An Expecting Reader

Who would have guessed that one’s reading patterns can also change during pregnancy. Certainly not me.

The first trimester was a challenging period since I felt nauseous most of the time. I had started on George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It is a decent series, with engaging plots and sub-plots. What I did not anticipate was that some of the descriptions would aggravate my nausea.  Especially the descriptions in Daenery's chapters. I would read a sentence and then turn away sick. The ideal thing to do would have been to give up. But what sort of a wimp would that make me! I finished the first book, 'A Game of Thrones' and then read the second book, Clash of Kings, as well. At that point, I did not care for the story enough to continue and decided that perhaps I should give up before I started getting sick over the sofa. Sadly though the nausea stage passed, the strong association of nausea with the book continued through the pregnancy. Any temptation to read the next book was killed quite quickly.

The second trimester was a busy period, what with our shifting to Singapore. This meant that I needed something that would be engaging without being distracting. On the recommendation of a couple of friends, I bought The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Funny and thought-provoking, it saw me through the first few days of trying to make sense of a new country. Set in the second world war, the book's feisty heroine and the theme of a literary society kept me thoroughly engaged. When I searched Amazon for other books readers had bought along with the Potato Peel Pie book (one of my favourite methods to stumble upon books), I came across 'House at Riverton' by Kate Morton. It is best seller going by online reviews but the story of two sisters who turn out to be rivals in love was so-so.

The service apartment in which we were staying threw up a wonderful surprise. The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde has a quirky storyline that will appeal to the book lover. The book sets a world where real people can do exchange programmes with characters from books. Residing in a book is not an easy matter and I enjoyed myself as the author took me through the plots that are spun, the various characters that are kept handy for authors to use and the horrifying grammar mistakes that can kill.

When I had read most of the other palatable trash in the service apartment's slim pickings, N came to my rescue. I had never gotten to know N well in Mumbai but fate having thrown the two of us in Singapore at the same time, I had become totally dependent on her for all forms of advice with regard to Singapore and parenting. To top it all, N has a good book collection and the generosity of heart to let me borrow her stuff. After a lovely lunch cooked by N (Yes, she is kind, helpful, organised, reads and cooks as well), I picked up a few books from her bookshelf. The standout one for me was Kiran Nagarkar's The Extras. An entertainingly written sequel to the brilliant Ravan and Eddie, the book takes us into the world of Bollywood's periphery and continues to detail life in the slums.

By this time I was well into my third trimester. I had joined a library and finally felt ‘settled down’. Then, for medical reasons, I went on unanticipated leave and was given strict advice to take it easy and to stay 'happy'. The leave meant that all I had to do everyday between eating and sleeping well, was to sit in my recliner and read. Since I was also supposed to 'think happy', I chose light reading from the library (D would faithfully go every two-three days to pick up books) and stuck to Agatha Christie, Issac Asimov, Peter Mayle and some forgetable chicklits. It was like being back in the endless school summer vacations when I used to curl up with a good book during the day. Growing up meant that vacations were carefully rationed for travel and vegetating was considered a sin (by me). I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The closest I came to reading something even slightly intellectually engaging was Bill Bryson's At Home. The book provides the history of how various rooms in a typical house came about. It also meanders into various other side stories and in the end you have a nice history of the personal lives of Europeans, mostly British over the years.

Now my pregnancy was drawing to a close and I began to seriously worry if I would get any reading done in the next few years. I had been waiting to read Bring up the Bodies, Hillary Mantel's sequel to the wonderful Wolf Hall. This book was going to be about Queen Anne's downfall and promised dark politics, blood and gore. Not exactly to top the reading list of someone meant to 'be happy'. I pondered a bit and concluded that I would probably be happier reading the book than wondering when I would get around to it. So a couple of days were spent immersed in the political and personal circumstances that lead to Queen Anne being beheaded. The book was good but I would rate Wolf Hall higher. Ah well, both are Bookers and should be read.
By now, it was a question of any day the baby would arrive. I packed the hospital bag and added three books to it. The idea was I would relax in the labour ward by reading (Yes, all the mothers out there can laugh. I know now). My water broke, I rushed to the hospital, got admitted and the time to read my books came.
Labour, even the first stage, is bloody exhausting. I had an epidural, so pain was not an issue. But let us just say that you are too anxious and tired to focus on the plot line of even relatively easy reading like Issac Asimov.
The baby came and we all got back home, the Issac Asimov still languishing in the first page. I was not too concerned since I was planning on finishing it once I got back home (Yes, mothers can laugh again).

The first couple of weeks were horrid. Between nursing, getting used to sleeping one hour stretches, recovering from labour, there was hardly a moment to spare for the book. After my third botched attempt at reading the book, I came the closest I did to post partum depression. Was my future going to be like this - with no time for a book?
Happily, things did settle down in a while. I learnt to read while nursing. The baby started being on a slightly less demanding schedule. Mostly, I got used to the catnaps I had to take. So reading began once again.
The other unread book from my hospital packing was opened. Maria Semple’s ‘Where do you go Bernadette’ was suitably cynical, funny and sarcastic. I loved it.
My mother had started borrowing books from the library and I began to eye them. Unfortunately she now depends exclusively on chicklits and romance for light reading. I was introduced to Jane Green and Erica James. I have never been a fan of romance. Add to it, I had always assumed that romance meant twenty-something people trying to find Mr Right. I now realised that there are books for thirty-something women too and I have definitely moved on to a stage of life where stories of people handling grown-up relationships is far more interesting. I enjoyed the first few books but really not enough to read a never exhausting supply.
For lack of anything else to read, I began to reread the books I already owned. I had always assumed that I would not be able to reread books since I already knew the stories. It turns out that I did not remember the stories and even when I did it did not matter. With non-fiction, there were no plots to be remembered either. The phrasing and thoughts kept me occupied. I am now glad that I can hold onto my books not merely as a nostalgic love interest but as a recurring love I can go back to again and again.
So now it is mostly rereading old books till I get around to making a reading list for my mom to pick up from the library.
I am feeling like my old self these days and can read pretty much what I used to read sometime ago. Whew.


hAAthi said...

Wow, what a detailed and enjoyable account :D Who'd have thought pregnancy could affect reading habits of all things! Either way, it seems you got SO much reading done, Im almost envious.

Musings said...

Whew what a lovely, exhaustive update on the books :). I am particularly interested in Bill Bryson's book and Ravan and Eddie sounds like a book I'll enjoy.

Glad to know that you are having a good time managing the baby and reading. Good work!

Priyanthi said...

You are a beacon of hope to those of us who worry that we will have no time for books when the kids arrive!

What happens when you go back to work - keep us updated. I hope you manage to find time for books then too.

Anita said...

Musings - yes, I loved ravan and Eddie

P - work is going to be another challenge I guess! But I now suspect everything is a matter of making time for it

hAAthi said...

My god, thats some serious reading you got done! And who'd have thought pregnancy could affect reading patterns too, as if it doesnt cause enough upheaval in normal programming as it is!
Either way, it is a process of making time, I suppose. A habit I am fighting hard to master, and I am nowhere close to thinking about making time for a baby.
So more power to you. you are an inspiration for those like me trying to get back into the habit of voracious reading. I have missed you book reviews, and this was like a digest of so many books at once..

Anita said...

hAAthi - Glad someone reads my book reviews. Feel more encouraged to go on!

pigglemum said...

nice. thank you for Jasper Fforde. just finished The Eyre Affair and Lost in a good book and all set to move on to The well of Lost plots. The only thing is that i read it at night and fall asleep reading, whereupon dreaming kicks it. The next day im unsure if what i remember was what i actually read or what i dreamed. So then i need to back up a bit. but its not really a problem, its just that kind of book.