das-lavendelzimmerThe clocks went back in the UK last weekend – and I decided to pamper myself by reading in bed for the extra hour.

Now November is here – traditionally the month of #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and other challenges.

In previous years I’ve joined #NaPhoPoMo (National Photo Posting Month) and I’ve also spent a month making daily films.

But this year I’m feeling less energetic.

So #NaNoReaMo (National Novel Reading Month) feels just right. And I shall most probably spend the whole month reading one novel, which I’ve already started. None of this reading a novel a day malarkey for me!

I bought this particular novel last Spring, when Barbara Winter recommended the English language version: The Little Paris Bookshop.

When I discovered the author was German, I wanted to read the original text, rather than a translation. My plan was to take the novel with me on my trip to Berlin, last May, to help me brush up on my German.

However, when the book arrived in the post, it turned out to be rather a weighty tome – and, as I was only taking hand luggage to Berlin, I had to leave it at home. I’m only now getting round to reading it.

I used to regularly read novels in French, German, Italian or Spanish. But I stopped – maybe twenty years ago – because it felt too much like hard work.

Then, after three weeks in France this summer, I zipped through a novel in French and really enjoyed it. And I was aware that Das Lavendelzimmer had been gathering dust on the bookshelf for the past year – so I resolved to give it another go.

You might think: why bother? Why not just get the text in English? Surely it would be easier? And quicker?

And these arguments are valid. But they’re not the point.

Learning languages was my first passion. Even before I had the opportunity to travel and practise speaking them face-to-face, I used to write to penfriends. I had eight in total, although I wrote to some of them in English.

In my early twenties, I studied French and German at university; and in my thirties I studied Italian and Spanish at evening classes, when my IT job involved regular trips to Rome and Madrid.

Over the years my fluency has waned, but I want to keep the skill alive – and as I’m not able to travel abroad as often as I would like, reading novels is a good way to reacquaint myself with the language at my own pace.

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