The Book That Made Me: Patrice Lawrence

Published on: 16 April 2019 Author: Patrice Lawrence

What's the childhood book that made you who you are today?

As a young girl, the magic of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings put author Patrice Lawrence under a spell. Here's why she thinks she so many children fall for the charms of Middle Earth.

Author Patrice Lawrence as a little girl (left) and the book she loved: The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

I grew up in a house full of books. My parents were eager for me to inherit their love of reading. My mum was determined that I’d have a grounding in all the classic children’s books – Heidi by Johanna Spyri, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows, Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty, Little Women, and so many more. Most of them I loved. Some of them defeated me. (I’m looking at you, Ivanhoe and The Children of the New Forest.)

I remember my school library introducing me to Swallows and Amazons and Mary Poppins. (How could there be more than one Mary Poppins book, when there was only one film?)

I found The Hobbit via my school library and suddenly I had entered Middle Earth.

'Like fairy tales made grown up'

I’ve recently been reacquainted with my teenage diary. In dense lines of cursive script, sometimes even written in ink, I detail the travails of my 13-year-old self. Spots, unmanageable hair, the paucity of make up for brown skin in 1980s Sussex and an unbearable crush on a boy in my year – well, a boy, then another boy, then back to the first boy…

Within that maelstrom of yearning (I actually used ‘yearning’ in my diary) and my lists of very uncool music, I had made a note – I was reading The Lord of the Rings.

The books that have made the biggest impact on me are the ones I didn’t know existed until I found them on a shelf and read the blurb at the back. The Lord of the Rings waited as patiently as the "one ring" itself for me to find it on the older children’s shelves of Haywards Heath library.

Then I was hooked.

It was not like anything I had read before. It was like fairy tales made grown up. It was the secret worlds you had played in as a child made real.

It was unconditional friendship, it was hidden bravery, it was talking trees and elves that didn’t make shoes.

I remember the stress of waiting for the inconsiderate reader who had checked out The Return of the King to bring it back so I could finish it…

But, I never did finish it. Not then. I stopped reading as Sam and Frodo were making their final ascent up Mount Doom. I’d rather have the cliffhanger than leave that world.

Words can build worlds

I did re-read them all about ten years ago. To the very end. (Well, not the appendices and footnotes. Even I have my limits.)

I was interested to see how the books compared with the films – I love the films. Is it sacrilege to say that I think the films are better? I lost the patience with the songs in the books. So – many – songs! It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t read them again, though.

Why such a lasting impact? Words build worlds. Words create people. Words make you cry for countries that don’t exist outside of those pages. Inbetween yearning for the boy that would never return my love, I knew that I wanted my own words to be that powerful...

Watch our interview with Patrice Lawrence on her brilliant books

See the other features in The Book That Made Me series

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