The Duchess of Cornwall elaborated on the idea behind her newly-launched Reading Room, writing that she hopes it will be a digital “resource, a reassurance and a refuge for all book lovers” around the world to gather and discuss literature.
In an exclusive for The Sunday Times and shared on the Prince of Wales’s website, Camilla writes of the journeys reading took her on without ever leaving her home.
“From the dank cells of the Bastille, to the stalls of Barchester Cathedral, through bleak graveyards, overgrown with nettles, to tropical beaches, empty save an ominous footprint.
I crossed windswept moors with brooding heroes, battled three-headed dogs and white witches alike and climbed Magic Faraway Trees. That is the eternal power of a good book, the joyous escape into another world.”
This love of literature led Camilla to share a list of her favourite books last spring, and she writes that she relished hearing from people all over the world who shared with her that reading was their solace during coronavirus lockdowns.
“The most moving letters were those from people who described how books had been their lifeline during lockdown. In some cases, their only company for weeks had been characters from novels. Not surprisingly, the sales of fiction rose by a third during the first lockdown.”
The Duchess added, “Reading was comforting us, making us laugh, taking us on journeys that we could not undertake in the flesh and, crucially, reminding us that we were not alone. We had found community in reading at a time when we were, sadly but necessarily, unable to be with those we love.”
As she continued promoting literature and reading last year, Camilla says she was inspired by the words of Ben Okri’s poem ‘Poem for the Booker Prize’ that read, “a universal / Community within / The infinite space / Of our collective reading souls,” to start her own reading room on Instagram, which officially launched its first season on 15 January.
The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room has just over 84,000 followers on Instagram, and she calls the space a place that explores the “magical world of books; the extraordinary people who write them; and the enormous emotional, social and educational benefits of reading.”
Camilla further spoke about her Reading Room on the Clarence House social media accounts on Monday, saying that she hopes it will be something that everyone can delve into and find a book they read and enjoy.
“I think [readers] get more enjoyment if they can see little snippets of authors and why they wrote the book.”
The four books of this first season are The Mirror & The Light by Hilary Mantel, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Restless by William Boyd, and The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak.
She continues in The Sunday Times, “I fervently hope that the Reading Room will be a resource, a reassurance and a refuge for all book lovers, on a digital desert island of our own.”