Hunting for books the digital way
For teenage Jessie Chambers ‘the outstanding event of the week’ was a visit to the library with Lawrence. The Mechanics’ Institute Library was open only for two hours on a Thursday evening; Jessie describes in her memoir how ‘Lawrence inevitably did most of the choosing. He would take possession of my list and pounce on the book he was looking for; he always seemed to know just where to look for it. We were both excited by this hunting among books.’
Times have not changed so much; choosing a library book is still a treat, but with modern technology lots of us are enjoying books in new ways and libraries now give access to free audio books and magazines. Looking through the RB Digital catalogue has the same feeling of ‘hunting for books’; it requires a little patience but that leads to anticipation, and excitement when the book you’ve been waiting for finally appears.
I’ve been listening to audio books and podcasts on my roadwork-ridden commute. (Backlisted podcast is excellent – The Rainbow edition -fascinating but more of that another time.) Each week I search the app and always find something that catches my eye. So far I’ve loved Nella Larson’s Passing read by Robin Miles, Miriam Toews’ Women Talking read by Matthew Edison and Max Porter’s Lanny read by a whole cast. But not a single Lawrence.
Until last week my patience was rewarded: Lady Chatterley’s Lover read by Maxine Peake. A perfect choice. She captures Connie Chatterley’s rather naïve snobbery which changes as she meets Mellors and understands more of herself and the world, into irritation, indignation and passion. And her natural dialect brings to life Mellors and Mrs Bolton. Each character in this novel has their own history, their own purpose, and irritating as Clifford Chatterley maybe, as he rails as Connie and Mellors struggle to push his bath chair up the hill, we hear how the war has robbed him. Ivy Bolton too; annoyingly ingratiating with Clifford and a snob at heart, enjoys her increasing power and position, yet we feel real sympathy as we learn how the mine callously tried to avoid paying her a pension after her husband died. And as she and Connie cut the roses together, Maxine Peake captures her pride and anger as she explains how he should never have gone down the mine: ‘He sort of wouldn’t give in to things; he wouldn’t really go with the rest. And then he hated ducking his head, for anything on earth.’
The more you listen – and the themes build up gradually over 13 hours - you realise this isn’t a novel about sex; it’s a novel about class, power, love and of course the key word ‘tenderness’.
So on a Sunday evening RB Digital is my Mechanics’ Institute Library. I may not have the joy of walking across the fields to Haggs Farm with my choice but I still manage to escape to the woods at Wragby whilst stuck on the A619.