Come with me to the beautiful county of Dorset – Thomas Hardy country – to enjoy the company of a spirited heroine, a variety of heroes, comic yokels, and a plot packed with drama. I love Thomas Hardy’s novels, though they often make me cry.
It was announced last month that this year no Nobel Prize for Literature will be awarded. There have been sex-abuse allegations and “other issues” within the ranks of the prestigious Swedish Academy which decides on and awards the prize.
On my travels I love to see statues of favourite literary characters. In Philadelphia recently I sought out a statue of Dickens with Little Nell at his side, I love the one of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (it was erected overnight so that children would think it had appeared by magic), and one of Sherlock Holmes in Edinburgh near the spot where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born.
In 1961 a man called Richard Booth opened a second hand bookshop in the unused fire station in a little Welsh town named Hay-on-Wye. He hoped to fill the town with book shops and he even crowned himself King of Hay and in 1977 proclaimed Hay an independent kingdom. He bought the ruined castle on a hill overlooking the town, and got a great deal of publicity for his eccentric ways.
In 2016 the Baillie Gifford Prize for a non-fiction book was awarded to East West Street by Philippe Sands. I read it recently after my sister had recommended it (thanks Rache) and found it absolutely fascinating. Philippe Sands is a lawyer and was invited to lecture on international law in the Ukrainian city of Lviv.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
My favourite American poet is Robert Frost, who was born in San Francisco in 1874 but who spent most of his life in New England, writing about the rhythms of life on a farm – mending the stone wall, picking apples, sawing wood, walking through the woods and needing to decide which path to follow.
I recently enjoyed an audio version of Thinks by David Lodge – a rather quirky, unusual novel about academics who have an affair. I have been enjoying David Lodge’s books for years. His Nice Work, a modern version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s superb North and South, is a funny and excellent read (there’s also a TV version available on DVD), and Changing Places is a delight too.