It must be difficult for people who aren’t readers to understand what it’s like being lost in a book. I don’t mean people who can’t read, I mean people who can and do and also read books, but don’t get lost in what they’re reading.
There is a special zone which once entered cuts the reader off from the so-called real world. Everything vanishes except the book, and it isn’t even a book anymore, it’s a portal through which the reader drifts or is sucked and transported elsewhere. When you’re in that special book world you don’t notice anything else – all mayhem could rage around you, you could be cold, hungry, tired but you won’t notice when you’re in a book. It is all absorbing and everything else has become lost and forgotten, the only reality is within the pages. World time passes in a flash, while book time can extend over weeks, years, aeons even.
It’s not every book which gives this, and the most well-written, intriguing story can leave you engaged, but still with half an ear cocked to reality, half a glance on other things – like the time, whether you need a drink or feel peckish, or really should be doing something else or be somewhere else. On the other hand, some quite ordinary, even run of the mill books give you the key as you begin to read and ‘zap! you’re somewhere else and lost… except you’re not really lost you’re in another world.
It is probably something to do with the reader as well as the book – when I was a child almost anything pulled me through the page… now it happens less often… but it can still surprise. A couple of years ago, our book club choice was ‘The Hunger Games’; I wasn’t particularly keen on the choice, but picked it up in the book shop and opened it… Half an hour later someone accidentally bumped into me and pulled me out of Katniss’s world – I’d been sucked in as I stood by the bookshelf in the young adult section of the shop. It happened last night as I was reading ‘Tombland’ by C.J. Sansom; suddenly I wasn’t sitting up in bed beside my gently snoring husband, I was far away, in Norwich half a millennia ago.
One book which not only sucked me in, but has kept me with a toe still dipped in its world – even though I have forgotten the title and the author, was a Mills and Boon book I read while i was staying in Singapore for three weeks, in a tiny little village. My friend went to work, and I stayed at home with her elderly grandparents who didn’t speak English – and I spoke no Malay. My friend had bookshelves full of romantic novels, and as I’d read all the books I bought with me I started to work my way through the doctors and nurses, lords and ladies, pilots and air hostesses.
Then I came across a book, and suddenly I was no longer in a small kampong but in bleak Cumbria or Northumberland, dozing by Hadrian’s Wall… I heard voices and it was a couple passing by who saw me asleep on the grassy bank and remarked that I was the absolute double of a long lost cousin… I wish I could remember the book, I’d love to reread it and see if it was as captivating and magic as when I read it all those years ago… It probably won’t be!
I would be so delighted if anyone gets taken into the worlds i write about – please let me know if you do, I’m sure it’s what every writer strives for… Here is a link to them: