“What is reading, but silent conversation.” – Charles Lamb
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
I had to read this in high school and honestly, I don’t remember too much about it (I think I was applying to colleges at the point in the semester when we were reading this). I believe I found it okay but obviously, it didn’t make enough of an impression on me to remember the plot or characters. Might have to add it to the Re-Read List just to freshen up my memory later.
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
I wanted to watch the BBC miniseries years ago so I made myself read the novel first. And by read, I mean I listened to the audio book while doing chores around the house. I don’t know why, but I often feel that listening to the audio book of a text is cheating in some way. It doesn’t stop me doing it from time to time, but there’s a little part of me that feels guilty. I did a better job of actually reading the novel when I had to read it for a class last fall (but time constraints did send me back to the audio book here and there so that I could keep up with all my assignments; works wonders when you’re reading four books at once and you desperately need to run errands or clean the house).
Emma by Jane Austen
The first time I read Emma, I didn’t really like it that much. I didn’t have much sympathy for the heroine and found many of the characters dull. Then I read Mansfield Park and met Fanny Price. Emma Woodhouse was way more tolerable on the second reading. It’s still not my favorite Jane Austen novel and discussions with my friends during our Jane Austen book club and Jane Austen class, I figured out why. It’s the ick factor. The age difference between Emma and Knightley isn’t the problem. The problem is that he knew her when she was an infant… and points that out many times, including key scenes that are meant to be romantic. When proposing to a girl, maybe you shouldn’t mention that you used to change her diapers. Just saying.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Many of my classmates who had to read Ethan Frome in high school wound up hating it. I was not forced to read it and I think that might be a big reason why I liked it so much. Sometimes we don’t like something for the simple reason that someone else wants us to. That and I’m a huge Edith Wharton fan. Not as good as The House of Mirth, but leagues better than The Age of Innocence (at least, in my opinion).
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
I read this during one of my early wave of Russian lit. I loved the characters and the way that Turgenev manages the conflicting and shifting time when belief in science and progress were replacing the old religiosity of the transitioning serfs. Agricultural society moving towards technological society at its best. Not overly dramatic or showy, but compelling all the same.