This week, Hayley Linfield shares her Inheritance Books. Hi Hayley, welcome to Inheritance Books. Tell me about yourself.
My name’s Hayley Linfield. I’m a reader, a writer, and a mother. I’m many other things too – a struggling clarinetist, a reluctant gardener, an even more reluctant housekeeper, a mediocre pianist, a movie-watcher, a debater of social issues… The list could go on, as it could for anyone.
Which book did you inherit from the generation above?
I was raised on the subtle humor of Winnie the Pooh and the clever meter and rhyme of Dr. Seuss. To this day I find nothing more irritating than clichéd, obvious humor and rhyming poems that don’t quite work. In my opinion it’s always better to do a Suessism and make up a word that rhymes rather than attempt to fit in one that doesn’t.
As influential as A. A. Milne and Theodore Geisel have been on my life, it is a novel given to me by my mother when I was eleven years old that I really want to write about. The inscription in the front reads, for Hayley – May 1985 (the un-birthday girl). (It was a tradition in my family that every year on my sister’s birthday I would receive one small present, and vice versa. It was the way my mother had of dealing with jealousy and of giving a shout out to the Mad Hatter and the March Hare at the same time.)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett became my world. Once I had this novel in my possession, I don’t believe I ever read another. Oh, teachers could get me to read what was required of me to pass English class, but it was The Secret Garden that I returned to again and again.
What did I love about it? I loved the artwork on the cover, the intertwining rose vines, the small robin perched atop the circle of ivy. I loved the pencil illustrations at the start of each chapter. I even loved the name Frances. I loved the way the language was so smooth, so flowing, each sentence perfectly constructed. I loved the sections written in Yorkshire dialect. (And it didn’t matter that I was in my twenties before I learned the proper way to pronounce Yorkshire.)
The story was perfect. There was secrecy and fear, tragedy and sadness, combined with the reverence of nature and the magic of being a child, and of believing that anything is possible if you try hard enough.
Which book would you leave for future generations? Why is it special?
The Secret Garden is a book that I hope never disappears no matter how outdated it seems on the surface, because of course it isn’t outdated. Its themes are timeless, as are the themes in George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
I discovered Middlemarch on my own. (My mother still insists she can’t get through it.) In spite of the low rating my mother would give it, Middlemarch is the book I would most like to pass on to the next generation, and by next generation I mean, of course, my two sons, now eight and six years old.
My sons will not be ready to tackle Middlemarch for many years. It’s a novel that only adults (and not all of them by any means) will be able to enjoy and love. It’s always dangerous to encourage children to read a beloved book when they are too young to appreciate it. Chances are they’ll never give it a second chance. I don’t want my boys to read Middlemarch until they’re ready for it. I don’t think I could bear it if they told me they found it boring. It’s true that it’s not a fast read – you can’t get through it in a day, or even a week – but the lessons that the characters in Middlemarch learn are lessons that I would give anything to have my sons learn and learn well.
The Secret Garden taught me that in sadness there is beauty and in the uneducated there is wisdom. Middlemarch teaches a similar lesson, though in more detail – that life is not simple, that it is layered and complex. But also, that really, when it all boils down to its core, it’s very easy to be happy.
I haven’t read Middlemarch (hangs head in shame), but The Secret Garden is one of my favourites. Thanks for sharing your Inheritance Books, Hayley. Hope you drop by again soon.
Hayley’s book The Truth About Dandelions is available now. You can find out more about Hayley on her website ( http://hayleylinfield.webs.com/), or follow her on Twitter @hlinfield or Goodreads: Hayley Linfield