On Wuthering Heights

I enjoy the little details nestled in the pages of books and that’s the reason why I re-read. Sometimes I re-visit books I may not have loved from the first page but found I had fallen in too deep along the way and I needed to know what happened to characters I invested feelings in, characters that invaded my thoughts, and characters that began to live with me as I made my way through a book. And this brings me to another reason I re-read — sometimes it’s not about the details. Sometimes it’s about the feelings.

Feelings of doom, darkness, depression, and desperation. That’s what I felt re-reading Wuthering Heights. I knew that going in and wasn’t surprised that those feelings surfaced but I also felt something else this time and it was an annoyance with these characters. The self-absorption became too much somewhere around the middle and I put the book down several times to read another story. I’m glad I did because I think if I pushed through I’d have given up.

I won’t go into details of the story itself but I did want to talk about two characters in particular because they are the driving force for the above-mentioned feelings. Heathcliff is simply horrid. Yes, I know you already know this and, no, this is nothing new. I want to feel for him, to understand his hurt, his need to feel loved, but I can’t forgive him or any of his actions. Catherine needs help, is crying out for help, but everyone around her is too tightly bound up in themselves to either accept she needs help or to offer it. All of the characters are crying out for help in their own myriad of ways; except for Lockwood who more or less needs a bedtime story because he’s sick.

Can we talk about Nelly for a moment? She’s one hell of a storyteller! Seriously. She tells everything to a stranger, spills all the family secrets, makes sorry and pointed observations about the people in her life without regret. It makes me wonder if her housekeeping abilities live up to the liveliness of her storytelling abilities. It also makes me question her motives too. These are people she supposedly cares/d about and she tells these stories to a stranger. Then again, she’s living up to my feelings about this book so maybe it’s not odd at all.

Would I re-read Wuthering Heights again? Probably, but it will be a long while before I pick this up again. It’s a book that will forever and always live on my shelf and books with that status are always subject to re-examination. I fully expect the details and feelings to be different next time. I consider that a good thing.

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Thoughts – The Mists of Avalon

This isn’t going to be regular review. Over the course of the seven weeks I spent reading The Mists of Avalon, I started writing down what I liked/didn’t like about this book and a few thoughts that I didn’t want to slip away. It may be a little disjointed but I’ll try to pull it back together at the end when I finish up this little experiment.

First, for those unfamiliar with this book, The Mists of Avalon is a re-telling of Arthurian legend from the perspective of the women. It closely follows with the generally known legend and all the characters are there. If you want a more detailed description, I give you this. Yes, it’s the lazy way but this is already a very long post.

Character-wise — I love the strong women. Igraine, the eventual wife of Uther Pendragon and the mother of King Arthur, is miserable and it’s hard to blame her. Especially when she finds out she’s really just a pawn for Viviane, her sister and priestess of Avalon, who has already once married her off to an older man and plans to marry her to the man who will be high king so she can bear him a son. Viviane is strong, not likeable, but admirable. She has strong convictions and even a few regrets especially for her family and the strains put on them by their fates. Morgaine, Igraine’s daughter by her first husband, the Duke of Cornwall, and to a certain extent, Viviane’s adopted daughter, becomes a priestess of Avalon. When she falls victim to Viviane’s fate machine, she runs when her life is essentially brought to ruins. Morgause, Igraine’s sister and Morgaine’s aunt, may be a harsh woman with designs on power his above her abilities, but give her credit, she knows what she wants and how to get it. Even if how she gets it is through sex but she’s not ashamed so why should we be.

Then there’s Gwenhwyfar, King Arthur’s wife. What a twit. Really. I couldn’t stand her and I have a very high tolerance for liking this character in most Arthurian re-tellings. Here, she’s a conniving woman who only wants a son and will go to any length to guilt and goad her husband into being a better Christian because she believes that a stronger more fanatical faith will bring that wish to fruition. She’s whiney, annoying, and honestly, not that smart. She doesn’t see the big picture and is so worried about supposed pagans and their evil that she can’t even see what she’s doing is tearing the country apart as her husband is trying to salvage it. As a side note: if you want to read a strong Gwenhwyfar, read Helen Hollick’s Arthurian re-telling — The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner, and Shadow of the King. The Gwenhwyfar in that story is strong and unafraid of her fate and faces everything head on.

