Me: I’ve got a list going of books I want to read or re-read. I started it earlier in the year, when I was revisiting Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. I found myself itching to read the books mentioned in Thursday’s adventures, but was torn as to whether I would put in a bookmark and read the book mentioned every time I was bit by this bug, or wait until I was done, but had possibly forgotten an important one. I started a list, and after I’d finished the last Thursday book I started the first on my list. Of course, as the first Thursday book is The Eyre Affair, the first book to read was Jane Eyre.
I’d read it before. The first time was in high school, back when I fell in love with nineteenth century British literature. It had been a very long time, however, and I hadn’t remembered how funny this book is! Jane is straightforward and honest, somewhat serious, and a wee bit snarky. Edward Rochester is not handsome, and St. John Rivers is absolutely annoying. Most of the women were well-drawn, complex characters rather than morality tales made flesh. I was quite tempted to begin it again right away. However, the second book on my list was waiting.
Actually, the second book on my list was Poe’s “The Raven.” Can you count a poem as a book? Never mind. Anyway, I reread it and again was transported. I lost track of whatever was going on around me and floated on the rhythm of the poem, as though I lay in the bottom of a boat at night, moved by the water. I was, again, really torn about my list, because all I could think was to find a Poe collection and bury myself in it. (No pun intended, really.)
But the next book was waiting and I’d never read it before. Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. Oh my, when I requested it from the library I had no idea of the tome that awaited me. Nearly 1,000 pages. Several points of view. Parallel character development. Death. Love. Murder. It took me nearly 700 pages to care. I’d never lasted that long into a book I couldn’t get into. Somehow, being on my list gave Bleak House weight (more so even than its chunky dimensions), and I was determined to finish it out, even if finishing it out was itself as long as many other novels. Still, by the end, I did care what happened, to Jo, and Sir Leicester, and Mr. George, and Ada, and mostly Esther. Even though the way the court case ended was the only way it could have ended. And I can see myself re-reading in the not-so-far future. It grew on me.
I’m now on the next book on the list, another Dickens, Great Expectations. This one I’ve read before, but long enough ago that I don’t remember any specifics except for Miss Havisham and the scene at the beginning of the book with the convict. It’s funnier and has more “sparkle”, in a way, than Bleak House, but I don’t care as much about it as I did Bleak House by the end. Perhaps I will when I reach its end? Either way, I’ll be glad to move on to something that isn’t Dickens for a while. Still, this one is interesting in that my understanding of social laws and circumstances during early nineteenth century London come in handy. The industrial revolution, the way children were treated, laws regarding women and convicts and debt, the social/penal policy of deporting, have all been important and I can’t imagine reading this (or Bleak House either) without some understanding of them.
Geeklet: The boy’s been reading a lot of comics, of course, old favorites like Peanuts, Bloom County, and Garfield, and new, like the Beaver Brothers books and the Skylanders series. I finally got him to try Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer and he devoured it and its sequels and then went back and reread them. I’m so glad he enjoyed them! There’s a very satisfying feeling that comes with a successful recommendation. He’s recently read and enjoyed the first Artemis Fowl book, as well as Eva Ibbotson’s Island of the Aunts, Which Witch?, and Platform 13.
Together, we’ve made our way through quite a few of Louisa May Alcott’s books: Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom were all declared “very good.” Since then, we’ve been re-reading Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series, trying to figure out where in Britain each book has taken place and planning to someday visit the locations. I try not to be overwhelmed by the amount of independence and personal authority these children have, as the books were set in the 1930s and have, for example, four children under the age of 14 camping and sailing for days on end, only seeing any adult at all once each day when they go for the milk to put in their tea. The opportunity for such independence for G just doesn’t exist in my world, presently, and it’s always in the back of my head to wonder how to find it.