What’s the first book you ever bought? The first book I remember buying was a paperback copy of A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett while on a family holiday to Singapore. I remember it clearly, partly, because it’s attached to another memory I have that happened in that bookstore. I was seven and it was the first time I’d left Australia. Since that time immigration to Australia from Middle Eastern and Asian countries has boomed, but back then it wasn’t as common. So, it was the first time I ever saw a real-life person wearing a turban. Up to that point all my experiences with people wearing turbans were what I had seen on film and T.V. Luckily the gentleman wearing the turban saw the funny side of a blonde-haired white child saying, “Look Daddy a genie!”. My dad then sat me down and we discussed how I’d be seeing a lot of things I’d never seen before, and that I shouldn’t call them out like that, instead I should just quietly point things out to him.
For the longest time though A Little Princess was my favourite book. I used to watch the film repeatedly. My friend’s aunt was in the opening scene of the children running around the Indian jungle and I used to sit there and try and figure out which character the lady was. Somewhere along the way someone gifted me this beautiful edition which is a bound hardback of A Little Princess and my other favourite, The Secret Garden. I read these books over and over again as a child, until Harry Potter came along and I found a new obsession. I still have the hardback book but the paperback has been lost along the way.
I keep coming back to these stories over my life. As I wrote before, I read these stories repeatedly as a child. I returned to these stories in University as a part of my writing course. I studied The Secret Garden for an assessment examining the way the author contrasts elements of Victorian life as a commentary on the social norms and religious beliefs of the time. Francis Hodgson Burnett contrasts India and England as well as city and country, to emphasize the importance of setting and environment, during this instructional tale of transitioning from childhood into adolescence.
The idea of a secret garden stuck with me for a long time. I love fairy tales (elements of which The Secret Garden shares) and a lot of fairy tale like stories heavily featured gardens and nature settings. I think at its base I liked the idea of having a secret place that was just my own. Most of the stories I wrote during my primary school years revolved around Rajah’s and the Indian jungle. Stories set in the Indian jungle, or revolving around Indian themes, especially during the British occupation, have always captured my interest. The Moonstone is another favourite. Considering this I’m surprised that none of my adult writings have continued this theme. Maybe it’s something I outgrew and maybe it’s something I will come back to eventually. As I reflect on this subject it becomes clearer to me that the books we read and the television and films that we watch as children shape us far more than I previously realised.
As an aside, I find it funny too that I recently bought some wool bundles for a craft project. Out of all the colour schemes the bundles came in the one I ended up liking the best turned out to be “The Secret Garden” from Paintbox Yarns. When I saw its name it got me thinking about The Secret Garden and this blog post was born.
That’s it from me today and don’t forget: