So here it is. I have always been a book lover. It started with dragons and fairy-tales and toys that came to life; so as long as I had the shelf next to my bed filled with books, I would never dream alone. I have carried this need for stories everywhere. Now, after finding myself living in Australia 10,000 miles from my UK home, it is as necessary as ever.
This year, I have set out to chronicle all the wonderful books that I come across, but it seems fitting to begin with the book that changed it all.
We all have that one novel that truly altered us. For me, it was my first introduction to the great Charles Dickens with A Tale of Two Cities. As a teenager (I’ll be the first to admit) I was rather stubborn, set in my ideas of what I did and did not want to read, so you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm when my English teacher revealed that we will be studying Charles Dickens for an entire term. I naturally rebelled, but with all the patience of a great mentor, my teacher sat me down and implored me to keep going. And keep going I did. There, somewhere between the golden strands of Lucy’s hair and the ominous knitting of Madame Defarge, my true appreciation for literature was woven. The novel begins with the antithesis “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, juxtaposing the two great cities of London and Paris, and culminates in the unselfish sacrifice of Sydney Carton for Charles Darnay, a man who represents everything that Carton never was, and thus represents a very human sense of wasted life and loss. His final words have echoed and reverberated through the annals of history and literature, and never fail to move me to my core:
“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
And from there my path was clear: to consume and devour as much literary greatness as I could and I am eternally grateful to the passion of those who showed me that words on a page could be so much more than they are.