In this timeless story, a little girl named Scout comes of age during a difficult time for her family. Her father, a lawyer, is defending a black man charged with the rape of white woman. Scout learns about racism from both children and adults.
Part of the charm of this story is that it is all through Scout’s eyes, so sometimes you have to infer what’s going on in the adult world – sometimes it takes a careful reading. However, Scout is intelligent and she picks up on a lot of stuff, so it’s the perfect combination of inference and easy-reading. I loved the ending for a couple of reasons – it was beautiful and touching, and I laughed because I could tell exactly why my mom said “I didn’t get it.” She’s so literal. 🙂
This book is considered one of the first of the Young Adult/teen genre, though I feel that it’s only placed there because of the age of the protagonist. I would highly recommend it to everyone teen and up.
|The Reivers, by William Faulkner
Narrated by John H. Mayer
In this Pulitzer Prize winning novel, 11 year old Lucas Priest is talked into stealing his grandpa’s car by his family friend Boon Hogganbeck. One of the Priest family retainers manages to sneak into the car and comes along for the ride. The trio make their way to Memphis, where Boon has a girl he’d like to court. Along the way, they lose the car, gain a racehorse, and generally get in trouble.
This is supposed to be one of Faulkner’s more light-hearted and easy-to-read books, and I agree with that assessment. Despite its serious topic, it has a subtle humor throughout. The plot tends to be pretty loose and easy to follow. The characters are strong and endearing. Overall, I found the book quite enjoyable and am pleased that I chose this Faulkner book to read, rather that one of his heavier books. I do want to read his heavier books, but sometimes it’s nice just to read something light-hearted by one of the best American authors.
|Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Narrated by Juliet Stevenson
Warning: here be spoilers
When Jane fights back against her abusive aunt and cousins, she is sent away to a boarding school for charity cases. There, she is starved, punished severely, and witnesses deaths of students due to school negligence. After living this life for 18 years, she is thrilled to find a place as a governess for the ward of the mysterious and wealthy Mr. Rochester. They find love, but only at a great cost.
I first read Jane Eyre as a teenager and wasn’t thrilled with the book. I thought Rochester was a jerk. And Jane. Well. She started out feisty enough, but as an adult she allowed Mr. Rochester to be a total jerk to her. When she discovers his deep, dark secret, she throws herself about dramatically upon the steppe until she is rescued. Then she meets this nice cousin (St. John Rivers) who proposes to her and offers to whisk her off to India and she says no!
I just listened the brilliant Juliet Stevenson narration of Jane Eyre with a more mature ear. I noticed several things – Jane’s fiestiness in the first chapters of the book were not necessarily looked on as a good character trait by Charlotte Bronte. In current times we have this view that everyone is equal and we should defend ourselves against abuse instead of just taking it with a bowed head. But look at it from the perspective of a Christian in the 19th Century who may have been taught to accept what she can not change.
This acceptance is demonstrated to perfection in young Helen Burns – Jane’s friend at school. Helen patiently explains her philosophy to the angry Jane, and Jane heartily disagrees. They seem to be opposite ends of a spectrum. Jane wants to change everything because it’s unacceptable, and Helen wants to accept everything because it’s unchangeable. When Helen’s character dies with acceptance, Jane seems to adopt her philosophy – thus taming the fire within.
It is with this acceptance that she deals quite calmly (most of the time) with the rudeness and games of Mr. Rochester. Jane recognizes that this is how he is, she’s unable to change it, but she is still able to see the kindred spirit within. In other words, it is her acceptance that gives her a trait that I can admire – forgiveness. And it is this acceptance which brings her love in the long run.
But Jane does not accept to the point of having a weak character. When Rochester gives her an unacceptable choice – living with him as an unmarried couple – she chooses to leave. This is not weakness. This is strength. Yes, she flopped about dramatically on the steppe for a couple of chapters, and it was her own fault for losing her money, but this was a choice she made when she left Mr. Rochester. She couldn’t stay, so she took an option that was very brave: the total unknown. Many a weaker character would have sacrificed her own values and self-worth by staying with Mr. Rochester because she had nowhere else to go. But Jane found a way to change when the “unchangeable” finally became “unacceptable.”
Jane is strong to accept what she can not change and she is strong to change what she can not accept.
|The Chimes, by Charles Dickens, narrated by Richard Armitage
|When Trotty’s daughter brings him a happy surprise (tripe and news of her engagement for the upcoming New Year), he is quickly disillusioned by a group of wealthy people who delight in “putting-down” poor folk. That evening, Trotty explores his beloved bell-spire and sees things that he never expected to see.
This story was hard to read at first because it was so darned depressing. I mean, here Trotty was as happy as a clam (because we all know clams smile all the time) and suddenly these horrible wealthy men stomp all over his happiness. As the story goes on, the family becomes even more downtrodden. In fact, I was wondering if the story was going to turn around into a happy Christmas story until the very end.
This wasn’t my favorite of Dickens’ works. It’s nice to read another of his lesser known Christmas stories, but I guess it’s lesser-known for a reason. It was quaint and a good poke-in-the-eye to the strong who “put-down” the weak. But other than that, it was kind of a “meh” book for me.