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Three major life decisions I’ve made because of books

Lauren Phillips-Freeman

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1) Choice of second language at university

My decision to study Russian as my second foreign language was down to a combination of things. One of those was Mrs. Pearce, a French teacher who covered a few of our A-level classes back in the day. At the time, I was toying with the idea of doing Spanish or Italian, but Mrs. Pearce told me that if I could speak one romance language, I would be able to pick up the others without any real difficulty. She would be proved right five years later when I did eventually start learning Spanish. She advised me to go for something a bit different, something that would make me stand out more. Languages like Mandarin and Japanese didn’t really appeal to me, so it was a case of finding something that did.

It was Kate Furnivall’s novel, The Russian Concubine, that first put the idea of studying Russian into my head. I’d read it a few months earlier and fallen utterly in love with the feisty Lydia Ivanova. Back then, the transcribed lines of Russian dialogue were nothing but collections of random syllables to me. I never seriously imagined that a time would come when they would make perfect sense. Now I can not only understand them; I can point out the places where I would have translated things slightly differently and explain why. The novel was my first foray into Russian history and culture, and it paved the way for a lifelong linguistic love affair.

2) Wedding themes

When it came to choosing a wedding theme, it was always going to be literature. Books and stories are such an integral part of my life that they simply had to be incorporated into the day. Almost every detail was literature-related, from the music to the table names to the decorations. Our guests assembled to the sounds of Rue’s Farewell from The Hunger Games, I walked down the aisle to the Cloud Atlas Finale, and we signed the register to Howard Shore’s Evenstar. The tables were named after our favourite fictional locations including Wonderland, Hogwarts and Rivendell, and decorated with ornaments and memorabilia relevant to those places. Sourcing and collating the various items was tremendous fun, and I am left with many a whimsical reminder of a wonderful day. The only change I would make if we could do it all again would be to have a table called The…

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Lauren Phillips-Freeman

Lauren Phillips-Freeman is a language teacher and writer with a love of words in all their forms. She uses writing to help her process her own tangled emotions.