Imagine: you’ve read a book and immediately disliked it or maybe you loved it. But a week, or a month, or a year down the line, you realise you were totally wrong about it.
Today, I want to talk about re-evaluating books. Those books you now view completely different, whether that be a newfound appreciation or a blossoming hatred for them. With me, I tend to acknowledge their value a little too late. It could be four years down the line (not uncommon) and I’ll suddenly realise it’s a really great book, despite having disliked it at first. Either that or I pressure myself into enjoying a book because everyone else is loving it. It’s not until later I realise it totally wasn’t my style and didn’t warrant a high rating from me.
It’s these types of books I want to discuss today!
GOODBYE TO BERLIN BY CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD:
Christopher Isherwood’s famous collection of short stories detail the rise of Nazism in the glamorously decadent Berlin society. I really disliked this book. I felt like the stories dragged; they didn’t really fit with each other; and the characters were utterly dull. However, I started to view this book in a completely different light after writing a three-thousand word essay on it for uni. I started to see the little intricacies that connected the stories; I started to notice the little techniques Isherwood incorporated; and I realised the bigger issues Isherwood was commenting on.
My main issue was the ambiguity. Christopher, the narrator, distanced himself from the story, never allowing me to discover his true personality. I once hated this, but now I find it the most compelling thing about the collection. Isherwood identifies with Christopher, even though in his preface he tells us this is not the case. Not only are the named the same, but both have similar experiences (definitely check out Isherwood’s later novel, Christopher and His Kind for reassurance on this). The ambiguity is justified. Isherwood penned these stories in the hostile climate of Nazi Berlin; a society that condemned homosexuals, threatening to place them in concentration camps if discovered. He could not admit to his sexuality as it could have potentially landed him in trouble.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS BY EMILY BRONTË:
As a Brontë lover, you’d be surprised to learn I wasn’t keen on Wuthering Heights when I first read it. The framing of the plot made no sense to me; the actual plot was confusing and coarse; the characters were disagreeable and hateful; and the ending was unsatisfying. My original rating of this was 3 stars, if I remember correctly. I just couldn’t get my head around it. The only reason I gave it a decent rating was because Emily made me feel such strong emotions from just words on a page. It wasn’t until the second time I read Wuthering Heights that I really started to appreciate it.
I’m very much of the opinion that Wuthering Heights is a book you need to read twice. I don’t think it can charm everyone straight away. One must read it, feel distaste, then read it again. By reading it twice, you can look past the plotline and the characters and focus more on Emily’s intentions. Heathcliff is a hateful character, but he is also a vehicle to explore the toxicity of the patriarch and the limitations they place on women (e.g. the property laws not allowing them to own land once married). Catherine was a spoiled and inconsistent character, but she embodied the struggle women faced in the nineteenth century; she married for advancement, to gain social and financial security, rather than marrying for love. To every character is a deeper meaning than what is on the surface.
Upon read it the second time, I started to value the Romantic side of the story. Nature pretty much guided everything. At one point, Catherine was so overwhelmed by returning to the wild moors in a dream she cried. The moors represented the wild, toxic and demonic love of Heathcliff and Catherine. When you look beyond the words on the page, and look for Emily’s intentions, the novel really grows on you.
MILK AND HONEY BY RUPI KAUR:
Milk and Honey was at its peak when I read it. Everyone was reading it; and everyone was loving it. I definitely think the reviews I read, and the literary phenomena surrounding the collection, swayed my opinion of it. I thought the poems were thought-provoking, meaningful and utterly powerful. Don’t get me wrong, I still think this. Kaur wrote these in response to things she has experienced, which I can’t take away from her. But, as I have branched out in poetry genre, I no longer view this as ‘good’ poetry.
I am not a fan of modern poetry in particular, and I’m definitely not a fan of this new style of poetry. I can see the poetic value but I feel like it doesn’t capture the full extent of what poetry can do. I feel like hitting enter after a few words on a line reduces the act of writing poetry to very little. I just find this style of poetry very unconvincing. I do not mean to offend anyone when I say this; poetry is subjective, and you can write it how you want, but personally I don’t like it.
…isn’t is strange how a little bit of reflection, or perhaps educating yourself on the context of a novel, can really change your mind on it? A book can be the most perfect thing in that moment, but a few weeks later and it doesn’t hold that same affect anymore. Think: I could have read Jane Eyre a year earlier than I did and I could have hated it. But it came to me at the right time.
Is there any books that you’ve changed your mind on? Any ‘old favourites’ you wish to share? I’d love to discuss it with you!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X