‘Tess of the d’Ubervilles’ – Thomas Hardy
When I was twelve I read a lot of Sweet Valley books. I read so many that my mum was rightfully worried about unrealistic life expectations and my English teacher was worried I wasn’t stretching myself intellectually.
One day, my English teacher held me back for a few minutes at the end of the lesson and said it would be a good idea to read the classics. She said a good one to start with would be Tess of the d’Ubervilles.
I was desperate not to be separated from my then favourite cast of American teens, so told my teacher that I had read Tess, then surmised the entire plot as my mum had recently seen it on stage and had decided to debrief me on her arrival home.
I still vividly remember the look on my teachers face and the whirring in my mind as I computed whether or not she believed me; more pertinently – whether I’d be able to hold on to my favourite twin teens.
I don’t think she did believe me, but she kindly pretended to. I did eventually read it and it was sad.
Like I’d said it was back then.
‘Vox’ – Christina Dalcher
In a recent conversation, I diplomatically described my feeling towards this novel as ‘mixed’ when I outright thought that despite the hype, it was disempowering trash, which is another review for another day.
‘Sweet Valley Twins…’ (it had a beige or pale blue cover) – Francine Pascal
This is quite the confession which I don’t think I’ve ever admitted but when I was 12 (it was a big year for lying), I borrowed a SVT book from the library near school and dropped it in the bath. When I tried to return it, the librarian was understandably put out so I just kept saying it was loaned like that.
I can’t really remember what happened. I think they most likely applied a fee to my card which effectively acted as a book ban, but I do remember the innocent way I kept saying – ‘It was like that when I borrowed it.’
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ (and throw ‘Jane Eyre’ in too)
Compulsory reading is the best way to kill any interest in reading (aside from library fees) and that’s why I’ve never read either these books, only the excerpts the teachers said we would absolutely fail our GCSEs without reading.
The contemporary love for both books makes me feel like I should try them again but there’s something drilled into me that makes me sigh when I see either copy.
‘On the Road’ – Jack Kerouac
All I wanted when I dropped out of university was to work at a bookshop and my dream came true when I was invited to interview at Waterstones.
‘Being 20’ roughly translates as ‘challenging time having dropped out and not sure what I’m doing next but I can read cool books and just hang for a while’ which is when I tried On the Road for the first time and couldn’t quite get into it. I tried twice more before I realise I just didn’t like it.
But when the end of that summer came and I was asked to interview and asked my favourite book that was the one I gave. I think it made me feel like I was cool and one good offer away from road tripping (with no driver’s licence) and part of the Beat generation (despite being int the wrong decade and country). To some extent that lie gave me an identity so it makes me smile when I think of it. Particularly as I hate the book so much.