The men. Arthur is Arthur but he’s not so much the strong Arthur that I like so much. He’s more of a non-factor since this story is about the women but he’s the high king and has to be there. Lancelet. My god, just bang the girl and get it over with. I say this now because I couldn’t take it anymore. Unrequited love doesn’t sit well for me and there’s entirely too much of it here. Yet, it’s a big part of this story and it wouldn’t be this story without this little triangle. And when I say triangle I mean that in the threesome sort of way. Imagine at will.

Mordred, Morgaine and Arthur’s son, is a fascinating character. He was raised by Morgause and is full of the need for power but the difference is that he knows how to find it and yield it. Raised in Avalon, he can raise the power of the goddess and knows his way around courtly diversions and behavior. He is able to manipulate Arthur and gain his way into Gwenhwyfar’s heart all the while planning a way to gain the throne for himself. A character that at some moments is a playful child, a homesick man, a man in love, and a man loyal to his brothers, Mordred is a slight chameleon. You want to like him but in ways you just can’t. Morgaine seems to feel the same way about him and she’s his mother. What does that tell you?

Merlin is Merlin and very grandfatherly but doesn’t play the part I want him to in this book but, again, it’s not about him. Kevin the Bard, oh how I love his interactions with the twit. Kevin was disfigured in a childhood accident and Gwenhwyfar believes he’s the devil himself and actually blames him for a miscarriage at one point. He gets what he deserves in the end for his betrayals though but I did find him an interesting character in his thought process on the changing role of religion among the people and how old ways needed to change. Morgaine doesn’t agree with him and this becomes the cause of tension for these two and seeing them battle it out is interesting.

Morgaine. I need to talk more about her. Honestly, I adore her in this book and she’s not always a character I like. In some stories, she’s a horrific person willing to murder and seize power at every opportunity, in The Mists of Avalon, she mostly runs from her fate. She doesn’t actively seek power and even when she can use it to get what she wants, she doesn’t. Yes, some of her actions are harsh but she does have a degree of humanity about her that I like.

I still love the setting, the storytelling, and the tension. It’s a long book and nothing is rushed which also at times makes you wish something would happen. You have to be patient and wait for the fates to work it out though. Although, as I got down to the end, parts did feel slightly rushed but I think that was because I had become used to this world moving slowly and when events happen all in succession, it felt out of place but it also felt that it needed to come to an end so I was fine with it.

This isn’t my first time with this book and it won’t be my last. I discovered much about this book on this re-read and I’m sure I’ll discover more in successive reads. While there are many Arthurian legend books I adore, this is certainly high on the list. It’s a wonderful story full of amazing women. Even if you don’t care for Arthurian legend, read it for the women. They stand above.

Thoughts – The Mists of Avalon

By Marion Zimmer Bradley

DelRey

ISBN: 0345350499

4.5 stars

Review – Salem’s Lot

I’ve been re-reading a lot lately. I tend to re-read when I’m in a slump but earlier this year I decided I would pick up several books that I kept meaning to re-read and actually do it. So I did. This is one of those books. After finishing 11/22/63 last year, I wanted more King but what I wanted was old King. Salem’s Lot seemed like a perfect match. The last time I picked this one up I was high school and I’m glad to know this one still delivers. It was as creepy as I remembered.

Ben Mears is a writer looking for inspiration and believes he’ll find it in Jerusalem’s Lot, Salem’s Lot to the locals, where he spent several happy years as a child living with his aunt. He’s also planned to exorcize a few demons while writing his next book and he thinks he know what will give him the inspiration to do it — the old Marsten house in Salem’s Lot which gave him nightmares as a child. Ben tried to rent the old house but as it turned out, it was already sold. The house, which was the place of a murder/suicide, is now home to something much more sinister. When strange things begin happening around town, and the dead start disappearing, Ben and a few friends go hunting for more than just the truth about the strange rumors in town.

