I often complain that I don't have the time or (more crucially) the concentration to sit down and read novels on a regular basis. I have no problem reading non-fiction, maybe because when you're reading something factual you can dip in and out, reading big chunks and then returning later with ease. But when I'm involved with a story in a book, a television programme or a film, I want to commit myself to it fully. For that reason I tend to buy fictional books and then leave most of them until I can give them my full attention and, of course, that time rarely arrives.
I'm bothered by this. I love the non-fiction books I read, but there's no escapism involved. And I LOVE stories. I love getting lost in them and getting to know the characters. I felt I needed to put this right, so I came up with an idea that seems to have solved the problem - audio books while cooking! I generally have some kind of trashy TV on while I'm cooking. If that's not holding my interest I'll play music. It occurred to me that I could be using that hour or so of cooking every evening to listen to a book.
I have taken some time off work this week to use up my holidays and have been cooking quite a bit. While I've been chopping, grilling, stirring and frying I've been listening to Samantha Bond read Maggie O'Farrell's The Hand That First Held Mine.
It took a while to get into it because there are two stories running at once and it jumps back and forth between the two throughout. But once I got to know the characters and eventually realised what was pulling them all together, I was smitten with the story. The story is built around two women living in the same part of London but some 50 years apart. At a certain point their lives intersect and it's wonderfully clever. I'll let the author explain it in full detail in the video below, but I was so engrossed on Wednesday evening that the bolognese I can usually make with my eyes closed seemed to take an hour longer to make because I was chopping the vegetables so slowly. I'm now trying to decided whether to listen to another of hers while I cook through next week, or try something completely different. Recommendations are very welcome. Either way, I feel like I've got something back I didn't even realise I missed. One new audio book addict reporting for duty.