The Book That Made My Best Friend Ignore Me

Posted on 9th May, 2015

I was reading Christina Banach's blog the other day. She is the author of the successful young adult novel Minty and she is very involved in the YA community. Her blog set me thinking. When I was in my teens, I'm sure that books for teenagers and young adults didn't exist in the way the market exists today.

My brother went straight from children's books to adult. One day he was reading Billy Bunter, the next he had a bookcase filled with Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert. He read nothing but science fiction for the next four years.


 My first attempt at reading an adult novel was less successful. I was in second year (what is now called Year 8) and a friend read My Theodosia. I wanted to read it too, largely because of the appealing cover illustration – I've always been a sucker for a good cover. I read the first chapter and loved it (still do), but didn't get much further, although some years later I lapped up all Anya Seton's books with enormous pleasure.



My mum gave me PG Wodehouse books, because they had been her first grown-up reads, and I worked my way through the Jeeves and Blandings stories; and my gran gave me a huge set of Agatha Christies for my 13th birthday. I quickly found I prefered Miss Marple to Poirot and The Body in the Library has always been my favourite, though when I read Peril at End House, oh, how I wanted to be Nick Buckley!


Until I was 14, I hopped back and forth between children's books and adult books, but the author who leap over the threshold into the world of adult reading was Victoria Holt.

The title that turned me into an adult reader was this one – On the Night of the Seventh Moon. I came across it at school. My best friend was so engrossed in it that she spent all break-time reading instead of talking to me. Once I started reading it, I understood why.


Oh, how I loved those Victoria Holt novels. All those creepy mansions in Cornwall! All those governesses in peril!

Thanks to Victoria Holt, to this day I have a feeling that the heroine's being in fear for her life is a basic requirement of the climax of a novel. And when I read a book in which this doesn't feature – which, let's face it, is nearly every book – I always feel a faint sense of surprise that a book can be perfectly enjoyable without this “essential” ingredient!

How about you? What were your first adult reads?



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Comments (11)

Thank you for your comments, Maame. I'm glad my post brought back good memories. You've reminded me that I too enjoyed Georgette Heyer's books. I never read Mary Stewart's Merlin books, but I did love her romantic suspense novels.
Oh my goodness, I feel like my own teenage years are being reflected back at me! I remember that Shadow of the Lynx cover so well, I loved the green dress. I was also very keen on Jean Plaidy's books about the kings and queens of England, and Georgette Heyer's Regency romances.

I also had an interest in sci fi/fantasy, so along with Victoria Holt & Agatha Christie I was reading Lord of the Rings, Ursula Le Guin, and Mary Stewart's Merlin books. What fun memories you've evoked.
I'm interested in your enjoying stories about families, Jan. For me, it's stories that involve a house - maybe a character has inherited a house or is in danger of losing their home. I dream about houses too.Thanks for your comments. Good to hear from you, as always.
I can remember loving 'Little Women' and 'Jo's Boys' but perhaps these would be classed as children's books. They seem very old fashioned now but I have always loved reading about families, especially those that are very different from my own. I also liked reading Agatha Christie. Another great post, Sue. :-)
Thanks for your comment, Christina. I'm particularly glad to hear from you since you were the one who started my train of thought. I too read Jane Eyre and P&P, but they were books we "did" at school. Teenage readers today are enormously lucky to have such a wide variety of titles written specially for them.
What a fascinating blog post, Susanna. I think Jane Ayre might have been my first adult book. Or was it Pride and Prejudice? Whatever the answer there certainly wasn't the plethora of amazing YA books that are on offer nowadays.

Thanks for this thought-provoking and most enjoyable article.
I remember your mentioning Victoria Holt and Agatha Christie when I interviewed you on my blog a while back, Frances. They were remarkably energetic writers who each produced a massive body of work, but whose books were always fresh and engrossing.

Thanks for your comments. I'm looking forward to the publication of your second Thatcham Hall novel.
Victoria Holt and Agatha Christie are two of my heroines. The first adult book I remember was Courtly Love - donT recall the author. My mother had borrowed it from the library and I was stunned to find out it talked about sex. I mean, my mother? I never looked back. Like you, I love a climax where the heroine is in mortal danger!!
Enjoying your posts very much.
Thank you for your comments, Jen and Cathy.

I too remember the Flambards books, Jen. In fact, as an adult I haunted the local bookshop when the final one (written some years after the original trilogy) was due to be published, because I couldn't wait to find out what happened next.

The Anya Seton books seem to have been popular teen reading for quite a number of women, Cathy, though I have to admit I didn't read them until I was in my 20s.

Thank you both for dropping by.
I think you're completely right. In days of yore there was no such thing as Young Adult. One day you were in the Children's section at the library and suddenly the next you could go to the grown-up part.
One of my first adult reads was "Katherine" by Anya Seton which I'm sure you've read too. I loved it! The book which really stands out for me though is "A Kind of Loving" by Stan Barstow; I think that was my first really adult book and the social realism encaptured still works well.
As always, your blog posts make me think, Susanna. Thank you!

Although YA wasn't as developed as a genre when I was growing up, I remember reading K.M. Peyton's 'Flambards' books which certainly aren't 'children's titles. I also discovered Harlequin romances as a teenager, and was dipping into the adult section of the library (guided by a wise librarian) from about the age of twelve.

The transition was so seamless for me that I don't remember my first truly 'adult' book. Indeed, I still go back and forth between adult, children's and YA books, often at the same time.