What was your first book? Not the one you literally read first (hello, Peter and Jane) but the one that first lead you to love books, to love reading.
Any regular readers will know my love of reading came late, in my early 20s, and I can roughly pin-point my obsession beginning with The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – I remember reading that and wanting to rip through my meagre collection of books to find the next one to consume.
A terrible secret…
On the night of her twenty-first birthday, Nell O’Connor learns a secret that will change her life forever. Decades later, she embarks upon a search for the truth that leads her to the windswept Cornish coast and the strange and beautiful Blackhurst Manor, once owned by the aristocratic Mountrachet family.
A mysterious inheritance…
On Nell’s death, her grand-daughter, Cassandra, comes into an unexpected inheritance. Cliff Cottage and its forgotten garden are notorious amongst the Cornish locals for the secrets they hold – secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family and their ward Eliza Makepeace, a writer of dark Victorian fairytales. It is here that Cassandra will finally uncover the truth about the family, and solve the century-old mystery of a little girl lost.Synopsis from Kate Morton’s official website
It’s an odd book to spark such a passion, I often hear friends quote Austen, Bronte, Orwell or Hemingway, more conventional and high-canon beginnings. The Forgotten Garden is a mixture of past and present, of history and discovery; I love learning, and I love history and I love mysteries – this book has it all.
I was a slow reader as a child and would argue that my school curriculum handed me almost nothing of interest to read; when your dad reads you stories of Narnia before bed who on earth wants to know what Peter or Jane are up to? Once I found myself at secondary school reading wasn’t cool, and I was oh so desperate to fit in. The odd Louisa May Alcott novel found me around my mid-teens, however, until I hit University books were not ‘my thing’.
Was this a failing of my schools? My teachers? They can’t dictate the social requirements of any given year group, and they can’t convince an anxiety riddled child that it doesn’t matter what people think.
Youthful failings aside, I am unperturbed that I came to books late, as many of the books I have read I discovered at pivotal times of my progression into adulthood. Progressions that didn’t happen to me at 16, 18 or 21; they fell upon me gradually, at my own speed.
And I shouldn’t rage unforgivingly at my schooling, after all it did introduced me to:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
I love this play, even though I am still overwhelmed by the language.
An Inspector Calls by J. B. Preistly
We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.
On reading this I began to understanding the gravity of the consequences of my actions.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I see hundreds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads. Hundreds of them. They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; an’ every damn one of ‘em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ‘em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out there. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody never gets no land. It’s just in their head.
While I did not understand this entirely, it flicked the switch of alternate thinking in my mind.
Naughty student that I was, I still have my school copies of these.
Although, notice the utter lack of female authors.
When I have children I want my home to be covered in books; I will encourage my children to read what they like, to do so at their own pace and with their own personalities taken into account. Just because I love something, or someone in literary authority says something is amazing, doesn’t always mean that it is.
So, what was your first book?