I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This took slightly longer to finish than I thought it would but it was totally worth it. I’m not much of a non-fiction reader as I often find it does not interest me as much as fiction but the title – and gorgeous cover – drew me in immediately.
Though my childhood and upbringing was primarily during the noughties, and Lucy’s (I feel as though referring to her by her surname is too formal – I feel like I almost know her after this book, and I related to her in so many ways; being raised in the Northern fashion, being told off her hiding behind a book and causing no trouble at, etc) was in the seventies, this book still recalled on many of my childhood favourites – The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Spot the Dog, Elmer, Miffy, Meg and Mog – even if I can’t pinpoint where I remember them from as clearly as she can.
The whole book was not only a nostalgic, scenic train journey (not a roller coaster – far too disruptive) but a trove of interesting publication facts and witty commentary that had me laughing out loud on my commute – some favourites were:
“The Brontes owned a copy of A History of British Birds and by all accounts cherished it. Then again, so would you if it was the only thing available to take your mind off the TB-ridden siblings dropping all around you like flies.”
“Even now, after 40 years in the same place, you would not be able to guess a single thing about the people who live there. Apart, possibly, from the fact that one at least must be a monomaniac who has forgotten more about decluttering than Marie Kondo will ever know.”
“In love with a hundred-year-old vampire Bella may be, but Buffy, she ain’t.”
It also helped me remember books I had forgotten I had ever read, Flat Stanley for example. I had completely forgotten about Flat Stanley Lambchop until I read this book! Stanley meet my Read shelf.
I think what resonated with me the most about this book, however, was just how much I related to some of the stories Lucy told. Like pretending to try and fit in with the other kids at school.
At one point she says ‘At five I was largely studying the difference between upper- and lower-case letters, but in my spare moments, I was already having to contemplate tearing down my entire personality and starting from scratch.’.
At 19 years old, this is a thought I can’t remember not having and do still and this is the first time I’ve read the feeling so aptly put into words. Whilst I don’t relish the fact that others share this insecurity, it’s almost comforting enough to begin to potentially overcome it. You know, maybe.
The feelings Lucy relates about her wishes for Alexander – her son’s – reading experiences also made me smile as they paralleled my own for my two-year-old baby brother, whom I recently bought The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Spot the Dog and The Tiger Who Came to Tea in addition to We’re Going On A Bear Hunt and The Gruffalo.
Admittedly there were parts I skipped over either because they gave away plot points in a book I intend to read or it was a large amount publication history or facts that didn’t interest me as much as I had not read/heard of the book itself but I still found it hugely enjoyable. I was slightly surprised that in all the little tidbits of obscure information regarding various authors personal lives that in the section on Alice in Wonderland none of Carroll’s more … unsavoury tastes were mentioned. This could, of course, be because they are essentially impossible to be reliably proven as fact and may well just be a poisonous rumour invented by English Literature teachers to ruin childhoods forever but it was surprising nonetheless.
I could probably write a review consisting of 90% awesome and witty quotes from this book but I’d much rather you just read it for yourself and take a quick stroll down your bookish memory lane and, like me, lament that your memories are not as distinct and detailed as Lucy’s or that you were not blessed with a bookish parent to help guide you.
Alas. But thank you, Lucy Mangan for sharing these stories, I enjoyed them immensely.