When I was a kid, I used to read anything I could get my hands on, whether it was suitable for my age or not! I just loved reading and my mother would often find me tucked away in a corner with a book. My room had 3 bookcases and even that wasn’t enough to hold all of my books!
But when I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 14, I stopped reading. Just stopped completely.
Obviously, the shock of my diagnosis had a massive impact and I just didn’t feel like picking up a book at all. I listened to music and read magazines about celebrities, travel, and real life. Things that didn’t require much thought.
I really missed reading a good story, getting involved with the characters lives, and becoming engrossed within the plot. It was strange for me because books had always been my escape into another world and suddenly, there was only my life to concentrate on.
Thankfully, all of that changed about two thirds of the way through my treatment.
Someone, just by chance, had left a copy of The House at Riverton by Kate Morton in the hospital kitchen. I’d never read the book but I’d talked to a friend at school about it a few months earlier and she’d said how brilliant it was. The House at Riverton is quite a chunky book so I wasn’t sure whether I’d be up for reading it or not. Plus I wasn’t even sure who the copy belonged to!
My mother suggested that I take it back to my room and just give it a go. So, after trying and failing to locate the owner of the book, I told a nurse that I had it and if anyone was looking for it, to come and find me. Like a gangster.
As soon as I got back to my bed, I climbed in (with a bit of help!) and started reading.
I didn’t stop for a week! Seriously, if you’re looking for a book to read while you’ve got chemo brain, The House at Riverton is the one!
Like all of Morton’s books, it’s set between two time periods and it tells the story of an aristocratic family in 1920’s England from the perspective of an ex-housemaid who is now in her 90s. A film crew want to make a movie about the tragic events that unfolded at the family home and Grace, the housemaid, holds the answers to many of their questions.
It’s a gripping book that you haunts you for a long time after you’ve put it down and it has many twists and turns that keep you enthralled.
While I was reading, I was in a country house in England and not in a hospital bed, hooked up to chemo. The book took me away from everything around me and I finally realized what I had been missing by not reading books.
After I finished The House at Riverton, I made a note of Kate Morton’s name and now I’ve read all of her novels! They are written in such a compelling way that I just devour them. Reading that first book – that I did return to the kitchen, by the way! – made me want to read all the other books that I’d pushed aside and from then on, I went back to doing what I love – reading.
For an hour a day, I wasn’t a kid with cancer stuck in a hospital bed. I was a ballerina in London, I was getting off the train at Hogwarts, I was soaring above Neverland.
I love to write and create my own worlds but books are definitely the next best escape.