Monday, December 14, 2015

Christina Hollis: Favourite Books From Childhood...
My New Release
Holidays are a time for families, memories, and curling up in the warm with a book. Ever since I was a child I’ve considered hard, book-shaped presents to be the best things to find under the tree.

My parents lost their home a few months before I was born, and had to move back in with my mum’s parents. My grandparents were elderly, and strict Methodists. You can read more about my early Christmases in an English country house here

Neighbours were few and far between, and most were extremely old single ladies or widows, who had lost their partners in the First World War. Our nearest neighbours were Plymouth Brethren, so while I always had to be very quiet, for the whole of Advent I had to be absolutely silent

Oh no—It's The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner again!
Books came to my rescue. My grandfather was a voracious reader, and knew a lot of poetry off by heart. When I was tiny, he used to sit in the playpen with me and read aloud (with housework and maintenance a continuous process in our house, it was the safest place for him). What he enjoyed wasn’t always suitable material for a child, even as I got older: Rider Haggard's She was one thing, but after some particularly vivid nightmares, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner went onto the banned list—

“...slimy things did crawl with legs 
Upon the slimy sea.”

Once Grampy had taught me to read, I could escape to the public library. That’s why I’m so keen to see them safeguarded against the current rounds of spending cuts. Not everyone can afford to surf the net and read books on line. It’s vital to have somewhere information and real books are available to all.  

In the days before they became internet cafes and local hubs, public libraries had a strict rule of silence. That suited me: life at home was so quiet, I found ordinary, everyday activities outside the enclave painfully noisy. At first Enid Blyton was top of my reading list, as I had my own much-loved copy of her Nature Lover’s Book at home. Then I worked my way through the entire children’s section. Does anyone here remember BB’s Little Grey Men

At this time of year A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was a fireside favourite, but while John Masefield’s The Box Of Delights wasn't on the same scream-scale as The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, I found it far scarier than Dickens, and therefore (of course!) much more enjoyable.

My father read everything by H. E. Bates and Henry Williamson he could get his hands on. As I grew, he passed the books on to me. I still love the Larkins, and Tarka the Otter, but it’s taken me until this year to see otters in the wild. On several occasions they've come to fish in broad daylight in the river Wye, which runs through our village.
" then I knocked that Deadlock right out of the water..."

I devoured the whole Flambards series by K.M Peyton over the course of a week. There was also a book which meant a lot to me once, in which an unhappy girl found refuge in a yew tree. That story really spoke to me back then, but sadly I can’t recall much about it now. She was told each one of the multiple trunks of the tree held a different message, and one was “my arms protect you”, I think. Do you have any idea what book that could have been? I’d love to be reminded!

Wishing you all a happy holiday season, and remember: give a child sweets at Christmas and you feed their sugar habit for an hour. Give them a book, and you feed their imagination forever.

When she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping, Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women.  Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. Her latest book, Heart Of A Hostage, was released on 4th December. You can catch up with Christina at http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.comand see a full list of her published books on her website.

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