Blame it on the arriving of spring and the romanticism that comes with it, but the month of March always makes me want to go back to the classics. And since I had taken advantage of the Christmas sales and bought plenty of them, I picked up a couple, let you also vote for one additional one to read with me for the digital book club, and here we are. I will not be covering Jane Eyre, which I am still reading for the interactive book club discussion mid April, but instead will sum up the other three classics I read in this beautiful month of March.
Mary Shelley´s Frankenstein
If you feel like you know the story of Frankenstein because of all the pop culture around it, read the book. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a dark book, albeit the darkness is equally distributed between the souls of doctor Victor Frankenstein and the Creature he´s given life to. The roles of master and slave are interchangeable as the master becomes the slave of his escaped, but never far off Creature, who haunts him in order to persuade him to create him a partner and save him from a life of solitude. At the same time, the Creature is still a slave of its master, as it depends on him to have his wish granted and as such achieve a minimum degree of freedom and happiness. The two dance a morbid tango filled with sorrow, guilt and anguish in the face of philosophical questions of right or wrong, all the while running from and towards each other, from Switzerland to almost the North Pole. The Creature wreaks death around it, while asking the doctor to give life. A tragic tale, that is about way more than what we know of Frankenstein from pop culture. And yet, the way the writer “hypersensibilises” the doctor and oversimplifies the logistics around the Creature´s evolution made me only give it three stars.
James Joyce´s Dubliners
I used to love short stories and I want to think I still do. I think it’s maybe just Joyce’s short stories which don’t really resonate with me. I just feel like he did too much “cramming” – 15 short stories in 233 pages feels a bit excessive. As such I feel the stories lacked a beginning, an ending and more than anything, context. It just felt like he didn’t try very much and while every now and then he threw in a truly beautiful description, or an exquisite adjective like “truculent” (❤️), the stories themselves did (for the most) fail to captivate me. “Mother” and “The Dead” were my favourite (or if I am being brutally honest, the ones I hated the least), but the rest, and especially the first ones, were simply tedious to read. I could not, for the life of me, be transposes, as the work intended me to, to Dublin of the early 20th century. I really really want to believe I will feel differently about his more extensive work – Ulysses in particular.
Edith Wharton´s The Age of Innocence
You might think I gave the Age of Innocence 4.5 stars simply because after reading two books which I didn´t love, I finally reached one that was more my style. In reality, I am re-reading this book for the nth time and each time I love it more and more. Its attempt of reconciling the old has a special place in my heart as my mom and I always felt we were born in the wrong century. While the story is set in the late 1800s – around 1870 to be precise, Edith Wharton herself admits that while writing it (in the 1920s), she went back to a world long gone. The novel reads like a late Victorian novel, but set in New York, the upper class New York, disturbed by the appearance of Countess Olenska, who shocks and enchants the whole aristocracy there, particularly Newland Archer. While the Age of Innocence is often reduced to a tragic love story, one has to understand it in its context, how it was written in the wake of WWI, and how that truly meant the end of an era. Truly deserving of the Pulitzer prize it received.