Nicole Trope recalls memories that a dusty old book brought back to her.
Recently my mother gave me an old book she found on her bookcase. Dusty and falling apart it appeared, at first glance, to be worthy only of the recycling pile: but opening it up, it was a very different story.
The book was given to me by my speech and drama teacher who guided me through the world of enunciation, poetry and drama. I spent half an hour with her every week from the time I was three and troubled by a lisp, until I turned seventeen.
Her name was Mollie Kelly and she walked heavily around her apartment, sucking deeply on her fragile cigarette holder and coughing mightily while instructing me on how to recite a poem so that listeners would feel the melody. Her small dog, Rags, sat at her feet and shivered from some imagined chill. As I waited for my lesson to begin I would study her glass-fronted cabinet filled with porcelain figurines, imagining stories for the old lady holding the balloons or the young girls in lace dresses.
Mollie changed my life and I will never forget her.
The book is titled The Development of the Theatre and it was published in 1937 and given to Mollie by her own speech and drama teacher in 1946; and then given to me from Mollie in 1987.
As I opened its battered and unimpressive plain blue cover, I was struck by how emotional it made me feel. It reminded me that books can hold a moment in time for us that would otherwise be forgotten.
In the pages of her gift I remembered my time with her and everything she had taught me. I summoned up the smell of her cigarette burning in the ashtray and the menthol of the boiled candy she sucked in an attempt to quell the coughing. It was a very different time, or I’m sure I would not have had to breathe in so much second-hand smoke as I filled my lungs to recite.
I wondered if she knew how much it meant to me, and if I had said, ‘thank you,’ enough.
I am sure that we all have a book like that; one that summons memories and takes us back to who we were. Or maybe it is a book that changed the way we looked at the world for a day or a week or for life. I have battered, much loved copies of my favourite novels sitting on my own bookshelves and I turn to them when I need a tale I can count on and an ending I can predict.
My own novels fall into the broad genre of popular fiction and therefore are unlikely to ever be published in hardcover. They are also more likely to be downloaded as ebooks and deleted after reading to make way for new stories. Maybe one of my novels will be on a shelf many decades from now, but even if they are not I am lucky enough, in this digital age, to be able to instantly know that I have made someone stop and think.
A women in the UK reviews The Boy Under the Table with the phrase, ‘All I can say is my housework has stopped for a day…’ A man contacts me on my Facebook page and tells me that Three Hours Late showed him parts of himself that he doesn’t like. People blog about my novels and contact me on Twitter and I am always amazed and grateful that I have made some small connection.
Books invite us in, allow us time to settle down and then keep us cocooned in different worlds. They touch parts of our souls and help us to understand that we are not alone. They conjure up the past and allow us to dream of the future.
With the launch of Hush Little Bird I hope to reach more readers and touch more lives, even if it is only for the time they spend reading the novel.
A celebrity wife. A damaged young woman. How did they both end up in prison and what is the secret they share? White-knuckle reading from the queen of domestic suspense.
Birdy thought she would have to wait until she was free again to see Rose, but now Rose has been convicted of a shocking crime and she and Birdy will be together. Birdy has been saving all her anger for Rose. It is Rose who should have protected her and kept her safe. Birdy was little but Rose was big and she knows Rose could have saved her.
This is a story about monsters who hide in plain sight and about the secrets we keep from ourselves. It is about children who are betrayed and adults who fail them. This is the story of Birdy who was hurt and Rose who must be made to pay.
Nicole Trope is a former high school teacher with a Masters Degree in Children’s Literature. In 2005 she was one of the winners of the Varuna Awards for Manuscript Development. In 2009 her young adult novel titled I Ran Away First was shortlisted for the Text Publishing Prize. The Secrets in Silence is Nicole’s third novel. Her previous titles include the acclaimed The Boy Under The Table and Three Hours Late.