Monday, March 03, 2014

The Time of my Life

I don't want to read Catcher in the Rye again - or Salinger's short stories - though I was impressed by them when I was around twenty. Nor am I tempted to reread Wuthering Heights (though Jane Eyre is another matter). I won't be returning to The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings or Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, all cult novels when I was a teenager (taking the Peake trilogy down from the shelf I see that they were given to me for my 21st birthday - and I haven't opened it for, ooh, I'd rather not say how many years). Are there novels that it is best to read when you're young as I did with all these? And conversely are there novels that one should keep for middle-age or old age?
The Great Gatsby strikes me as a young person's novel, yet I could happily reread that. And it's the same with To Kill a Mocking Bird. In fact I didn't read that until I was middle-aged and loved it, but I think the optimum age for reading it is probably mid teens. On the other hand Proust is surely a writer for later life. You need to have been through the mill a bit yourself really to appreciate Swann in Love.
There are some writers who have something new to offer as you return to them through life. Tolstoy is one. As a young woman I thrilled to Anna Karenina's tragic love story, but it wasn't until I reread it as a mother that I understood Anna's anguish at being parted from her son. Jane Austen I can always go back to, though it's more often Mansfield Park or Persuasion now, rather than Pride and Prejudice. Dickens was often pushed onto the young reader when I was young, but I think that was a mistake. You should be an adult to read him. Trollope with his generous sympathies and his understanding of human relationships is evergreen. And Middlemarch is the perfect novel for any age. We have chosen that for our book group's annual big read and I am looking forward to.
Are there books that you loved when you were young, but couldn't bear to reread? Is there anything that you are saving for old age?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember my high school teacher talking about this many years ago. She mentioned D H Lawrence (I agree).
Agree with you about J D Salinger and Wuthering Heights (is there a kind of romantic adolescent passion that burns out?)

I now really enjoy Anthony Trollope especially in the last year or so via audio books and I also enjoy Charles Dickens far more than when I was younger. Jane Austen is a joy to reread - I like all of her books. Sadly I find George Eliot hard going these days yet I think Middlemarch is a superb book.

On the other hand I only enjoyed Wind in the Willows as an adult reader.


Tuesday, 04 March, 2014  
Blogger Christine said...

Thanks, Sue, great to hear all this. I mostly agree about Lawrence, but I did look at Sons and Lovers recently and found I could read that. So nice that you are enjoying Trollope. I think I do enjoy him even more now. The middle-aged love story in The Way We Live Now is so good.

Tuesday, 04 March, 2014  
Blogger Sue Hepworth said...

Not answering your question...I always hated Wuthering a Heights - read when I was 19 - and never wanted to return to it. And I have never been able to understand why people think it romantic.
Jane Eyre, on the other hand, is deeply romantic, and I love it.

Tuesday, 04 March, 2014  
Blogger Christine said...

Time to reread Jane Eyre, perhaps.
I wept buckets over the film of Wuthering Heights with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, but wasn't so moved by the actual novel.

Wednesday, 05 March, 2014  

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