The start moves slow but builds quickly once the people start disappearing. Isn’t it always that way? While it takes more than vampires to be creepy these days (at least none of these sparkle in the sun!), King does what he does best, creep you out by making you think that noise you heard was really nails tapping on your window and not a tree branch. Yes, pale faces hovering at second story windows, nails tapping on the glass, eyes as black as coal, teeth long and pointy, blood, and gore all about to happen. Oh, good fun. The vampire myths are pretty straight forward in this book — stakes through the heart, garlic, crosses — and I liked the simplicity there. I also liked that they were dead and dead-looking. There was no attraction to these monsters. The aspect that religion plays is small but I liked that it was included, and I liked even better that it came in the form of an alcoholic priest with faltering faith. Really, what a better way to fight vampires than a priest who doesn’t believe what he preaches. I’m not calling it out for hypocrisy but for reality. I liked that about the priest.

I read horror every once in a while and always enjoy the genre when I read it. I’ll even say that there are very few books that scare me, but for the first time in a long time, I found myself reading this book strictly during daytime hours and switching to another book to read in bed. The reason? Well, at first, I didn’t think much of it because when I’m reading two books I tend to consider one a day book and one a night book. In this case, I think my subconscious made the decision for me. Who am I kidding; I didn’t want to imagine ghostly white faces hovering outside my bedroom window. There I said it.

So, yes, it was worth the re-read. Now I need to see what other King I have on my list and get to it. It’s nice to re-discover an author every few years.

Salem’s Lot

By Stephen King

Pocket Books

ISBN: 067103975X

4 stars

Thoughts – Little House on the Prairie

I haven’t read this book since I was, I don’t remember actually, but I was much younger than I am now. When it came up as a possible July title for the Book Hoarders Anonymous Book Club, I was excited to pick it up again and see what I thought of it as an adult. Here’s the discussion post if you’re interested.

First, as a child, I loved this book. I read it over and over thinking how wonderful it would be to live in a log cabin, days to run free in the prairie, chasing animals, and sitting nights by the fire. As I got older, that stopped appealing which is probably why this book moved to the back of my bookshelf and was replaced by fantasy books. Hello Tolkien! Re-reading it now, I had an entirely different reaction, and not surprisingly, a more adult reaction.

Second, a few things that stood out to me. When Charles Ingalls decides to move his family out west, he packs up the wagon and heads out. There was no family discussion at all except for his wife Caroline saying something like, “If that’s what you think is best Charles.” Of course. Insert big eye roll here. His wanting to be away from everyone and everything was something I couldn’t identify with. Living in a city with close proximity to people and services, I love the idea of getting away from it all, but I don’t want to live away from it all. I can appreciate his adventurous spirit though. However, something about moving your family to the middle of nowhere with no help or contact with family, or any other people, strikes me as foolish. But that’s what people did and that’s how the plains were changed. I won’t get into the implications this had on the Native American tribes living in this area at the time. Obviously, my thoughts on this are very different then they were as a child, if I even had any thoughts about this as a child which I probably didn’t. I was happy to see that Charles was not quite as close-minded as Caroline though in his thinking even if he was still off the mark. If you want more on this, Jillian at A Room of One’s Own has some interesting thoughts about it. (Side note: Thanks for the link in your review Alison. Gave me a new way to view a story I’m familiar with.)

Now, the story. You know what, it held up for me. I read it on a Sunday afternoon curled up on my couch remembering all the wonderful things about this book and why I loved it so much as girl. There’s adventure, change, a tight knit family, and it has a homespun, charming quality to it. One part I forgot about was Jack the family dog. Don’t worry this is not a spoiler because it happens in chapter two. As the family is crossing the river, Jack gets lost when he has to swim for it himself. Why they don’t put him in the wagon baffles me but they didn’t. It get depressing for a while here and I was a miffed at Charles then remembered that Jack did make it across the river and joins up with the Ingalls again who are nothing but happy to see him. As a dog person, this was a little heartwarming moment. Now, Laura is my favorite but I was surprised that I didn’t remember Mary as being so quiet. Yes, Laura gets in trouble, is somewhat jealous of her well-behaved, older sister but I didn’t remember her as so meek and mild. It’s probably because I identified more with Laura and probably never thought much about Mary at all.

As I was reading, visions of the TV show kept popping in my head. No matter how many times it was mentioned that Charles had a beard, I couldn’t picture it because in my head, Charles Ingalls is Michael Landon and he didn’t have a beard. I wish that didn’t happen but I does. I should admit that I was a huge fan of the show as a girl so the two are pretty well intertwined for me.

