I recently bought Antonia White’s Frost in May as part of a 3 for 2 offer on Virago paperbacks. Last week I got round to reading it, and since then I’ve been trying to work out what I think of it, and why I found it oddly unsatisfactory. It wasn’t that I found it unenjoyable, or not as good as expected; I read half on the train, half in the cooling bathwater, and intend to go on with the “sequels”. It simply fell strangely flat, and I think that’s down to me. I’ve missed the boat. Had I read it fifteen years ago, I would have been enormously irritated by Nanda, passionately angry on her behalf, and wanted to look like Léonie de Wesseldorf*. I would have been affected by it. It’s curious, because I have never thought of myself as much of a teenager, and yet I feel certain that I would have been moved by this book then in a way I am not now. It’s a strange loss. It also occurs to me that modelling myself on Léonie (this one presumably not abducted by a French Marquis, as her French is already excellent) would have been a much better choice than some of the ones I did make.
And so I ask, which books have failed to mean something to you when had time/place/life been otherwise, they should have done?
* As a shortish, curly-haired, thirteen year old, I was desperate to be tall, inscrutable, sleek-haired and pale. Of course, I was also desperate to be a pupil at the Chalet School, which would have modernised to allow hot baths, and to have special lessons in Lausanne in my psychic powers.