My reading usually consists of newly published or forthcoming books as I research for magazine articles or make recommendations for this newsletter and website. But this week I've had reason to pore over old books, documents and stories.

For two distinct projects, I've been looking back on lives lived from the early to mid-20th century and it's been both poignant and inspiring, seeing how people have faced and overcome personal trials and challenges. 

However, it's also been frustrating. The stories have been incomplete. Letters and diaries have been destroyed. Documents are tantalisingly out of reach so it's not possible, yet, to find out why certain events occurred, or what an individual thought or felt in a particular circumstance.

These days we're used to having our questions answered, usually almost instantaneously. We have come to expect that we can find out anything and everything we want about something, or someone. 

In the present day, it's important, though, to remember that we are all entitled to having some control over what we reveal about ourselves, to have privacy and respect from others, to be able to maintain a sense of mystery, if we wish.

For past lives, we have more freedom in speculating and pondering, perhaps. There's a genre of fiction that has arisen from just that approach. And we may, in fact, learn more about ourselves through our responses to what we know, or don't know, about individuals from long ago.

Thank you for reading.