My memory of looking for Thomas Hardy novels in my local public library has made me realise that my breadth of reading at the time was greater than I originally recall. I sell myself short! For instance, I can definitely remember borrowing Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway, and also George Orwell’s Animal Farm. I know this has to be true because I haven’t studied any of these specific texts at school or university. Little was I to know that years later these writers would inform and play a significant part in my postgraduate research: Woolf because she is a prolific writer and a feminist icon - who has not read ‘A Room of One’s Own’ in their first year as an undergraduate? - and Orwell for entirely different reasons, but mainly because of his non-fiction journalistic excursions into the lives of the lower classes in The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London. I also remember reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which coincidentally led me to read The Spire. I thought The Spire a great read, perhaps surprisingly as the subject matter does not indicate this, where the plot basically revolves around a priest’s personal ambition to erect an enormous spire on his church, which turns out to be too big: his ambition and the actual spire. Perhaps it was the religious association that first attracted me to this book, as well as the background presence of peasants and paganism which, for me, is always an added bonus. Well, I just couldn’t put this book down, and I ended up weeping for the protagonist even though he had not been very nice throughout the narrative. When I finished this book it stayed with me for days after. Actually, it must have remained lurking in the recesses of my subconscious, as years later my memory of it conveniently emerged when I was writing my MA literature project, ‘Women and God’. I needed a novel that thematically involved Christianity, which was about a man and written by a man in order to represent male-centred religion. Remarkably, The Spire fit the bill perfectly: at least, my reading of it made it fit the bill. I guess The Spire goes to show that a good book is a good book, regardless of the subject matter, and that good writers just take you with them and immerse you in another world/reality. I used to cry when I’d finished a good book, whether it was sad or not, just because that particular journey was over and could never be repeated.
Well, I have virtually finished with this particular section. I have shown that during my young life I was quite a well-read and literary individual, and that my reading was largely self-initiated and self-directed (and in the lap of the gods much of the time). All of which generally fits in with my working-class women autobiographer counterparts. Ha!
To cut a long story short: