Bill on Books: The joy of a book you never want to end

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Have you ever read a book that you didn’t want to end – even though you were so keen to find out what happens at the end of the story?

That has happened to me several times over the years. I’ve been so enthralled by the story, that when I finally got to the end, I was left feeling somehow ‘empty’ and that emptiness could only be filled by another book which would live up to expectations as well as the last one. Here are just a few titles that really got me hooked.

Allan Karlsson is not looking forward to the party, which has been arranged to celebrate his one hundredth birthday. He’s in a care home and the lady in charge of the home is not one of Allan’s favourite people.

So why not go out – anywhere to get away from the party? That’s just what Allan does – in his carpet slippers. This is the beginning of “The 100 year Old Man who climbed out of the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson.

Allan’s adventure involves drug runners, a couple of murders, incompetent police and an elephant plus a suitcase containing rather a lot of money.

It’s a great story, full of humour, but perhaps some of the encounters with the great and the good – or bad – can be a little too contrived.

It was a long time since I found a really humorous novel that made me laugh, so I was really glad to get my hands on it.

Now Jonasson has followed that up with “The Girl who saved the King of Sweden” – stretching the bounds of credibility just like the last novel, but just as compelling and it keeps you guessing to the end.

“Hinterland”, by Caroline Brothers, is about two boys, Aryan,14 and Kabir,8, who have left their home country of Afghanistan to escape the rule of the Taliban.

They are slowly making their way across Europe: their ultimate goal is England and their greatest wish is to go to school. This is the story of how they survived.

There have been many tributes to this novel – words like stark, unsentimental, heart-wrenching and compelling. The main thrust of the story is the relationship between Aryan and Kabir – how the older Aryan has to look out for his brother, both of them forced to try and survive and get on in a totally adult world.

It’s not a book that you might ‘enjoy’. It’s one that, as soon as I started it, I felt I had to read to the end.

In “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce, recently retired Harold doesn’t seem to be making much of his retirement.

Life with his wife Maureen isn’t very enjoyable and there seems to be some problem with their son David, who is no longer at home.

One morning Harold receives a letter from Queenie, a former work colleague of Harold’s, who left her job rather suddenly some time back. She writes that she is in a hospice in Berwick on Tweed and wants to make contact with Harold one last time.

Harold writes a brief reply and sets out to walk to the postbox, but decides that he is going to walk all the way to Berwick – all the way from home in Devon.

Whilst he walks he thinks about his past life which is revealed bit by bit and gradually we are told why Harold and his wife are estranged and why Queenie suddenly left work so suddenly and what it had to do with Harold.

Does he make it to Berwick ?- you’ll have to read it for yourself. Definitely a recommended read.

I can’t write about un-put-downable books without mentioning the late, great Sue Townsend, whom I once had the pleasure of meeting when she visited Mansfield in 2012.

All the books I’ve read by her are simply unforgettable. In her books, there’s so much to enjoy and to laugh at. It’s not just the Adrian Mole series – try “Number 10” or “The Queen and I”