I’d never understood the appeal of fantasy. I’d read just a handful of fantasy books in my life, and pretty much all of them left me rolling my eyes and scoffing, “as if that would ever happen!” Sure, I enjoyed the storylines and that feeling of adventure, but I couldn’t see how the addition of a goblin or a wizard was adding anything to the story. When I critiqued an early version of my friend’s brilliant and now published novel Game Bird, I (embarrassingly) wrote in the margin in red pen, ‘It’s a great story… but could be better if you just took out the dragons.’ I’m glad he completely disregarded that one!
When I came to The Hobbit in my 100 Book Challenge I didn’t have high hopes. And then everything changed…
The best thing about this 100 Book Challenge has been how every book has been a surprise in some way. I’ve had preconceptions for them all, and they’ve all given me something entirely unexpected to think about afterwards. I needed a fantasy book to help me ‘get it’, and this is how it happened.
I started reading The Hobbit in a week where I felt unwell. As I read through the first few chapters, the dwarves and the wizard were actually pretty annoying, and I was starting to wonder whether the Bible would have been an easier read from the list. Then one night I had to go to hospital, and I’d taken The Hobbit with me to pass the hours waiting in the boring, white waiting room. And that is where I met Gollum – the hairless, round-eyed, lonely creature who lives in darkness in the depths of the mountain. He intrigued me – the way he peered up at Bilbo Baggins, the way he moved his boat across the black water. I was in another world, taken far away from the illness and the doctors and the beeping machines surrounding me.
Four hours later, when Bilbo finally saw the sunlight again, my name was called and I was seen. It seemed like only 5 minutes had passed.
In July 2014 I set myself the challenge to finish 100 must-read books before I die. For my ongoing tally click here.Follow @jessieansons