Books Will See Me Through

Me reading The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz with a small, one-week-old obstacle in the way.

Books have been my saviour since I was a shy child holed up in my bedroom reading Brian Jacques, Robin Jarvis, J K Rowling, E Nesbitt, Philip Pullman et al, and now that I’m a new mum they’re proving to be as much of a lifeline as they ever were.

So here are the books that have been a balm to my frazzled soul, from pregnancy to post-partum delirium…

The Old Friends

In the later stages of pregnancy, when I was waddling from couch to fridge and crying over butter commericals, I needed ease and familiarity, and so I reached for some old friends. The Adrian Mole diaries by Sue Townsend. Poirot murder mysteries by Agatha Christie. The Sally Lockart quartet by Philip Pullman. The Earthsea Saga by Ursula Le Guin. Jeeves and Wooster stories by P G Wodehouse. Bridget Jones’s diaries by Helen Fielding. Revisiting these perennial faves reminded me that, even though my life was about to change forever, I would always have these old pals to comfort and console me.

Practical Guidance

As hilarious as Bertie Wooster is, he’s never going to help me deal with cracked nipples, so I’ve turned to a few baby manuals for advice.

Your Baby Week by Week by Caroline Fertleman and Simone Cave takes you through the first six months of your baby’s life, and covers all the basics, from sleep patterns to how many dirty nappies you can expect to change daily. Whilst I’ve laughed heartily at some of the book’s suggestions (at three months my baby should, apparently, have been feeding only once every three hours – HAHAHAHAHA!) there’s a lot of sage advice on offer here and it’s put my mind at ease on many occasions.

You’ve Got It In You by Emma Pickett is a lovely, down-to-earth guide to breastfeeding and has helped me no end with the surprisingly tricky art of getting milk from nip to lip. Happy Mum Happy Baby by Giovanna Fletcher is a gorgeous account of the joys and mania of new motherhood and made me feel both normal and less alone in the twilight hours.

Pure Escapism

As great as these books are, sometimes, after a long day of reading nursery rhymes in increasingly daft voices, pretending to be Piglet and giving a running commentary of every banal task I do so that my baby knows I’m nearby, what I need is pure escapism. This is where fantasy books come in. The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss are two of the best books of their genre and I cannot wait for the third and final installment of The Kingkiller Chronicles. Next I’ll be re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin. Hot bubble bath + cup of tea + a chapter of a nice chunky fantasy = the most relaxing half hour of my day.

Knowledge to Stop Brainrot

Finally, I think it’s a good idea for me to keep learning new things so that my brain doesn’t melt into a big pink gooey mess, so I’m currently reading The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte. Brusatte’s writing style is witty, engaging and entertaining, and the subject matter is so exciting that the book is actually giving me goosebumps.

As for the books I read with wee Mary? That’s a whole other post, and a whole other source of joy for a bookworm mum.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ | BBC Radio Four

adrian mole

This review first appeared in The Student, Tuesday 24th September 2013

First broadcast over thirty years ago, it’s surprising how relevant and downright hilarious Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ remains. Nicholas Barnes narrates the Leicester teen’s daily gripes and musings with deadpan brilliance, from his lust for treacle-haired classmate Pandora to his dismay at being an ‘intellectual’ in a sea of plebs.

Despite his conceit and general ignorance, Townsend’s creation remains enormously endearing. He might have moments of stunning pomposity: referring to a bottle of wine as having ‘a pleasant enough vintage’; or loaning a pen to Pandora and reflecting ‘I think she appreciates these small attentions’ (a line taken straight from Pride and Prejudice, a book he casually dismisses as ‘old-fashioned’ a few days previously). But Adrian has many decent qualities. He volunteers to help Communist pensioner Bert Baxter with arduous and grotty tasks, and remains sweetly ignorant of his mother’s affair with a neighbour, despite the glaringly obvious signs.

So many of his agonies remain relatable: his hatred for P.E; his troublesome skin; his ‘erotic dreams’; and his shame at being seen in public with his badly dressed parents. The Tories were in power then and are in power now, unemployment was rife then as it is today, and Adrian’s mum’s attempts to break the mould of housewife and mother is part of a battle many women are still fighting (Adrian hates his mother reading The Female Eunuch because it means he has to do housework and eat boil-in-the-bag dinners).

So whilst it is Abba rather than Kanye West Adrian listens to in an attempt to muffle the noise of his arguing parents, his angst remains as identifiable and entertaining as it did in 1982, and doubtless will do thirty years from now.