Write Stuff Guernsey Literary Festival

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First prize

A Way To Escape

By Naomi Miller
Year 10+, Grammar School

“But what are Books?” I asked, perched precariously on my Grandmother’s knee, looking up into her watery blue eyes. “You’ve told me what they are, but you haven’t told me why they’re special. Why do we need them?”

Books were something from long ago, before we discovered everything there is to know, before we were trapped underground by the Nature. Fire rained down on us, hiding and destroying our beautiful cities. At least, that’s what They said. I never saw that. I never saw the skyscrapers that prevented the last traces of green from creeping up again, like a villain from one of those Books.

My Grandmother looked down at me, and I saw sadness flicker across her face. I remembered I wasn’t supposed to talk about Then. Now was the only thing that mattered.

“I’m sorry Grandmother, I’ll come back tomorrow. Then we can talk about Now. Because that’s what we’re living in. We can’t go back to then. There’s no use learning about it.”

“Wait!” I turned and looked at her desperate face, her wild eyes, shocked by her cry. “I’ll tell you everything. About the past. About Books.” I nodded slowly, then sat down on the ripped carpet, stunned.

“Books are magic. Books are love. Books are sorrow and joy all mixed up together in one beautiful pattern. But most importantly, Books are a way to escape from this messed up world, into one where happiness and peace reign.”

“Grandmother, don’t be silly, Books are just paper, you said so yourself!” I laughed, but stopped when I realised she was being serious.

“Look for yourself,” she said, pulling a dusty copy of ‘Carrie’s War’ from behind her armchair, “then you’ll understand, Books are life, Books are paths, Books are freedom!”

Listen to the story read by Andy Hislop

Guernsey Literary Festival · A Way To Escape

Judge’s comments - Onjali Rauf

Any story that champions the utter indestructibility of books is always going to be a rich contender. But this absolutely beautiful piece gripped me from the very beginning, and left me hungering for more. It establishes immediately a world whose history I want to know everything about: from what happened between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, to who ‘They’ were, to what happened to make Nature drive humans underground. But most especially the immediate intimacy between the main character and her grandmother, and the grandmother and the realm of books is one that accomplished so skilfully, that it inevitably left me wanting to read on and regretting that there weren’t more pages to follow.
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