A Bond to cherish
Reviewed by Aradhika Sharma

Love among the Bookshelves
by Ruskin Bond. Penguin Viking. Pages 179. Rs 299

Ruskin Bondís writing style remains simple, sweet and reminiscent
Ruskin Bondís writing style remains simple, sweet and reminiscent

Readers must thank Ruskin Bond for reintroducing to them some of the best authors in the history of English literatureó Somerset Maugham, PG Wodehouse, HE Bates, Charles Dickens and Richard Jefferies. Bond intersperses the narration of his life story with his reading experiences. More importantly, he dwells on his favourite authors and how their works influenced him. These are like stations or junctions along the voyage of his life.

Bond's own style remains simple, sweet and reminiscent. He speaks about the various stages in his life and his engagement with literature and reading during each phase. That forms the ground of the book. We, the readers, revisit the authors we grew up reading. Their books shaped our understanding of the world and our perception of human behaviour. The marvellous thing about Ruskin's Love among the Bookshelves is that it inspires readers to take up literature produced by these great authors once again.

Love among the BookshelvesFor Ruskin Bond, the book is a memoir and a tribute to some of his favourite authors. And to many readers, it means the same. Bond divides his life into five phases. In each phase, he explored different authors. It is a way of reading that any reader can associate with, for all of us have similar reading experiences. Each phase is further sub-divided into three parts ó a recollection about the particular period of his life, the books and authors who influenced him and, lastly, an excerpt from one of those books. So we meet the eight-year-old Ruskin during his school vacation in a jungle rest house, curled up in a library and lost in the discovery of the world of books.

This boyhood phase includes an excerpt from PG Wodehouse's book, Love Among the Chickens. Then we have his school days in Bishop Cotton School and in this section, we are given Holiday Reading: Classics and Comics, a story by HE Bates. In his School Days, Rule Days section, he gives an excerpt from Somerset Maugham's Cakes and Ale. In the cold, dreary year that Bond spent in trying his hand at various jobs in Jersey, he gives us an excerpt from Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers.

The last section of the book is dedicated to the phase that he spent in London. In this part, we get to read Richard Jefferies. Bond chooses an excerpt from his book, The Story of My Heart. Reading Love among the Bookshelves is rather like having a discussion about books with a fellow book lover. Gently, Bond shares with the reader his eventful life. In that way, the book is autobiographical.

The authors and their writings that he uses are sewn in a seamless manner and seem to be an organic part of Bond's own life. Certainly, the readers fall in love again with the authors, as they close the book and then go hunting for literary works by Somerset Maugham or PG Wodehouse.