Skip to main content


December 30, 2013

Belinda Alexandra: The (Great) Book That Changed My Expectations

Posted by emily

Belinda Alexandra is an internationally bestselling author whose love of other cultures and languages is matched by her passion for her home country, Australia. Her latest novel, TUSCAN ROSE, is a richly woven tale of passion, longing, witchcraft and magic set in Italy during World War II. In her Holiday Author Blog, Belinda writes about the power of a good book to change its reader and transport him or her to new and exciting places, as well as the first book that really moved her.

When I was 17 years old, my parents gave me a copy of GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens. I sat in our garden (Christmas is in summer in Australia) engrossed by a story that was both a mystery and a coming-of-age novel. The Marshes of Kent and Victorian London couldn’t have been further from the warm leafiness of Sydney in December. But I was so absorbed in following Pip as he developed from an orphan to a mature man that I was startled whenever my mother called me in for dinner --- it was the shock of being suddenly transported from one world to another, like the children of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE returning from Narnia.

We often think that the books that have the power to change us are self-help or philosophical ones. But that’s underestimating the power of fictional characters to influence us. At the time I read GREAT EXPECTATIONS, I was suffering the usual teenage angst: Did the boy in my English class like me? What was I going to wear to the party the following week? Why were my parents so uncool? But following the adventures of Pip, as he developed from an orphan to a mature man, I somehow intuitively understood that life experience would be the great transformer, sometimes knocking us around and bruising us to deepen our understanding and character. The book also taught me that nothing is more valuable than genuine friendship. They are lessons I’ve never forgotten when challenging life circumstances have come my way.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS was also the book that made me realize that I was destined to be a writer and showed me the kind of books I wanted to write. I, too, wanted to create stories that swept my readers away. My favorite sort of letter from a reader goes like this: Thanks to you, Belinda Alexandra, the laundry didn’t get done, I didn’t sleep, my kids were sent off to school late and without their lunches, my spouse was neglected and the lawn is now up to my knees. To be grabbed and absorbed by a story that way, where you simply must put everything else on hold, is the ultimate reading experience. When they finish the last page of one of my books, I want my readers to feel as if they have returned home after an extended trip away --- the kind where the traveler returns to the same house and life but realizes that he or she is no longer the same person. They have seen and experienced the scenery and culture of another place and walked in the shoes of its inhabitants. There are new aspects to them, and they are deeper and richer for the experience.

Books are one of my favorite gifts to give and receive. Because when you give someone a book, you are not just giving them words set between two covers --- you’re giving them an adventure that will expand their knowledge, challenge their judgments and make them see the world differently. That’s what my parents did for me when they gave me that copy of GREAT EXPECTATIONS.