My wrists are still somewhat sore (and yes, my left wrist started hurting too after having to do all the work while the right wrist took a vacation… it’s been a rather sorry time and then my heel started hurting again, as I broke a small bone in it this spring… I’ve been hobbling to my job at the library, however, hoping to find something to do that didn’t involve too much walking or too much moving of books or too much typing or too much eye strain since my eyes also are sensitive…. at least my internal organs are still all in good working condition!) but I am spilling over with book news nonetheless.
First off, I have developed a belated crush on those Penguin hardcover clothbound classics everyone has been raving about for a while. I’ve especially been eyeing the copy of Sense & Sensibility since I’m rereading it right now and my copy is getting quite ratty and this one has a blue background with pink flowers. I usually never (ever) like hardcovers, but these ones feel right somehow. And they also have an edition of Cranford! Also, the copy of Sense & Sensibility has two really interesting essays (or introductions or whatever) in the front and back of the book and you can read them, in their entirety, on Amazon with that whole handy click-to-look-inside feature. The essay at the end of the book is all about secrecy and sickness in the novel and it makes me want to read more commentary (or criticism) on Jane Austen’s novels. I’ve mostly avoided that in the ten plus years I’ve been loving her books because I wanted to have my own experience with them. I’ve avoided her biography too and most of her unfinished work and letters but that could change. It’s nice to have something still new by or about a favourite author.
Also Claire of The Captive Reader is perhaps influencing me? I finally read Wives & Daughters this year after hearing how much she loved it and eventually went on to more Elizabeth Gaskell, all of which I’ve enjoyed (I just finished North & South on the first of October, more of that in a bit).
She also told me she’s never liked Jane Eyre. I loved that book in my early 20s, so was rather shocked that it could be disliked, but then, dear reader. I started rereading it myself this year. First I found Jane’s childhood too depressing and had to stop for some pick-me-up Victorian mill worker strikes and romance and a ridiculous number of sudden deaths in the north of England (ie, North & South). Then I found… oh gosh. I found I didn’t like Mr. Rochester anymore. I was so looking forward to reading Jane’s romance (especially after putting myself through Villette earlier this year), but soon became very put out by the way Rochester manipulates Jane. They say they have a ‘natural sympathy’ with each other, fine they’re becoming friends, etc and then he flirts with another woman (uh spoiler?) to get Jane to care for him more, he hopes so much that she won’t care what the consequences are. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Jane Austen steadily (and yes, as a kind of moral guide in life) while only giving the Brontes the occasional nod, but I’m really not into that kind of thing anymore. This article in The Millions gives a pretty good run-down on why yes, Mr. Rochester is a Creep. (Although the crossdressing part doesn’t really bug me. Just the ‘romantic’ manipulation.) So that’s why I’ve left Thornfield Hall and gone back yet again to Barton Cottage and those sensitive, sensible Miss Dashwoods.
In comparison to Mr. Rochester, Mr. Thornton of North & South, although both are considered byronic heroes, is a much more admirable chap. He’s honest about his feelings, rough as they often are. He shows vulnerability, compassion, he wants to learn more about great literature, he gets mad and jealous, he’s determined as a bulldog… I really like all the feelings he shows, even if they are ‘negative’ feelings, he openly acknowledges having them. It’s very refreshing. Mr. Darcy, another one of those byronic types, is a little flat in comparison. And while Mr. Rochester shrouds himself in mysterious self pity, he is definitely not honest. Mr. Thornton has risen from an even more potentially crippling past and he’s not complaining. I also like that Mr. Thornton acknowledges Margaret as his social better and looks up to her. Both Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre are much poorer than their romantic partners, they are the social inferiors, much as they claim the right to human equality. I have this theory that Elizabeth Gaskell’s heroes (and George Eliot’s come to that) may just be more well-rounded than Austen’s or Bronte’s (in my opinion obviously, I don’t want to start wars here) because she was married, she had a more realistic view of men. Just a thought.
I also loved the realistic portrayal of Margaret having to deal with stressful family situations in North & South. I could relate, as my husband is still home recovering from surgery while I’m off (as already mentioned) hobbling in to work. I found it comforting to find a fictional character going through something similar. So there’s a few thoughts on the satisfying goodness of North & South. It’s growing on me and I’m sure I’ll return to it often.
Another thing I’ve been thinking about is that I don’t really like writing reviews with plot descriptions and a catchy hook so you’ll read it with a few neat and descriptive adjectives thrown in and all that, especially if it’s a classic book. I just like sharing a few thoughts or quotes. What I’d really prefer even more than that though, is an essay style free-for-all, with no worries about spoilers. I’d rather discuss the interesting parts of the book, hopefully with others who’ve already read it, instead of trying to sell it to someone new. How do I make that work on a blog outside of the classroom though? (This is part of the reason I’m thinking of going back to university for more English classes in January!)