How I fell in love at first sight

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Do you believe in Love at First Sight?

Personally, I never believed. You see, I think to claim to be in love – really in love – you need to get to know the object of your desire a little first.

You have to discover that yes, he too went to a street party for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee where he ate sausage rolls and took part in a three-legged race. That he too watched Tiswas on Saturday mornings. That he bought Space Dust from the corner shop on his way home from school and instead of making it last, tipped the whole sachet onto his tongue and pressed his mouth up to his best mate’s ear so they could share its slightly painful, explosive joy.

You have to know that he loved Blackadder and The Young Ones, loathed Bernard Manning and Terry and June. You have to find that you both love guitar music and curry.

And that, even if you disagree on a few of the details, you bascially see the world the same way.

I’ve always thought that this Love at First Sight thing was pretty superficial. That all anyone is saying when they use this tired old cliche is that their primal instincts have kicked in and told them this largely symmetrical, fit, healthy person has strong genes. And maybe that person’s genes would look pretty good all mixed up with their own  …

So, Lust-At-First-Sight-As-A-Way-To-Make-Your-Genes-Live-On-Into-The-Next-Generation? Yes, I believe in that.

At least, that’s what I thought. Now, my whole life view might just have been turned upside down.

The object of my affection is small, medium build, brown with a healthy shine and a spotless, perfect exterior. 

But this isn’t a superficial, base craving. I looked past this beautiful ‘packaging’, to what was within, and from the very first word I was hooked, smitten, obssessed – yearning for the times when I can slip beneath the covers and spend time with my new love, enjoying every thrilling moment …

Shall I tell you the name of my obssession? It’s Neverwhere.

What do you mean, that’s a weird name for a man? What’s that got to do with it? Oh, I see. No, no my dears, my new obssession is entirely of the paperback variety. And shame on you for thinking otherwise …

You see, I so often find with books that it takes me a while to buy into the premise, or to begin to care about the characters, or to get caught up in their plight. I can spend chapters reading slowly, with little enthusiasm or drive, feeling more than a little Meh about what’s happening to whom, where, when and why.

Maybe I read too many of the wrong books too often*. But not this time.

From the beginning of Neverwhere** by Neil Gaiman, I knew I was going to love it …

 Eldritch old Scots women predicting dark futures involving doors, a young woman on the run, two sinister strangers with a penchant for knives and rat dinners all overlaid with humour as black as a midnight walk in a sewer

What’s not to love?

So, here’s a question for you chaps. How quickly have you fallen in love with a book? After the first chapter? The first page? Paragraph? Sentence? Or do you need to get to know a book before you fall?

***

*To be fair, I felt the same about the last book I read – The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. Victorian London, brothels, prostitutes, dark filth-filled alleyways and prose you could melt into. Yum.

**Yes, I know. For a woman who claims to love all things dark, I’m coming very late to this Gaiman-shaped party. What can I say? I’m an idiot.

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “How I fell in love at first sight

  1. I usually know after a sentence or two. If it doesn’t grab me I put it down. One thing I’ll say is this… There is nothing as sad as finished a book you are in love with! That rush to reach the end in conflict with your desire to make it last forever is agony! I know a great book when I feel sad to read the last word.

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  2. I usually know after a sentence or two. If it doesn’t grab me I put it down. OOne thing I’ll say is this… There is nothing as sad as finished a book you are in love with! That rush to reach the end in conflict with your desire to make it last forever is agony! I know a great book when I feel sad to read the last word.

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    1. Yes, I should put books down more often – life is too short. Instead, I plough on, reading halfheartedly, listlessly, taking months to finish. The only book I haven’t finished in recent years was the Book Thief. Have no idea why, but it just didn’t grab me. Presumably my failing, not the book’s 🙂

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      1. I think it was just me. I read it too slowly – picked it up, put it down, lost the flow. Can’t see myself trying again either – just too many other great things to read.

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      2. Ain’t it the truth! Got such a stack beside my bed already – all of which I really want to read. And I’m only gradually coming to terms with the fact that TBR pile will NEVER disappear. Once one lovely book has been read, another lovely thing will take its place. The TBR shelf will always win – thankfully 🙂

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  3. Books are like music – both allow you to fall in love again and again. I think I’m not as patient with books as I used to be (Because I’ve realised that I don’t, in fact, have all the time in the world? Or because I forced myself to keep on reading too many books that were, in hindsight, not worth it? Maybe a bit of both …). These days, if a book doesn’t grip me pretty sharpish, I will probably not read it.

    I read the first chapter of a novel I’d been wanting to read since it came out last year in the library the other week. It’s been nominated for prizes and all I’m reading is praise everywhere. But I thought it was boring, so I didn’t take it home.

