If you were stuck on a desert island, which book would you need with you to get you through the days? That’s the question we asked Senior School librarian Mr Clement to mark Library Lovers’ Month and here’s his book selection:
On a still and rather misty morning my Grandma and I, both dressed in hats and gloves, set off for our local public library, a library which would soon become one of my favourite places to visit as a child.
Our first contact with a public or school library, more often than not, leaves an indelible impression on our mind. I can vividly recall my first visit as if it were yesterday, the imposing gates flanked by two stone eagles and the gravel track which led to the entrance of the classically distinct public library at Hampton in south west London. In the driveway stood an old relic of the Victorian age, a tall and gleaming black street lamp which cast its light over the entrance of solid oak doors. I later discovered that the library was once the private home of William Ewart MP, noted for his championing of the idea of publicly funded libraries, marked out on the wall for every visitor to see by the eggshell blue English Heritage plaque. Inevitably, it’s the books and the stories we discover on entering a library which stay with us over the course of our lives.
After pacing up and down the rows of shelves unable to decide which book to choose, I settled on a recommendation from my Grandma and gingerly approached the main desk, clutching my library card and a well thumbed copy of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.
The precursor story to “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia”, “The Magician’s Nephew” soon had me enthralled to the fantastical and magical adventure of the main characters Polly and Digory. With help from my Grandma, I raced through each page, mesmerised by the brilliance of the plot and wonder at the wood between the worlds, a forest filled with many pools of water which could transport the user to a different world.
The book has remained a firm favourite ever since, for the magical world that Lewis created as well as the fond memories of reading it in the public library with my Grandma. Great literature has the profound ability to broaden our individual reality and contain and console our most overwhelming emotions, as Lewis himself reflected, “in reading I see with myriad eyes, but it is still I who see”.