I guess that living a bookish life also means acknowledging the people around you that made it possible for you to live a bookish life in the first place. For me these are most definitely my mother and grandmother, who have loved and read books forever.
When I was in high school and had to read a list of Dutch literature for my reading portfolio I decided to read J. Bernlef’s Hersenschimmen, a beautiful book about a man who gets Alzheimer’s and, since the book is written from his perspective, we also see him slowly but surely deteriorate. Since I loved this book so much, I gave it to my grandmother who then read it as well, also absolutely loving it. This is what my relationship in terms of books was like with my grandmother: us passing along books that we both loved and talking about it. She read everything: from the newest Karin Slaughter, to Maya Angelou, but also – if I would recommend it to her – the latest trend in the world that is called Young Adult (which wasn’t a term back then, but oh well).
In short, my grandmother was just as devoted to the written word as I am now. Unfortunately sometimes stuff happens, that causes people to not be able to comprehend words on a page anymore. Little did my grandmother and I know that, only a few years after we both read Hersenschimmen, Alzheimer’s was also eating her brain away.
Although it’s a horrible disease, I would recommend everyone, besides Hersenschimmen, to also read Tosca Niterink’s De Vergeetclub, which is about her mother and some other ass-kicking ladies, who live together in a retirement home, all in a certain stage of dementia. What I love about this book is that, although it also shows the downsides of the disease, that it’s not always as sad and horrible as some people might expect. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a retirement home, but it can lead to some hilarious situations every once in a while. Elderly people – with dementia – can be down-to-earth, sassy and brutally honest. It’s quite refreshing! De Vergeetclub is in short an awesome book that makes you laugh-out-loud, cry, and smile at the same time.
My grandmother might not be able to comprehend the written word anymore, but as long as she still knows who her family is, I’m fine. She’s actually the queen of popular (not in a Mean Girls way) in her retirement home now. Last week during a Halloween dinner I even witnessed how the most notorious guy of her home (a former sailor) courted her by giving her some store-bought cookies. I have to admit that I was kind of impressed – and slightly jealous – then. My tiny, fragile grandmother might not be able to read anymore, but she still has her sass, and I love it.
Maritza Dubravac is our new columnist, writing about her bookstore life. Besides organizing the YA book club with us, she’s a mean cook and bakes the free tasties for those evenings. She also writes for Books & Bubbles, Hebban.nl about books and sometimes dabbles in food writing at Nadelunch.com.