Monday, April 1, 2013

First loves

I blame my sister for my obsession with all things word-y. Seeing her engrossed in books made me equate them with magical powers & a lot of importance & imagination. I wanted to read them, I wanted to be important & cool & look intelligent & mysterious & unapproachable.

After a lot of haranguing & nagging & basically to shut me up, she started me off on abridged classics; which was where I found my first love, "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott.

This is a sweet little story by any standards, rising far above The Secret Garden & The Little Princess & Little Lord Fauntleroy which are all books in the same vein. What makes it better? Maybe its the beautiful way the family interacts with each other, maybe its the unabashed joy it makes you feel when Jo gets published or the tug on your heart when Beth gets the piano meant for one gone too soon or the way you get a tear in your eye just writing about the book 20 years after you first read it.

I used to fancy myself as Jo, the protagonist, for the longest time. But today I know I am Amy, the spoilt little brat who was adored her whole life & got the chance to live out her dreams. All this while her truly talented & amazing older sister had to stay back & be the backbone of the family.

It was easy to fall in love with this book, the writing was simple & easy, the characters relatable & empathetic, the story progression slow with gradual ups & downs like a lazy sea. What endeared the book to me the most, however, was that the story progressed on to three sequels so I could let the characters stay on in my life & I didn't have to make up where they went (which is what I usually do with other books.)

What also fascinated me is the poetry that was used almost as a part of the book's narrative. My sister used one of those poems as a basis for a Mother's Day card & till today I can see that card in my hand, I remember those words & the amazing rush of envy, pride & utter amazement I felt that my sister had made it all up out of nothing.

Another book where poetry is an effortless part of the story -- almost a character in itself -- is Alice in Wonderland. That is one book I always find something new in, everytime I read it.

The other books of my childhood were by Enid Blyton. Famous Five, Secret Seven, St Clare's Malory Towers & the Five Find-outers were all my very best friends. The talking toys, the fairies, pixies, goblins, gollywogs, talking animals & Noddy. They all took me to a land of fun & wonder & imagination where all you had to do was close your eyes to make all your dreams come true.

For a girl who didn't have much & who was always made fun of, an imagination was such an amazing tool. It can help you forget & when you forget, there is nothing to forgive. Armed with imagination, you can take on the world, distract yourself from the drama around you & concentrate only on the world you have built for yourself.

I don't know what makes a good book, but what makes me like a book is its ability to not take itself too seriously. I would re-read Little Women anyday over having to read beyond the third page of Ulysses. Or Atlas Shrugged. Or The Alchemist. A-N-Y-D-A-Y.