It’s March and here in Scotland the weather can go either way. Right now my cherry tree is in blossom and I’m considering getting the garden furniture out. But in March 2018, Edinburgh was buried in snow thanks to the ‘beast from the east’. Thankfully books are not subject to the vagaries of Scottish weather. Whether it’s actually pleasant right now and you’re in the garden, or whether you’re tucked under a blanket dreaming of sunshine, here are my top ten books to get you in the right frame of mind for spring.
Edinburgh, March 2018
1. Chocolate by Joanne Harris. Set during the build up to Easter, who can fail to think of spring when picturing “the chocolaterie, its bright window, the boxes of pink and red and orange geraniums at the balconies and at either side of the door,” and imagining the smell of melting chocolate drifting on the air?
2. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. Even the title of this wonderful book reminds you of spring, doesn’t it? The book opens with Mole working hard at his spring cleaning and being tempted away by the warm grass smell of the meadows. So evocative, so beautiful and also wonderfully adventurous as he meets Ratty, Badger and the infamous Toad of Toad Hall. I know it’s a children’s book but it deserves to be read and re-read throughout a lifetime.
3. The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson. I’ve included this book based on a true story about Icelanders kidnapped and sold into slavery in North Africa because of the contrast between the cold of their homeland and how some of them embrace their new lives in the warmth, even with the loss of freedom. It’s so evocative and also deeply interesting and well told.
4. The forgotten garden by Kate Morton. This is a rich, triple narrative historical novel, and it is the combination of settings – Australia and Cornwall – which bring it into my spring time reading list. You’ll be completely absorbed by this tale and transported to the sunny Cornish garden, but also gripped by the mystery at the heart of this family saga.
5. The Shell seekers by Rosamund Pilcher. Written twenty years before The Forgotten Garden (1987 instead of 2008), this is also a family saga set in Cornwall which stays with the reader long after you’ve finished. Interestingly I have just discovered that German TV has been filming, in Cornwall, adaptations of Pilcher’s stories – 55 episodes to date!
6. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. A dark story set in 1960s Deep South USA, themes include racism, suicide and mental health but the presence and importance of bees and honey makes it a great spring read.
7. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. This one makes the list because it’s set in Dorset and involves fossil hunting on the beaches of Lyme Regis. Based on a real life character Mary Anning, the most important fossil hunter of all time who pre-dated Darwin and to whom he owed much.
8. Persuasion by Jane Austen. Talking of Lyme Regis – Jane Austen’s last novel is set here, and indeed apparently she asked Mary Anning’s father – a cabinet maker – to fix a piece of furniture for her. Persuasian is all about second chances which seem to me just right for spring.
9 The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan. Any of Jenny Colgan’s books could make it onto this list, but I’ve chosen this one, even though it has summer in the title, because it’s set on a Northern Scottish island (I imagined it being Orkney or Shetland where the thermometer rarely rises above the teens). It’s also about key turning points in life, choices, and all this seems to be right for spring.
10. The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff. I keep including this YA love on top ten lists but then there are so many good reasons to read it, and one of these is the beach setting and the warm temperatures. Just gets you in the mood for outdoors.