“The Hunger Games”

On early mornings at Downtown Abbey, the new mom went back for what she called “deep sleep.” She’s up in the night while the rest of the staff sleeps, so those early hours of returning to bed were delicious to her. But also to me, because then the butler brought the Lady Baby (full of her mom’s milk) to my room. I’d already have a cup of tea, but still be abed, propped against the pillows.

Lady Baby listened to my untuneful versions of “the wheels on the bus go round and round” with inclusions of all possible animals and activities till her eyelids grew heavy and she slept against me. Cromwell slept against us both, and Lady Megan rattled in her sleep, in a comforting way, on a bed on the floor.

This visit I read all the three volumes of “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins – an odd choice for such tender moments. It’s a harrowing trilogy about the horror of war and bad human behavior, political manipulation of citizens and abuse of power (a YA book but surely not too young!). But it’s also alive with everyday wonders we take for granted – hornets that mind their own business, a round of cheese wrapped in basil leaves, a family to love.

Because I read all these volumes at once, they seem one big novel – “War and Peace” size. You could call it dire and dark, but the evil in the book must be there.

The book has enough reality to be gripping, with occasional futuristic bits of mind control and morphed words to keep you in an imaginary world, but not irritated. It’s a parallel, frightening scene and a violent book. I cared about the young heroine Catniss and her companions, the strangeness of their post-apocalyptic world which also contains familiar things of pleasure – a recognizable forest, a fragrant bakery, and a mother who is a healer.

One friend said she hadn’t read because she thought it would be sad, another that it might be depressing. You could say both those things, but the books hurtle along with adventure at high speed. If you are lucky you’d read them all in one go – during a long airplane flight or series of flights – days out of time for some reason – a reading vacation maybe.

Or, best of all, with a new baby breathing soft little sighs, representing everything wonderful and precious in our world.