This book meant a lot to me when I was younger, and it was such a pleasure to revisit it. I remember previously being very affected by the struggles a...moreThis book meant a lot to me when I was younger, and it was such a pleasure to revisit it. I remember previously being very affected by the struggles and unfairnesses in Francie's life - particularly her father's drunkenness and the fact that she loses him, the parent who loves her best.
Now that I've lived another decade and a half or so of life, I have less of a demand for life to be 'fair' and was able to focus instead more on Francie's optimism and drive: "Dear God," she prayed, "let me be SOMETHING every minute of every hour of my life." She's absolutely an inspiration, even still.
I also had a strong response to Francie's first heartbreak, something I didn't even recall from before. Francie's mom tells her that she'll be happy again and fall in love again but it will never be the same as the first time, she'll never forget, and any future man she loves will share a commonality with that first man. Thinking back on my own experience, this strikes me as somewhat true but also far less negative than it sounds. The first person I loved is unforgettable in ways that subsequent loves are not, but it's pleasant memories, despite the heartbreak, that rule.
I look forward to revisiting this novel again in another decade or so. The story is embedded in 1910s impoverished Brooklyn but its messages about the cycle of poverty, the importance of education, and the power of family and love will never lose their shine.
Themes: 1910s, Brooklyn, Irish, family, bildungsroman, love, education, poverty, women
I read this in fifth grade - possibly three or four times! It was the first book of it's kind that I had read (utopia/dystopia) and the possibility st...moreI read this in fifth grade - possibly three or four times! It was the first book of it's kind that I had read (utopia/dystopia) and the possibility stunned me. Gave my kid self a lot to think about!(less)
This is a re-read but there was actually very little I remembered from the first time I read it at 16 or 17. The themes of writing, lust, and man as b...moreThis is a re-read but there was actually very little I remembered from the first time I read it at 16 or 17. The themes of writing, lust, and man as both protector and criminal and how this affects women are very interesting. The idea that women are objectified sometimes, whether they are being protected or assaulted, is very thought-provoking. The repeating motifs of disability, fear of impending tragedy, violence, and untimely death are also more clearly for a purpose to me this time around.
I appreciate that Garp's writings are included. Since they are discussed in such detail, it's useful to have read them, and they give good insight into Garp's mindset. The first chapter of 'The World According to Bensenhaver' was especially interesting because it gave me a better sense of how Garp was coming to terms with what happened in the driveway than anything else could have.
Despite the tragic ending, I wasn't as sad as I would have anticipated. after all, this novel makes clear that death is very much just a fact of life, and the whole point of the epilogue is to show that everyone dies anyway, eventually. The last part of the book (once the 'under toad' takes over) was less engaging for me. There are fewer 'scenes' from then on and it feels like the beginning of the end - there's a lot of 'wrapping up' going.
Themes: sex, lust, infidelity, feminism, family, writing, wrestling, death, fate/omen (under toad), accident and blame, guilt, 'personal vision', fame protecting vs. victimizing women and family (less)
This is a re-read for me, and I loved it just as much this time around. However, I remember when I read this book about 8 years ago that I identified...moreThis is a re-read for me, and I loved it just as much this time around. However, I remember when I read this book about 8 years ago that I identified very much with Langston, I really loved her. This time around, I felt much more intrigued by Amos and even a little irritated by Langston. I suppose this means that I'm no longer the semi-rebellious but mostly idealistic college student I was before.
The backgrounds of the characters in this book are fascinating; Kimmel excels at building characters who are shaped by the histories she gives them in realistic ways. This novel succeeds as a character study while also being very plot-driven - something that The Used World was less successful at. This is interesting to me because The Solace of Leaving Early is Kimmel's first novel and you'd think she'd only improve.
I thoroughly enjoyed the internal philosophical and religious struggles that both Langston and Amos have, as they read, write and think. I love characters that have fantastic inner lives, and who think as much as they act and Kimmel is not afraid here to focus the reader's attention inward.
I am curious to read more of her work, though my mom told me that nothing else she's read of hers compares to The Solace of Leaving Early. Kimmel has a new novel that will come out in 2012 though that I'll probably pick up.