Hi diligent reader, ’tis me. Who else would it be? No chapter review this time, I just felt like talking. Or typing. Whichever works best. In any case, having finished revision for the day (20 minutes after midnight, but that’s a technicality I think I can ignore) I’ve been hit with a sudden sense of…emptiness seems too strong a word, but it seems to be the only one fit for the purpose. So I thought I’d talk with you about books, a subject that never fails to put a smile on my face. That is unless the book is frustrating me beyond all reason. Which is unfortunately a much more common occurrence now that I’ve grown up and I’m developing more of a taste for books and less patience for irritating ones. So where better to begin a discourse about reading, but at the beginning of a bookaholic’s downward descent, to an eventual end that I can only imagine as being crushed by a towering to-be-read pile: the first book that you read that reached into you and defined you as a reader.
Mine is perhaps an odd book to pick, especially considering how young I was at the time. It was the summer holidays between years 5 and 6 in primary school, I would be turning 11 in less than a month, and I spent part of that summer reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet. Looking back, I can’t help but look upon it with affection, even if I view it as one of Sherlock Holmes’ lesser adventures nowadays. But even so, of all the places to start, it was perhaps the most obvious, the place where Holmes and Watson’s singular relationship originated. I think Holmes himself was probably the biggest draw, though I didn’t know why at the time. I think it might have been partly down to my circumstances at the time: as an non-athletic individual, summer camp, with an over-abundance of games of tag and bulldog, was hardly an attractive prospect, so I convinced my mum to let me bring a book with me each day. My reading habits before this summer were those of your average, slightly bookish 10 year old, but that summer I decided that I was going to read some classics, to improve myself. Now, despite what I’d told myself, a 10 year old girl with a hard-back copy of Little Women is going to stick out. I hadn’t learned that in playgrounds, the nail that sticks out will be hammered down, in one way or another. To cut a long story short, I was bullied mercilessly for my retreat into literature; much as I appreciate now that this probably influenced my choice of reading, it was, and still is today, a very painful part of my childhood, and one which did me no benefit growing up. But in any case, by the time I got to reading A Study in Scarlet, the bullies had been put in their place, but I was still feeling somewhat delicate. So to find a character like Sherlock Holmes, a man who embraced his solitary nature and was celebrated nonetheless, it was something to cling to. To this day, I still love Sherlock. I love him for his determination to not bend to societal norms. I love him for his desire to constantly better himself. I love him for the great love he bears Watson, even if he is loath to put it into words. But most of all, I love his ability to still believe in human morality even after seeing some of the darkest, basest human motivations and actions. Hell, I even love the weaknesses, the typical Victorian upper class elitism, the weakness for his 7% solution. He’s been the role model that I’ve aspired to for almost 10 years now. It’s rather sad, but I can’t think of many role models that I’ve held dearer to me. He and Dr Watson have inspired me to read with a passion that I lacked before, and, in their own way, they’ve shaped my sense of self: sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but I can’t begrudge them those less helpful lessons.
So, for me it was the introduction to Sherlock Holmes and his ever faithful Bosworth, Dr Watson that has set me on this journey towards my smothering beneath the books I love so much. Is there a particular book or character that has defined the very person you are? Was there a moment where you suddenly realised that you were stuck with books for the rest of your life? If so, I wouldn’t mind hearing of them.