Sunday, 29 December 2013



I was thinking about the books I've read this year, but it's hard to remember them all. Some of them are in my room in London; some of them are on my brother's bookshelves; some of them are in boxes. I've read some books I liked, I read some books I didn't like, and strangely the story I remember best is the one I read on the bus every morning, right after I moved to London: Stefan Zweig's Scharlach (Scarlet Fever), in which the young protagonist feels so alienated after moving to Vienna, so out of place. 

Right now, I'm devouring Donna Tartt's latest novel, The Goldfinch. She does something which I admire immensely: make a child's life appear three-dimensional, entirely convincing. Some of my favourite novels are about children. I worked with children for years, I like them and think they're interesting. But more than that, I often think that it must be incredibly hard to write a good book with a young protagonist, because none of us really remember what it's like to be a child; we re-create childhood via other media, via observation, films, photographs, the stories we're told about what we were like when we were little. Most authors that I like manage to create very convincing worlds and characters (I hate one-dimensional characters, which makes it harder and harder for me to enjoy (some) Victorian novels), but to capture what I imagine childhood to be like seems almost impossible.

Anyway. Here's are some novels and short stories about children and young people. They're all fantastic, and most of them are a bit strange. Short stories that I liked are Ali Smith's The World with Love and Francis Wyndham's Obsessions. My favourite novels with young protagonists (all quite sad, really) are G.F. Green's In The Making, Elsa Morante's L'isola d'Arturo (Arturo's Island) (my brother and my mother loved this as well, it's wonderful), Jamie O'Neill's At Swim, Two Boys, and L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between (obviously).
Honorary mentions to Penelope Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower and Thomas Mann's The Buddenbrooks for featuring really memorable child characters, even though they're not the main protagonists. My favourite books about children, written for children, are Astrid Lindgren's Kalle Blomkvist and Tonke Dragt's De brief voor de koning (The Letter for the King). I actually feel sorry for children who grow up without Astrid Lindgren's books. I'm not sure they're for children, necessarily... The Brothers Lionheart still makes me want to cry into my cocoa. And Rainer Maria Rilke's Kindheit (Childhood) is one of my favourite poems.

1 comment:

  1. it will be so nice to meet you one day! Especially that you live in London actually. Are you willing to meet with one of your blog groupie? :)