10 October 2010
happiness and beyond
I've read two books in the past five or six weeks, which is a sheer miracle for me. I admit most of the time (when I get a sliver of it) I'm staring into Vogue or a sewing book, possibly because a conducive reading environment at my home is rare and fleeting. I visit the library usually twice a week (it's one of my favourite places) and often I come home, my book bag bulging with titles. Some get returned without me ever having gotten past the first page. The covers usually win me over but that's as far as I get with them. I, however, am not one of those people who will finish a book just for the sake of finishing it. I just can't understand that logic when there are so many perfectly good books waiting at the library.
Some titles just grab my attention, and I might not have even been looking their way. The two books I've whizzed through lately are The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and Ugly by Constance Briscoe. Two utterly different titles, yet both so compelling. As I read The Happiness Project I was unconsciously making little changes in the way I spoke and behaved. Ever find yourself nitpicking with your husband or boyfriend, snappy with your children or being less of a friend that you perhaps could have? I have, and for no good reason. Rubin doesn't dictate what you should do, she simply documents her year of trying to be happy, dedicating each month to a separate topic. I really enjoyed this book. Admittedly if I'd come across her website first I might not have read her book, but I'm so glad I did. It really has changed the way I think.
Ugly is an entirely different story, about a young Jamaican girl growing up in London in a very abusive home environment. Her mother beat her on a regular basis for the smallest of things (often for no reason at all), yet didn't really seem to lay a finger on her siblings. Her mother often called her ugly, hence the title, and was clear in showing her daughter her distinct lack of love. To say lack of love is an understatement, as perhaps she would have fared much better if her mother was indifferent. She seemed to despise her.
I do realise what I've written is probably not encouraging you to read her memoir but this was a book I found hard to put down. Her style of writing is appropriate to the storytelling from a child's perspective, often referring to her abusive mother, even after a beating, as 'Mummy'. Heartbreaking, funny, dismal, hopeful, triumphant. Many emotions. An incredible story. I can't wait to read her next book, Beyond Ugly.