While several books have influenced me, been my foul weather friend, given me inspiration or thrilled me to my core, the book that started it all for me is the most memorable one.
I was a loner in school, not part of any clique and not part of the cool gang that used to read the pre-teen romances. After having my solitary lunch, I found myself in the library one day and the librarian suggested a book.
Enid Blyton's The Enchanted Wood. It is part of her Magic Faraway Series. The book awakened the love for reading in me. My journey in reading and then ultimately writing started with the sheer wonder that is this book. As an adult, I have consciously tried not to read this book because I feel I can not recapture that innocence and belief in magic that I had when I read this book at the age of 9.
It starts with three children - Joe, Beth and Frannie (Fannie), who are bored after having moved to the countryside. They decide to venture into the woods nearby and discover a large tree. It is no ordinary tree, it is a tree that transcends imagination and credulity. It grows all sorts of nuts and berries and houses magical creatures. My favourite was moonface, especially his circular abode within the tree trunk. It was my idea of the perfect tree house. There is a ladder that leads to the top of the tree and every now and then, the "land" on top changed. The lands ranged from fun to scary and even downright silly. My favourite ones were the Land of Take-What-You-Want and the land of birthdays.
There was also the land of roundabouts which never stopped and made me feel dizzy, a land of an angry school teacher (I never cared about her). It was an adventure within an adventure to guess which land would be next.
The level of imagination just shook me to my core. Enid Blyton has this knack of understanding the kids who are different, it was like her books were designed to make loner kids like me feel as if we had friends. It was also my introduction to how far an author's imagination can reach but still be part of the big picture.
Another thing this book helped me with through inculcating the reading habit was improve my english. I studied in a private school for rich kids that my middle-class parents thought I should attend. My parents never spoke to me in english but used our native language but my british influenced school was otherwise. They made fun of my sentence construction and pronunciations.
Reading gave me the strength to surpass them, to excel at my weakness. The warmth invoked by Enid Blyton's genius mind helped me focus on positive things such as the joy in eating a simple biscuit.
It was also during that year that I wrote my first poem, about never growing up and being happy that I'm not an adult.
As I said, I have never re-read this book, it is a beautiful memory for me that changed my life.
This is part of Hive Book club's contest. Check it out here