Betty Duffy

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book History

My friend Lauren at "The Loveliest Hour" was asking on facebook about her twelve-year-old daughter  attempting to read War and Peace.  I hem-hawed around about it in my mind for a bit, then thought, "Wait a minute, I have a post for that!"

In short, my sister probably could have managed War and Peace at a young age. I probably could not have. In fact, I don't think I ever finished reading War and Peace, but I did start it three times, if that counts for anything.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

My nephew read War and Peace a couple of time when he was in high school and loved it. But twelve seems a bit young. I think even if you can read it maybe you shouldn't. There were a lot if book I could and did read when I was young that I wasn't really ready for and which I didn't reread when I was because I'd already done them.

BettyDuffy said...

I thought about that too, Melanie. I tried reading War and Peace in high school first, and then didn't pick it up again for a long time because I had sore memories of all the war portions . I still didn't love it, when I tried again later, but I wonder if I might have had more wherewithal to get through it if I hadn't approached it the second time with such dread.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Well, I've never read War and Peace and part of it is that I do feel quite a bit of dread. But yes, I think our early experiences can sour us on otherwise excellent books. I appreciated The Scarlet Letter so much more as a senior in college than I did in high school and would probably love it even more now. I almost didn't re-read it however, because my memory of the book was so bleak. Thank God for great English lit teachers who were able to communicate their love for great books.

Of course I'm also finding that my approach to many of the classics is so very different now that I'm a married woman with children and some life experience under my belt. Looking back on my college days, I was so very young and inexperienced. Of course I had a lot more time and energy to read back then. Now finding time to tackle the really heavy books is so much harder.

TheReluctantWidow said...

I don't think I have ever attempted it. It's not a fear of long books because I have read a one volume version of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and I read Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy (highly recommend), it's just that the content seemed like it would be depressing.

I can relate to starting a book several times and not ever finishing it. I have started Introduction to the Devout Life 4 times and never gotten past page 100. Not sure why, but I think it's because I give up hope for myself and I just let it go. I'm going to try again Lent 2013.

mrsdarwin said...

I've become a bigger proponent of not reading books too early. There's something so fresh and wonderful about a first reading, and so many years in which to read, that it seems a shame to push large books at children (or teens) just for the cachet of reading significant books. I read so many books so early, and although I love re-reading, I wish I'd gotten more out of them the first time.

A good compromise -- and better than a compromise, really -- is to read books aloud, or to listen to them on CD. I think that people process so much more about a book hearing it, and children in particular are able to ingest much more difficult works than they'd be able to read to themselves.

I didn't like Anna Karenina when I read it in college (or I should say, I didn't like Anna), and I didn't like her when I was older, either. And I can't stand War and Peace, at any age. All the characters drive me mad. But I did go on a Gone With The Wind reading binge around 11 or 12.

BettyDuffy said...

I read something recently that Evelyn Waugh saved Portrait of a Lady to read until middle age. I wish I had as well. I just reread it, and liked it much more when I was older than when I was younger.

I like your idea of reading aloud.

We're getting rid of our TV soon. Canceling Dish, and Joe just bought a new radio and CD player. A nice one, so we can do books on tape at night. The stupid thing about cable, is there are so many channels and all of them are showing "best bra ever!"

ANyway, I'm hoping our kids will become slightly more literate during this endeavor--it would be good to know how to choose wisely.

Any suggestions, Mrs. Darwin, for good read aloud to the whole family books??

JMB said...

Please tell me you are not going to cancel the TV before season 3 of Downton? Shirley MacCaine and all? A good book to read again ( or the first time - me!) is "I Captured the Castle" by Dodie Smith (101 Dalmations). I look forward to hitting the sack every night. It is charming and lol funny, sad and remarkably unsentimental. I don't think I would have appreciated it so much as a teenager. I was already too jaded. My book group re-read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" a few years back and I was surprised by how little I did remember about the book, and yet I remember that I loved it at 14.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

You don't need a tv to get your Downton fix. You can watch it online. That's what I do.

BettyDuffy said...

I actually already watched Season 3 online, through some shady bootleg thing.

Won't give anything away--but it's good.

Emily J. said...

Aw, come on. War and Peace is not so bad! Stick with it! Although I read it at 21, not 12, and haven't been tempted to read it again.

I wonder if what was attractive about long books for myself as a young reader was the same disposition that makes series books (and Downton Abbey) bestsellers: young readers don't want to leave the places and people who seem in imagination so much more alive than real life people and places.