I consider reading to be one of the greatest pleasures in life, so accessible and so utterly rewarding it never fails to delight and amaze me. I have been known to read in buses – either seated or standing up, one hand holding on to dear life while with the other trying to keep the book as steady as possible, at the bus stops – raising my head every few words to make sure my bus doesn’t just speed by (in Thailand you have to signal for the bus to stop, otherwise, if nobody wants to get off, the bus goes on its merry way) in short breaks at work, in the city while waiting for friends, not to mention the songteaw which is the most challenging of all vehicles to read in because of the constant jolts and breaks which make my eyes jump from the page. If I could read on the back of a motorcycle-taxi (I have to take one daily on my commute home) I would, but as much as I love reading I love my own safety even more so I decided to pass on that particular experience.
One of my favorite places to read (if not the favorite place – I haven’t decided yet) is on the spacious balcony of my house where I keep an old beach chair whose color was once a striking red but has now faded due to the many rains that have repeatedly drenched it. When the rain starts I always tell myself I should go and rescue the chair from the downpour and I always forget – and if I don’t do it at that precise moment then I might as well not do it at all, because within minutes the chair is soaked anyway.
This afternoon I spent a few hours in that sun-bleached and water washed chair, reading Drood by Dan Simmons, a book recommended to me by a friend whose reading tastes are so similar to mine that it is almost sure my feelings about this book will only echo his. I am up to page 270 out of a 958 pages’ book and thought it a good number to stop at and write a few words about the story within. With some books it’s a challenge to pin down a few words in a short review but with others the words spill forward when I’m not even halfway through.
Drood is a mysterious character in the novel that bears his name – a tall, disfigured, solitary man with secrets to hide and with none other than the famous Charles Dickens on his trail trying to discover them. The story is told from the perspective of Dickens’ friend Wilkie Collins, another famous author, best known for writing The Woman in White.
The events take place in the mid 1850’s London and the author does a very believable job of describing the life within that city – I could imagine myself right there at the heart of the action. Wilkie’s account of his relationship with Dickens, the Inimitable, and particularly of their quest in finding the mysterious character Drood, is a journey I found myself drawn into with very little effort on my part. Dan Simmons mixes fiction with real facts and real people and this makes the story even more believable and intriguing and that is one of the first things I look for in a book: to make me believe. No matter how farfetched, strange and twisted and maybe even gross the story is, if I can believe, then I am almost sure I will enjoy the book. My only regret is that of not having read more of Charles Dickens’ work to fully appreciate the references in the novel, before embarking on this reading experience, nor have I had the pleasure of enjoying Collins’ the Woman in White, but that is something to be remedied in the future.