I’m a lover of books. I often have a few on the go at the same time. An easy to read novel for bed time and perhaps a memoir and self help book that I can pickup and put down as the mood takes me.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved books. I’ve always had many more than I could actually read. Always had a list of books a mile long that I want to read. At one stage of my adult life I think I had enough books to open up my own library, but with moving houses, they slowly got culled and only my favourites or those with interesting covers stayed with me.
My early memories of reading come from my teenage years when I was enthralled with “Sweet Valley High”. The teen romance series that followed the loves and turmoil of twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. I remember scouring the library shelves for the red rooster on the spine and when I found it, prayed that I’d not already read it. Who doesn’t love to live their teen romantic hopes through these girls!! I think this is where my love for romance books has stemmed from.
I have delved into other genres too. I went through the stage of reading all of Sidney Sheldon and Patricia Cornwell’s books. Wilbour Smith was a hit for a while too. I don’t mind a good thriller or crime action novel; and I’ll read anything that has a bit of a medical theme, set in a hospital or even a morgue. I won’t read anything Sci-Fi, medieval or vampirish though (sorry Game of Throne lovers)! It just doesn’t interest me; but in saying that I did devour the Twilight Saga (it was a romance though), please don’t judge me 🙂
I’ve worked my way though the many talented Australian authors that set their novels in the harsh and rugged outback or on farms in the countryside similar to where I grew up. I like to delve into the lives of those that live and love on the land. I think it’s because I can relate to what it’s like living on the land and the struggles and heartbreak and joy it can bring. I find it easy to take myself back there and immerse myself in the story and become the leading lady.
About 6 months ago, I took the plunge back to basics and “real books”. For many years I’ve been using my kindle, buying and downloading books; but I realised that I was missing the feel of the paper and the weight of a good hardback; so I joined my local library. Well – what I discovered was quite exciting. I know you are thinking that the word library and the word exciting can’t co-exist in the same sentence! Hear me out…. I found out that all the libraries across the state are linked. I can go into the library system and “hold” any books I want and they can be sent to my local library! How cool is that??!! So I excitedly went through the Dymocks junk mail and put a hold on all the books that I want to read. I even put a hold on some recipe books that I want to check out to see if they are worth buying. I was pretty pumped. With not a penny spent, I have now been able to get a few books that I have had my eye on. Been able to read them without having to buy them, and take them back so they don’t take up valuable real estate in my house!
I’m a very visual person and love scouring the shelves just looking at the front covers of the books. I have been known to spend an hour doing this one day, just wandering and looking, and touching and feeling. I love looking at the photos or sketches or graphics on the covers and binders. Pictures of the beautiful characters or landscapes in which the books are set. The colours and patterns and fancy writing just appeal to me. I try to decide if the story that the picture is telling me gives me a hint of what the actual story is about. Trying to decide if the book will be good based on the picture. Sometimes I’m left wondering from the picture why that picture was even used as it has nothing to do with the book. If I’m taken by the cover, I’ll do a quick read inside the front cover or the back of the book; if it’s about any of the things listed above it goes straight back on the shelf! Sometimes I am continually drawn back to the cover, especially when the pictures are exquisite and captivating.
One of these said books is The Birdman’s Wife. It’s a cover that I have been drooling over for some time, since I spotted it in a book catalogue some 6 months ago. I’ve also found it in my local book store and very nearly bought it, just for the beautiful drawings throughout the book. It’s a simple blue cover with the most stunning birds hand-painted on the front of it. Just 3 of them. Two are bring food back to what looks like a rip in a wall and the other one just leaving. It just caught my eye and the title really intrigued me. What could a book called The Birdman’s Wife actually be about – I was hopeful that it was a romance of course! On the back of the book it’s described as “A woman overshadowed by history steps back into the light”. I thought, this sounds a bit like my “emerging” journey – stepping back into life, coming out of the dark. This could be a book paralleled by what I’m going through. The inside of the cover briefed the story being about Elizabeth, a talented drawer and painter of animals and in particular birds, a real artist. She falls in love with a taxidermist who is world-famous and highly sought after. The story is about how she juggles being a wife, mother and artist in the shadows of her husband. Great, this sounds right up my alley. So onto the library list it went and a couple of weeks ago it became available and I was super excited to get my teeth stuck into it.
As I made my coffee and got myself comfy to make a start, I flicked through the first few pages with so much adoration for the images. The sketches and fine art detail were just beautiful. Then onto page one, chapter one – uh oh – this book is set in 1828!!!!! WTF! I forgot to mention above that I don’t really do old historical books either. Anything set pre about 1950 is left on the shelf! I felt let down that this hadn’t been mentioned on the inside cover!! This is such a huge part of the story and I would have thought that this vital piece of information deserved a mention. Anyway, I sucked it up and gave it a go.
Over the next few days I tried really hard to get into the book, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t relate to the setting back in the 1800’s. I couldn’t picture the setting, the places, the conversations or interactions. I couldn’t bring the story to life in my imagination. If I can’t to that, can’t put me in the story, then I’m just not interested. I struggled with a lot of the terminology that was used (too many big, unpronounceable words)! I got to chapter 4 before it lost my interest and I started reading something else. I was devastated. I really wanted to enjoy this book. The cover had me captivated, but the story just didn’t do it for me.
So, what is the point of this post, other than sharing with you my library antics and that I’m a romantic tragic? The message is, never judge a book by its cover. Like I did with my book, the cover was great but not what was inside. We can take this into our daily lives too with the people who cross our paths. Often what we see on the outside is not what is on the inside. People can be all glitz and glamour to look at, but be the shitties of people. I’ve learnt that I need to look at the not so great covers to as they may well give me the best story. We often judge people by what we see with our eyes and not what they give with their hearts and soul. We truly don’t know what is on the inside unless we look past the cover and open up and delve deeper.