Books have always played an important role in my life. I developed a love for reading at a young age. Both my grandfathers were avid readers and used to buy me books. Granted, I might have preferred other type of reading material at the time, as they gave me the novels they liked reading as boys. But I read them anyway. My mother loves reading too, which I discovered only when we grew up and she finally had the time to curl up with a book.
Some books, I read time and time again. They became very real to me. So did certain characters, like Jo March from Little Women. She was my heroine, I wanted to be like Jo. Hell, I wanted to be Jo.
After my first boyfriend broke up with me in my late teens, I turned to those stories for comfort. I grew calmer with each turning of the page. It was my safe place, my shelter from the disappointments in life.
Later, in my mid to late twenties, my reading became, shall we say, more sophisticated. I had a penchant for Victorian novels. My love life was a total disaster, one bad relationship after the other. However, the heroines from those novels almost always ended up marrying their love interest. It worked so well on paper, but, alas, not so great in real life. If I did not love myself, how could I find the right man?
In fiction, I was looking for what I lacked in my life. Thus, I fell in love with characters like Gabriel Oak from Far from the Madding Crowd. The strong, silent type, reliable, brave, faithful. The perfect man that only exists in books. Heathcliff was the typical bad boy mothers warn against, but whom you think you can change. Captain Wentworth, from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, too won my heart with his perseverance. He wrote the most romantic letter I have ever read. My favourite bit is: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.” How I wished someone would say that to me!
I felt so wretched that I wanted to evade reality. I wanted to live those romantic love stories. Like some book characters, I pined for someone who did not love me back. His rejection deeply affected my self-esteem. I did not have a life plan, I felt adrift. But I found certain structure in these Victorian novels. They are microcosms where everyone plays a designated role and whose destiny is preordained. I craved that in my life.
I eventually grew up and out of this frame of mind. I found the perfect man for me, even if nothing is ever perfect. He shares some character traits with Gabriel Oak and Captain Wentworth, actually.
Dear reader, I married him.
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