Good Reading : August 2007
She reaches the car, unlocks it, has the radio on in a trice. – Welcome to Bookclub, says James Naughtie kindly. Georgia fastens her seat belt, and drives away. London on a summer evening. Pick of the Week has taken her through the approaches: along the Westway and over Marylebone Flyover.Tower blocks glitter on either side: as always, returning, Georgia feels a pulse of excitement: this is the city, the splendid rush and throb. Everything starts here. But it’s hard to sustain this feeling as litter blows along the Marylebone Road, and though her spirits rise a little at the glimpse of blos- som in Regent’s Park they sink again at Euston, and the clog of traffic crawling towards King’s Cross, where the build- ing of the Eurostar network has held everyone up for years.Well. One day perhaps she and Dido will use it to go to Paris. Perhaps Jeffrey will join them. She passes the British Library, and here her heart does lift, for the Library’s airy spaces have nourished her for years, and she knows that by tomorrow she’ll be back in the swim of life in London, refreshed by a week in the country and getting on with things.Well, pretty much. As much as anything is a swim these days. Georgia leaves King’s Cross behind her, drives to the Angel, Islington, a place she has known for over three decades but where she now feels adrift amidst a sea of youth: spilling out of pubs, crowding the pavements, talking for England on their mobiles. Upper Street, with its rich mix of shops and cafés, as every estate agent describes it, is basking in the warmth.The Screen on the Green is showing something inter- esting and French. Outside the Marie Curie shop on Highbury roundabout stand clumps of black bags and a little rocking horse. Goodness. How could you give away a rocking horse? Would you not cherish it forever? If Georgia had a grandchild she’d stop and take it, dropping in a donation next day, but she does not have a grandchild – will she ever? – and she drives past, taking a last look in the mirror at the horse’s scarlet reins, and turns into Corsica Street, leaving the traffic behind. She’s almost home. Highbury Fields is enjoying the evening sun. Queues at the icecream vans, tennis, joggers, dog walkers; ball games and the end of a picnic in the dog-free enclosure at the top. Chloe took her first steps in there, light years ago.Well, thirty years ago. Chloe is thirty-one this week. Dear God, where have three decades gone? Swimmers stand talking outside the pool, children shriek in the playground, cyclists spin by. All this activity, all this vibrant life. Georgia drives slowly through it all, up a Georgian terrace and round, right round, into her own quiet street at last. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig, she hears her mother sing through the mists of time.There’s a space outside her own front door: fantastic. She pulls up, turns off the engine. For a moment she sits there, feeling she’ll never move again. That was part of the first chapter of Sue Gee’s Reading in Bed, a marvellous novel about two women and what happens to them and their families over the course of a year, and the sustaining power of good books, loyal friends and conversation . It’s published this month by Headline, rrp $32.95. Sue Gee is the author of nine previous novels. She is program leader for the Master of Arts writing and publishing program at Middlesex University, and lives in London with her husband and son. Her previous titles include The Mysteries of Glass (nominated for the Orange Prize in 2005 ), Earth and Heaven and The Hours of the Night. 52 goodreading ı AUGUST 2007 BOOKBITE She passes the British Library, and here her heart does lift, for the Library’s airy spaces have nourished her for years, and she knows that by tomorrow she’ll be back in the swim of life in London.