What Do You Mean, I Can’t Read That?

 Many years ago, when the ravenous reader was about 10 years old, she got hold of a copy of Jane Eyre, the Dell paperback edition which cost all of 50 cents at the local Arlan’s department store.  It was satisfyingly fat, with red lined pages and a dark blue cover.  The print was minuscule, but that didn’t matter, for my near vision in those days was 20/20.

I came to the novel by way of Girl With a Pen, a biography of Charlotte Bronte, which I checked out of my school libary so many times they might as well have given it to me.  And also by way of the old black and white movie, which I had seen on television about three times.

I delved in with great excitement, and had just gotten to the part where Jane was to be shipped off to Lowood when my mother caught sight of me reading it.

“I don’t think you’re old enough for this book,” she said, plucking it from my hands and riffling through the pages.  “You better put this away for a few years.”

Well, as you might expect, I was the type of girl who was not in the habit of questioning her mother.  It simply wasn’t encouraged in my household.

However, I had no intention of “putting the book away” for even a few days, much less a few years.  So I waited until she got involved in one of her many household projects and then retrieved it from the top of her dresser, where she had carelessly placed it never thinking I would dare deceive her.

Secreting it in my bottom desk drawer, I read feverishly and surreptitiously over the next several days until I had completely devoured Jane’s story, the gothic tale enhanced by my fear that someone (my mother!) would burst in upon me whilst I was engrossed in the book.

I’ve never enjoyed a book so much as the one I was forbidden to read.

All this by way of introduction to Banned Books Week, which begins today. 

And a reminder that the “freadom”  to read whatever we wish should never be taken for granted.


18 thoughts on “What Do You Mean, I Can’t Read That?

  1. That’s a great story. I’m sure the suspense made the read all the more delicious. My mother had a copy of Huckleberry Finn high on her closet shelf and I spotted it when I was about nine and wanted to read it. She said I had to wait until I was older. I was burning with curiosity, but didn’t flout her edict. Then I forgot about it until it was required reading in high school.

  2. Happy BBW to you as well! Like others in the network, I have written an article of reflective thoughts on banned and challenged books. Your Jane Eyre experience reminded me of the many times my mother picked up a book I was reading and said “I’m not sure your old enough for this yet.” This one statement made the reading experience that much more exciting. Being ‘not old enough yet’ was probably the catalyst for me devouring so many books at a young age. Thankfully, my mother has a fantastic literary collection for me to sink my teeth into.

  3. I read numerous books under the bed covers and hid them under the mattrass, in sheds, etc. It seems incredible now but my very strict upbringing included many banned books, which made me want to read them even more! The reason for ‘banned’ books was not only that I was considered too young, they were also thought to have a bad influence (my parents were extremely religious)…. Seems strange now, and I’ve ended up being a voracious reader. I have never banned my children from reading any books at all….

  4. This is shocking. I have not read Jane Eyre. I’ve seen the movie, two different versions in fact, but have not read the book.

    I have read THE WIDE SARGASSO SEA. So it only makes sense that I would have already read JE.
    But no.
    I must.
    There’s a lovely hardcover copy bound in red leather and edged in gold on the shelf. Will I love it? just say yes.

  5. Great story for banned books week! I had Agatha Christie taken away from me at 10 because she gave me nightmares. I did wait a year, it has to be said, but then I read everything she wrote, all 88 novels…. Forbidden fruit is very tasty.

  6. This reminded me of when my mom got “Valley of the Dolls” and she hid it so I wouldn’t read it. Well, of COURSE I found it! (She really didn’t have the knack for good hiding places!) and managed to read it in bits and pieces in the summer, hidden in my beach towel as I headed out the door! I was definitely old enough (probably 17 or so, and by today’s standards, kids read stuff like that much younger!). There is something divinely illicit in sneak-reading, guilty pleasures! Oh, what a lovely smile this post brought to my face!

  7. Great post! Got me laughing over memories of ransacking my mother’s paperback bookshelf in my early teens. She was lenient (perhaps too much so?) as I pulled down “The Exorcist,” “Gone with the Wind,” “The Andromeda Strain,” “Dune,” and “Eye of the Needle.” I remember those books specifically but there were so many others. Still, I secreted away “Eye of the Needle” (Robert Ludlum) into the bushes out back because it had a most scandalous sex scene — reading that scene was better than any abstinence programming, I’ll tell you that much!

  8. Ah… I don’t think I have a post in me about banned books, but this did trigger a memory of sittig on a kitchen chair, feet up on another, immersed very deeply in Gone With the Wind. I must have been around 12. My Dad spotted my current read and enquired “Do you think you should be reading that?” I perused the cover for a moment, nodded “Yes” and returned to reading, intrigued as to what was in there that might be unsuitable for me. Never really figured that out!

  9. Great story! You had me chuckling over that one. It is so true and so few parents realize that the forbidden fruit does apply to books.
    This is why so many authors love the controversy of a book being challenged for content. It just puts their book on the top of the TBR pile. Students in my classes are always surprised by the concept of Banned Books. They are amazed at the list of books that have been challenged over the years and those that were also banned. I have a raffle for Banned Book Week also see my blog..


    Happy freadoming, Wisteria

  10. Pingback: Book Club: Jane Eyre « Oprah Book Club By 2011 Blog

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