I love reading, I am one of those people who never seem to have their nose out of a book. I read anything and everything, devouring words like food and drink. Despite the fact that I tend to read two or three books a week, I still have favourites, those books that I return to time and time again,who give me comfort and solace, pick up my spirits, make me laugh or just remind me of good times. They are like slipping into a hot bath, or a newly made bed, comforting and relaxing with the reassurance that they won't disappoint. I have a multitude of these, dog eared old friends sat on my bookshelves. Some are tatty and crumpled, with battered spines and well worn covers. If I needed to choose just one book to take with me to a desert island or that I knew I could loose myself in time and time again or that made me the person I am today, then it would be from this row of books that I would make my choice.
It's not an easy choice, I'm the sum of all my parts and my parts have been shaped by forty years of reading, from Shakespeare to Harold Robbins, Pinter to Stephen King and from airport terminal holiday reads to the huge tomes that I read for my degree. Every single one of them has made a mark on me.
So what could be that one book. One novel that stands head and shoulders above the rest and made me want to read and read and read. Influenced me into being a better person (I hope) and had a profound effect on the thirteen year old girl that first picked it up, in O level English, with a heavy heart because it wasn't about ponies, or Adrian Mole. There can be only one and for me that one is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
I was transfixed by the end of the first paragraph and still to this day remain entranced, until the tears start at the end. Actually that is a lie, I cry from about three chapters before the end because I know what is coming. I know that this book made me a better person. It taught me the fallacy of judging people on first impressions and of meddling. Although life in 1980's Bristol was a far cry from the life of the Bennet's, it resonated with me and I could see even two hundred years later that actually very little has changed with relationships. I dreamt of a Darcy of my own, he was my child hood pin up, the man with the morals that I wanted in my own future husband, and who can blame me for dreaming that he'd be just as rich. But not only did it teach me so much about what was wrong with relationships, it also showed me that it was ok to change my mind. That I didn't have to make a decision and stick with it to the bitter end.
I have Jane Austen to thank for so much. She made me a nicer person, shaping my attitudes at that impressionable age and more importantly, she made me realise that just because a book was old and huge, it didn't mean that it was out of my reach. Without this book, I would not be the avid reader I am today and I would not have the husband I have today because my first impression of him was "urgh, stuck up horrible man!". If Lizzie Bennet could change her mind and see through to the inner person, then so could I and I'm glad I did.
If you too want to read my one book you can find it here at Waterstones.
This post was prompted by Waterstones Books That Made Me campaign. Details of which are here.