On the guilty pleasure of reading a trashy book

On the guilty pleasure of reading a trashy book

When it comes to fiction, apart from loving a bit of crime and historical fiction, I like to think that I normally read what’s usually called contemporary literary fiction. But there’s nothing quite like the guilty pleasure of reading a slightly ‘trashy’ book.

Knowing this secret pleasure of mine, my mother often passes onto me books I look at extremely dubiously and then absolutely love. Since she moved into her second husband’s house and struggled to fit all her books alongside his books, she has been rummaging through his collection and finding books written in the 1970s, which I would never have come across otherwise.

When I visited her in May she handed me Paloverde by Jacqueline Briskin (written in 1978) and I thought it was time to draw the line. The cover looks like a 1970s version of chick lit, it is definitely a pulp fiction (not in the movie sense) cheap paperback, and when I opened a page at random I found a sentence which started ‘Snorting lustily’. I started to point out that this seemed a bit beyond the pale. She convinced me to read it anyway, and of course it’s utterly engrossing and I’m loving reading it. It starts in 1880s California and follows three generations of an American family through the expansion of the railroad, discovery of oil and the birth of Hollywood.

Before Paloverde she got me reading The Far Pavilions by Mary Margaret Kaye published in 1977 and The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough published in 1978. The former is set in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan in the 1850s to 1870s. The latter is set in New Zealand and Australia from the beginning of the twentieth century into the 1960s.

Both have the essential ingredients of being epic family sagas, involving a great, thwarted love and being set in fascinating historical periods. Both are page turners and are completely gripping. I had the added bonus on finishing them of having learned about a particular era in a particular place that I previously knew nothing about.

It turns out that sometimes nothing beats a good bit of ‘trash’.