I’m re-reading my favourite Terry Pratchett, Night Watch. Fortunately I’ve been working from home today so I could sneak in a few reading breaks. It got me thinking about my favourite books, and why they’re my favourites. It’s not just for the great story, the entertaining read, the chance to disappear into another world. It’s because each of those books has resonated with me, at some point in my life, and given me something I needed. Some little lessons that I could take with me and find comfort in during the dark nights of the soul.
I spent my third year of university in France, teaching English. I had looked forward to that year so much, and it turned out to be the worst year of my life. I’ve never felt so lonely, so un-wanted, so lost. And that was before my beloved grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I lived in a room that bled livid green from concrete walls. During my worst moments, I would recite passages from some of those books to myself as I ran to my car to get out, get away, get anywhere else but that green room. Often on a plane back to Denmark to be with her.
My parents were living just outside Atlanta at the time, so the first one on the list had to be:
Gone With the Wind:
I love that book because it’s a testament to what happens when the world turns upside down. Who comes through, who doesn’t – and why.
It’s the book I take with me whenever I have to go to one of those annoying seminars when you have to bring something that defines you.
Scarlett O’Hara was my silent shadow that year, reminding me to be strong even when everything seemed utterly hopeless. When I really need her, she’s still there in the quotes I remember most.
Whut dat chile got ter stan’, de good Lawd give her strent ter stan’. Disyere done broke her heart but kin stan’ it.
You didn’t plump yourself down on your male relatives and sob for the good old days. You got out and hustled.
Sometimes I think she’s like the giant Antæus who became stronger each time he touched Mother Earth. It doesn’t do for Scarlett to stay away too long from the patch of red mud she loves.
Burdens were for shoulders strong enough to bear them.
There was no going back and she was going forward.
I’m going to live through this, and when it’s over, I’m never going to be lonely again.
Yes, I know it’s “hungry again” but Brittany is filled with crêpes and hunger was not my problem that year.
I was going to write about A Place of Greater Safety as well but I’ll have to save that for another post. It’s getting late here and I’ve got some reading to do before lights out!