Thanks for giving me One L to read! You rarely impress upon me the need to read any one book in particular, so when you put this book in my h...moreDear Dad,
Thanks for giving me One L to read! You rarely impress upon me the need to read any one book in particular, so when you put this book in my hands I actually put down the book I had recently started and instantly began devouring Turow’s memoir about his first year of law school. I don’t do that often. It stresses me out to put a book aside unfinished in favor of another book (which is also ironic considering the content of One L — it’s all about stress!). One L was also a little unusual for me because it’s an older book — first published in 1977. I typically don’t read books written between 1955 and 2000, not as a matter of strategy but rather an accident of practice.
I had a lot of thoughts about this book! I read this book slowly because I was really paying a lot of attention, stopping to think about it, stopping to discuss it, before starting a new page. I think Turow fully realizes all of his goals in this memoir — he thoroughly conveys the rigors, terrors, and hysteria of his first year at Harvard Law School. Beyond simply relating his experience, Turow immerses his reader in the experience of law school. He doesn’t candy-coat it; he tells it all — good, bad, and neurotic.
Aside from pondering Turow’s experience of law school, I also found myself thinking about why you put this book in my hands. Probably so I would understand what you, too, experienced when you were in law school. I’ve always been proud to say my dad is an attorney. In my little kid (and big kid) brain, this meant you were smart. And that meant that I could be smart, too. But I have a whole new respect for those smarts after reading Turow’s account of the demands — both intellectual and emotional — of law school.
You probably also gave me this book to read because you know that I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer — that I still think about being a lawyer from time to time. This book gave me a lot to think about. I’ve always figured that I have the rational mind to think through legal problems, and I love speaking and writing (and noble causes). So I’d be a great lawyer, right? After One L, I don’t know. It’s possible if not probable that, indeed, I shouldn’t have been a lawyer after all! There are a lot of still-appealing factors. I think the mental exercises are fascinating. I think reasoning out the law based on precedents that often contradict one another is a stimulating way to spend time. I love researching. I love writing. However, throughout One L, Turow emphasizes “learning to love the law”. .. and I don’t know that I ever would. Not in that way. Actually, I love education! Thinking through educational issues excites me and stimulates my mind. I am interested to talk law, but I adore talking school. For maybe the first time in my life, reading One L gave me a real sense that I didn’t somehow miss my legal calling … however alluring I might find it.
Thanks for a great read, Dad. It made me see your legal education in an entirely different light.
In spite of my friend Jonathan's opinion on this book, I thought that -- for what it is and what it is meant to be -- it was a fun little read. Great...moreIn spite of my friend Jonathan's opinion on this book, I thought that -- for what it is and what it is meant to be -- it was a fun little read. Great for older middle or younger high school students!(less)
Infuriating. I HATED this book, and I RARELY meet a book that I can't, at the very least, appreciate. This was probably the first book I have ever wan...moreInfuriating. I HATED this book, and I RARELY meet a book that I can't, at the very least, appreciate. This was probably the first book I have ever wanted to literally throw across the room. (less)
I usually immediately sit down and fire off a review upon finishing a book. However, I needed time to ruminate on this one. I needed to let the book s...moreI usually immediately sit down and fire off a review upon finishing a book. However, I needed time to ruminate on this one. I needed to let the book simmer in my mind. In a way, I just couldn't think of anything to say about this book beyond simple gushing. Sometimes I feel like my enjoyment and appreciation of a book is inversely proportionate to the number of words I can find to describe it.
In rural South Africa, three-year-old boy Lukas van Rooyen wanders into the forest, becomes lost, and presumed dead. It's a rough terrain populated by "bigfeet" (elephants) who some believe trample humans in a calculated, predatory way. No child could survive.
On the other side of a vast mountain range, a white boy appearing to be about three years old shows up on the door step of Fiela, a black woman whose husband is in jail. She takes the boy in, calling him Benjamin, and raises him as a "hand-child" given to her by God. Understanding the complications inherent in a black family caring for a white child, Fiela keeps the boy relatively hidden -- he doesn't attend church or school with the other children.
Despite Fiela's caution, Benjamin's existence in the Komoetie family is thrown into question when two census-takers arrive at the farm, see a white child living with this black family, and remember the story of a boy being lost in the forest six years before. The men take Benjamin to the regional magistrate who summons Barta van Rooyen. When Barta points to Benjamin in a lineup, he is given back to the van Rooyen family. Now Lukas again, and not Benjamin.
Like Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country (my #3 favorite book of all time), this evocative novel is firmly rooted in the land of South Africa -- its beauty, its brutality, the duality of its ability to both give and take away life. As in many books I deeply love, the landscape becomes a character, literally and metaphorically separating Benjamin Komoetie from Lukas van Rooyen, separating Fiela from her hand-child.
The novel is also incredibly moving. Matthee's Fiela jumps to life, coming off of the page and making the reader's heart break along with hers as she loses Benjamin. I cried multiple times reading this book -- not something that often occurs in my reading. Yes, Fiela's Child is a book about race and class, but more importantly it's an incredible example of a story about the meaning of ones identity, the things that define a person, and love above all else. GO READ THIS BOOK! (less)