Dear Postcards From No Man’s Land,
If Harry Potter turned me in a reader then you definitely turned me into an adult reader. And I’m not just saying that because you were the first literary sex scene I remember being exposed to. I mean, maybe it helped but… it’s not where I was going. I can’t remember how old I was when I read you but you were published in 1999. I was 11 at the time which definitely feels like too young an age to be reading you. Still, I was an avid reader at this point so it’s possible. I’m pretty sure I got you after studying about World War II in history and, even then, I was no doubt trying to be mature and a bit pretentious. I can’t properly remember, though.
I do have a vague memory of getting you but, as with most of my childhood memories, it’s entirely possible I’ve made it up to provide some context. There was a particular bookshop in a Scottish town, Gatehouse of Fleet, that we always used to stop in and look around. This bookshop is pure heaven. Stacks of bookshelves filled to bursting with piles and piles of additional books stacked next to them. You can barely turn around without potentially knocking something off. It’s fabulous. It never had the greatest selection of kids and young adult books but my twin sister and I always used to be able to find a sizeable haul when we were there. I believe one of those included you.
I’ll be honest with you now, since the first time I’ve never read you again. I’m not sure I would view you in the same way as an adult. But I’ve never been able to get away from you. I’ll never be able to forget that feeling of closing your cover for the final time. You were complex, full of historical facts, and an emotional roller coaster. It was a lot for my young mind to cope with. But I loved you. You haunted me in a great way. I wanted to read more of Aidan Chambers’ work and I tracked down as much as I could.
You weren’t the book that pushed me into reading but you were the one that got me thinking about the kind of books I was reading. I started wanting to read bigger and better books. I’d seen the kind of writing I’d been missing out on and wanted more. I felt completely changed by you and in a way that I hadn’t felt before. You taught me so much and opened my eyes to new experiences. You solidified my interest in history without me even realising. You opened my eyes to problems that I’d never encountered before. The narrative of a teenager coming to grips with his sexuality felt so new and mature to me at the time. I was naive when I started reading you. My eyes were more open thanks to you.
So, who cares if I can’t remember when I read you? Who cares I can’t retell the story of how or why you came into my life. The fact is, you did. And you made an impact that has lasted, under the surface, for the rest of my life. I’ve never forgotten the way you made me feel and how much you inspired me. I don’t know where I’d have gone as a reader if it hadn’t been for you.
Sometimes there only is, and no knowing