I had a very happy childhood, and some of my most cherished early memories are those spent with my Dad in the local library while my Mum did the weekly grocery shop. I was the proudest of proud Library Monitors in Year 6, and when I found the senior years tricky, I would retreat into the haven of the school library. I am now a teacher librarian, ironically working in the same school library!
Clearly, I'm a library tragic.
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, is my kind of book.
At one level, it is an exploration of the massively destructive 1986 fire in the Los Angeles Library. The reader is introduced to the prime suspect, and eye-witnesses to the event provide a personal insight of its magnitude and impact on the community at the time. Descriptions of the fire are poetic, providing an unnerving contrast to the unfolding disaster.
However, the book is so much more than a recount of a terrible event, or even a whodunnit. It delves deeply into the role libraries have played in the development of societies, political systems and ever-changing communities. Orlean demonstrates time and time again that truth is stranger than fiction, and that librarians are infinitely more complex and unique than the persistent stereotypes portray.
The more I read of this book, the more I realised that I had taken my love of libraries for granted. I owe such gratitude not only to Orlean for educating me, but for all of the library lovers and librarians who have enabled libraries to thrive regardless of circumstances. Libraries are far from dead. Librarians have always ensured that libraries are ahead of the game, embracing change and providing innovative leadership in navigating the future, while preserving and respecting the past.
This is, indeed, my kind of book.
This book had been sitting in my 'to-be-read' pile for over a year. Friends and colleagues had enjoyed it, although I'd read some mixed reviews on my social media haunts. As for me, I loved it, although I can understand why it isn't everyone's cup of tea.
It's a big novel, and although there are not too many characters to keep track of, some aspects of the novel seemed laboured and unnecessary. Although there is suspense throughout, it is not a rip-roaring yarn that speeds along. Some have noted that reading the book was a commitment rather than a joy. To some extent, I agree with them, although I did experience joy is reading an exquisitely crafted novel.
The characters are drawn beautifully. I felt I knew them all, and felt every bit of their anxiety, sorrow and disillusionment. Donna Tartt managed to evoke sympathy for several flawed characters, and contrasting settings added to the rising tension throughout the book.
It is a book that will stay with me, and I am glad to have read it. However, I won't be recommending it to the universe, although I do know of some kindred spirits who will love it.
Please find here an assorted mix of what I tend to read - new books, old books, birthday gifts, gifts to myself, books from my to-be-read pile, Book Group books, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs - basically a weird assortment of goodies!
Please follow the arrows at the bottom of the page for more reflections.