At the start of 2019, after having a bit of a confidence knock and a reality check about being a blogger, I wrote a post all about how sometimes as a blogger you can lose your way a little bit, and that I was going to step back and think about what I was doing – you can read that post here if you are interested.
The Bookish people on Twitter and Instagram could not have been kinder, or more supportive, and it was down to my Mum to eventually tell me to ‘For God’s Sake Clare, just bloody pick up a book’!
At the same time, my Mum was fighting lung cancer, and as I have told you all before, our love of books was the very much needed attention diverting tactic from the realities of what was about to happen to our world.
When Mum passed away in March, yet again, the people I have met purely since I started shouting about books were the ones who surrounded me and kept me going. Tweets were sent, DMs from people checking in on me (having your Mum pass away eleven days before Mother’s Day really sucks big time let me tell you), and stepping away from books and blogging seemed to be the right thing to do, to be respectful.
The thing is, when your Mum dies, no one really tells you what it’s really like. The news spreads, sympathies are sent, and the funeral is planned, almost on a socially expected auto pilot. My family came together and said goodbye to Mum, but the next day, life started all over again, meals were made, Bertie was walked and housework needed doing. You see everyone doing what they have always done, carrying on as usual, and you want to stop and say, but how can you do this? Don’t you know my Mum isn’t here any more.
Yet, this blog post is not me asking for your sympathy or your pity, it is a post that wants to tell you that in the midst of all this pain, there was one thing that genuinely saved me, and it was reading.
Simply the act of picking up a book and for an hour, half an hour, or even a snatched ten minutes while I was waiting for the oven to warm up was the very medicine I needed to stop me being consumed by grief. Going to my parent’s house and bringing home the books I knew my Mum loved, to add them to my bookshelves somehow brought her closer. Nestling her books about forenscic science and pathology next to mine meant that she was always there – they are not my choice of subject, but it was always a standing joke at the library we went to that while other Mums were scouring the fiction shelves, mine was ordering all the forensic science and memoirs of social workers and healthcare professionals she could get her hands on!
The books I read drew me in and helped me put one foot in front of the other – they were a way for me to connect with the world again. If you know me at all, you know that the one thing that keeps me going is being able to talk about books and reading to all of you, and in the months afterwards, I slowly started to find the joy in reading again.
I read Dignity by Alys Conran, You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr, The Language of Birds by Jill Dawson, The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, Saltwater by Jessica Andrews, Tiger by Polly Clark, The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal, The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins, The Rapture by Claire McGlasson, Crushed by Kate Hamer, My House is Falling Down by Mary Loudon, Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, Something to Live For by Richard Roper, Lowborn by Kerry Hudson, The Heart Beats in Secret by Katie Munnik, Looker by Laura Sims and After The End by Clare Mackintosh.
Looking at that list now, I have amazed myself, that in the three months since Mum passed away I have managed to read this much. Each book has brought me something different, has pushed me out of my comfort zone or soothed me when I was stressed. The books I have chosen educated and fascinated me, absorbed me completely and above all, however fleetingly, slowly helped me carry on, putting one foot in front of the other, and brought me back to the wonderful world of reading and blogging, and the fantastic people who have been there for me every step of the way.
Grief is the thing with Reading, and as I approach the Summer without the other member of my Exclusive Book Club, I am more ready than ever to ‘just pick up a bloody book’. Never lose the joy in simply picking up a book, remind yourself that books were here long before social media, and for me, the greatest tribute to my Mum is for me to just keep reading selfishly, because life really is too short to read books you don’t love.