Escaping to another place

Zoë Sharp

Most of us read to be transported to another place. As a child it was a place of excitement and welcome. I think most children go through a phase of feeling that we don’t quite fit in with our families, and that we might even be some kind of cuckoo, deposited in another nest to be raised, and that sooner or later our ‘real’ family will arrive to claim us.

No? Ah, just me then …

In times of stress or unhappiness, the world presented by a good book can be a place to step into, to be enveloped and even comforted. It offers some kind of order out of chaos. You open a crime thriller in particular knowing there will be satisfying resolution. That the murder will be solved, the mystery unravelled, the disaster averted, and the bad guys will get their just desserts. However horrific the crime, the hero will prevail and there will be justice done.

It’s hardly surprising then, that crime thrillers are popular reading among people faced with senseless violence on a daily basis. It is their safe haven and their escape.

This is why I am devoting today’s blog to an appeal for books for our service men and women in the front line. Last Christmas, the Historical Writers’ Association launched their Books For Heroes appeal in the UK, but there’s a similar one going in the States.

Last year’s donations when down extremely well, although apparently the helicopter making the delivery to service personnel in Afghanistan came under fire and had to jettison boxes to make an emergency exit, then go back for them later with mine sweepers.

And you thought you were a serious book lover …

I know it seems very early to be talking about Christmas, but don’t forget that we’re not talking about getting them to people in the least hospitable places where even UPS won’t deliver. And they need to be as-new books. The kind of thing you wouldn’t mind giving or receiving as a Christmas present rather than something that’s about to be donated to the nearest charity store.

Paperbacks only are appreciated, rather than hardcovers, because when you’re airlifting cargo, weight is a serious consideration. I hope you’ll seek out the appeal in your area, or your country, and make the time to donate a book or two. Those that don’t go overseas to service personnel on the front line are likely to end up in the hospitals or rehab centres for the returning injured.

Whether you agree with the war or not, the people who are out there serving their country and the rest of us deserve some small sign of our appreciation and consideration, especially as Christmas approaches. What better way than to give them the freedom of a book?

So, fellow ‘Rati, do you have a favourite book that’s seen you through a difficult time? Care to share?

This week’s Word of the Week is monger, usually used in combination with another word, meaning a dealer and—except in a few instances, such as ironmonger— a person who trafficks in a petty or discreditable way, or in unpleasant subjects, such as warmonger, or gossipmonger. From the Latin mango -onis, a furbisher or slave-dealer, from the Greek manganeuein, to use trickery.

PS More news on the new Charlie Fox book very soon, I promise!

10 thoughts on “Escaping to another place

  1. Reine

    Hi Zoë,

    Wonderful thing for you to publicize! As a Blue Star mother, I can attest to the fact that soldiers read books and keep their mummys supplied with a list of books that they and their friends need more then their delicious cookies. It is traditional to share– but so nice when there are enough books to go around to everyone.

    I discovered Louise Penny's cozies during an exceedingly difficult time. I think my identification with both Francophone and Anglophone Québec communities in her books was supportive, despite the intrigue and setting for murder. Perhaps, as you say, justice is helpful. Finding justice through the resolution of someone else's horror is a comfort.

    I don't know, yet, what books I will find to help me through this latest grief and work for resolution. I know I will find something, but I am so consumed with the death of my daughter and concurrent illness of my husband, that it is huge work just to get up and welcome the day. But I will do it. Mostly I feel the need to keep writing. The last thing that Jeanie said to me was, "How many words a day are you writing?" Honest. For real and true. She was a great reader and always told me about books I must read. Now I have to go through her emails to find more. I've been putting it off. Today I will stop putting it off.


  2. Zoë Sharp

    Dear Reine

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, and I'm glad that the escape of a good book brings some small comfort to you. Thinking of you and sending you (and Kendall) a big virtual hug 🙂

  3. Lisa Alber

    Reine, I just want to say that I'm so sorry for your loss. You are a valiant person — I can tell by the way you write.

    Zoe, I love this. I used to donate novels to a local user paperback shop so that it could send books to our guys in the Middle East. As for a comfort book…Don't know about comfort, but I do have an all-time favorite wallowing book. THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath. I read that right after college, living abroad, working my first real job, feeling depressed and homesick. Does that count? 🙂

  4. KDJames

    Oh, Reine. I'm so sorry to hear that's the reason for your absence here. I've missed your voice and hope you'll continue to make the effort to climb out of that dark pit. Virtual hugs and much love being sent your way.

    Zoë, I don't re-read so I guess all the books are my favourites. While I'm reading them. Does that make me fickle and undiscerning? Or maybe just insatiable. I'll check out the link to the effort going on here in the US. Not sure I'm up to paying postage to the UK. I'd be delighted if all our service people could just come home. I'd still want to send them books, but I wish for them a happier and safer environment in which to read.

  5. PD Martin

    Hi Zoe. Great topic for a post. Now I have to find out if Australia does something similar 🙂

    Reine, I'm so, so sorry to hear about your daughter. As someone with a very young family, I now fully understand that saying "A parent should never outlive their child." It really is just not 'right'. I can't imagine anything worse to deal with and I'm so sorry to hear that you're going through this – and your husband's illness, too.

  6. Reine

    Hi Zoë, Lisa, KD, PD– thank you for your great kindness. It was the worst summer with Jeanie in the ICU isolation for the entire three months. A couple of weeks before she died we learned that my husband's chemotherapy was ineffective. He had surgery. It did not do the job, either. We are okay, But it is hard. Again, thank you. I am grateful to have this place to visit.

  7. Reine

    Phillipa's comment to Zoë isn't here, yet I was sent a copy of it, with these others, in my email. I hope there is an Australian group for sending books to those in service.

    KD, I hope they all come home soon. No one believes this, but we have an 80-year-old friend who went on active duty two years ago (when he was 78). His M.D. was needed. He met a woman, also in the service, and they married… and had a baby. Anyone wants to check it out? Email me. I'll give you details.

  8. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Lisa

    THE BELL JAR? Wow, you’re obviously much deeper than I am! I tend to reach for something much more popcorn-y if I’m feeling low, and I’m not sure the semi-autobiographical story of a woman’s slide into clinical depression would lift my spirits, even though it does have a note of hope at the end. Do you think your affection for the book has a lot to do with the time at which you first read it?

    And yes, it counts, btw :))

  9. Zoë Sharp

    Hi KD

    Interesting that you don’t re-read. I know I shouldn’t do it―there are too many new books out there waiting to be read―but sometimes a familiar journey is what’s needed.

    The US Books For Heroes appeal is based in Georgia, and I’m sure there may well be somewhere collecting books that is closer to you as well.

  10. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Reine

    I can’t find Phillipa’s comment either, so I don’t know what happened to that.

    Again, you just seem to be having everything thrown your way at the moment, and I can only stand in awe of your courage.

    Lovely story about your friend, by the way. Please send them both my congratulations.

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