We're back from 4 glorious days in Amsterdam. And, not incidentally, one of the best books I have read in a loooooooong time is partly set in that lovely city.
(She is sitting on the bench...yes, THAT bench!)
Some time ago my daring daughter pointed out to me that I HAD to read a book by John Green (never heard of him), as it was magnificent. But I was extremely busy and had two books on the go already...so I put it off and then forgot about it.
When we arrived in Amsterdam it was sweltering (27 degrees - extremely hot for Dutch people) and bursting to the seams with gay people as it was Gay Pride Weekend. We partied with them for exactly 10 minutes and then decided to flee into the most beautiful cinema Amsterdam has: the Tuschinski.
We could choose between 6 films, but darling daughter wanted to see The Fault In Our Stars. Again. 'You know, Mum, that book I urged you to read'.
Fine. It looked fine, and I wanted to please her, so we went in.
Holy moly, I came out crying my eyes out. And I wasn't the only one! I swear all the women and not a few of the men around me were sniffling discreetly, or bawling out loud.
We spent the next hour locating the particular bench that Hazel Grace and Augustus had been sitting on in the film. The director had helpfully filmed the name of the gracht, the Leidsegracht, and the church in the background helped as well. When we had found the bench, we had to wait our turn, as another mother and daughter were taking photographs.
Darling daughter sat down, and discovered people had put quotes from the book onto the bench. Sweet, albeit a little vandalistic. When we were about to finish, we were approached by a company of 6 people, who shyly asked us if this was THE bench.
And I tell you, when we took a canal boat trip two days later, and went past this bench, it was swarming with people, with them lining up in order to take photographs!
Now, I had immediately after leaving the cinema walked into the first bookstore I could find, and I had bought the book.
Every evening and every morning whilst in Amsterdam, I read. And, fair is fair, I prefer the book to the film. Sure, the film is romantic and great and the actors are wonderful!
But the book is better.
Rawer, more realistic, less smooth.
I know about cancer and I know about pain. And the book tells you about this without being sentimental, and so insightful that I sometimes held my breath without realising it and then was wondering why I was so out of breath.
Mr Green, John, chapeau!!!!
You have written a book I will recommend to my pupils, and to all others I will meet for ever after.
So, folks, even if you never read a book: READ THIS BOOK!
If you have a family member, or a friend, or a neighbour, or a colleague, with cancer: READ THIS BOOK!