World Book Day: The Definition of a Book Hangover.

Image

To be honest, since my mid teens, I think I’d completely forgotten (supressed) that WBD even existed. Aged 15+ I was more interested in World Boys Day and by 19+ when I was actually studying books at university, WBD was all blended into one big Bible called ‘University Deadlines’. Paying to read books full time can either go one of two ways. It can open your soul and you can think of nothing better than chewing off the next great story, hermit crabbing yourself into the corner of your room, declining every invite to any social event just to turn one more page. Or for those of us who decided that loving reading didn’t mean you couldn’t have a social life, there was always wikipedia the night before a seminar.

It was around the time I moved to London, around 6/7 months ago, when I discovered books were my friend and not just my grade anymore, and after three years of feeling guilty for even looking at another book in front of my course ones, I picked up a little timid, brand new book, lent to me by a friend, and slowly but surely, I felt as though I had finally learnt to love again. Said book in question was titled ‘The Stranger You Know’ by Jane Casey. Having never heard of this author before, I wasn’t sure how long it would be before I veered from the straight and narrow and went back on the hard stuff i.e Gossip Girl and The Hills boxsets. But to my surprise, being sober was easier than I first thought it would be. In fact, I slowly started sending one worded replies to texts from family members and it got so bad that one day my boyfriend reached across to me and yelled ‘PUT THE GOD DAMN BOOK DOWN GRACE.’ When I finished ‘The Stranger You Know’, I tweeted Jane Casey to tell her I had ignored my friends and family for her book, which she found amusing but i’m not sure she was aware of the actual void I now had within my life. Whereas before I could easily whack on a couple of episodes of Takeshi’s Castle for light laughter, it now didn’t do the trick. Where I had once been drunk on Casey’s story, I wasn’t sober enough to face the world again without a different world to escape to during my lunch break. It was like I was hungover. And for the first time I was experiencing a hangover like no other. A book hangover.

But it wasn’t my first book hangover, I’d just never been able to define it before. I was too young to drink when I finished the final instalment in the Harry Potter series therefore unable to associate what I was feeling with another horrible and unjustifiable pain. I plodded along through some other books toward the end of last year, a couple by PD James, Caitlin Moran’s ‘Moranthology’ and even revisited David Nicholls’ ‘Starter For Ten’. Knowing what happens at the end of a book softens the hangover though I’ve discovered. It’s like waking up after a night out and realising you don’t have a 10am seminar in 5 minutes and you can spend the day monging about with your friends, putting liquitabs in the microwave just to see what happens. Rose tinted hangovers. But after staying over at a friend’s house, I glanced Jane Casey’s ‘The Missing’ on the bookshelf. Casey’s first novel I hadn’t known about until after I’d read ‘The Stranger You Know’, and I wanted to try it. It’s busy on the Victoria Line in the morning, but it only took me two pages in, squashed in between someone who had forgotten to shower and someone else who, despite headphones, still thinks Dappy is at number 1, but I was hooked. I volunteered to take the later lunch at work, knowing I’d get a good hour to myself without the phones ringing in order to properly get into the mystery of The Missing, and why I think it’s worth the crown of my World book Day title.

Sarah Finch’s brother goes missing when he’s 14, and she’s 8. They are together in the back garden before Charlie announces he will be back soon. Sarah drifts off to sleep in the warming sun and when she wakes up, instead of escaping a nightmare, her whole life becomes one. Charlie is missing for only a few hours before a big police search begins, and after growing up without her older brother ever returning, Sarah herself is faced with a similar dilemma when one of the pupils from her school, Jenny Shepherd is announced missing. Published in 2010, I know I’m extreeeeeeeeeemely late jumping on the bandwagon, in fact a million bandwagons have passed since then, (including onesies which I still THOROUGHLY hate) but nevertheless, I feel this book deserves World Book Day recognition. I think too many people look for a likeable or unlikeable lead character in stories these days. We’ve become obsessed with antagonist vs protagonist that we’ve forgotten that most of the time, the best lead characters play both roles. Whilst one half of the reviews I read hated Sarah Finch, finding her annoying, self destructive and naïve. The other half found her brave, empowering and in some cases, funny. This is unfortunately where I have to be THAT GUY and sit the fence and call myself Switzerland. I think one interesting point about Sarah’s personality is that she is simply hit by the fact that she has to accept other people’s guilt. Now it’s hard enough trying to even attempt to come to terms with something you’ve brought on yourself, but when you’ve had no choice in the matter? Usually, those are the circumstances we let dictate our emotional growth, stunting ourselves forward until we give up completely.

Flicking from past to present, chapter to chapter helped focus the reasons for Sarah’s behaviour within the novel, and somewhat reminded me of Jo Baker’s ‘The Telling’, of which gave me that kind of hangover you get off a night of sticky Sambuca shots and sickly sugary sex on the beach cocktails. One that gives you a depressing and often teary sugar crash, right before pizza is your new friend and you slowly begin to forgive yourself for those stupid dance moves.

But after finishing ‘The Missing’, I was undoubtedly on a two day-er. I knew it right from when I got half way in, but like the trouper I am, I ordered another round of shots, working up the lethal ladder, right to the big finale (which I won’t spoil) but let’s just say it was definitely the equivalent of a row of Tequila slammers. The heartache I felt after finishing ‘The Missing’ was enough to make me say the fateful but often forgotten line of “I’m never reading again after last night.” And I must admit, since finishing the book last week, I HAVE struggled to move on. I have Christmas present Morrissey (autobiography) sat puppy dog eye-ing me on my nightstand, and the ‘you should probably know this’ stare coming from the Anne Boleyn book I bought whilst on an excursion. But if I’m honest, I’m just not ready for that sort of commitment yet, I feel too delicate still.

But really, that’s what WBD is about. Books from around the world; your favourite book, my favourite book, your mum’s/dad’s/sister’s/hamster’s/girlfriend’s/cousin’s/pet parakeet’s favourite book. BOOKS. WBD is about celebrating the world of books. So basically, put in simplistic manner, to save you from having read ALL of the above. World Book Day is one big paper fuelled party with one big ass, head pounding, dry mouthed, dirty book hangover at the end of it.

The End.