Three weeks ago I had eye surgery to correct my short sightedness. I knew I would be at least 2 weeks without being able to comfortably read, so I made sure I had enough audiobooks to see me through at least the one-week leave from work. I compared my wishlist to what was available on iTunes and in my boyfriend’s computer and ended up with this initial list:

The ones that had a bigger impact were The Uncommon Reader and Agnes Grey.

What would happen if the Queen of England became a fierce book-lover?

One normal day Her Majesty stumbles upon a mobile library in her backyard and that event triggers major changes in her household and country. She becomes curious, inquisitive and – most dangerous of all – … a Free Thinker.

For a moment it was touch and go for Her, after finding the first borrowed book (by Ivy Compton-Burnett) “a little dry.” But things started to improve with the next: Nancy Mitford’s “The Pursuit of Love”. It was a close call because, “if Her Majesty had gone for another duff read, an early George Eliot, say, or a late Henry James, novice reader that she was she might have been put off reading for good… Books, she would have thought, were work.

Here I wondered if this is what happens to a lot of people when, having read little or no classic lit, are asked to tackle Dickens and Homer at school. I honestly think that’s what put me off poetry for ever (except lyrics!).

I laughed out loud when Her Majesty suggests to the Prime Minister to read Thomas Hardy’s “The Convergence of the Twain” during Her Christmas address to the country, since it would be about how “fate is something to which we are all subject.” The Prime Minister was not impressed: “I’m not sure that is a message the government would feel able to endorse (…) the public must not be allowed to think the world could not be managed. That way lay chaos. Or defeat at the polls, which was the same thing.

The Uncommon Reader is British humor at its best: witty and lots of great inside (bookworm) jokes. Best read with a nice cuppa.

Agnes Grey – why hasn’t BBC adapted this one?! I’m a proud member of the Bronte Brussels Group and their 19-century bookclub. I haven’t read all the sisters’ books, and Agnes Grey was actually my first Anne. I pulled it up in my priority list because the bookclub has recently read Elizabeth Gaskell’s “The Life of Charlotte Bronte” and once again felt, that for a book about the family, Anne always seems to be in the background. The same happened after reading “The Bronte Myth”. Me being sucker for the ugly ducklings, I needed to know more about her.

Agnes Grey made Anne Bronte my favorite sister. I sometimes get a bit put off by the melodrama in Charlotte and Emily’s writing (crazy wife in the attic! Kathy’s ghost!), so Anne’s realism was a joy to read. She was herself a governess for many years, and not a happy one, so it’s easy to image some of the episodes in the book really happening. It also seeps throughout the novel Anne’s (and Agnes’) great love of Home, how she suffered when away from the moors and how the idea of them helped her get through the worst times.

One last though: Agnes’ experiences in her different positions is a strong reminder that infuriatingly spoilt children are common to all centuries (My Super Sweet Sixteen, anyone?).

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