I was talking to Anne about her blog, and she thought this was an inspirational story for all of us.
A few years ago I was tutoring a 14 year old girl who was bottom of the bottom set for English and hated the lessons – she had no hope of passing her English GCSE. She was fed up with school altogether because her poor English skills affected everything, even the subjects she quite liked. I started the work with her the same way I always did - I asked her to bring something along that she actually liked reading. To my surprise, instead of a comic or celebrity magazine she turned up with a horror story. We set about using it as our text, but it was so badly written, the characters so thin and the plot so creaky, that we soon ran out of things to discuss. So I gave her The White Hotel and told her to have a go at that (and I did warn her parents that it might give her nightmares). It's a tough read for anyone, never mind a disaffected teenager, but she absolutely loved it – gobbled it up in fact, wrote some very insightful essays about it and went on to pass her English GCSE. It changed her life – it didn’t turn her into a literary genius, but it showed her that she didn’t have to accept the labels that other people put on her.