Did a bit of a premonition draw me to this book?
I began reading my 22nd book late in my pregnancy when it was starting to get real. Being my second baby, I had all the usual concerns: was spare time for me now a thing of the past? would I ever get to write or read again? how was I going to share my love between two kids? would my three-year-old son like the baby at all?
And then there was the thought that this baby could be a girl and (terror!) how would I go being a mum to a girl, when up until then, I’d always seen myself as a boy’s mum?
Granted, being a mum to girls in the 1860s would probably be just a little different to my own experience but I thought I’d give it a go. Thought I’d finally read this classic tale that so many people (everyone, apparently… please read on) seemed to know about but one that I’d never tackled before.
This book hooked me from the very first page and I couldn’t put it down. When I wasn’t reading, I’d think about it all day. And when I was reading, I’d be drawn into the story, oblivious to what was going on around me. I felt guilty that I was neglecting my family!
Luckily it was all over in just 6 days. That’s almost a record for my 100 book challenge. Beaten only by Catcher in the Rye, which had a similar effect on me and took just 5 days to finish.
If it wasn’t for one small thing, I’d have given it a perfect 10 out of 10.
How did I manage to get through my childhood without reading this book?
The Secret Garden was published in 1911 and is about a spoiled little English girl (Mary), born in India but sent back to England to live with her uncle when she suddenly becomes an orphan. Mary becomes intrigued when she hears a story of a secret garden that’s been locked up for ten years, and as expected, the story follows her search and (*spoiler alert*) discovery of the garden.
The main characters drive this story and stop it from becoming cliche or predictable. There’s one boy I love (Dickon) and another boy I can’t stand (Colin), but Mary manages to find qualities in both.
You will even love the red robin – trust me
When I realised that it took me 85 days to finish A Town Like Alice, I was shocked. That’s a long time to read a book. And in this case, I must stress that it had nothing to do with the quality of the story.
I was shocked… because I know that every time I picked up this book I was hooked. I’d fall into the story and find myself racing through the chapters. The 85 days it took to get to ‘The end’ just doesn’t do this book justice. And it’s purely an indication of what my life has been like over the past few months.
In November 2015, pretty much the day I started this book, I also found out I was pregnant with our second child. A wave of nausea and tiredness hit me from day of conception and lasted till I was 16 weeks along. It was a struggle to make it through everyday life, so to then find the energy to pick up a book at the end of the day? No chance.
I reserved this book online from our local library. When it was time to pick it up, I took my 2-year-old son along and he chose a couple of picture books while we were there.
When I took the books to the counter to get scanned, the librarian snatched them off me, then proceeded to huff and puff and click the computer mouse and sigh. Finally she spoke:
‘When you reserved this book,’ – held up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – ‘you did it under your library card. You really should have used your son’s card because it’s such a muck around for me to change it over to his name to check it out.’
She thrust the books towards me and turned to do something else.
Did I have the heart to tell her this book was actually for me?
Before I started this book, I had a good look at the front cover.
The words at the bottom caught my attention: ‘Probably the funniest book ever written – SUNDAY TIMES’.
I needed a good laugh. My previous two books had been Great Expectations and Catch 22, which although had their funny moments, they dealt with such serious topics it was impossible to call them funny books.
So I started at page one, and waited with bated breath for hilarity to ensue.
And I waited. And waited.
I really want to say it, so as cheesy as it is, let me have my moment: I really didn’t have great expectations for this book.
OK, now that’s out of the way I can tell you what I really thought of it.
This was my first ever Dickens that I’ve read cover to cover and I was incredibly impressed. It’s a long book (I know you probably get sick of hearing that from me) but Dickens made me realise that (in the case of novels that span a significant amount of time) length really does matter.
My very first Dickens
It took me a long time to get through the 484 pages – sixty-five days in fact – and I found myself in the habit of setting small goals and rewarding myself for chapters finished. I have to read 5 more pages before falling asleep (never worked), or if I get to the end of this chapter I can have a bowl of icecream (all the icecream was eaten well before the end of the book).