This year, I’m going to read a lot of H E Bates…
I adore his writing and I’m a huge fan of his Larkin books. The Darling Buds of May is my favourite novel and I can’t get enough of his Uncle Silas stories either.
I’ve been collecting some lovely vintage Penguin editions of his short stories and novellas recently and have just read The Watercress Girl and Other Stories – a delightful collection. What H E Bates does so well is to capture perfectly a moment in time – be that a childhood game or the moment somebody falls in love for the first time. His style is understated and yet richly descriptive, it’s filled with warmth and humour, and nobody captures the English countryside and the changing seasons quite like him.
What I also love about H E Bates was how he wrote pretty much everything – going where inspiration led him from short stories to novellas, serious novels set during the war to the light-hearted romps of the Larkin family. He refused to be pigeon-holed. If a writer tried to do all that now, they’d get into awful trouble with their publisher or be told that they should write under at least three different names so as not to confuse their readers.
Thankfully, though, that’s changing because of the ebook revolution. Authors are gaining more freedom to write and publish what they want and the popularity of the short story and the novella is fast rising. We’re living in exciting times.
But, although I adore my Kindle and have fully embraced ebooks both as a reader and a writer/publisher, I still return to my beloved paperbacks and, for me, nothing beats the moment of choosing the next one to read from one of my bookcases. The act of taking it down, of admiring the artwork, of inhaling the decades-old pages cannot be matched. So long live the paperback.
Now, which H E Bates title shall I read next …?