Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, wishing she was on vacation . . .
Greetings, Wicked People. I hope everyone is enjoying this first full week of summer. There were so many snow days in Connecticut this past winter that the kids in my town don’t get out until today. And that brings me back to memories of my own childhood. It probably won’t be a surprise to any of you that one of my favorite summer vacation activities was–wait for it–reading.
Recently I’ve been reading (usually via audiobooks) a number of popular books that are often called domestic thrillers. You know the ones, that are selling a squillion copies, like Gone Girl. Unreliable narrator (generally a woman, often with a prescription medication and/or alcohol problem) who may or may not have actually seen or done what she thinks she did. Lots of surprises, twists and turns–but not small ones. Big ones. In general I’m enjoying these books, but I have to say that my professional goggles frequently make the secrets that get revealed fairly obvious.
Sometimes I long for the days when I read just for the joy of reading, without feeling the compulsion to guess or analyze or predict what’s coming next. And that makes me think of the books I loved when I was in elementary school, the books I read over and over. Here’s a sample:
A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. So, whether from nostalgia, or because I haven’t seen the movie yet but intend to, I recently reread this book. Despite having read it at least 5 times as a kid, I have to say I didn’t remember a word of it! So it turned out to be a brand-new experience for me. Verdict: This is a highly spiritual, allegorical work, with some rather stilted language, and now, viewed through those professional goggles I mentioned above, I didn’t quite connect with it the way I did all those years ago. There are several more related books (I’m not sure they’re exactly sequels), and I don’t recall if I read those. I think not, and I probably won’t now. I’ll just try to remember my former love for the book and leave it at that. I still may see the movie, because, ya know, Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Chris Pine.
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I adored it then, and adore it now. I remember being fascinated by those round hobbit doors, second breakfasts (a brilliant concept that really ought to catch on), and hairy-footed short people going on a quest with some dwarves. I’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy a couple of times, and I’ve seen the movies, which were unnecessarily extended, but The Hobbit is still the book that does it for me. Time for a reread on this one.
Strange But True, by David Duncan. I must have checked this one out of the library 800 times. In fact, a group of my friends and I just pretty much took turns checking it out in perpetuity, so no one else got to read it. I recall serious discussions about the stories in this book. Credible sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. Feral children raised by wolves. And one that still sticks with me today: the farmer who walked across his field one morning and simply vanished, while his wife was watching. Hey, it could happen. I think I need to find this book (and I seem to recall there was a second volume with another set of terrifying tales).
Chariots of the Gods, by Erich von Daniken. . What can I say? I believed in aliens.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond,by Elizabeth George Speare. I saved my all-time favorite for last. To say I adored this book is not doing my feelings justice. Set in colonial Connecticut against the backdrop of the Connecticut witch trials, this is the story of Kit Tyler, born and raised in Barbados, who comes to live with her horrible Puritan relatives in Wethersfield. She befriends a Quaker woman who is accused of witchcraft–then Kit gets accused of it herself! In the end, she sails off for the tropics with the very dreamy Nat Eaton. I still get all swoony when I think about him. Seriously, if you guys haven’t read this one, do. It’ll only take a few hours. And as a side note, I never thought while I was reading this book back then that I would end up living only twenty miles from the actual Wethersfield. And now, since I did a little research for this blog post, I have just discovered that a house from the story is now a museum! I’ll be visiting that soon.
What were your favorites? Have you reread them lately? Has your opinion about them changed? I’d love to know.