by Laura Bloxham
In Josephine Tey’s mystery A Daughter of Time (1952), Alan Grant, a Scotland Yard Inspector, is confined to bed with a broken leg. He’s bored until he begins his investigation of Richard III, popularized by Shakespeare in a none-too-accurate historical fashion. He needs an assistant to do his legwork, so to speak, in this era before the Internet. I understand Alan Grant. I spent last summer in a rehab facility with a broken ankle.
Summer reading has been largely my choice. I plan. I hunt. I gather. I stack. My book categories vary from classics to trash. I also have my Kick Ass Women’s Summer Reading group. We meet over lunch to discuss the kick ass women authors and characters we are indulging in from week to week. So much for my plans last summer.
I probably had more control that Alan Grant did. I could have sent someone to my house for the stack of books. I could have (and did) order Amazon to deliver books to my bedside. But circumstances changed my reading regimen last summer.
In the emergency room, while I was being prepped for surgery, my friend Jenny recommended Gene Stratton Porter, A Girl of the Limberlost (1909). Right there I ordered Limberlost delivered to my kindle. What a relief to know that when I woke I’d have a book, a new discovery, waiting for me.
During my four-day hospital stay, Carol, a Sunday school book club friend, brought Frederik Backman’s My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. I’m not much for fantasy, Harry Potter excepted. But early on in Backman’s book I was hooked. Then on to A Man Called Ove.
Meanwhile, the Kick Ass Women were reading and meeting without me. I read about their books in email summaries. Helen recommended Jana DeLeon’s Louisiana Longshot for travel entertainment. Worked for me too in my confined state. The protagonist is a CIA operative with a hit out on her, now going underground as a former pageant queen. The first mystery in the series is kick-in-the-butt funny. The second book a bit predictable.
I measured the physical reality of my summer by the weeks in a non-weight bearing cast, the weeks in a boot with limited weight bearing, and my slowly increasing ability to move. My mental reality I measured by reading, most of which I had not expected to come my way. While I might have chosen mysteries anyway, now they were distractions of another kind. I didn’t mind institutional food and constant vital signs being monitored when I was reading Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling), The Silkworm and Career of Evil, Jeffrey Deaver, The Steel Kiss, Allyson K. Abbott, Murder with a Twist (gift from a visitor), A.A. Milne, The Red House Mystery (also a gift). I added Malice by Keigo Higasino to my kindle book queue (recommended by kick ass member Katherine’s mother).
In the non-mystery realm, I found I liked the concept, the premise of Katarina Bivald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, but not the execution of it. I read a couple books, including Jane Yolen, The Devil’s Arithmetic, for the Holocaust Literature class I thought I was going to teach in the fall. That did not happen; but the reading was worthwhile anyway.
By the time I returned home to my stacks of summer reading still waiting for me, it was September. To be sure, I had not solved the historical mystery of the actual Richard the Third. But I had discovered that, despite physical limitations, I could relish new reading adventures, planned or gifted. Thomas á Kempis wrote (scholars have suggested it is a shortened version of what he actually wrote), “ . . . I have sought peace and not found it, except in a corner with a book.” I might substitute “hospital bed” for “corner” and make the saying the capsule of my summer reading.
Laura Bloxham was born in Seattle and raised in the Seattle Public Library. She loves baseball and reading mysteries.