Sheila was born in 1937.
She was interviewed by Alice Seed.
Sheila cannot remember being read to and says her family had little interest in reading. She puts down her own love of reading to her position in the family.
It was company for me because my sister was quite a lot younger than me so she wasn’t really a companion … Perhaps I was a little bit of a loner anyway you know, so I just used to wrap myself up in books.
Sheila’s family had a subscription to Boots Library in the centre of town (‘there were a lot to choose from’) only a few hundred yards from the magnificent new Central Library which contained, as it still does, a vast Children’s Library in the basement.
So every Saturday she travelled down from the hills of Sheffield’s western suburbs to explore both libraries in the centre of town.
… in those days you used to go down on the bus and spend all Saturday there. I don’t remember Boots Library having tables where you could sit down but the Children’s Library did, so you know, it was somewhere to go and thoroughly enjoyable.
Sheila borrowed novels by Noel Streatfeild and Kathleen Fidler but has no memory of getting adult books from the Boots library so thinks that her subscription probably finished when she got to about fifteen years old.
Sheila read constantly and sought variety. She cannot remember returning to a favourite or re-reading with pleasure.
I had these certain authors and I used to wade through everything that they’d written and if I couldn’t find it on the library shelves then I would order it.
Enid Blyton and the magazine, Sunny Stories, were superseded by Georgette Heyer when Sheila was in her teens. Lately she did try reading Georgette Heyer but found they had lost their charm.
Sheila’s family also subscribed to a book club where she thinks she may have found the Nevil Shutes she remembers. Though Sheila has a sense of herself as the only passionate reader in the house, her family must have valued access to books by joining a book club and accepting the fact that on Saturdays their child found her way to two libraries that were not that near home.
Her taste is mainly for fiction and once she has exhausted an author goes on to another.
I do write down what I read now ‘cause, you know I’ve read so many, sometimes I forget how much I’ve read so I have a quick look through to see if I’ve read it before, so I’ve got a little book which I take out when I go to the library [just to prompt me] .
For much of her life reading was a solitary activity. It is still associated with delight, privacy and comfort. Bed is a natural place to read. Books give
hours of pleasure, puts me to sleep sometimes. I’m reading and I’ll suddenly find the book starts going down and I’ve nodded off, but yeah it’s good.
But once Sheila had her three children she and her husband, Geoff, created their own reading community.
There were three of them and [they] all had to have separate stories read every night so we started with the youngest and worked up, and then of course since then, I’ve had grandchildren and I get a lot of pleasure out of reading to them – there’s something very special I think about reading to children, … they all love books now probably because, you know, we started off like that. … I got rather disappointed when they began to get older and they used to say they would read the stories. I lost my job.
Reading Journey by Mary Grover