We’re all familiar with how eating certain foods can alter our moods, but what about prescribing books to help our mood. The Novel Cure: An A to Z of Literary Remedies is a book written by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin and provides literary cures for a host of ailments. I love the idea. Who hasn’t read a book and had their spirits lifted by being transported to another time or place. I went along to the Leamington Literary Salon, last week, to hear more about The Novel Cure, to meet with Ella and take part in my own Bibliotherapy session.
The location for this Leamington Literary Salon was the Arts Trail, which is an art gallery as well as art studios in Royal Leamington Spa.
There were more than 30 other literary ladies also wanting to hear about Ella and Susan’s story, which is such a wonderful mix of friendship and an enduring love of literature. They met at university and over the years started to prescribe books for each other to help with issues in their lives. Whether this was work, family or health there always seemed to be a literary cure to raise the spirits. Even when Susan moved to America they kept in touch still prescribing each other literary cures.
In 2007 they met with Morgwn Rimel, from the School of Life, and started to develop the idea of offering Bibliotherapy sessions to provide literary cures. Bibliogrpahy can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who maintained that literature was psychologically and spiritually important. Even soldiers from World War II were prescribed such authors as Jane Austen to help heal and cure their psyche. After about four years prescribing books to clients, they thought about writing a book. They used their clients to research cures and to come up with others which they also tested on their clients. They initially spent a day in a cottage and came up with a list of over 700 aliments and cures. They actually wrote the book whilst on different continents. Ella was in the UK and Susan in New York. Through regular Skype calls and endless emails they whittled the original 700 down. They have each read all of the books that are prescribed in The Novel Cure.
Ella says she has always loved books, since the age of five when she started reading on a train from Tehran to London. There are a few books that Ella herself will regular choose to lift her mood, including Tess of the d’urbervilles; Moomintrolls; and Jitterbug Perfume. She also listens to audio books whilst painting which is her other passion.
My reading falls into two genres. I had to admit to liking Chick Lit and easy reading fiction. For me these are escapism, I want to be transported to another time and place. Thankfully Ella said it is perfectly fine to like this kind of literature. I also like biographies and I devour anything on Marilyn Monroe. Since starting the blog I read more online including other blogs & news via Twitter. I know I really should make more time to sit down with a book. Part of Bibliography is not only to prescribe a cure, but also to highlight authors and genres you may not have thought of before. I’d completed a Bibliotherapy questionnaire, prior to the Leamington Literary Salon, which Ella used to conduct a mini session. From my questionnaire it was no surprise that I am a complete romantic & wear rose tinted glasses – fairy-tales have a lot to answer for. There is also a big change happening soon and Ella picked up on this. She prescribed me The One Plus One by Jo Jo Moyles and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.
Through the evening we also got the chance to try out Bibliotherapy on each other. This was great fun. There were so many great books prescribed including The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim; To the Wedding by John Berger and The City & The City by China Mieville.
I could have listened to Ella talk all night, she had such a soothing voice. Actually through the evening quite a few people recommended audio books as a way to ‘read’ more. Along with my prescribed books from Ella this is something that I am also going to explore.
I came away from The Leamington Literary Salon feeling inspired to start reading again. First off I’m going to be buying my prescribed books, as well as a few of the other books that came out of the group Bibliotherapy session.
If you’ve got books on your bookshelf that you’ve not had time to read or have a favourite novel, now might just be the time to have a good read.