigue pour faire un livre à garder précieusement.

On suit l’histoire de Wheeler Burden, né aux Etats-Unis mais qui se trouve tout soudain à Vienne pendant les années 1930. Là il rencontre Sigmund Freud et d’autres personnages bien connus de ce temps. Y compris son père, plus jeune qui Wheeler lui-même, qu’il ne connaissait pas à cause de sa mort soudaine dans la deuxième guerre mondiale.

Il y avait des phrases que j’appréciais vraiment. Par exemple…

Dans un passage, Wheeler est décrit comme “auréolé de mystère” ; une combinaison de mots si jolie que je l’ai notée dans mon journal. Comme quelqu’une qui est fréquemment décrite comme “enigme” ou “cachée” ou même “fermée”, j’appréciais avoir lu une description qui semblait plus positive.

Et c’était le cas pendant la duration de l’histoire – Selden Edwards a vraiment une tournure de phrase qui transporte le lecteur mais aussi le rappelle que la langue peut être aussi une forme d’art.

“Il régnait dans la chambre un calme qui n’appartenait plus à aucun lieu ni à aucun temps, une atmosphère sacrée.”

Et j’aimais les observations faites par Wheeler, en particulier dans ses conversations avec Sigmund Freud et avec son père, Dilly.

“Tu étais un héros et moi un excentrique, mais cela revient au même, tu comprends ? L’un et l’autre, nous pensions être capables de changer le monde qui nous entourait. Nous étions tous les deux frappés par la même malédiction.”

L’Incroyable Histoire de Wheeler Burden est vraiment un roman que je recommande. L’original a été écrit en anglais, par un auteur américain, mais je crois qu’il ne perd rien dans la traduction. Même il gagne quelquechose, en fait. Car comme on le sait tous, le français c’est la langue la plus jolie du monde. 😉

These are affiliate links, which means that if you buy the books after clicking on them, I will receive a percentage of the sale price. The books will be the same price whether you buy them through my links or by searching on Amazon. I did not receive review copies of these books. All opinions are my own. 

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