South African writer Barbara Trapido’s relationship to reading was changed forever when a favourite high school teacher, who read aloud to her class each day, just happened to choose Pride and Prejudice. The memory is immortalised in Trapido’s sixth novel, Frankie and Stankie (2003), her only strictly autobiographical book: ‘It’s like nothing she’s ever come across before. The language is like watching a flying kite. It’s like being lifted off the ground.’
Until then, the teenage Trapido’s literary diet had been strictly segregated between ‘cultured’ reading on the school syllabus (the Arabian Nights, The Brothers Grimm, William Blake) and her own ‘easy-option reading for pleasure’: a ‘steady diet’ of Enid Blyton school stories, The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew, punctuated by ‘occasional accidental highs’ such as Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and Ballet Shoes.
Not one of the books quite throws at [her], like Pride and Prejudice does, how dialogue can lift and dance on points, how sentences can shine and crackle with a concentrated energy and a sharp crystal intelligence. So listening to [her teacher] read it is like falling in love.
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