What We’re Reading in… May

This month in the Hale office, we think about books we’ve re-read, and how these stories have fared over time.

Catherine, Design and Production Manager:

There are two books that I have re-read several times for pleasure rather than having to re-read them as part of school studies: Dickens’ Hard Times, anyone?!

The first is C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Harper Collins). As a child, lion - coverit was my favourite book and I never tired of escaping to the magical world of Narnia along with Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter. Then, I never quite saw it as a Christian allegory but a simpler triumph of good over evil. As an adult, I read it to my own children as part of bed-time reading. I still enjoyed the fantasy with some of the delightful animal (-like) characters such as Mr Tumnus, the Beavers and the very wise, Christ-like Aslan. I also better understood the darker theme in the book, betrayal. Poor Edmund turns bad rather slowly – from resentful child, to bully, to liar, to traitor. Thankfully, there is a happy ending and Edmund is redeemed with the help of Aslan and the unconditional love of his brother and sisters. It’s still a very positive message in the end: no matter how far down the slippery slope someone has gone, everyone can be helped to change if they want to.

The second book is Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (Virago), first read in my early teens after studying Jamaica Inn at school. ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.…’ is among the most memorable opening line of any book. I was captivated by Maxim de Winter and how the evil Mrs Danvers made life so difficult for the narrator, the second Mrs de Winter. I was always intrigued by the fact the rebeccanarrator is never given a first name but, finally understood on the latest reading that it’s a very effective way of making her seem a lesser person than Rebecca – less confident, less capable, less attractive to Maxim – particularly with Mrs Danvers’ frequent undermining of the narrator as well. The Cornish connection was also a great attraction for Rebecca and other du Maurier books as our family visited Cornwall often for holidays – Daphne du Maurier’s Cornish house, Menabilly, was part of the inspiration for Manderley. I read it again three years ago when Rebecca was one of the World Book Day titles, and I took part by giving away several copies of this book at my local railway station to the commuters coming home.

It’s a 20th century gothic romance and, for me, an all-time classic.

Isobel, Marketing and Publicity Assistant:
For some reason, (maybe drawn in by the cute, welcoming cover), aged nine, I picktrainspotting-covered up a copy of Trainspotting (Vintage) by Irving Welsh. We were visiting my cousins in Glasgow, and my family were probably just happy I was occupied. When I reread it recently, I realised approximately 99.99999% of it must have gone over my head the first time around. The story centres on Renton, a heroin-addict living in Edinburgh, and his junkie friends, as they try and fail to get clean. While I might not have followed the storyline entirely, I remember being moved by Renton’s character. I thought he came across as basically a good person, if a bit confused. I couldn’t work out why he never stuck to his word about quitting.

It was strange recognising the naivety that formed my first reading of the book. I am not as instantly sympathetic to Renton’s character now.  I also remember finding the Edinburgh dialect used by Irvine Welsh throughout the novel a lot easier to understand when I was nine, though maybe the phonetic spelling appealed to my far from advanced spelling abilities..