Monday, October 5, 2009

Hospital Books

I got thinking about my hospital stays, and realized that each one of them is indelibly associated with the book(s) I read while on the hospital bed.

The first time I was admitted to hospital during my adult life was six years back, when I was expecting my first child. My contractions had been rather strong when I was admitted into the labour ward, so I was pretty sure I would finish the book I had taken with me only at home with my baby. The book was Colleen McCullough’s 'The Thorn Birds’, and my labour dragged on so long that not only did I finish the book, I had even to make the hubby get me another book to see me through the second day.
The book he brought me, in his eternal wisdom, was Sophie’s  World – “I don’t know how the book is , but it is think, so you will not be bothering me again for awhile”. I read all my favourite parts in hospital, and strangely, haven’t returned to that book since. But I am not sure if the book counts as a ‘hospital book’, because I had read it more than once before and did not finish it in hospital.

My second child popped out as soon as I got myself admitted into the nursing home, so my next hospital stint was when I was admitted to hospital because of my falling platelet levels. I knew I had only to last out my malaria, for the levels to pick up, but since the doctor insisted I be admitted, I was. Two books went to hospital with me – Joane Harris’ ‘Five Quarters of the Orange’ and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s ‘Sister of my Heart’. The first I liked a lot, but try as I did, I have just not succeeded in re-reading the book, despite more than one attempt. Chitra Divakaruni left me strangely dissatisfied. The book had everything that should have gripped me – a setting I knew and loved, characters and situations that I could relate to, and enough reasonable twists and turns to keep one happy – but it never quite lived up to the potential it showed. Perhaps that is the reason that remains the only one of her books that I have ever read.

When I was admitted for my hysterectomy a little over two months back, I took along Nandan Nilakeni’s ‘Imagining India’. It was just the kind of book I would avoid if I could think of an excuse to do so, which is why I put myself in a situation where I had no choice but to read the book. The book gripped me from the first page, and by the evening of my first day in hospital, I had asked the hubby to bring along more books for me to read. The second day, I galloped through ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ and Malcom Gladwell's ‘The Tipping Point’, and liked both of them (Perhaps the critic in me was removed along with my uterus – I have liked most of the books I have read in the last two months).  All three are books I know I will re-read, if only in parts.

I wonder if I am the only one who associates books with particular periods of my life, or if it is a universal phenomenon.


dipali said...

I wonder if I am the only one who associates books with particular periods of my life, or if it is a universal phenomenon.

My recent hospitalisation had me reading a couple of second hand books I had bought with my son at College Street- Charlotte's Web (which I'd read years ago) and PG Wodehouse's Aunts Aren't Gentlemen, and the delightful Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
Earlier episodes of bed 'arrest' during pregnancy had me devouring all the Wilbur Smiths and Ludlums in the campus library.

But my most vivid memory is of re-reading A Suitable Boy when my husband was hospitalised a few years ago. The first time I'd borrowed it from a library, and had to return it within a week, during which time I also had to let my daughter read it! Needless to say, the re-reading was most satisfactory:)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I remember books I was reading during troubled times. I'll always remember Grisham's "A Time to Kill" as the book I was reading when my grandmother died.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Watery Tart said...

I fell off my chair at the notion that your inner critic had been removed with your uterus! I've only had two hospital stays (my babies) and both went faster than I was prepared for, and were accompanied by the husband who gives me no peace, but I do remember packing up the Brothers Karamazov to go with me and finishing it at home with my new baby. I think I was reading Don Quixote when Sam was born... both seem rather fitting for the child in question: the first morally ambiguous, but finally doing the right thing, the second playful and humorous, and not at all as one would expect.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Elizabeth - that is really sad. Luckily, I don't remember any of the books I was reading when I got bad news.

@ dipali - I can tell from the lenght of your post that the wrist is much better now. It is, isn't it? And re-reading The Suitable Boy must have been fun. Incidentally, I am currently reading Charlotte's Web - Hart recommended it.

@ Hart - the books do describe your two kids!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I had 'hospital books' as well. I remember that when I had my second child the book was Leon Uris's "Trinity". I still think of it as "Sarah's book".


Anonymous said...

I think books are associated with time and places.. I can remember vividly the books I sneaked off to read in the library instead of doing sports on a rainy day at school. The historical romances I read when a bored teenager. The books I got caught reading during lessons at school and so on...

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Elspeth - to be associated with a book, isn't that one of the sweetest things that can happen to any child?

@ Fiona - that brings back so many memories. Of books I read during idyllic rainy days, and books I read by candle-light. Unfortunately, I don't remember the book I was reading the time I was supposed to be studying for a Stats exam - the story is immortalised in my yearbook, but the book I just can't remember.


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