Book to pack

18th July 1997 at 01:00
Forget the detective novel or romance - soon read and cast aside on that long ferry or airline journey. Get stuck into something meatier, like Dickens or Thackeray. You can't read long 19th-century novels in dribs and drabs - they need a good uninterrupted stretch to get stuck in, but once there, you are insulated from the minor irritations of the journey and enter another world.

I was reading a tatty secondhand Everyman's edition of Great Expectations on the boat from St Malo to Portsmouth, and absorbing the atmosphere of the story, when a fellow holidaymaker stopped by to ask if I was a teacher. He was, and I used to be. We swapped views on the merits of reading Dickens to soak up the hours when there was nothing much to do.

Going to Sweden on the overnight ferry it was David Copperfield that held my attention. Even Mr Micawber's long, long speechifications could be savoured in full.

Another novel that suited a long journey was Vanity Fair. The merit of the Everyman's editions of the classics - easily found in secondhand bookshops and market stalls - is their pocket size and their durability in a rucksack. The great stories are a treasure within. It is time well spent.

Virginia Purchon is a librarian at The TES

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