I enjoyed this book, laughed at it, remembered some sweet things about it, and was glad I took a day to immerse myself it in. It was a complete comfort read and I remembered why these books were a staple for me. You won’t find lyrical prose here. You won’t find an amazing plot. You will find some heartfelt moments of a close and loving family and an adventure of a lifetime for a young girl.

For those not familiar with the series, the books in order are:

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House on the Prairie

On the Banks of Plum Creek

By the Shores of the Silver Lake

The Long Winter

Little Town on the Prairie

The Happy Golden Years

The First Four Years

There is also one book, Farmer Boy, which is based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband’s, childhood.

Thoughts – Little House on the Prairie

By Laura Ingalls Wilder

Illustrated by Garth Williams

HarperCollins Publishers

ISBN: 0060264454

 

Peter Pan

Peter Pan

By J.M. Barrie

Barnes & Noble Classics

eISBN: 978-1-411-43289-5

5 stars

My mom once told me that as a child I wouldn’t sleep until she read me Peter Pan.  It usually took three or four reads since I was a child who didn’t care much for sleep.  My mom had the story memorized and said if she turned the page too early, I would stop her to let her know she wasn’t done with the page yet.  Apparently, I also had the story memorized. 🙂  The version I was read while tucked snuggly in bed was not this version but rather an illustrated book probably courtesy of Disney.  Whatever version of the book I was read as a child, this one held true for me and every bit of it was fantastic.

Peter Pan is a young boy who simply refuses to grow up.  He lives in Neverland with the Lost Boys, the Piccaninny tribe, the mermaids, pirates, a ticking crocodile, and of course, Hook.  Peter is the captain of the boys and they do whatever he tells them to.  One night, he meets Wendy and her two brothers, Michael and John, and takes them all away to Neverland to share in his adventures.

One thing I noticed about the book was the violence.  There’s open talk of killing Hook, Peter is not shy about telling anyone that he cut off his hand, and that he plans to finish him.  While no one says what happens to the Lost Boys that get too old, one doesn’t have to look very far for the reason for their disappearance.  Peter is extraordinarily arrogant (Maybe that’s not the right word for describing a child; cocky?) and nothing happens without his say.  Even when danger lurks, not one of the Lost Boys questions his authority even when they are told to kill the pirates.  That astounded me and made me happy to see that Barrie didn’t dumb this story down.  Bad things happen in life and he brought it down to a level that was understandable for a child.  As an adult, I obviously have a different view but was interested in the way he portrayed Peter and the fact that even though he was just a boy, he was a boy with responsibilities for others even if he didn’t think much about it in those terms.  Well, at least until he brought in Wendy to be the mother which solved some of his responsibility issues.

Wendy is playing the mother of the Lost Boys and Peter is somewhat the father as Wendy does say to him often how wonderful their boys are.  It’s slightly odd but I overlooked my wiggly feeling about it.  The boys so badly want someone to love them, and when Wendy comes along, they cling to her like no one else.  It’s almost sad how starved they are for love and attention.  She delights in telling them stories of her parents and tests them frequently so her brothers will remember.

Most of all, this story is all whimsy.  It’s beautifully told with an almost poetic quality to it at times.  It can be harsh and it can be so simple in the way it describes the games the children play.  It’s both amusing and sad reading it as an adult.

I did a few Google searches to find out more about Barrie and it turns out the idea for Peter Pan is based on a brother who died in childhood.  In his mother’s eyes, his brother always remained 14 years old, the age at which he died.  That made me so very sad but if this was the way he finally managed to immortalize his brother, it’s a wonderful tribute.

I wondered how I would feel about this story as an adult and I can honestly say that for me, it will always be a favorite.  It’s magical and I’m glad I got around to reading it again.  I had a whole new perspective as an adult and it gave me a greater appreciation for the story.  I do wonder what my mom would think of it now though…

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

By J.K. Rowling

Scholastic

ISBN: 0-439-06486-4

5 stars

Ah, the second book in my Harry Potter re-read this summer and what a wonderful story this one is.  OK, I’ll probably say that about all of them so get over it now.  Before I forget to mention it, there will be a number of spoilers in this one so stop reading now if you prefer not to know.

