Well, what a year! I started it in London and will finish it in New York, city of adventure and general magnificence that I adore with all my heart. The last book I finished in 2009 was The Blue Castle, about a girl daring to live her dreams. While I was reading it, I wondered whether I would have the courage to do the same in the year ahead. I am still somewhat surprised that I managed to find that courage somewhere within myself, to pack up my life and move it across an ocean, with nothing but hope and a spirit of adventure. The risk paid off, and here I am – happy, content, and excited for the year ahead. I have no idea what it will bring, or what I will do once my year in New York is up in September, but I’m sure there will be plenty of excitement, fun and adventure involved, and I am looking forward to jumping in headfirst!
Reading wise, it’s been a very good year. I’ve made some marvellous discoveries, such as Anne of Green Gables, and The Age of Innocence; been blown away by exquisite writing in all of Richard Yates’ novels, Alias Grace, and The Rector’s Daughter; and had the pleasure of reading some excellent biographies, such as Blake Bailey’s A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates, Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, and Harriet Reisen’s Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women. If I had to pick my book of the year, however, it would have to be One Fine Day by Mollie Panter Downes. It is a perfect novel, with such beautiful, elegiac prose, and is a wonderful love song to the rolling hills of England, where no matter what, my heart and soul will always belong. It is also a brilliant, perceptive and intensely moving portrayal of the repercussions of war on ordinary lives, which truly brought home to me how irreparably the world was changed after September 1939. If you haven’t read it, please do. I promise you will love it.
In other news, as I am sure you all know, Manhattan is buried in snow! I survived the blizzard that hit the East Coast on Sunday night, when my friends and I were driving back from our super relaxing lake cabin Christmas break. During my driving shift, which was the worst stage, when there was a total whiteout and I had a small triangle on my windowscreen through which to see the road ahead, and no vision either side of me or behind me, and the brakes weren’t working due to the ice, and I had no idea where I was going, or where the hard shoulder or the next lane was, it was pretty stressful. But twelve hours later, after pushing the car out of snowdrifts approximately thirty times, the car giving out in the middle of the highway, getting completely stuck on a slip road mere seconds from a gas station we couldn’t get into but needed to because we had no petrol left, shovelling desperately with our bare hands to free the car so we could get into tracks made by a plough, and finally abandoning the car half an hour from home, getting out and walking in -20 degree icicle filled winds so strong they literally blew you off your feet, we made it back to our apartments safe and sound. Quite an adventure! The best part was reliving it the next day – the amount of stupid advice and comments we got from people we asked for help was ridiculous. One guy with a snow plough asked us where we wanted to go. We live next to a mall, so we told him we wanted to get to the mall – it was the best signpost to give. Bear in mind it’s now 2am, and there is a full scale blizzard going on that has been going on since lunchtime. The guy looks at us with widened eyes and says ‘The mall? You girls are going shopping?! But it’s 2am! The mall’s closed!’. We nearly wet ourselves with laughing – I think we must have been a bit delirious by then!
Also, WHY did nobody tell me just how good Downton Abbey is? If I had realised it would prove to be as spectacular and frighteningly addictive as it is, I would have thrown all of my morals to the wind and watched it illegally online MONTHS ago! My friend got the DVDs for Christmas and we sat and watched three episodes last night, sobbing and clutching each other, and saying ‘we’ll just watch one more’, in between sobs and mouthfuls of peanut butter icecream. Bates and his poor leg! Maggie Smith being spectacular! Parook the suspiciously good looking Turkish man meeting a sticky end! Nasty plotting in the kitchen! Wonderful costumes! Mentions of the Titanic! Genuinely adorable love affairs! What more could one want?! I can’t WAIT to watch more tonight. I have a feeling I won’t be sleeping until I have finished. But then what?! How long will I have to wait until the next series?!?!
I hope you all had marvellous Christmases and are gearing up for a very happy New Year!