My Literary Trip to Oxford

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In a blog post earlier in the year, I made a list of bookish places to visit in England, the first of which was Oxford, one of the most literary places in the world. It is home to the famous literary group, the Inklings, who amongst it members were C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Roger Lancelyn Green, to name a few.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I, by rights, would consider C.S. Lewis one of my favourite authors, as his Chronicles of Narnia are some of my best loved go-to comfort reads. For the past twenty years, I have read and re-read those tales that provided (along with Tolkien and many others) the cornerstones of children’s fantasy. I like many others travelled with the Pevensies and poured my heart into the destruction of the White Witch. For Narnia, and for Aslan!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

But how much did I know about the man behind the magic? Who was C.S. Lewis? So this was reason number one why I decided to visit Oxford, where Lewis spent a large chunk of his life. The Kilns, where Lewis used to live, gives tours by appointment and is situated in Risinghurst, just outside of the city center. Not only can you find Lewis’s home there, but also his parish, which is only a ten-minute walk away. The church is also his resting place, as people flock from all over the world to pay their respects to the author who transported them through the wardrobe. His brother, Warren Lewis, affectionately known as Warnie, who died ten years later, is also buried with his brother, who liked to be known as Jack.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Taking a tour of the Kilns was like being reacquainted with an old friend. I knew bits of trivia about Lewis’s life, but our guide shed light on just what an imaginative, gracious and fun-loving person he really was. One story stood out to me in particular. After his cat, Tom, had lost his teeth, Lewis’s wife, Joy, wanted to have the cat put down. Lewis would hear nothing of the sort, and every third day went to the market to get fish for Tom to eat, which he ground small enough so the cat didn’t have to chew, and declared it would be Tom’s pension. As he passed Tom in the garden, he usually doffed his hat, citing to a baffled friend, “Tom’s a pensioner, don’t you know. We treat pensioners with respect.”

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Oxford history doesn’t just hold references to Lewis’s life and works, it also plays host to a large chunk of filming locations, particularly for the first Harry Potter film, directed by Christopher Columbus. I visited the Divinity School in the Bodleian Library, where the scenes for the Hogwarts Infirmary were filmed, and also Christ Church, where the Golden Trio meet again after the events of Philosopher’s Stone. Finally, I also visited New College, where a particular scene from The Goblet of Fire was filmed. Visiting New College was like stepping into Hogwarts itself. It’s safe to say this trip was filled with magic!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I was only in Oxford for four days but I absolutely loved every minute of it! I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a big literary geek like me!

Has my blog post convinced you to visit Oxford? Or are there other places on your list? Let me know in the comments!

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Snowy Reads for Winter!

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Christmas is fast approaching and you might want to get into the festive spirit by reading books that are all things winter-y. I particularly like reading books that feature snow, because let’s face it, everyone dreams of a white Christmas, so let me show you some of my favourites, with a readership level varying in ages.

These books are in no particular order. 

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

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A wordless story. The pictures have “the hazy softness of air in snow. A little boy rushes out into the wintry day to build a snowman, which comes alive in his dreams that night. – from Goodreads.com

One of the most classic Christmas stories (bar the Nativity), with the TV adaptation repeated on Christmas Day year after year. It’s a fantastic short story for very young readers, and a good book to read as a family.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson

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The Snow Queen is a story about the strength and endurance of childhood friendship. Gerda’s search for her playmate Kay–who was abducted by the Snow Queen and taken to her frozen palace – from Goodreads.com

For slightly more capable readers, the Snow Queen is one of the original adventure stories, set against a wonderful snowy landscape. Many editions have wonderful illustrations and some are abridged for readers less confident in their reading abilities.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

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They opened a door and entered a world–Narnia–the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. Lucy is the first to stumble through the back of the enormous wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old country house, discovering the magic world beyond. At first, no one believes her. But soon Edmund, Peter and Susan, too, discover the magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. And in the blink of an eye, they are changed forever. – from Goodreads.com

Perhaps the most famous winter-y read in the world of Children’s Literature, and my personal favourite. This story came second to Winnie the Pooh in David Walliams’ countdown of Britain’s Favourites Children’s Books, and perfect for readers aged seven to eleven.

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

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An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. – from Goodreads.com

Three of the biggest YA authors on the market come together to write an interweaving anthology set entirely around yule tide festivities. Each story interlinks, which bridges the gap between an anthology and a co-authored novel. This work is suitable for teen and YA readers.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

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Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith. – from Goodreads.com

A graphic novel suitable for older and mature readers that touches on a few tentative subjects. Blankets details elements in Craig’s life in a semi-autobiographical way, and is illustrated beautifully throughout.

This collection of books are just a few of my favourites that I like to read to get me into the Christmas spirit. (Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much, but it’s a good excuse nonetheless.) Let me know in the comments if I missed out a few of your favourites, and which ones from the list you’ve already read and like the most.