I was in one of my seminars at university, when the fateful task was set. Simply, our tutor asked us, “Which children’s book do you wish you’d written?” In the final seminar we’ll have for the module, we have to present the book of our choosing to our smaller table group, and talk about why we wish we’d written it.
So, as I was rushing out of my seminar (being let out early because it’s submission day), and back to my flat to get some things together before my study session, I pondered on this question.
Which book do I wish I’d written? Out of all the books I’ve read, loved and read again, which one would I wish I myself had written? I’m a young writer, beginning to hone her craft, and really work on her voice on the page. What book would I have wanted to have written for children? Or indeed, any audience?
I should answer this question in three parts, the children’s book I would of liked to have written, the modern adult novel I wish I’d written, and the classic book I’d love to have written.
Ah, The Book Thief, which was adapted into a very successful, beautiful film last year. The story of a German girl adopted by a couple, during the Nazi regime. Told from the POV of Death, the story of Liesel, the Jew hidden in the basement and the books she steals after learning how to read, among other things is one that is haunting, funny, sad and beautiful all in one book. Using an outsider who is omnipresent to tell the story in first person, with little quips every now and then, is a really clever idea that I wish I’d come up with myself in my own literature.
Modern Adult’s Book
Had to be this one! Telling the untold version of the story of Oz, and how the Wicked Witch of the West became Wicked, and how Glinda the Good became Good. It is intricate, complicated, dark and erotic, among other things. This isn’t a bedtime story for the kids, that’s for sure! The way that Maguire took an established world, and completely turned it on its head, making it his own world, is something I’ve always envied. I also relate to Elphaba, the green girl who becomes the Wicked Witch we all love to hate. Her story is told in a way that is sensitive and empathetic, all those who have been shunned and abused for being different are given a voice through this prickly, angry woman. I wish I’d written Elphaba myself!
How could I not? This was a book that saved me when I was fourteen, lonely and depressed in a foster home where I wasn’t loved. The confident, feisty Elizabeth Bennet was a girl after my own heart. I lived vicariously through her as she went to balls, toured big houses and argued with Mr. Darcy.
But why do I wish I’d written this book?
The characters put in for comic effect, of course! Mr. Collins is just ridiculous, pompous, kissing Lady Cathrine’s butt in order to get ahead, and talking stupidly about her whilst in company. Not to mention his lack of manners in social situations… (Sorry Darcy!). And who can forget Mrs. Bennet? The neurotic, loud woman who is determined to ensure all her daughters are suitably married, driving her poor husband, who’d married her when she was still pretty and sorely regrets it now, into living in his study all the time, pretty much. Without these two, the novel wouldn’t be as good as it is. And it is that skill in comedic character building that I want to learn from Austen.
So, that’s my answer to my tutor’s question done. OK, I’ve gone through two books that I couldn’t look at in that class, but I couldn’t resist!