I am currently suffering from an injury that was actually caused by a book simply being too addictive (honest, not my fault at all). On days off work, if the sun is shining, I’ve got myself a new routine that I’ve became very partial too. My current read packed safely in my bag (and possibly a back up book, because heaven forbid I finished the first and was left stranded without reading material) I set off for the canal 5 minutes from my house. As narrow boats slowly go by, bees beginning to drone near me drunk on nectar, I happily amble along looking at the cottages with gardens backing onto the canal – I dream about owning such a spot so that I could sit reading while the ducks paddle on by. I realise I’m one very lucky lady to live by such a paradise. After 40 minutes or so I turn off the canal, cross through the Bathampton meadows (which, horror of horrors, they really do have plans to pave this paradise and put up a parking lot) and arrive at a pub which sits happily on the banks of the Avon. They have a sizeable garden and facing the river is row of wooden garden armchairs of sorts. With a large, cool drink I settle my behind down, look out over the river and canoeists exerting themselves in a way I really don’t find compatible with a day off, and I happily open my book. I like to head to this spot when I have nothing planned for the rest of the day so I’m not having to clock watch. On the day in question I had took with me my copy of ‘A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip’ by Alexander Masters. I hadn’t even started it yet so I was wondering if this might be a book where it took a couple of chapters to *settle* myself into. Within two or three pages I was hooked and knew this was not to be the case.
Already a huge fan of Alexander Masters after reading ‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’ (and crying so much I was dehydrated for a week or so afterwards) I was eager to see how this would measure up. Masters friend had been walking in some abandoned land, next to a building that was being rased, when he happened upon a skip. His attention was caught by boxes splitting at the seams due to being filled to the brim with books. Unable to climb in due to, em, having a slightly more rotund shape than that required for skip climbing, he quickly enlisted help from a friend. She managed to get herself in there and unearthed a treasure trove, not just books in these boxes but diaries! These two are friends with Masters, and when some significant changes occurred in their lives they found they could not devote the time needed to looking through this collosal recording of a life. The job was handed over to Masters.
With no clear time line to sort this persons story from beginning to end, Masters jumped in haphazardly, picking up new little details of the mysterious person behind the scribbled lines as he went along. Quickly he came to the realisation that when writing a diary we give very little identifying detail, never needing to name yourself, you exist only as ‘I’. The person he finds within these pages is truly fascinating, incredibly intense, who we soon see must have written for at least an hour a day to cover the number of journals they have. The joy of this book for me was that we happen upon each revelation at the same time as Masters, the book is not written in a way that makes us feel like we are grasping for answers while the author is sitting there feeding us titbits while gloating they know it all, as another piece of the puzzle falls into place we are reacting to it at the same time as Masters. Although guilt lingers as we consider that maybe (most likely) the person got rid of these diaries because they never wanted them to be read, it is pushed aside as the temptation is too great to get inside another persons head in such a way, they have poured forth their feelings with absolutely no editing.
Will Masters find out who this person was? Will this lead him to why the diaries were dumped in the skip? The questions that leap into your. mind are endless and will have you dashing through every page as the thirst for answers grows stronger. Odd for me here to chat about a book where I can only give you the initial premise, but I couldn’t deny you the pleasure of working through this mystery yourself. Anyway, I suffered my injury from this book, 1 seriously sunburned arm after reading the whole thing in one sitting, learn from my experience – have the pleasure of the book but always use protection kids.
A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries in a Skip by Alexander Masters £12.99 (4th Estate)