I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed or disillusioned with the world, I often find myself rereading my favorite books. Since having my son and moving back to Alaska, life has been very stressful. I’ve countered that by starting a Fairbanks, Alaska blog (Denali in my Backyard), and by rereading my favorite books.
Side note: This rereading of favorites may also be triggered by having no book club book for which to read. Something I must remedy soon.
I recently reread all seven Harry Potter books, as well as a couple of Jane Austen books, and Jane Eyre, a book I loved when I read it for high school and yet had never reread! *gasp!*
I had not read any of these books for the past few years, and so I came to them not with completely new eyes, but fresher ones than usual. And a few things stood our to me this time that haven’t in the past.
Jane Austen can be boring. *Gasp*
Forgive me, but I just had a hard time getting into Persuasion until about halfway (or more) through the book. Was it that slow for everyone? Honestly, I liked the story, I liked the characters. There was just far too much telling the reader what the characters were like and what had happened, rather than what was happening.
Jane also uses the often “forgotten” nowadays third person omniscient narrator, and, like most established authors, feels she can play around with the “rules.” (Of course, I’m not sure that when she was writing the “rules” we modern authors subscribe to were even thought of. I suppose they had to be in some sense, since writing stories goes back to Homer and the Greeks, etc.) But when an author slips out of POV in order to tell the reader something her main character couldn’t possibly know, it irritates me, whether it’s a classic book or not.
Rowling’s growth as a writer is evident from book 1-7. Still she has a penchant for adverb use after “said.” And clichés, far too many clichés. In this way, I think she could have used a better editor.
That said, Harry Potter remains one of my all time favorite series. I don’t usually like series, as the characters and the situations they find themselves in tend to get overused and boring, but Harry Potter really is an escape read for me. Even now, coming back to these books as a writer who is in the habit of dissecting the book she reads, I can appreciate them.
The only bone I have to pick with Ms. Brontë is really her use of the “dear reader” statements. How obnoxious are those direct addresses to the reader? I’m not certain if this was something common in her time of writing, but it certainly isn’t common nowadays, and I’ve heard many say that it’s annoying.
Interestingly, Jane as the book’s narrator, sometimes used these “dear reader” statements to mention things that she didn’t know at the moment. For example, she would relay a name she learned later, or a circumstance that she learned later. Doing so allowed Brontë to keep all pertinent information together into that scene, and not distract the reader later with a flash back to this necessary information. Well done in that respect, I thought. So though I don’t care for those reader asides, I could see the value of them upon reflection.
But Jane Eyre was a book I didn’t want to stop reading. I started via audiobook it on the drive back from Anchorage after the writers’ conference, and then pulled out the crisp, clean copy I had purchased around my high school days (I don’t want to say how long ago that was, but under 15 years), and promptly cracked the spine. (As in, a literal crack, and I don’t like my books’ spines cracked. Ugh! At least it now looks read.)
I thought Jane Eyre well plotted and well paced. The characters especially are what makes this book a lasting classic. Even if the premise is somewhat hard to believe, you root for the characters because you like them. Even Mr. Rochester, who makes a lot of mistakes and encourages Jane to do the wrong thing at times, is sympathetic and likable. Jane is instantly the same with her difficult upbringing, and yet tolerant attitude until pushed too far. You can both respect and understand the characters in the book, even those that you don’t necessarily like. That’s a well written novel.