"Miss Ann's books* gave me plenty to read but there was something I realized I should greatly like to add to them. I asked Piet to find me some Thackeray. I felt a great longing for a glimpse of that cool, orderly world and the taste of elegant and lucid English prose. It was Esmond that I wanted most, I think, for I knew it best. I had found it for myself at school when I was 15 and fell at once for ever under its spell. It was Vanity Fair I asked Piet to get for me, if he could, all the same. I had an instinctive conviction that this would be the better medicine for the condition in which I found myself, rather more restless now and uncertain, facing a future of which little could be predicted with confidence except that it was unlikely to be an easy one. I felt rather as a fish might, panting on a river bank. Piet found me a copy of Vanity Fair, in a looted house, and left it for me in Torenstraat. I plunged at once into its cool and limpid depths in deep and heartfelt gratitude, read it straight through and put it by refreshed."
*John Hackett's host Miss de Nooij gave him access to all her English books including the Authorized Version of the Bible, the complete works of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Scott's poetry. There was some Dickens, H.G. Wells's Love and Mr. Lewisham, "a long and rather dreary novel, Susan Lenox", and One Thousand and One Gems of English Poetry to which he acknowledged "a deep and lasting debt".
His stay in the de Nooij house was "much enlarged by the reading I was able to do and the ample opportunity I enjoyed, with no hurry, no deadlines to be met, to think about what I read. It occurred to me that I was getting here the benefit of that much-needed and almost unheard of facility, a slow-reading course."
That Hackett could immerse himself in his reading in that way in such dangerous and difficult circumstances speaks of great focus and self-possession.