Upon meeting Barbara Kingsolver, Thomas Keneally was overcome with emotion and began to cry.
is when I first learned to read at the age of four.
One of my earliest memories of reading was when I first learned how to read at the age of four.
As I sat on the veranda with my female cousins, the sound of cicadas filled the air as we overlooked the Macleay River. The river flowed dark and strong far below us, with the distant Kookaburra Ranges visible in a beautiful blue hue. Together, we delved into the pages of Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did series and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It was during these moments that I realized my mother, a girl from the countryside, had instilled a love for reading in me. Even when we moved to Sydney, she continued to provide me with books to read, never allowing us to be bored in our home near the Western railway. Her mantra was always, “A child with a book is never bored!”
As a child, my preferred book was
James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, The Last of the Mohicans, was a popular choice for children growing up in a postcolonial era. It included themes of bravery among British women, deceit from the French, and the romanticized portrayal of the noble savage, all of which appealed to the prejudices of the time in the late 1940s.
The book that had a profound impact on me during my teenage years.
A monk showed me a bookshelf in the rear of the classroom, and one of the books was Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. The story follows a gangster caught between good and evil and a murder in Brighton, a place I had never been to before. This book was evidence that novels were still being written after Thomas Hardy’s time, and it was the first serious novel I read that was written by a living author. As a Catholic with Irish roots in the US and Australia, I was captivated by the religious themes and gangster elements.
The author who altered my perspective
I am a huge admirer of Barbara Kingsolver and when I met her at Hay-on-Wye, I became emotional and cried tears of joy. However, there was one book that I did not enjoy, and I can already imagine the negative reactions. It was – cringe! – Demon Copperhead. The main character’s voice felt flat and uninteresting to me. Despite this, I went back and read it again out of respect for Kingsolver’s talent, and within an hour, my opinion was completely changed.
The book that inspired me to become a writer.
Greene’s novel, The Heart of the Matter, follows the story of a colonial police officer in Africa. The book stands out for its well-crafted writing style and skillful plot development. I also wrote a critique of Catholicism, titled Three Cheers for the Paraclete, which Greene himself praised in a blurb.
I returned to this piece’s creator.
Joseph Conrad, known for his two literary works on radical politics in the early 20th century, which now appear to have been prophetic. “The Secret Agent” and “Under Western Eyes” were regarded as hidden gems, alongside “Heart of Darkness” and “Lord Jim”, showcasing Conrad’s impressive literary skills and ambitions.
The book I reread
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, is comparable to the Himalayas – always present, but leaving one to question if they have the necessary oxygen. This remarkable and ominous piece of literature is more enjoyable to read at the age of 80 compared to 20, but still worth revisiting at 60 just in case.
I am currently reading a book about.
Louise Kennedy, Trespasses. Kennedy depicts the Troubles in northern Ireland as an authentic war, but there’s compassion for all sides in this fine novel about a young teacher and part-time barmaid in the family pub, and her affair with a polished establishment Protestant attorney. It is a novel of subtlety and nuance as well as bombs and bullets, and its authenticity takes the breath. The slow-burning seduction includes his involving her as a tutor in the Old Irish language for his posh mates.
My comfort read
Since the beginning of last year, I have been engrossed in Irish literature, particularly Sebastian Barry’s masterful Old God’s Time, Anne Enright’s The Wren, the Wren, and John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies, all of which are excellent. The Irish writers certainly pack a punch.