Which book I choose here depends partly on what is meant by ‘home’. Does it mean where I live now? Where I am from? Where I was happiest? Where I would like to live?
Those of us lucky enough to have had a safe and loving childhood may speak of ‘home’ meaning the dwelling and place we were brought up. I use the word sometimes in this sense, and then home means my parents house in London. I’ve read scores of books about or set in London and all of them remind me that I started life a Londoner and it is, in a way, always my home.
Sometimes though it means the household I set up when I first left my parental home and started running my own. I think it possible this means more to women than to men. There’s something empowering about being the one who decides where things will be kept, what to eat and when, whether to do the washing up now or later. Do men feel this too?
I’ve never read a book set at this stage of the main character’s life, so I don’t know what kind of reminding power such a story might have.
Most frequently, for me, it means where I live now. And I don’t think I am reminded of it by reading – it’s with me constantly.
Home may be somewhere far away: maybe where you were born or where your parents or grandparents came from. I suspect refugees and their children feel this. I think books written about this experience would speak powerfully to someone who’d been through it. I hope that if they ever get to actually return ‘home’ it is as they want it to be.
Some Christians and others who believe in an afterlife speak of ‘home’ meaning heaven. I love this idea, but as a Buddhist I would never use it myself.
Other people like to dwell on the ideal home – stately or cosy, in a familiar place or somewhere new, isolated or surrounded by supportive neighbours – you name it, someone would love it.
How does ‘home’ feel to a nomad? To a bigamist? To a bird on migration? I don’t know, but I think it would mean something to all of them.
Having thought about being reminded of home I’ve come to the conclusion that many books do this.
There is Heidi by Johanna Spyri, which I revisited recently, reminded me of reading by the fire in winter in may parental home.
There are the Star Trek books I used to read when I got home in the days when I had two jobs and and was out from early morning to late at night – and so pleased to be finally ‘home’ in my own flat.
But the one I think that says ‘home’ more frequently than others is Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. My parents had a copy (more on that in another post maybe); it reminds me of Wales where I lived for several years; I’ve seen it performed in the theatre (sitting in the dark with some good friends is a very homey experience); and it describes the home lives of the kind of people one meets every day.
Cover art: Amazon, Abe Books, Amazon