The characters I’m reading about all seem to be doing their own reading. In A Suitable Boy, Lata is reading Emma and Haresh is reading The Mayor of Casterbridge. Sandeep Lahiri, the young Sub-Divisional Officer of Rudia, is reading Howards End. In contrast to these very English choices, Mrs Rupa Mehra recites a passage from the Bhagavad Gita each morning.
Decline and Fall (1928) opens with Paul Pennyfeather looking forward to reading another chapter of John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga in bed. Later, Pennyfeather marks his place in a volume of The Golden Bough by Charles Frazer, taking me neatly back to my other reading, The Waste Land (1922), which T.S. Eliot acknowledges is indebted to ‘a work of anthropology…which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough‘. I love these little sparks & frissons; books talking to books.
The Biscuit is making her way through Matilda for about the sixth time, which reminded me of the wonderful list of books that the four-year-old Matilda reads under the ‘watchful and compassionate’ eye of Mrs Phelps the librarian.
I’m intrigued. Does anyone have any favourite examples of characters reading? I know that there must be more.
In other news, the flood waters have receded and the Biscuit finally went back to her primary school yesterday. Secondary school, complete with school bus, was a great adventure. Best findings: ‘They have chewing gum under the desks! And a bell that rings all the time for the big children!’ The little children had an afternoon in the science labs, making their hair stand on end with the Van de Graaff generator. The Biscuit (daughter of two physics graduates) was deeply impressed. With my new reserves of ‘extra’ time (or the thrilling return of life as normal) I’ve started Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety and, a single chapter in, I’m already bowled over.
Above: Pushkar, Christmas Day 2005. From our room we watched the children flying their kites on the rooftops, just as Bhaskar does in A Suitable Boy.