Reading this book was like eating a delicious sorbet in between rich courses. It is warm, generous, full of friendship and love. These Precious Days is a collection of essays about special times and a lovely way to write about important things in your life without a need for a chronology.
Whilst these are independent pieces of writing, there are several themes that hold them together: being a reader, being a writer, being a friend and death. In fact, death runs through the whole book, sometimes up front and other times trickling by hidden by events and ideas. with the backdrop of Covid 19 at the time the book was written.
It is difficult to pick out one story that I love above all others so will choose a few. My first is ‘How Knitting Saved my LIfe. Twice.’ As a knitter myself, I can appreciate the steps of becoming a knitter and find myself in that place where I can do more than knit and purl but still come across one or more things I can’t do in everything I try. I started knitting during the first lockdown in March 2020 as something different to do, to calm the anxiety that we were all going to die and to keep learning. I could sit there in the evenings, not listening to the news and knitting and knitting. The first time knitting saved Patchett’s life was when she gave up smoking and every time she felt like a cigarette, she picked up her knitting. I can imagine that the pleasure of smoking is as much having something to do with your hands and that is exactly what knitting is, with a little brain involved too. The second time it saved her life was when her best friend Lucy died at the age of 39 with the appropriate sub-heading ‘Cast Off.’ A friend of Patchett’s sent her some wool and needles and said just knit two, purl two forever. Patchett knitted a very long scarf and into it she knitted her love for Lucy, the kindness of her friend who sent her the wool and her grandmother who taught her to knit.
The second story that I really enjoyed was ‘Cover Stories’, thinking about the covers of the books that you write. Over time Patchett learnt to take responsibility for every part of a book because if you didn’t know what you wanted on the front cover how was any one else to know. So as she grew as a writer, she became more and more able to express what she wanted, even down to commissioning an artist to create a painting.
I would send my books into the world wearing the best suit of clothes I could find, because they were my books, and I knew that that was how they’d be judged.p215
On the front cover of this book is picture of her dog Sparky painted by Sooki. You will have to read the book to find out about Sooki but it is a story of tremendous friendship and generosity.
Patchett also owns an independent book shop – Parnassus Books in Nashville which gives her a great insight from the other side of a book. Her essay on Kate diCamillo and what books can do for us is excellent.
This is definitely my next choice for book club. Until I read the next book that is definitely my next choice!