Hello, everyone! And welcome to my new re-brand as In The Shadows of Stories!
This post is the first in what is going to be a series, the premise of which is the story behind the book. Basically, the story of me reading the book, the memories I associate with it, and any anecdotes I have that I associate with said book.
And of course, I’m kicking off with an absolute classic – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Like most people, I was enticed into buying Evelyn Hugo because of the incredible amount of hype it garnered about a year or so ago, and knew because of the whole Hollywood theme and female/female romance, I was going to love it.
I was right, but this isn’t a review of the book. This is my experience reading it. So here we go.
It was the night before my A-Level results day, and I was anxious. I knew that I had done my best, but I had missed the majority of second year because of my health, and so I had to teach myself the courses. That meant that I knew whatever I got in the exams, was down to me. It was kind of encouraging in a way, because I’d had control over the process, but also kind of terrifying, because I had no one else to blame if it went wrong. And the thought of proving to the people who said I wouldn’t be able to do it that they were right, was pretty gut-wrenching.
But that wasn’t the only reason to be nervous. After picking up my exam results, I knew I would have to rush over to the city thirty minutes away, for a job interview of my dream job – a library assistant. The timing was perfect, being able to balance it with my new uni course, it cropping up just after my A-Levels were done, all of it was perfect. Which meant even more pressure.
That night I couldn’t sleep at all, and so went to my bookshelf to find something that would occupy me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus enough for a fantasy, and wanted something that would grip me more than a fluffy contemporary, so my hand ended up reaching for my new floppy paperback of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
It was absolutely perfect. Just enough reality that I could flit in and out of it as I fell asleep and woke and dressed and ate and got my paperwork together. And enough of a compelling story that for those short bursts, I was able to use it to calm myself down.
I picked up my A-Levels, and proved everyone wrong. I got two A*s and a B.
One terrifying event down, one terrifying event left to go.
I sat in the interview waiting room with Evelyn Hugo bouncing on my knee. I used the physical book itself to calm me down, just having the weight of it on me had some kind of grounding effect.
I fumbled the book as I tried to shove it in my bag as my name was called, and it turned down the top right corner of the cover. I remember holding back a wince as it happened, but I was in too much of a rush to get to the door and shake everyone’s hands that I put it out of my mind.
The interview didn’t go well at first. I was awkward with my answers, had a nervous tremble to my voice, and my brain just wouldn’t string together the answers I’d rehearsed for days. Only when the interview was technically finished, and one of the interviewers asked what I had been reading in the waiting room, did I begin to feel comfortable.
I told them about Evelyn Hugo, about the premise of the story and how invested I was. That led to a conversation about my other favourite books. Which led to a conversation about childhood books, which led to a conversation about my volunteer work reading with the kids at the nursery (which I had completely forgotten to mention). Which led to discussion of a toddler group at a certain branch, which led to me saying that I was familiar with the area because I learned to drive around there. Which led to their surprise at me being able to drive, and questions of whether I would be willing to drive to different libraries around the county.
That continued for another ten minutes, almost the length of the official interview. That conversation was the reason I got the job, and why I’m currently writing this is the most beautiful little community library, at a time in my life that I feel very content with.
And having Evelyn Hugo with me that day really was my strength, because it reminded me that I wasn’t just there for a job. It reminded me that I loved books, I loved stories, and that I wanted to dedicate my life and career to them.
It reminded me that it was only the beginning, and encouraged me to be brave enough to stop being a wreck, and take that first step. I’ll always be grateful that it was this book I had on my knee in that waiting room, and that it was this book that I had on my knee as I celebrated smashing my A-Levels with family and friends.
That little turned-down corner will always be a reminder to me to slow down, take a breath, and relax, because I got this.
Do certain books stick in your head because of what was happening in your life when you read them? Leave a comment and we can chat!
Also, do you guys like this idea? I’ve got a few ideas for the series lined up, so any feedback would be lovely!