Bedtime reading

I’m afraid I don’t believe it. There was a piece in the Guardian on Saturday about a father and daughter ‘reading at bedtime’ habit, which went on for years, every night until the girl was 18 and moved away. Even if you are very very keen and do keep it going until adulthood, it must be virtually impossible to do it every single night.

There are lots of things I don’t do absolutely every day of my life, however admirable those activities might be. Look away now if you are of a tender disposition. If I feel very tired indeed, coupled with feeling unwell, I have been known to skip the cleaning of teeth. Rarely, but still.

And reading to someone else involves two people. I can’t believe that illness, holidays and similar absences haven’t occurred to one or other of this father and daughter duo at some point over the years.

But maybe I’m both wrong and over-cynical. In which case it’s really nice for them. Except, I’m not sure that even I rate reading above absolutely everything else.

Me, I abandoned Son about halfway across the Atlantic. He must have been about 13 or so, and an accomplished reader. I wouldn’t have considered reading to him at all, had it not been for this wonderful and inconveniently un-translated (into English) series of books by Lisa Tetzner.

I loved them as a child, and couldn’t believe they didn’t make it over here. The Swedish translations were among the very first. And so, when they were re-issued in Sweden, the Retired Children’s Librarian bought them for me so that I could have my own. I’d only read the library books as a child.

Son was unable to read Swedish at the time, hence the reading aloud. I think we’d read about five books in the series about children in 1930s Berlin when WWII loomed and they had to set out across the Atlantic in search of new and safer lives.

But somewhere in the Atlantic the inevitable thing happened. Son and I increasingly found we were incompatible as far as bedtimes and free time was concerned. He wasn’t my sole Offspring, for one. He was often up later than me. I was often exhausted. And so those children are still midsail somewhere, still unaware of all the bad and good times lying ahead of them.

For years Son actually used to suggest we should continue where we left off, and I’d sort of agree. But we never did. And that’s a shame, because those books still count as among the best I’ve read. I still get a tingle down my spine when I think of them.

Although, it doesn’t help that not all were re-issued and my searches on Swedish online sites haven’t yielded the rest.


10 responses to “Bedtime reading

  1. I read that article too.
    Hmm, I thought.
    In this house we kept it up until they were ten-ish. And often eldest came in accidentally-on-purpose to hear youngest’s stories. I loved it, but I could see why it ended. Harry Potter, for instance, is rarely read here in less than four hour chunks.
    Later, it would have been physically impossible. The equipment I would have needed: teenage size live animal traps, a different bait every night. Not to mention the sheer difficulty of shouting the text above the sound of Motorhead, AC/DC, the Kooks.

    Could you not, in one of your odd moments, translate that Swedish series? Or is it lost?

    I have a lost book that haunts me. It was about a Russian boarding school a long time ago. The girls wore different colours, depending upon their ages. It was wonderful. That’s all I can remember.

  2. My father read to me every Saturday and Sunday evening until I went to boarding school aged 13. After that, every time we went away on holiday, he would pick a book and read to me and my brother every night. I think this went on until I stopped going on holiday with him aged about 22.

    Hilary, was your book by any chance Masha by Mara Kay? Masha spends nine years at the Smolni Institute for Nobel Girls, in the mid-nineteenth century. Unfortunately it is very hard to get hold of; I wish someone would reprint it (and the sequel).

  3. Brilliant, Rosie, and thank you. Until now I didn’t have either a title or an author to look for, but now I have googled, and that’s what it must have been. I’ve also seen the price! But it will be good to have something to hunt for in the second hand shops.

  4. Rosie and Hilary, you need to get in touch with Vanessa of Fidra Books. They often reprint old favourites that others have forgotten.

    Hilary, it’s a German series. I can barely translate into my own language, let alone yours. Maybe I can get Son to do it and that way he needn’t sit in the Atlantic any longer.

  5. I suppose ‘every available night’ can easily turn into ‘every night’ at the hands of an over-zealous copy editor.

  6. Yees, except in the article she was quoted as sometimes saying to her friends when out ‘can you drive me home because my father hasn’t read to me yet’. Or something like it.

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  8. Now I didn’t read that article but reading at bedtime is currently a bit of a religion in our house, not to mention war and conflagration between 3yo and 7yo as they compete for who gets read to first.

    But I’m really (and it’s this that caught my eye in my reader) fascinated by the books you mention, possibly because of the resonances it sounds like they have with Judith Kerr’s marvellous ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’. Have they really never been translated?

  9. Never. Really. (I need to blog more and bigger on this.)
    Pink Rabbit is wonderful, and Judith Kerr IS German, BUT Rabbit is written from a more British angle. These books are thoroughly German and very political. Tetzner couldn’t live in Germany after writing them.
    You can Wiki her, especially in German.

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