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.