Reading,most important in my life-Manoja | Sunday Observer

Reading,most important in my life-Manoja

Manoja Palliyaguru is an avid reader, aspiring writer and active social worker. Today, she joins the Sunday ObserverYouth magazine to share her views on the book she likes most and her reading habit.  


 You are an enthusiastic reader. Which book has moved you the most up to now? 

A: I have read number of books, but out of all of them Gone with the Wind by American writer Margaret Mitchell moved me very much. It was first published in 1936, but I read it in 1986. 

Why did it move you so much?

A: I generally like women centered stories. I believe women are the force that is running this world. They have more power, though people say women are weak. 

 Gone with the Wind depicts this side of a woman’s life. But, other than that there is a very moving story in it too. 

The story is set in the southern part of America in the state of Georgia, during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and the Reconstruction Era (1865–1877). The protagonist in it is a young girl, Scarlett O Hara ,who is a spoilt daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner. Scarlet wants to marry a man whom she loved, but she couldn’t. After that she married twice or thrice but ends up as a widow. Then she starts a business and tries to earn money. She isstruggling most of the time and has to go through much pain. But she doesn’t fall back nor does she give up. 

During the time span of the novel, from 1861 to 1873, Scarlett ages from sixteen to twenty-eight. The novel is about the moral and psychological growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood. Scarlett’s development is affected by the events of her time. This is actually a historical romance and features a coming-of-age story. 

Margaret Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this book in 1937? 

A: Yes, indeed. It is a bestselling novel in America which was adapted into a film and that has been considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made. And also, I found that it is the only novel by the author published in her lifetime. Some critics say there are three books that any woman should read. One is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, the second is Rebecca by Daphne duMourier, and the third is  

Thelma by Marie Corelli. All these books are women centered There are other books such as,Wuthering Heights,Little Women andAnna Karenina which were women centered and which I like very much. But the way Margaret Mitchell has written Gone with the Wind, really makes me cry. When you read it you feel this is my life. 

Generally, are women centered novels advocated by feminists?

A: A woman doesn’t need to be a feminist to talk about or like women centered novels. In Sri Lanka, most of the time women are deprived by the acts of women, not by the acts of men. I strongly believe that a woman has to be a woman first. Before we go and talk about men’s responsibilities concerning a woman, she should help another woman. So, I am not a feminist. 

And also the books I mentioned as women centered novels, are not just about women, they are about life too, they enlighten us profoundly. Moreover, most of the great woman centered novels were written by the male authors, such as Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. 

How did you find Gone with the Wind to read?

A: I found it from the public library of Colombo. At that time I was schooling and about 13 or 14 years old. I read it more than once and each time I moved to cry. 

How did you get into the habit of reading?

A: I started reading and writing when I was about five years old. As I was fluent in both, I was awarded a double promotion to get into Grade 3 from Grade 1. Since then. I have been reading and writing and it became a habit with me me. Actually, I started reading with Sinhala fiction, especially Martin Wickramasinghe’s novels. When I was 10 years old, I could read all the Martin Wickramasinghe’s books. I consider his Viragaya  to be still the best Sinhala novel published so far.  I read Lenin when I was  nine years old  and could maintain a small library too since my father who was a school Principal, bought me books. My mother, who was a very punctual school teacher, also encouraged me to read. My first school was Ananda Primary in Elpitiya and then I entered  Visaka Vidyalaya, Colombo, by getting through the the grade 5 scholarship examination. 

These two schools also helped me  greatly. 

How did  reading develop you or uplift you?

A: Reading helped me immensely to improve my language skills, way of thinking and my creativity too. As a result, I got  eight Distinctions at the GCE O/L examination. More than that, I could express myself and  have  peace  of  mind because of reading. Even today, I write my experiences and share them with others through reading. Reading is the most important and peaceful thing I have ever learnt in my life. When I read something, I feel relaxed. It gives me peace. It gives you a different perspective, insight and much  wisdom. Life may change at once by reading a book.  Only reading  can create those magical things in  a  human being, nothing else.