My visitor from the Netherlands left a book at my house.
This was not an accident – she actually said ‘I’ve finished that book. Would you like to have it? It’s quite good and I’m anxious to get my bags to a weight below 15 kilograms.’
Perhaps I am paraphrasing our exact exchange but the bottom line is that I have a new book called ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’, written by Ransom Riggs.
I wasn’t on the market for new books. When Amsterdam and I went through our amicable divorce last year, Amsterdam kept custody of the book collection that I had lovingly built up over a period of many years. It was like Sophie’s Choice trying to decide which select few books would be coming home with me, and which chosen few would be given to friends on the understanding that one day I would come back for them.
The fate of the other books was more precarious. A number of bibliophile friends informed me that they were willing to adopt some old books, and a fair percentage were rehoused that way.
In the month before I left Amsterdam, I never left the house without a selection of books crammed into my stylish man-bag, to offer to friends, acquaintances and random strangers whenever I thought to do so.
I am ashamed to admit however, that many books were discarded. Dumped into the paper recycling bin outside my house, like the unwanted runts of the litter. If I’d been a better parent to these books then I’d have found a charity shop to which I could have donated them . However my book parenting skills are limited – I am more the type of Dad who turns up at the school gate at 9.10am in a dressing gown, smoking a fag and drinking a can of lager to drop little Wayno off at school.
If I had planned further in advance, and started packing for my return to Ireland after fifteen years away, earlier than a fortnight before my departure, their destiny may have been brighter. But because I didn’t, it wasn’t.
So my collection of about four hundred books was dealt with. And when I moved into my new flat the empty bookshelves were a forlorn sight.
Since then I have been engaged in a semi-controlled frenzy of book sourcing. Living close to a second hand bookshop which sells books for about €3, has been a curse and a blessing. Those shelves are filling up nicely but I’m not making much headway in terms of reading those buckos.
Therefore a new book wasn’t on my list of must haves.
Yesterday however, I left my phone at home, so the choice on the route to work was simple – either move around the bus until I found a conversation worth eavesdropping into, or to read whatever book was in my bag. The eavesdropping possibilities were limited as my Spanish and Chinese speaking skills are non-existent.
So out came the book. It’s a heavy book as the paper seems thicker than a regular book. It’s about a teenager whose grandfather gets murdered and who travels to rural Wales to solve the mystery of the seemingly supernatural killer. There are several strange, atmospheric pictures scattered throughout.
It was reading strangely to me however. The language and themes were fairly violent and adult, but the writing style seemed a bit juvenile. After doing some research the mystery was solved – ‘Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children’ is apparently a ‘Young Adult’ novel – a new genre of fiction for those aged between fifteen and twenty three. Who knew that such a genre existed?
I felt like an old fart, when my initial reaction was ‘Well what’s wrong with adult fiction and a dictionary? In my day we had to make do with that.’
I put aside my reservations. I am enjoying the book – irrespective of the fact that I am almost twenty years older than the target market.