Update: congrats to Kati W who was randomly chosen as our winner! She has been notified via email.
With books, like with most things, there is infatuation: passionate, fleeting, quickly forgotten, and there is true love: deep, lasting, life-changing.
When I was young, I was infatuated with one book after another. I gobbled them up like Easter candy. I read every Nancy Drew mystery, all the books by Judy Blume, every word of Agatha Christie. I remember the first books I had illicit affairs with: books hidden underneath the covers so my mother didn’t discover them. (As a parent now, I do think at the age of ten I was too young to read LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR and THE FEAR OF FLYING, but that didn’t stop me). I recall spending an entire summer curled up in a chair reading the complete works of Jane Austen and Judith Krantz. (Both wonderful modern women writers – though they wrote centuries apart).
But my first literary love, the first book that took me so deeply into its world I forgot my own world, I discovered in college. It was MIDDLEMARCH.
Like any kind of love, it is hard to explain why MIDDLEMARCH affected me so deeply. I only remember hiking the hills of Berkeley, while part of me was stuck in the English countryside. I inhabited George Eliot’s world so fully, for a long time I considered Dorothea one of my dearest friends. I fretted over her marriage to Casaubon, I cheered for her to get together with Ladislaw.
True love is a mysterious thing. It changes you and it lasts a lifetime. I went on to read all of George Eliot’s novels, all of Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edith Wharton, George Sand, Wilkie Collins, Flaubert, Stendhal, and Somerset Maugham. I learned a lot from all these authors and each of them occupy a space in my heart.
But when I close my eyes, I can still transport myself back to Middlemarch, I can see the rolling green fields, the manor houses, the quaint English villages.
Like a girl who has outgrown her Tiger Beat posters, I am open to falling in love with new authors. I read constantly and voraciously and there are many books that stay with me after I put them down.
But I will always be grateful to George Eliot for writing a novel that showed me great writing is not about clever sentence structure or pretty phrases. Great writing is about taking the reader into your own world and making her so comfortable, she doesn’t want to leave.
We’re giving away a copy of Anita’s much buzzed-about novel, Monarch Beach, today. If you’d like a chance to win, just leave a comment on this post telling us about that one book you will never forget.
About Ariel Lawhon
Ariel Lawhon is the co-founder of She Reads, novelist, blogger, storyteller, and life-long reader. She lives in Texas with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.