One of the greatest gifts I have ever considered myself fortunate to have been given is that of books. From when I was little, I was surrounded by them and encouraged to expand my knowledge beyond that which my parents could afford to give me by reading that which others had put down on paper. I was also encouraged to write and for the most part, alot of what I had to put down was greatly influenced by what I had read.
I read them all, from Chinua Achebe to authors whose names I cannot remember but whose stories stuck with me. Through books, I could leave any problems I had behind and move on to another world. As a child, I devoured Enid Blyton books with such speed that I am sure my parents were a little bit stumped because that meant that they had to go buy me new books. And books were not cheap. At least, not alot of them.
As a pre-teen, I gravitated to romance novels with much gusto. This was partly because I was forbidden to read them and partly because I had out grown my childhood novels and wanted more. It was not enough for me to read about a wishing chair or a tree with a spinning top that took you to faraway lands, or a boy called Eze who was apparently always going to school. I needed more, and then walked into my life the works of many faceless writes under the Mills & Boon banner and Harlequinn Romances. I also discovered historical romances and learned alot about a part of British history through the lives of its royalty and its aspiring ton.
It was around that time that I discovered Judith Mcnaught and Sandra Brown. One of my favourite novels of the former is Once and Always. I heard about the book before I read it. In a class with avid readers by myself, this novel must have regretted being carried through the classroom door. By the time I booked a turn and it got round to me, the book had been split into six parts so that one could read the portions at different times. This was necessary because some girls, bless their hearts, were so slow, there was the temptation to deliver a well placed blow to the side of their heads with the hopes that their eyes and brain would spring to action and expedite their reading. But they were not to be rushed and so the only thing to do was rip the book apart and read that way.
When I moved to the US, I thought I had died and gone to heaven the first time I walked into a Barnes & Noble. My solitude being a secret answer to the fact that even though I socialise well within crowds, I don't like to seek gatherings out or be sought out by them either. So, I read and Barnes & Nobles was an addiction. You could sit in it and read the book without buying though I would not try that now, with the recession and all.
Anyways, I found a brand new copy of Once and Always and rushed to buy it. After having been responsible for the murder of one copy whilst in school, I thought it only fitting that I purchase a copy in honour of the wonderful story that it was and as a form of atonement. The novel was about two young people who have been through so much hurt and pain, come together through coercion to find that they could help each other experience the beauty of love for the rest of their experiences. It was beautiful when I read it and my friends and I memorised some of the scenes to renact and retell to those amongst us who appeared to be allergic to anything that was not made a compulsory read by the curriculum.
I ran home that day, excited out of my mind. Oh, if only my girls were here to see what I had in my hand. To reminisce on those days when we were girls with what we thought were deep issues but what seemed trivial now that we were all in the struggle to build our futures. I hurriedly changed, made a plate of snacks, a drink and settled beneath my cocoon of duvets to read.
It's hard for me to describe what happened next. First, I finished the book in less than three hours, trudging through the plot. It was as if I had to slow my thoughts down to read it. The book was well, cute. It was no longer inspiring. It was no longer breathtaking. Infact, some scenes were now too incredible. I just wanted to grab the heads of some of the characters and smash them together, the way parents sometimes do when siblings are fighting. Long and short, I was bored. I was bored because I was no longer wide eyed and innocent. The realisation was both interesting and melancholy.
The same thing happened yesterday when I bought a combined book of three of Sandra Brown's early works. My first book of hers was about this woman whose identity was mistaken after a fatal plane crash. I almost came to blows over that book--story for another day--and Sandra was cemented in my heart from that day onwards.
I am almost through with the first story---Thank God---and the only reason I am reading it is because the money I bought it with was not stolen, it was earned. So, by all things I hold dear, I will labour through and finish it. I am at the point where I am almost tempted to write to the author and ask her if she is aware that her leading male is borderline on sexual harassment. And the fool has a moustache. Sacrilege! Facial hair on a fantasy male is a no-no....sigh, I guess I should be glad that I am older now.
Cos Once & Always is no longer so.