The short re-cap of this installment — Harry joins Ron and Hermione for their second year at Hogwarts.  Harry finds out he’s a parseltongue (he can talk to snakes) and starts to hear voices, student turn up petrified, and the Chamber of Secrets is rumored to have been opened by the heir of Slytherin.

Flying cars, the Whomping Willow, and Dobby the house elf.  Dobby is probably one of my favorite characters, just below Ginny Weasley.  When he died in book seven, I was so upset, maybe even more upset than when Dumbledore died because I wasn’t expecting it.  He’s amusing, sort of pathetic, and shows you just how awful the Malfoy’s are as a family.  It’s not just Draco, it’s all of them.  We learn more about Hagrid and we get to see how nasty some of the creatures are that he loves so dearly.  I’m with Ron all that way on this one; I prefer the dragon to the gargantuan sized spiders.  They are way too creepy, crawly, and there is something very disturbing about all those all those eyes looking back at you.  Ginny joins the rest of the Weasley clan at school in year two and I love her shyness and the crush she has on Harry.  It’s so cute.  Still hating Snape as I expected to.  Nasty, mean, greasy, undermining — I have nothing nice to say about him and that will not be changing.  I know what’s coming and re-reading makes me dislike him ever more than ever.  The Weasley twins set off more fireworks in this one and it’s nice to see their future in humor retail emerging.  Such talent these two boys have for destruction but it’s all in good fun and someone has to be the comic relief.

Details, details, details.  Rowling does such a great job of putting so many tiny hints in these books.  First, the idea that Harry can talk to snakes appears in the Sorcerer’s Stone when he unleashes the snake at the zoo and now it’s explained even more here by Dumbledore when he tells Harry that part of Voldermort’s power was transferred to Harry when he attacked him.  What I like even more is that it’s left out there for us to wonder what will happen with that bit of information later.  I also like the mention of werewolves in this one preparing us for a new professor in book three which I will tell you now is my favorite.  🙂

Not having read these early books in such a long time makes me very happy to be doing so now.  They are a treat to read and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  I can easily classify this series as a comfort read.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

By J.K. Rowling

Scholastic Press

ISBN: 0-590-35340-3

5 stars

This summer I thought I would re-read the Harry Potter books. A lot of people are talking about them and it reminded me how much I loved this series. I haven’t read the books in so long and I thought it was a good time to start from the beginning again.

I’m not going to do a full re-cap or review of the book. I’m going to say — and yes, it’s a generalized statement but I think also a rather true one — that most people know what the books are about so this is all I’m going to say by means of a re-cap:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first book in the series. This is the book where Harry finds out he’s a wizard, goes off to Hogwarts, makes friends with Ron and Hermione, learns to fly a broomstick and play quidditch, makes enemies of Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy, and starts to understand what it means to be the boy who lived.

Good? I am. Now, let’s move on. I haven’t read this book in several years but as soon as I cracked the cover, I remembered how much I loved the world that Rowling created. There are so many wonderfully magical things, creatures, and people that I wonder how someone could not be swept away. There are also a lot of little details that I didn’t remember, for instance, the fact that Dumbledore wears high heeled shoes and is a lot flashier than I remembered him to be. I relished the fact that I still don’t like Snape (I don’t know how anyone can and I still won’t forgive him even in the last book for all the horror he inflicted for an old grudge, among many other things.) and how snarky and cruel Draco can be. Hermione is slightly unlikable at the start but I found it fun to see Harry and Ron become her friends and the three become inseparable. Oh and Ginny. Ginny is one of my favorites and I love her enthusiasm and crush on Harry. I find it so endearing. Ahhh….is all I want to say when she points at him in the train station. Hagrid, oh Hagrid, you big, lovable oaf. A dragon? Really? And who else would name a three-headed snarling beast of a dog Fluffy? Yes, Hagrid would. When Harry’s first year finally comes to an end and he has to return to the Dursley’s I don’t feel disappointed at all. I look forward to opening the next book and continuing the adventure.

The books are not perfect and there are some awkward bits of dialogue and this book, being the shortest in the series, is not nearly as detailed as the later books but the enchanting nature of the story itself makes all of that fade away for me. There is something very endearing about Harry that makes me always want to cheer him on even when he’s being stupid. The world of Hogwarts is an amazing place to fall in to and there are some wonderful characters to take on the journey with you.