I can probably class my enjoyment of books into four different categories (aside from the obvious – not enjoying it at all):
- It was ok but I have no intention of reading it again
- I’d recommend it to certain people but it’s doubtful I’d read it again
- I recommend it to absolutely everyone I come into contact with and know I’ll definitely read it again at some point
- I get to the end and immediately want to start again at the beginning
Of the books I’ve read in the last month or so I’d said I’ve read one for every category. The Secret History would be a number one, Breakfast at Tiffany’s I’d class as a number two, The Tenant of Wildfell a number three and Wild would be my number four.
I LOVED this book.
I went into it with very few preconceptions but still expecting not to like it that much. In case you haven’t heard of it, which would be quite an achievement as with the release of the film last year it’s been absolutely everywhere, the plot goes something like this:
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.
I think I expected it to lean heavily on her reminiscences about her lost years after her mother’s death with lots of soul searching paragraphs of internal reflection, which didn’t exactly have me jumping for joy. I enjoy a depressing story as much as the next person but I didn’t fancy a whole book with that narrow a focus. But by the time I’d finished the prologue I was already pleasantly surprised – the book had me smiling. And it continued to all the way through. Yes there are some hugely emotional moments and I teared up on several occasions. But it probably caused me to well up as many times from happiness as sadness.
The book acts simultaneously as a testament to the human spirit and to human generosity. She had people she’d never met before offering her shelter and food. And the comradery between the other hikers she met on her walk (which at 1100 miles long I definitely shouldn’t be calling a ‘walk.’ In a similar vein to when my dad corrects me anytime I call ‘ships’ ‘boats’ which apparently is a big deal) was really heart-warming.
And it is beautifully written. Which for me to notice (someone who prioritises plot and character over everything and would happily skim every descriptive paragraph in a book to find out what happens next) is really saying something.
I also have to say that I’m very glad I didn’t see the film before I read the book as I think it would have put me off hugely. I found the film completely depressing, something I didn’t get from the book. They very much played up her mother’s instability and the more risky situations she found herself in on her journey whereas the book focussed on her loving family growing up and the friendships she made on her way, however fleeting some of them may have been.
This was actually almost a feel good read. As much as a book whose main drive is the death of someone’s mother can be feel good.