WWW Wednesday: Re-reading Edition

This is a book blogging deal hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words which I am participating in.

My version of this today is going to be narrowed to my re-reading activity (which has been extensive of late). I’m re-reading many books from my shelves in order to remind myself of why I’m keeping them or to give myself reasons for getting rid of them. If you want to know the details of why I’ve taken this shocking course of action (trimming down my book collection) you can read my post about it here.

What am I currently re-reading?

I’m currently re-reading two books, as over the weekend I decided that the first book I started was not one I wanted to take to read on the beach. So The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson was joined in my current reading by So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger.

The Black Arrow is set in England during the Wars of the Roses and follows young Richard Shelton in his journey to avenge his father, win a fair maiden, and negotiate the houses of Lancaster and York to find some semblance of a worthy allegiance. The first time I read this book was in 2012 in the glow of discovering how much I loved Howard Pyle’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. In fact, my memory of the first time I read Arrow was so coloured by Robin Hood, that I was surprised on this read to find it is set in the time of Henry VI’s struggle to keep the throne, rather than the time of Richard the Lionheart and Prince John. What can I say? Both stories feature outlaw bands in the woods–the “jolly fellaweship” of the Black Arrow might as well be the Merry Men, dispossessed nobleman, ex-monk, archery, and all. However, at about halfway through this read, I am concurring with the opinion of Vivian, from Oscar Wilde’s “The Art of Lying,” that the story might improve with some artistic liberties taken: “There is such a thing as robbing a story of its reality by trying to make it too true, and The Black Arrow is so inartistic as not to contain a single anachronism to boast of.” So if you’re looking for a refresher on England during the Wars of the Roses, this might be a fairly reliable text, but not a very gripping fictional story. I doubt it will make it back to its former place on my shelf.

The other book I’m in the process of re-reading is Leif Enger’s So Brave, Young, and Handsome. I absolutely loved Peace Like a River by Enger, so I picked this up soon after. For some reason, I came away with the opinion that I liked Peace better. Enough so that when my sister was looking for something to read and picked up So Brave, Young, and Handsome as an item of interest, I directed her instead to Peace. She took my advice and ended up DNF-ing Peace. Now, I am re-reading BY&H, and wondering why I ever discouraged her from it in the first place. It’s about a writer looking for material for a novel, which is so #relateable that it’s not even funny. Otherwise, the feeling this story gives me is indescribable. The blurb on the back fails similarly, but I’ll include it as better than nothing: “Leif Enger’s masterful new novel follows the story of an aging train robber on a quest to settle the claims of love and judgment on his life, and the humble writer in search of inspiration who goes with him. With its smooth mix of romanticism and gritty reality, So Brave, Young, and Handsome is a voyage of redemption and renewal into the great heart of the American West.” I’m only at page 50 and I’m enthralled again. Almost for sure going back to its place beside Peace Like a River on my shelf–and maybe lent to my sister.

What did I recently finish re-reading?

I recently (in the past two months) re-read The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’Amour and No Place to Hide by Dorothy Martin.

The Lonesome Gods was part of a “100 books you should read before you die” type of challenge I did in 2014, except I challenged myself to read them in a year. I discovered there is a reason those lists have such an expansive timescheme–I hated reading that year. Every time I read something that wasn’t on the list, I felt guilty. Every time I forced myself to read something on the list when I wasn’t in the mood for it, I felt imposed upon. But, by gritting my teeth, doctoring the list, and redifining the parameters as necessary, I did finish it. (As 2014 closed out, I had read 101 books altogether, 55 of which were on the list of 100 books to read–the other 45 on the list were ones I had read previously and counted regardless.) It was a nightmare. I gave a close friend of mine, also an avid reader, permission to shoot me out of mercy if I ever compiled a book list like that again. However, I did remember liking The Lonesome Gods, a western story about a boy and the desert, trying to fight for his family and place in the world. Unfortunately it wasn’t as good the second time through, so it didn’t make it back to my shelf.

No Place to Hide is a Christian mystery/thriller novel that I really enjoyed when I was younger–I think this is my third time re-reading it. However upon re-reading this time, I couldn’t countenance the writing and the ill-disguised preaching. I can’t even genuinely judge if the mystery still stands up, because, as I said, this is at least my third read-through and I knew all the plot points before they happened. The thing that I think most impresses me about it still is how relatable the main character is–sceptical, private, imposed upon by neighbours, easily annoyed by chatty people, and just generally a longsuffering introvert who rationalizes anti-social behaviour and gets prickly when pushed. Unfortunately, a likeable MC doesn’t save the book, so this one isn’t making it back to my shelf.

What do I think I’ll re-read next?

I have several on my list, including The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, but topping it is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.

I first saw the 1983 TV mini-series of it with Jane Seymour in the role of Mary Yellan. It was so–dark. Which could be partially due to the fact that I saw it on VHS and a non-LCD TV–you definitely need to cut the lights to make out what’s happening in the dimness of the significant plot points occuring at night. But I really enjoyed the weird atmosphere and threatening mystery of this movie. And Trevor Eve as the dashing horse thief Jem Merlyn won my heart in spite of my efforts to the contrary. So of course I later read the book. Unfortunately, I don’t remember a great deal about it separately from the TV version, so I’m going to refresh my memory by re-reading it and decide whether it’s still worth shelf space.

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