On remembering books

‘Charlotte began to dream that she was fighting to stay Charlotte…’

When I first read Charlotte Sometimes, about eleven years ago, I loved that Charlotte went back in time to 1918, and became enraptured in all the details of live during war-torn England. I still love this, but I am increasingly interested in the idea of Charlotte losing her identity, as, in an effort to pretend to be the girl she has swapped places and time with, she starts forgetting who she really was, and what her real life is. I didn’t notice this idea that much the first time; or, at least, I don’t remember noticing this. Now, however, it is the driving force that motivates me to keep reading. How do you stay yourself when no one knows who you are?

When you read a book years ago thinking back on that book, what is it that you remember about it? It might be one moment, one element, one character (I personally vividly remember the monkey-puzzle tree from Charlotte Sometimes, to a point that I thought it played a much larger role in the story than it actually did). You might remember the beginning, you might remember the ending. But usually you will remember an idea, the kernel of one idea, as to what the story is about. I find it interesting that the kernel of an idea that I remember from reading it at ten or eleven years old is not the kernel of an idea that I think I will remember now, after rereading it. Stories change as we grow older, and what we value as important. It makes me think – how many of the books that I read when I was younger would I remember differently if I read them now?




  1. A friend of mine was telling me that she decided to reread a book she read (and loved) two years ago (unfortunately, I forget the title just now) and a quarter through realized she didn’t like it anymore. She quickly stopped reading it to avoid tainting her beautiful memory of the book! And this was only 2 years later…. Your lovely post made me think of this.

    • I’ve done this before too… books that you read as a child that you think are amazing reread when you are older as flat, repetitive and bland. I suppose that is what separates those books that last from those that disappear from bookshop shelves after a few years – some books have an expiry date!

  2. It’s so true that what we get out of stories changes as we grow older. I’ve had the opportunity to “re-live” many of my favorite childhood tales through storytime with my own children. It’s a wonderful walk down memory lane, and it’s fascinating to see how my children perceive the same stories I read as a little girl.

  3. Pingback: On real dragons and imaginary meat-pies « 1001 Children's Books

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