The only way to get through The Recess is to read every word, not as you read many books by skimming through the paragraphs and reading by osmosis; but to actually understand each word and sentence.


This is basically equivalent to reading aloud, sadly in many ways a dying art. I don’t know for sure but it was probably much more popular when The Recess was published, and in fact I do find that older Victorian or pre Victorian books seem to be much easier to read aloud than more modern fiction. Some styles are made for reading aloud whilst others just don’t work.


I used to absolutely love reading aloud; a few years ago that’s how we spent our winter evenings, me reading for hours whilst my partner worked on the floor in front of the open fire. There is a distinct art to reading, which is easiest explained as speaking one sentence whilst at the same time you are reading and understanding the next sentence so that you are able to insert the inflexions and accents in the right places. I have read Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita in a week, we got through Lord of the Rings, Sylvie and Bruno and many more. We didn’t have a TV in those days, what a difference that has made.


Actually, everyone enjoys audio books; they have really boomed lately, there is nothing finer than lying back and having Stephen Fry read Harry Potter to you. I would love to read again, but our lives seem so much busier now, we just never seem to make the time.


Meanwhile on the train this month I have got through Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent, The Mabinogion and inspired by that I re-read Alan Garner’s Owl Service which is based on the Mabinogion story of Blodeuedd, the woman made of flowers.