Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Reading Report-Feb/March

First up: Wintersmith, the third in Terry Pratchett's young adult series about 13-year-old apprentice witch Tiffany Aching. I love this series. Warning, though: Pratchett has an off-kilter, rowdy sense of humor that won't appeal to the refined. Anyway. In a fit of autumn exuberance, Tiffany jumps into the ritual dance that heralds the end of summer. The Wintersmith, an immortal being who is in charge of creating snowflakes, icicles, and winter storms, falls for Tiffany like a stone. All manner of havoc ensues: Tiffany-shaped snowflakes begin to fall, ice crystal roses appear in her garden, and so on. The Feegles, little blue men who are sworn to protect Tiffany but mainly get in the way, do their, um, best to help Tiffany out. If you're a fan of the series, you won't be disappointed.

Next up: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilchrist. It's an autobiographical account of the author's experiences in the year after her very painful, protracted divorce was finalized. She spends four months in Italy learning to enjoy life again; four months in India at an ashram; and then four months in Bali, most of which (it seemed) was spent falling in love. You all know I love a good spritual autobiography, which this might have been. But the introduction, before she leaves on her trip, and the four months in Italy are easily the high point of the book. I was still pretty absorbed during her trip to India, but her time in Bali didn't do much for me at all. It is the nature of falling in love to be goo-ily sentimental, I guess, but in this instance it struck me as hopelessly naive. I wonder if they are still together. It's sort of like The Sound of Music in a way-- a person with a strong religious calling falls in love with someone older and somewhat mysterious and allows herself to be swept off her feet. That's not a great analogy, but the sentimentalism is definitely there. It's an interesting book, and I was glued to it for about the first half, but I wouldn't exactly recommend it.

Then I re-read Thirteenth Tale, reviewed previously. On second reading, I discovered it to be very different book than I was expecting the first time through. It's still a terrific book, probably the best one I'll read this year (I know it's early yet, but last year's best book, Shadow of the Wind, I read in January, so I'll go out on a limb here.) But it's not the one I wanted it to be, and that would have been one of the best books I'd read ever. I can't say anymore without ruining the plot twist at the end, so I'll just leave it at that. I will forever be grateful to Ms. Satterfield, though, for the madman in the attic. a touch of genius.

And re-reading that prompted me to re-read Jane Eyre. I love Jane Eyre. It's such a great book. But I hadn't read it in 20 years, and as you might expect, reading it through again at age 45 was a little different than reading it as a 24-year-old grad student. I remember the first time I read it, as an undergrad at age 19, our professor talked about how in Victorian soceity, the only way Bronte could imagine a marriage between equals was to maim and blind the man. We hissed and booed and objected that she was ignoring the power of true love. But you know, now that I'm a cynical middle-aged grump, I really think she's right. Jane had virtually no choices at any point in the novel, certainly no good ones. When she finds it necessary to flee, she must literally throw herself on the mercy of strangers to avoid starvation. I don't think I was aware when I was younger how extraordinarily lucky she was to happen upon Thornfield Hall for her first job as a governess, and then the Rivers, when she was destitute. But it still all works together. And it still has one of the greatest lines in all of British literature: "Reader, I married him." Which I really, really wanted to read at the end of the 13th tale.

Anyway. That's it for now. I may just re-read Wuthering Heights while I'm on a roll here. Although the characters in the 13th tale often refer to Jane Eyre, it really has more in common with Wuthering Heights than with JE.

ACK. This has gone on way too long.


OK, I just looked it up, that's not really a word but you get the idea.


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