Today I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic. It’s a beautiful almost-Spring day outside this morning in Liverpool, and what’s more, I have no lectures today – even better!
So I got to thinking what my favourite books as a child were, and of course, the first thing that sprung to mind was Roald Dahl. I was always drawn to his stories, because they were just wonderful. The characters were sometimes obscure and larger than life, or sometimes reminded me of people I knew. A case in point of this is the eponymous character of ‘Matilda’, a girl who secretly reminded me of myself, not due to her neglected upbringing, but because of the sheer scale that she devoured books. Like Matilda, every week my mum or dad would take me to the library and spend nearly an hour there with me whilst I chose eleven books to take home with me for the week. And the next Saturday, I’d return them all, read, and start again. It did get to the point when I was about 13 that I’d finished all the books I wanted to read in the children’s and young adult section, so I moved on to reading adult books. In particular, the classics, and that is I suppose where my love of reading comes from today.
A book for me, when I was a child, and still now, is the perfect gift. On the subject matter, the choice reflects how well the giver knows you, and a thoughtful gift is a treasured gift. I’d buy books for everyone! But I know that a lot of people don’t put as much effort into the choosing as I do, and like any generic gift, there’s the danger that if you buy one for someone you don’t know, it’ll go unread or be sent to a charity shop.
I remember getting really into Enid Blyton when I was about eleven or twelve – my nana had bought me the ‘Secret Seven’ books, and a few months later I found a first edition copy of the first of the ‘Mallory Towers’ I loved them! I loved in particular the odd, upper class 1950s sayings the characters said, like: “Oh Margaret, you’re such a brick”, which to me, just seemed totally odd, and utterly hilarious.
I also remember when I was in year 5, at age 8 or 9, devouring ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte, and having to record it in my reading diary that we had to complete for homework. My teacher didn’t believe me, and refused to sign it off so I missed out on that week’s merit. Anyway, my mum told him it was true, and I got two merits instead of the one I was used to.
I think if you have read some of my previous blog posts you’ll already know how much I love ‘Harry Potter’, and for the simple reason that as I grew older, so did Harry, Ron and Hermione. The characters were relatable, even if the stories were not. Like thousands of other kids no doubt, I dreamed of three headed dogs, quidditch and being accepted into Hogwarts. However when I was 11 my letter never came. (Maybe I have other talents). These books are so special to me, that it’s hard to imagine my life without them. They helped me to think outside the box, and reminded children all over the world that, because they were an orphan, because they wore glasses, because they were a bit geeky, because they were ginger – they were not freaks. In the world of ‘Harry Potter’, the abnormal was welcomed as normal, and I think that’s why children all over the world love them so much.
From the books that I read as a child, it’s so obvious to me how I came to love literature the way I do now. I’m so interested to know what books have influenced you that you read as a child, and even if you still read them now. I can imagine reading Enid Blyton and the ‘Harry Potters’ to my children in ten or twenty years time… And the question of whether certain books can transcend generations is one that interests me. Thanks for reading.