authors · books · round robin

What makes some books so memorable? #amreading a #goodread

round robin, helena fairfax

Another month, and time for another Round Robin, and this month’s topic has been set for us by author Dr Bob Rich: What makes a book memorable?

What a great question, and I expect every reader will answer it in a different way. For me, the books I remember are ones that have “spoken” to me; there’s something in the story that resonates with my own experience and makes me think about my own life in a different way, or reflects my life back to me in a way I hadn’t thought of before.

It’s brilliant when that happens in a book. Here are some examples of what I mean, and how it happened to me.

helena fairfax, books that change your life
           My battered copy :)

I wrote a post a long while ago about a book I read when I was a child, called Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, by Rumer Godden. This is the first book I ever read that really “spoke” to me and it made me begin to understand the wonderful power of books. It’s about a little girl who arrives in England from India. She’s cold and homesick and struggles to make friends. This absolutely resonated with me, like nothing else did at that time. I’d arrived in England from Uganda, and everything around me was alien, even the Yorkshire accent, which I didn’t understand.

The little girl in the book is sent a pair of Japanese dolls by her aunt. Here are the dolls talking in the parcel:

‘Where are we now?’ asked Miss Flower.  ‘Is it another country?’       ‘I think it is,’ said Miss Happiness.

‘It’s strange and cold.  I can feel it through the box,’ said Miss Flower, and she cried…’I wish we had not come!’

Miss Happiness sighed and said, ‘We were not asked.’

I can’t tell you how much it meant to me at that time to read such a story and to realise I wasn’t alone. I read the book over and over again, and I still have my battered copy. Of course as a six-year-old I didn’t question how the author was able to think exactly as a child would, but now I’m full of the greatest admiration for Rumer Godden and her ability to colm toibin, helena fairfaxempathise with the unhappiness children can feel at times.

Another more recent example of a book that’s stayed with me is Colm Tóibín’s Nora Webster.  (Tóibín is also the author of Brooklyn, which was recently made into a film.) Nora Webster is the mother of four children, and she’s a widow at only 40. Her husband was the love of her life. I absolutely loved this book, which is “just” about the ordinary day-to-day life of bringing up four children alone on not very much money, in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business, and trying to do the right thing. It shows an ordinary life, but that ordinary life is every mother’s life, and so many of the things Nora has to deal with are things that resonated with me. There is one passage in particular that stays in my mind. Nora is walking down the street with her teenage son. The loss of their father hangs over the children, and they each have their own troubles. Nora’s teenage son becomes tearful but is manfully biting back the tears as they walk along. How distressing this is for a mother to see her child so bitterly unhappy and not be able to do anything. It’s a very poignant scene, and I remember that Nora thinks to herself, “Someone else might know what was to be done, but that person wasn’t her.” As a mother I found something about that sentence incredibly sad and painful, and the whole book has stayed with me ever since I read it.

Colm Tóibín is a gay writer and has no children of his own. I think the way he was able to get into the mind of a struggling mother of four – in the same way Rumer Godden got into a child’s mind – is genius.

There are lots more examples of books I could give that I found memorable. I find it amazing that an author can make up a story out of his or her head, and someone else can read it – even hundreds of years later – and be moved by their words on a page. This is why I love books so much!

I enjoyed this month’s topic very much and look forward to reading the other authors’ posts. You can find their links below. Please do drop in!

* * *

What makes a book memorable for you? Is there any book that has really stuck in your mind ever since you first read it? And why? If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!

* * *

Marci Baun
Rachael Kosinski
Connie Vines
Rhobin Courtright
Judith Copek
Beverley Bateman
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob Rich
Victoria Chatham

14 thoughts on “What makes some books so memorable? #amreading a #goodread

  1. What an interesting post, Helena. I haven’t read either book but I do love the sound of the children’s book – brilliant title. We’re so lucky to have wonderful books to read as we go through each stage of life or for pure escapism, which is my preference!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so agree, Rosemary, about how lucky we are. My local library was a godsend when I was growing up. I love to read for pure escapism, too, especially romance novels, as there’s something so satisfying about the happy ending – even though you know it’s coming!
      Thanks so much for dropping in!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Helena,
    You gave two great examples. I don’t think I’ve ever read Rumer Godden, although her name is familiar. Love Colm Tóibín’s writing, and I agree, he can do just about anything on the page. Everyone is picking “character” as the most important aspect of a book being memorable. So true!


    1. Rumer Godden also writes for adults, Judy. She’s a great writer. Yes, you’re right about the characters being the most important in a book. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
      Thanks for dropping in!


  3. Enjoyed your post! Childhood books we love stay with us. I have a long list. And I think you’re right, the story to be memorable has to touch a reader’s heart in some manner.


  4. Loved your post. I’m not familiar with the book you mentioned but the authors sound like they did an excellent job of getting into the characters.


  5. Excellent post, Helena. I don’t remember much about books of my childhood, but Dr. Seuss captured me when my kids were young. My favorite is the Lorax. Who would have guessed it?


  6. Most enjoyable post Helena. Nora Webster sounds like another great read. I loved Rumer Godden and still have her book The Dark Horse.


  7. “I find it amazing that an author can make up a story out of his or her head, and someone else can read it – even hundreds of years later – and be moved by their words on a page. This is why I love books so much!”

    Helena–that is truly a magnificent little thought. I’ve been reading classics lately, more so than I did when I was little. I read Tom Sawyer almost every summer, still identifying with that imaginative country kid who wanted to sail off on adventure. In the Harry Potter books (which my mom started reading to me when I was about 6), Hermione showed me that it wasn’t embarrassing to like books or be smart. I want to find a copy of Ms. Happiness and Ms. Flower now. I really, really liked your post. :)


    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Rachael. I re-read Miss Happiness and Miss Flower just recently. It really is a great book and surprisingly dark for children – but then not all children are picture-book happy. It certainly struck a chord with me.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed my post. I really enjoyed yours, too! This has been a great topic.


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