When I was very young I loved the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. Naturally, when my son was young I wanted to share the experience with him. I began reading one of the books to him at bedtime, but to my amazement we both found the story a bit plodding. How come I hadn't found the prose plodding when I was nine? I thought, 'Okay, maybe it's because they were written in the 1950s, and I had a better attention span then.' But then later my son and I started reading the Just William series of books by Richmal Crompton, written in the 1920s, '30s and 40s. Not plodding at all! In fact my son and I found them hilarious and clever, despite some extremely difficult sentence structure. In fact the complexity of the prose is partly what makes the stories so funny, as if they'd been written by P.G. Wodehouse and Oscar Wilde.
Now that my son is 19, and won't let me read to him anymore - more's the pity - I've been reading The Railway Children, by Edith Nesbit, to myself. I'd never read it before because years ago I'd seen it on tv. I know it's a classic, and I should be ashamed of myself, but I'm already ashamed of myself for never being able to get past page three of War and Peace without falling into a deep and dreamless sleep. So there's no room for more literary shame. However, now that I'm so old that I can't remember much about the tv series of The Railway Children I've finally picked up the book. It was first published in 1906, and, surprise, surprise, it moves at a good clip. In fact the pacing is perfect. It's funny and poignant and almost modern in parts. Timeless, I believe one might say. I don't find myself muttering, 'Come on, get to the point.' I've been reading it on the bus, the train, and in the waiting room at the doctor's office. You know you're reading a good book when you're on the bus and almost miss your stop.
Now I'm not denying that Enid Blyton wrote good stories. Obviously her Famous Five books once inspired in me a love of reading. Also, Noddy in Toyland was the first book ever read to me, and I loved Noddy so much I collected the entire series. What I'm saying is that the best books stand the test of time, so it really doesn't matter when they were written.
To be honest, I'm glad I'm discovering - late in life - some of the books I didn't read years ago. It's like travelling in a new and interesting country.