The Books That Make Us

Dear friends, old and new

It’s cycled around to the first day of the month again and I am still in this wonderful space where I’m waiting to hear back from publishers. It’s as if I am poised, teetering, on the edge of so much possibility and it’s not such a bad place to be. It’s statistically likely that I will need to pick myself up from disappointment, but that knowledge still loiters around the corner, so for now let’s bounce onward – by going backward! Back to our younger selves.

I’ve been listening to a lot of online wisdom lately. Many festivals and workshops have gone digital for the obvious (hint Covid..well that 19 is misleading, huh?) reasons, and I’ve been able to listen to talks given in NSW in the morning and Queensland in the afternoon, all without leaving my home in WA. It’s a silver lining to what is a tough time for many. These talks, and several social media chats I’ve had recently, have reminded me what a shortcut to friendship-land it can be when you find someone who liked the same books as you as a child. 

If you’re a parent, perhaps, like me, you’ve been befuddled by the reading habits of your children. My daughter often has multiple books on the go at once, a concept that nearly makes me break out in hives. Is it her early exposure to modern tech that allows her to keep several storylines running in her head at once? Or is that something other people in older generations could do too – just not me? Meanwhile, my son prefers to read the same books over and over. This worried me for a while, until I thought about how many times I read my favourite series when I was younger. Those of you who know me well, or knew me way back when, will immediately know I’m referring to that series so many of us bookish types found comfort in: Anne of Green Gables

My mother worked in the library at my primary school, and I can still remember the sage green, hard-backed copy of Anne that I first discovered there. It had black and white photos in it of a movie version that I have never seen. I’ve never seen that edition since. I loved that book. I read it and the entire series over and over again. I caused my moustachioed Grade Four teacher some concern when he found me weeping in class over Matthew’s death…which taught me not to read books under the desk…and I still remember that Anne’s son (Walter)’s dog howled when he died, away at the front. Luckily, I was at home for that one. But, most of all, I remember that Anne loved words and names and making happiness out of sadness. Something little me liked too. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Gilbert was in there as well. The kind of hero I could respect. He liked smart, loud Anne , something that girls of my generation, and perhaps my particular persuasion, needed to hear.

There were other books too, many of them, but none ever took the place of the Anne series in my heart. I haven’t read them for ages, I think because I almost know them too well and there are no surprises left. But they have left an imprint on my soul, so much so that when another claims a similar love, my warm feeling of Hello! A kindred spirit! has to fight with an instinctual bristling of What? No! Excuse me, I’m sure you didn’t love Anne like I loved Anne! Oh, you did?!

And, of course, that is the thing about books. They belong to no one, not even the author really. They arrive to patch us up or fill us up or inspire us. And at the same time, they may be patching up or filling up millions of other people. It’s humbling and delightful. 

If you have time and inclination, tell me about the books that made you.

6 Comments

  1. What a sweet story about you weeping at your desk. It’s amazing how words on a page can move us so deeply.

    I did love Anne of Green Gables too, but will not claim to a love as ferocious as yours!
    My best-loved books were the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I adored Laura’s flawed and feisty character, and I wished I had such a kind and patient father like Pa.

    I’ll be crossing my fingers you get good news from at least one of the publishers (or more than one – bidding war!). It’s such a drag, the whole waiting game, isn’t it? But I can tell you have both the talent and the determination – a winning combination. Hang in there. xx

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    1. I loved the Prairie books too, Fi, but yes not like I loved the Anne books! I remember The Long Winter making a big impact on me, plaiting the straw into wood and waiting for supplies… Thanks for crossing your fingers and the encouragement and good wishes!! So looking forward to your book and do really love that yellow cover! xx

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  2. Hi Annie, your description of your kids’ different reading styles made me laugh! Mine are the repeat offender sort, quoting lines to each other, then laughing hysterically! Alas I read then forget, so can never join in. I don’t know about a book that made me, but I love Jane Harper’s books, which you introduced me to. It helps me understand the country I now call home.

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    1. I’m so glad you’ve loved Jane Harper’s books, dear Padma. There’s nothing wrong with reading and forgetting, in my opinion! Leaves more room for other things!! I’m sad that I never got to see The Dry on the big screen but will catch up with it sometime soon. It’s long enough that I’ve forgotten the plot now, which is my preferred option when I watch a film based on a book! Hope things are going well.

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  3. Hi Annie. Love your posts and just wanted to say one of my favourite books as a child/kid was Charlotte’s Web. I can’t remember how many times I read that book. Loved it! Hope you and the fam are all well out in WA

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    1. Hi Steve So glad you enjoy my posts 🙂 Charlotte’s Web was one of my brother’s absolute favourites. He had his own pet spider and grew up to be a zoologist, so that kind of makes sense! He also loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series, so now I’m wondering if you did too?! All good here and thinking of you guys in Vic A LOT.

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