I read this book first as a teenager. It came up as the selection for my moms club book group this month, and I thought I'd like to re-read it. I reca...moreI read this book first as a teenager. It came up as the selection for my moms club book group this month, and I thought I'd like to re-read it. I recall enjoying the book as an adolescent, but I think at that time I was reading more for meaning than the pleasure of reading (especially since I read it as a school assignment). Now as an adult, a mother, a more mature reader, and as someone who spent a fair chunk of her adult life in the American South, I have a new appreciation for the depth of Lee's genius in this work.
The writing is melodious. I luxuriated in the construction of her sentences, which hold layers of intricate meaning. The characters are human; they have complex motivations and make embarrassing gaffes like the rest of us do. Reading this book, I have clear images of Maycomb and its inhabitants. This for me is one of the tests of a "good book." I want to feel part of the cast of characters, and I absolutely feel a part of this town.
A scene that I had forgotten as a teen but which moved me nearly to tears reading it as an adult was when Scout approaches the crowd outside the jail. With relatively few words, Lee conveys fear, embarrassment, relief, pride, love, anger, and, for me, a sense of the ability of humans to redeem themselves simply by acting human.(less)
As someone who often feels out of place despite having lived in the US my entire life, I appreciated reading Bryson's take on coming home after two de...moreAs someone who often feels out of place despite having lived in the US my entire life, I appreciated reading Bryson's take on coming home after two decades in the UK. I also appreciate knowing that I may as well not ever try to watch cricket.(less)
Wow. I admit that I was tepid about this book much of the way through it. Still I read on, gripped by the story in spite of myself. The ending, howeve...moreWow. I admit that I was tepid about this book much of the way through it. Still I read on, gripped by the story in spite of myself. The ending, however, was phenomenal, and after reading it, I felt all the pieces I thought hadn't fit together well throughout the book just kind of slide into place.
I particularly like the idea that there is an invisible barrier between the awful thoughts we might have and our actions, and that the most terrifying thought is the reality that there truly is no barrier. I remember having a feeling like this when I first got my drivers license and I realized that there was really nothing keeping me from driving off the road. Around the same teenage time, I remember sitting in a quiet class and thinking there was nothing keeping me from just screaming. I never drove off the road and I never screamed in class, and until reading this book, I never thought of why exactly it was I hadn't.(less)
When I read this in elementary school, I found it very boring. But then, what could a child addicted to television find appealing about "playing Pilgr...moreWhen I read this in elementary school, I found it very boring. But then, what could a child addicted to television find appealing about "playing Pilgrims"? As a grown-up homeschooling mom, I found the book delightful. I read this just after reading almost all of Jane Austen's novels and the contrast was quite refreshing. The March girls are just the kinds of heroines I want my daughter to emulate. They are real characters with real faults that they are able to overcome through sincere effort. They are brave and daring young women who are not saved by marriage, nor is making a financially advantageous match their first goal when choosing a mate. Marriage in this book is just what I hope I'm modeling for my children: a partnership based on mutual love and respect, and held together through loving compromise rather than sacrifice by one party or the other.
This book was also particularly interesting after having learned more about the intellectual and spiritual culture of New England during the second half of the 19th century.(less)
Telling this story from the perspective of a 9-year-old boy really gives Foer a lot of freedom to explore the types of "off-the-wall" thoughts a lot o...moreTelling this story from the perspective of a 9-year-old boy really gives Foer a lot of freedom to explore the types of "off-the-wall" thoughts a lot of us (I think) have when trying to make sense of tragedy. As grown-ups, I think we censor our thoughts or tend to try to reason our way out of grief. Oskar doesn't try to reason his way out of his grief. He just tries to arrange his world so it makes some sort of sense after something far beyond understanding happens. It's not surprising that this way of organizing his world looks strange to those not inside his grief.
Layered in with Oskar's story is the story of his grandparents and their response to the fire-bombing of Dresden when they were teenagers. There's a comment here about the long-term ramifications of not finding a way to deal with one's grief or perhaps simply about the length of time it can take to find a way to live with grief and with a reality that is incongruous with what we think we know about the world.
I stayed up late and finished this book in one day (and night), something I haven't done since I became a mother because in most circumstances, sleep has been more important than finishing a story. I'm going to try to read books that are less engaging for the next couple of months so I can catch up on my shut-eye.(less)