Back in 2014, I attempted to write a few paragraphs about every book I read that year. I found those notes recently, and re-reading my thoughts five years later was fascinating.
See, normally I write about books for my blog, or talk to friends about books. Rarely do I write about books just for myself. But seeing these private thoughts gave me such insight into what I thought and felt back then.
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones (re-read)
I love this book so much. It is the culmination of all the beautiful things I like to fancy in my head before I fall asleep. Also, this time through, I noticed remarkable similarities between *Bill and Howl. Mysterious evocative names. Remarkable abilities done in a slap-dash manner. The talents to do great things, without the drive. Slithering out. Mythical creatures, in their own right. And somehow, just the right characteristics to make them attractive, despite, or maybe because of, their faults.
P.S. I think I have a remarkable belief in the tendency of books to parallel life, almost telling the future, in a way. Like the John Donne poem that already existed, but paralleled Howl’s life and was turned into a curse.
*obviously changed that name, LOL
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
I wasn’t entirely sold on Estella. Of course she was an absolute jerk, but she got her entire deserved punishment in the end, and was completely broken. I was okay with giving her a second chance.
However, it drove me absolutely nuts to see the way Pip loved her so unreasonably. He even admits it is unreasonable, which I find horrifying. Esp. in my Scientific Study of Romance days, the idea of just loving someone without control or reason…absolutely X3 detestable.
So in any case, I really liked this book. I didn’t love it, but I think that was just because it didn’t parallel my life in any way.
Emily’s Quest, by Lucy Maud Montgomery (re-read)
I thought it would be nice to read a story of a girl, in her 20s, contentedly living at home, single, writing, and having an interesting life. I thought I would “get” it better than I did when I was younger. I thought it was secretly about me.
However, the book was depressing. Except for the Dean year, the years flew by so quickly it seemed like she must have a super boring life, if that’s all there was to write about it. Way more years per page than the first two books.
And you know it was just a stupid misunderstanding keeping her from Teddy.
Worth a read, yes, but not worth a re-read.
Ever since I re-read these thoughts, I’ve been thinking about the way I use fiction to understand my life. About the way I read books to find myself and people I know, slapped between the pages.
Like Little Women. Every time I read it I feel not only like I personally am Jo March, but like my older sister Amy is Meg March, and my younger sister Jenny is Amy March. Seriously, I think Jo and Amy March’s relationship is the closest thing I’ve found in literature to Jenny and my relationship. Both characters are very ambitious, but Amy is always trying to get Jo to act in socially acceptable ways, LOL.
And then, of course, there’s Emily Byrd Starr from the Emily of New Moon series. The Emily books were written by L.M. Montgomery, who also wrote the Anne of Green Gables series. I liked the Anne books as a child, and always have. But I actually think Emily of New Moon might have been my first Montgomery.
In any case, I always felt like I was reading about myself when I read the Emily books. I mean first of all, obviously, we have the same first name. We both were writing obsessively from about age 12 onward. We both had dark hair and light eyes, and liked cats. And we both spent most of our time inside our own heads.
We basically were the same person.
I recently picked up Emily of New Moon again and, upon finishing it, started into the second book of the series, Emily Climbs. Now the question remains: Will I again crack open the terrible third book in the series, Emily’s Quest? The one where she spends her 20s living a boring life, separated from her true love because of some dumb misunderstanding, and almost marries terrible child-groomer Dean Priest?
Five years ago, I decided this book was not worth reading again, ever. But now, I’m itching to crack it open again. To find a new meaning in it. Maybe it’s not about true love, at least not right away. 28 is a reasonable time to finally find true love. But the book is actually about her writing career. It’s about, not just wanting to be a writer, but being a writer. And what that takes. I feel like I actually would get it, now that I’ve poured so much into making this my career.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I would still hate it. Maybe in the end it’s not actually about me.
I’m curious, do you find yourself, your acquaintances, and your relationships in books? Do you see them as a parallel to help you understand your own life? What book characters make you think, “this is me?”
I was happy to see Howl’s Moving Castle in here…I so enjoy that book!
As for the Emily books…I don’t like them nearly as much as some of L.M. Montgomery’s other series. I think my dislike comes from the third book..so awful!
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Interesting! I never gave it a thought that a character was like myself! (Yet) 🙂
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Try Emily’s Quest again. I agree with your take on it, at least for the last third or so of the book, but the first part isn’t bad. I do think the first two are better; in fact, at one point L M Montgomery said Emily of New Moon was the best thing she’d written. She went on to write other books, so I don’t know if that opinion held, but it’s still a pretty good recommendation!
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I should read it again and then write a blog post if my thoughts have changed. It has been five years since I last read it, after all.
I’ve read and reread many of the L.M. Montgomery books, but I’ve also never wanted to reread Emily’s Quest. Though I felt that Dean is far more of a tragic figure – classical fatal-flaw-causes-doom tragic – than a child groomer. The worst trouble I have with it is that I felt Teddy had become a colourless wimp! I don’t feel it is a satisfactory ending that Emily does marry him. She and Dean seemed to me to be much more genuine friends as adults than she and Teddy. Though I do agree that once Dean has given way to the flaw and done the thing which is destructive, it would be impossible for it to work for her to marry him.
It does seem to me, though, that it rather amusingly resembles Anne’s early story “Avril’s Atonement” in which people tell her the heroine should reform the villain rather than marrying the jellyfish of a hero. And it is an interesting contrast with “A Tangled Web”, in which Gay does marry the older man – who, I felt, was acting pretty dishonourably in not waiting for her to be genuinely ready for an offer of marriage.
I was puzzled when I read the New Moon series as an adult, because it seemed to me to differ quite a lot from what I had read as a child, in which (iirc) Emily’s engagement to Teddy happens (without all the drama) at the end of the second book, and more or less works.
I loved Howl’s Moving Castle, by the way, thank-you for that recommendation! 🙂
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Interesting food for thought. I loved Teddy when I was younger, but now re-reading the first two Emily books, he really doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of personality. And he definitely is a more passive character. Sigh. Still, he seems like a jolly friend, and he truly believed in Emily, and supported her career.
Dean always gave me the creeps. Even if he wasn’t a child groomer, he still told her that she “belonged” to him, which, ick. And he’d get jealous. And he was just so cynical in general.
Honestly I might be Team Perry at this point, haha. (Seriously though, Perry had tons of personality. Why did Emily never even remotely consider him an option?)