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    1. Really intrigued to know what that book was … My most recent ‘failure’ was the Book Thief, which I know is widely adored, but I just couldn’t finish – not sure why. It just didn’t tick my boxes. After dragging it out for weeks (and reaching about halfway!) I picked up something else and never went back.

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      1. It was “Our Endless Numbered Days”. I’ve “known” the writer for years online, I think we both had a story in an anthology a few years ago. I want to support the writers I’ve talked to before they got their publishing contracts, but this one really isn’t doing it for me. I may pick it up again in the library, maybe read chapter two. Then again, I may find something else I’ve been meaning to read…

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      2. Shame – sounds like quite an interesting premise. Whether a book stands or falls is so often in the execution, though, isn’t it? You can have the best idea going, but if you don’t quite pull off the writing … It took me two attempts to read The Secret History by Donna Tartt – first time round, I gave up after a couple of chapters because everyone in the book is so foul and superior. But if you can get over not liking any of the characters, it’s kind of interesting. Never going to be a fav, though.

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      3. I heard The Secret History on Book at Bedtime. I doubt I’ll ever read it, though.

        But yes to the best idea in the world can still fall short in the execution. Having good ideas, or even brilliant ones, for a story isn’t that hard. I have tons of great ideas all the time. Doesn’t mean I can pull off the writing, though…

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      4. Well, you’re lucky, because you can do both 🙂 My other half comes up with some great elevator pitches, but can never be bothered to develop the ideas further. Shame really – he’s come up with som corkers

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  4. Welcome to the Gaiman party! I so envy you being at the start of it, and can heartily recommend the recent BBC radio adaptation of Neverwhere, as well as the TV version which started it all off…
    I agree there’s nothing worse than finishing a book you love – I remember spinning out I Capture the Castle for as long as possible, knowing I could only read it for the first time once, but being driven to agonies as I wanted to know what happened too.
    I’m happier reserving judgement at the start, though – not every book can start “It is a truth universally acknowledged” or “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” after all…

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    1. I really must read I Capture the Castle – so many people I know loved it.
      I’ve read a handful of Gaimans before – Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Good Omens with Terry Pratchett (one of my favourite ever books) but as Neverwhere is one of his best known, I can’t believe I haven’t read it sooner. I do fancy the radio version – maybe I’ll chase it up when I’ve finished the book.
      It’s tricky to know how long to give a book, though, don’t you think? I try to give most a hundred pages or so – but really, if it isn’t grabbing me by then … I don’t give up on a book often, I must admit. There’s a lingering sense of guilt when I do, knowing how much effort the author has put in – whether the novel is to my taste or not!

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  5. Ha, loved the massive misdirection in the first part of this post, Lynn, brilliant! And if you loved Neverwhere I wonder how you’d get on with its recent sequel, the novella How the Marquis Got His Coat Back? (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22607091-how-the-marquis-got-his-coat-back) I haven’t yet been tempted even, but as I really enjoyed its predecessor (review at http://wp.me/p2oNj1-22) I think it’ll only be a matter of time …

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    1. Ooh, the short story collection looks intriguing – I’m only just getting to know the Marquis in the book, though he seems mercurial to say the least. I’m looking forward to reading the rest and seeing where Gaiman will take me

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  6. Ooh, good question! Catcher in the Rye: fell in love at first sentence. Lord of the Rings: had to fall in love with over time. We got off on the wrong foot and stopped going out for a while.

    Other loves at first sight: The Great Gatsby, and The Scarlet Letter. I know the latter sounds odd, but it’s true. Suffering and unrequited love is often the way to my heart. Or was in high school, anyway.

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    1. Some great books there! All worth sticking, I’m sure. Never had the patience for LotR, think I came at it at the wrong time – if I’d tried it ten years earlier, I may have stuck with it!

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      1. True. I loved a British children’s author called Susan Cooper when I was at school – still one of the books that’s had the most influence on my reading taste and my writing. But if I read her work now for the first time it wouldn’t knock me for six as it did bakc then. Glad I read her when I did

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      2. Haha! Sorry for throwing an English cricketing metaphor at you! When you ‘hit at six’ in cricket, you hit the ball hard over the ‘boundary line’ and it instantly scores you six runs (points). Hit for six just means to be utterly blown away by something. Apologies for slipping into the local idiom there!

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      3. How brilliant idioms are – like a secret language within a language!
        I know very little about cricket either – except I was made to watch and play it as a child. I’m sure my dad really wanted eleven players to make up a full team – shame he had to make do with my brother and me! Means I can catch and bat pretty well, though 🙂

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