One day in 1985, I sat down in our living room at home in one of the plush armchairs by the front window. I was neither a studious nor a bookish child, and it had been a monumental effort on my part to commit to sitting still for several hours to read one of my GCSE set texts, Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. I took up the book, with its cracked, brightly coloured spine the orange of a Club biscuit and a cover depicting some sheep, a gate, a forest and a golden sunset. To my fifteen-year-old self it did not look prepossessing, and I was determined.
Hours passed as I turned the pages. Eventually, making it to page eighty-one, I decided I had read enough for one day. Years later, I might be able to boast that I had read two novels in a single day, but in that armchair back in 1985 I