I come from a family that loves reading. At least, my mother’s side of the family does. My grandmother was an avid reader, my mother and her siblings are avid readers, my cousins and their children all read, and I read stacks and stacks of books myself. We all like different kinds of books, but of course there’s some overlap and books are subsequently borrowed and read. But despite the huge volume of books that we read, there are always those books that are just that little bit extra special.
The book above is such a special book. It’s a copy of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Originally it belonged to my grandmother. My mother says that in her memories my grandmother has always had it. Since the name my grandmother wrote in the front of the book is her maiden name, I suspect she had it even before she got married. Funnily enough, I remember that book being in my mother’s possession for as long as I can remember, even though my grandmother was still alive back then. She must have given it to my mother. And now it’s on my bookshelf. Three generations of women reading and loving the same book. Perhaps one day I’ll have a daughter who will read and enjoy this timeless classic?
This little booklet – The Ballet-lover’s Pocket Book – belongs to my mother. My aunt S. gave it to her. Between my mother (the youngest) and aunt S. (the oldest) is about twenty years. While my mother was going to school, my aunt was already living in England and had a well-paying job. She loved ballet and everything to do with ballet, which was probably why this little book caught her eye. She gave it to my mother when she was still a young girl. My mother loved to look through it and try some of the steps on the pages.
Later in my mother’s life, during the time that she made dolls, this little booklet with all of its poses of the human body was extremely helpful. Well, according to my mother anyway – I’ve never made dolls so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that I discovered this booklet on my mother’s bookshelf when I was a little girl myself. Of course I had to try out some of the steps! And so the next generation had much fun with this little booklet.
The last book, shown below, is one of my own books. I am the first person in my family who reads more English books than Dutch books. While the first two books have been introduced by their English title, they are actually the Dutch translation. Not so with The First Man in Rome. For at least the last six years (and probably a little longer) I’ve been reading books in English if that’s the language they were originally written in. There’s just so much lost in translation, I’d rather read it like the author wrote it.
This particular book is a special one. You can see that while it’s a fairly recent buy – bought in 2010 – it’s already fairly battered. It’s also the only book I have ever written in. This book has travelled the world with me – hence the rather battered appearance – and I decided that writing down where and when I read it would be nice. Considering it’s a historical novel set in Rome, it’s appropriate that I started reading it during a weekend spent in Rome in August 2010. The hotel room had a door that led to a roof terrace that was lovely to sit on. In the early mornings I had breakfast there and read a bit, in the afternoons when I took a bit of time to relax before going out for dinner I sat and read there as well. Still, the book is almost 900 pages long. Not something I can read in a weekend when I’m also exploring one of my favorite cities. Yet at home I was busy, so I didn’t read in it anymore.
So when in September 2010 I went to Abisko, Sweden – a little place close to the arctic circle with a big biology research station – for an excursion with a master class I was taking, it seemed like the ideal time to bring my book. Working from early in the morning until dinner kept me busy, but the evenings were free and there really wasn’t much to do. We were in the middle of nowhere, a little town that had a railway station (maybe four trains a day, if that), a supermarket, and a church. The research station with all of its buildings and inhabitants was about as big as the rest of the town. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful there. The woods were turning golden – it reminded me of Lothlórien, the Golden Woods from The Lord of the Rings – and the northern lights that we were lucky to see one night were every bit as amazing as I’d always been told. But in the evenings I installed myself with a hot cup of tea and my book. On the last evening we were there I read until deep into the night to finish it – everybody else who was still up (about half the group) gave a huge cheer when I finally finished it. They couldn’t really understand why in the world I would read my evening away instead of joining them for drinks, but they were supportive anyway. It’s a group of people I will always have fond memories off. And a darn good book!