#56 In love with books – Sarah Frost

April 19, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?
Books were a refuge from a lonely childhood. They offered solace, and alternatives, in a world that felt stark and at times frightening. I read The Lord of the Rings in a weekend, taking Tolkien with me into a Grahamstown pine forest as I went with my father to cut wood for our winter fire. I built a shelter from sticks propped against a tree, curled up against the cold and read there. I remember the way the pale light illuminated a window seat as, back home, I kept reading. Now I am reading The Hobbit to my six-year-old son, and feel a similar awe for Tolkien’s fantastical range and power.

I loved all the Anne of Green Gablesbooks, rereading them annually. So too, Little Women. These books offered a quaint, old-fashioned identity for a girl trying to find a way to be in the world. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods was another favourite, as was What Katy Did. A more modern, albeit superficial, heroine was Nancy Drew, and the American twins Dick and Dolores. I enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Island of Adventure in a jolly-hockey-sticks sort of way. Arthur Ransome’s Swallow and Amazons transported me to the world of lakes and boats and tough solitary children learning to trust one another. I adored a book about the Canadian woods, called Freckles, particularly the description of the forest as a cathedral. Any references to nature in books enthralled me.

Then there were the illicit books that lived on the white-painted tall bookshelf in my parents’ room, which I read in addition to the children’s classics that I got from the library each week. Fanny, by Erica Jong, was my first reading of writing about sex, supplemented by DM Thomas’s The White Hotel. I read The Sailor who Fell with Grace from the Sea by Yukio Mishima, amazed by his careless brutality and observant ways. I still remember the cover of Virago book, The Life and Death of Harriet Freane, by May Sinclair: a pensive woman sitting lonely next to a cast-iron sculpture of a horse. This story, about a young girl who could not cut loose from her oppressive family, felt like a personal allegory.

I loved books for the imaginative escapes they offered. Others offered respite. I kept HE Bates’s Oh to be in England, When the Green Woods Laugh, A Breath of Fresh Air, until their front covers fell off and their dog-eared pages turned yellow because I so loved to read about Pop Larkin, his fat wife, his nubile daughters, and their happy (albeit unrealistic) life in the English countryside.

I fell in love with poetry when I found The English Book of Verse and read Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale. I imagined the bird, “the light-winged Dryad of the trees”, singing in the English summer evening, and felt my heart lift in the same way as when my father discovered and shared Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill with me one night. This remains my favourite line in a book: “Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means, time held me green and dying/ though I sang in my chains like the sea.”

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