Those of us who read, and who are influenced by books, tend to squirrel away our memories of all the stories we have read over the years.
And yet, there is always that one special book tucked away in the far corner of your mind which reminds you just why you love reading so much…
During July and August I've invited a few friends to share their First Remembered Read
I'm thrilled to welcome to Jaffareadstoo
Emma Curtis, author of One Little Mistake
The books that haunt me, those whose impression on my soul I can still feel, are the ones I was given to read by my mother, between the ages of twelve and fifteen, after which I unfortunately decided she knew nothing and stopped listening to her.
I don’t remember the plots of all of them, but the feelings I had, the total immersion, the sense of awe, are still there. These are the books that, whenever I’m reminded of them, still give me that frisson. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster, Green Dolphin Country by Elizabeth Goudge, For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway, The Go-Between, by LP Hartley, Ayesha (She) by H Rider Haggard, Bhowani Junction by John Masters and of course Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice; they all echo through my mind, as part of my coming of age.
We didn’t have Young Adult novels in the Seventies and so I skipped straight from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe into these incredible, eye-opening worlds. Once I found them, my mother’s bookshelves became both a treasure trove and an escape. Unhealthily ignorant about sex and boys and finding friendship problematic, they were my education and salvation. Mr Rochester, Maxine de Winter, Fabrice de Sauveterre and Mr Darcy stood in for boyfriends. Wonderful unforgettable books read at exactly the right time.
|Published in paperback 15th June 2017|
It might not have been my very first grown up read but "HomeComing" by Cynthia Voigt is definitely the first book I read that showed me the power a story can have on you. It was the first book which made me think 'What would I do if it were me?' and the first novel which provoked a whole range of emotions and made me feel real empathy towards a character.
Homecoming is about 4 siblings who are abandoned by their mother in a car park and have to find their way from Connecticut to Bridgeport and their only other living relative. The eldest, Dicey, is only about 13 and she takes responsibility for all her younger siblings, doing her best to feed, clean and protect them as they set of on their long journey on foot with only a few dollars.
I read it when I was 11 or 12 and the premise of 4 children being left in a car park by their mother with no food, no money and no explanation really caught my imagination. Up until this point I had probably read far too many Sweet Valley High novels so this book was refreshingly realistic and gritty. Dicey is a fantastic heroine who is quick thinking, inventive, caring, brave, resourceful and self sacrificing. I fell in love with her and have remained so until this day!
Homecoming explores issues of mental health, dysfunctional families and risk, but is also a story about perseverance, belief and love. It was the first book that made me think about themes, ideas, observations and situations that challenged me as well as being intriguing. It was the first book that I wanted to discuss with someone. I think also the main character was not far off my age and like no one I had met before. I wanted to be her friend and Homecoming was one of the first books I really "lived" in.
I reread it two years ago and still loved it. I was able to finish the sentences and quote chunks without even realising I knew the text so well - especially as it's about 30 years since I last read it! Homecoming was first published in 1981 and it's fascinating to read a book where technology doesn't exist - these children have to use a real map, can't phone ahead or text and can't use google when they face some obstacles. This time I realised how much more the role of the mother and her mental state of mind was written about in the novel and I still wanted to sit down and talk to someone all about it when I finished the last page!
One last thing? I have a few copies of Homecoming but my first one is over 400 pages and with very small print. My parents had offered to buy me one book to take on holiday and so I searched out the longest, with the most pages and the smallest print because I wanted to get my money's worth. I was only getting one book and it was going to have to last a whole week. And with so many pages, it had to be a really 'grown up' book!
So Homecoming not only defines a move to more lengthy and grown up style of novels, a different way of reading a book and relating to a story, but also a book that filled my summer and my imagination. If you haven't read it, I'd recommend it.
G K Holloway, author of 1066: What Fates Imposed
If I tell you, in the opening line of this novel, ‘the clocks were striking thirteen,’ you’ll know exactly which book I mean.
I’d just left school and before I started college, the summer months stretched out ahead of me. I needed something to read. This was in the days when Penguin Books had their own shelves in book stores. So, I went to my local bookshop and, knowing there would be something good to read, browsed the Penguin Modern Classics. There it was, 1984.
I started reading it when I got home and the first line pulled me in immediately. This was early Saturday evening. By the same time the next day I’d finished, and I’m not a fast reader. I’d been lost in another, dystopian, world. One that might one day become a reality
The book introduced me, and the world, to new words and phrases in the English language; Doublethink, which enabled a person to hold two contradictory opinions at the same time and the slogans; War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength. I became familiar with the Ministries of Love, Peace, Plenty and Truth, responsible respectively for, misery, fear suffering and torture; the armed forces; rationing of food and supplies; and falsification of historical events. Orwell’s novel also introduced me to a mild feeling of paranoia.
More than anything, this book hit the politics button buried deep inside my head and I don’t think I’ve been the same since. I look at the world now and it seems to be more than a TV set in the corner that takes note of your interests and affiliations – all for the greater good?
I went on to read all of Orwell’s books, including his essays, and always found them pertinent and perceptive.
So, now you’ve read this, switch on your television and watch the news. Oh, and behave, Big Brother might be watching you.
Huge thanks to Emma, Katherine and Glynn for sharing the memories
of their First Grown Up read with me today.
Next week : My First Romantic Read