Welcome to the latest instalment of Book Chat Back-chat, where myself, my partner and my kids attempt to discuss books while eating a meal, complaining about the meal, and trying to prevent the dog from stealing the meal. (Or, in the case of the 13yo, sneaking the meal to the dog under the table morsel by morsel and thinking I won’t notice.)
B (aged 13): Mum, before we start, can I just say we’ve had Spaghetti Lentil Bolognese three weeks in a row and I’m really bored of it.
Mrs H: Noted. Please stay on topic.
B: So I just finished reading That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger. It’s about a high school shooting in America. Actually it’s about what happened afterwards, about how this girl died in the shooting and everyone thinks she died declaring her faith in Jesus, but the main character was with her when she died and she knows that’s not what happened. And now she needs to set everyone straight before the victim’s parents publish a book about it.
Mrs H: Sounds like a good read. Did you enjoy it?
B: It was really slow to start with, but then it would suddenly get good and then go slow again. It was a bit all over the place. I’d give it 8 out of 10.
Mr H: 8 out of 10 is quite generous.
Mrs H: And did you read Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan?
B: Gave up. Too slow.
Mrs H: SERIOUSLY?? I LOVED that book when I was your age.
Mr H: 50 million years ago.
Mrs H: Why don’t we read it together?
B: No. It’s boring.
Mrs H: But it’s a super-creepy page-turner! AND it’s right up your alley.
B: Mum, stop. I’m not going to read it.
Mr H: Drop it, Mildred. You always say we shouldn’t force our choice of books on the kids.
Mrs H: [sigh] YASMO.
Mrs H: You Are Sooooo Missing Out.
R (aged 15): Anyway, MY TURN. I just finished reading The Story of My Life by Helen Keller who learned to read, write, talk and lip-read despite being deaf and blind.
Mr H: How could she lip-read if she was blind?
R: She would hold her fingers against someone’s mouth and lip-read by touch. And then she learned to read books not by reading Braille, but by reading books in raised print. She couldn’t communicate until she was seven years old.
Mrs H: It’s quite an old book, isn’t it? Was it hard to read?
R: Yeah, but because Grannie gave it to me I kind of forced myself to read it, but I’m glad I did because it was really interesting. Like afterwards parts of it really stayed in my mind – like she learned to speak, read and write French, Greek and German while she was a teenager.
Mr H: Wow, that’s incredible.
R: I also read Body And Soul by Anita Roddick that Dad got me. It’s about how she started The Body Shop. She was quite inspiring cos she wasn’t just about making money. She wanted to give back to the world. She made The Body Shop stand out as an honest business.
Mr H: Until it got bought out by a multinational.
R: Oh. When did that happen?
Mr H: Ages ago. Anyway, you found it inspiring?
R: Yeah, she was ahead of her time.
Mr H: OK, does anyone want to know what I’ve been reading?
R & B: No.
Mr H: So I’ve just finished The Story of Art by EM Gombrich, an art critic who recounts the history of art from cave paintings to abstract expressionism.
B: [Yawning] Can I have some ice cream?
R: Can we watch Love Island later?
Mrs H: Why has the dog got spaghetti hanging out of his mouth? Who’s been feeding him?
B: Not me.
R: It IS her. There’s spaghetti on her shoe.
Mrs H: It’s like Escape From flipping Alcatraz via the dog’s intestines. STOP FEEDING THE DOG.
Mr H: [Coughs loudly] AND, I’VE ALSO READ a very interesting book called The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, which is about how the body and mind work together to keep a record of trauma.
B: I’m getting some ice cream.
Mr H: So, for example, if you have some kind of traumatic experience in your childhood – or whenever in life – your body records it as well as your brain.
Mrs H: Sounds good, I’ll read it after you. OK, my turn: I’ve read The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, which was SO brilliant I didn’t want it to end. It’s the story of a man’s life growing up in Ireland in the Fifties and Sixties and having to hide his sexuality from everyone. It was very touching – it made me laugh and cry.
B: Can I have some more ice cream?
Mrs H: AND I also read Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan for the first time in nearly 35 years. And it was STILL great!
B: And I’m STILL not going to read it. So stop going on about it and GOI.
Mrs H: What’s GOI?
B: Get Over It.