So here’s a question: suppose you have a friend recovering from an annoying, and not trivial, but not-too-serious operation. You want to send him or her a book that will make good convalescent reading - what would you choose?
Something relatively light, and entertaining, but not rubbish-y. It needs to be enthralling, but not too depressing.
As it happens I know the answer to this question: in a moment I will tell you the ideal book to send or bring. But I’m also interested to hear other people’s ideas – it would be great to have a list of ‘recovery books’, perhaps in different genres. Please add your suggested titles in the comments below.
My friend was recovering from her operation, and says she was reading X – it is unfair to name him, he’s a very good writer, a prize-winner, and writes terrific books. But he is not an easy read, and perhaps too satirical. So when my parcel arrived, she put him down immediately, and picked up and started reading
Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay
- and that is the book title you need, and you should make a note of it now, just in case: but actually also if you haven’t read it yet you should get hold of it yourself. Don’t wait till you are ill.
My friend paused in her reading only to send me wildly enthusiastic texts and emails, and comments such as ‘I am in love with Sarah’s father’ and ‘Rose is right about soup’. She said they were the perfect read for her in her delicate state.
Saffy’s Angel is theoretically a children’s book, though frankly far too good for them. It is the first in a series of books about the Casson family (and yes, I had to then send my friend the whole of the rest of the series). The Casson books are just now being republished – so you are in luck.
Saffy’s Angel (which was on the blog a few years ago, as was the second book, Indigo’s Star) is about Saffron, the third child, and her attempts to find out more about her past. But it is also a book about friendships and families and parents, and it is absolutely full of wonderful characters, and jokes.
I have become friendly with Hilary McKay online (as with Lissa Evans, we just have to face up to the embarrassment of my being a stalker fangirl) – she visits the blog and suggests books for me. If I didn’t love her anyway, the fact that it was she who introduced me to GB Stern would win my heart.
I recently told her that I want to be reincarnated as a Casson child. All of them have colour names, so I have chosen mine already. I had a hover over Magenta, before finally settling on Alabama Crimson, which is quite an obscure choice. (I think it is the colour of the sports uniforms for Alabama University). Alabama – I would suggest - is something of a minx and tosses her hair a lot. Quite a few other fans have chosen their colour names now, so if you want to pin one down for yourself it might be as well to do so soon…
To find out more about the books, read the blogpost. You will see that there is mention of a friend’s family who might be considered Casson-like. I carefully did not name the family, but can tell you that several of my friends were asking ’Is it me? Is it us? Please say it was us…’
And Hilary McKay has written many other great books as well as the Cassons, and is about to publish The Skylark War, which (due warning) may surpass them all… she is a great great writer as well as a lovely person.
And I promise you, you can’t do better than Saffy’s Angel for a convalescent.
But a convalescent needs many books, so do please pass on your ideas for others… I hope to do another post listing everyone’s suggestions. And do choose and tell us your colour name if you would like to.
The top illo is a health poster, part of a WPA Art Project from the late 1930s, and is from the Library of Congress.
I LOVE the second picture above: it shows some children from a performing arts school, dressed for a show in the 1930s. I used it six years ago to illustrate a description of the Casson children ready to go to their grandfather’s funeral. It is from the State Library of Queensland's collection, via Flickr, and to me has a real look of the Cassons. I hope Hilary likes it.