Wild and Wicked Things

14 Feb 2023

This month, Holly Hartley is starting the second half of her Erasmus-exchange at Radboud University. For the upcoming semester, she is going to compile a reading list about her remaining time in Nijmegen. And especially after all her friends have left following their own exchange semesters, books can be a source of solace (and a cure for isolation).

The beginning of this term has certainly felt strange for me. First and foremost, my best friend and flatmate moved out, returning to Spain to finish her studies. In fact, a lot of my nearest and dearest have left – and I’ve been trying to come to terms with the fact that I will have to face the new semester without the support network I have come to rely on since I moved to Nijmegen.

And even though I’m usually a quite social creature, something about forging new friendships and connections feels scarier this time around. It seems easy to shrink away from social situations when you’ve been thrown in at the deep end. Especially when you’re being hit by the kind of lethargy that comes after a busy exam period, when, after all this stress and studying, you just want to stay in bed and drink tea now that it’s over.

‘Something about forging new friendships feels scarier this time around’

So, I curled up in bed, drank some tea and, as always, I’ve been finding solace in books. And I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between my situation and the character of Annie from Francesca May’s book Wild and Wicked Things– a supernatural The Great Gatsby retelling. Much like Annie, I’ve arrived in a new place without any prior connections (or at least with all the old ones gone). And although the dark magic element of my life is limited solely to the demonology course that I’m taking at the moment, I can relate to how isolated Annie was at the beginning of the novel.

Luckily, I’ve found that the people I’ve encountered in my new classes have been really friendly. Slowly but surely, I’m being coaxed out of my post-exam nest and into the real world again – much like Annie left her boring hometown for a life of glittering magic. Funnily enough, my demonology course is filled with some of the most welcoming people I’ve met so far (although I haven’t met any actual ghosts or spirits – yet) and so I can’t think of a better way to break my habit of hiding in my room.

A particular quote from Wild and Wicked Things stuck with me: ‘A tiny thought at the back of my mind whispered that when I looked at this place I could almost taste magic on my tongue, could feel its promise of transformation humming in my veins. There was just enough of it in the air to make me feel brave.’ And, just like Annie, I’m hoping that I’ll have my transformation moment as well.

Read Holly Hartley's blogs here

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