I’m a Bookworm—a member of my women’s book club. Every month we read a hodgepodge of novels, with a little non-fiction thrown in. Through this group of amazing women, I’ve read books that I never would have thought to pick up (such as The Glass Castle—if you haven’t read it, you should).
I’ve also joined another book club which reads classic literature. We’ve read books that I either read so long ago that I can barely remember them or ones that I’ve always heard of but never picked up (or had assigned to me back in my student days!).
Our inaugural book choice was The Scarlett Letter. I was one of those freaky few who actually enjoyed reading it back in high school, amidst the groans of my AP classmates. I found the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale to be a tragic, romantic figure. Of course, I think it’s a requisite for teenage girls to be attracted to tragic, romantic men. I agonized over how he and Hester Prynne couldn’t be together and raged on about how life just wasn’t fair.
Fast-forward to years later, and I HATED ARTHUR DIMMESDALE!!!! I thought he was a wuss for not standing up and being a man and taking responsibility. All the onus was on silent, stoic Hester. SHE was the one ostracized; HE was the one beloved by all. I walked away from this second reading knowing he was a jerk with no backbone who let a lovely woman and her (his!) child suffer at the hands of an ultra-rigid society. I wanted his all-consuming guilt to eat him alive . . . and then I would’ve shot him in his teeny-tiny heart, just to be sure he was deader than dead.
It’s funny how an adult perspective can change the way you read a novel.
We’ve revisited books I adore, such as Pride and Prejudice and To Kill A Mockingbird. We went on a Steinbeck kick and read several of his works (Tortilla Flat, East of Eden, Travels with Charley). I discovered the amazing Willa Cather, an author I’d never been exposed to before, and after reading the group’s selection of My Antonia had to delve more into her writing.
One of our favorite discussions came from revisiting Gone with the Wind, the Margaret Mitchell classic that most people are familiar with because of the film. I found it ironic that Mitchell and Mockingbird’s author Harper Lee never published another novel. As a writer, I can’t imagine the pressure of having written a book that became not only a best-seller, but a monster best-seller adored by generations. How many times did these ladies sit down with pen and paper or their typewriters and try to come up with something worthy, something equal to their first novel’s automatic beloved, classic status? Neither ever released a second novel. I find that very sad. I’m sure they had more stories to tell, but more than likely the fear of failure and harsh judgment kept them from sharing these tales with the world.
I have new books to look forward to as we continue re-reading the classics. We have a Sinclair Lewis coming up; the controversial Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel that was said to start our own American Civil War; Little Women; and a modern classic—In Cold Blood.
So here’s looking forward to future hours of reading in 2015 and the wonderful discussions this lively, educated group of women will have. Cheers!