ELLE’S READING CHALLENGE – MAY PART 1

We’re only 10 days into May, but I’ve stepped up my reading – it’s becoming a bit of a nervous habit! Therefore I thought I’d best record my thoughts on the books I’ve completed so far this month, pigs and death were the main themes!

First up Charlotte’s Web:

I read this in its entirety on a train from Middlesbrough back to Chester and got a couple of odd looks as an adult reading a children’s book in public. Had it been Harry Potter no one would have batted an eyelid but somehow a Dick King Smith classic is another story. However I had no make up on and glasses so I looked about 14 and sort of Eastern European (no  one knows why!) so they probably thought I was improving my English!

That aside I’m all for adults reading or re-reading children’s books as many of the most poignant, thrilling and all-round brilliant literature was originally written for children.

As a child I must have read Charlotte’s Web almost weekly, which had the effect of making me very briefly vegetarian (ironically the only meat I really ate at the time was ham or pork sausages), making me want to live on a farm and giving me a respect and affection for spiders. The latter is the only thing that has lasted.

Perhaps it was the industrious, kind and clever Charlotte which taught me that spiders are not only necessary to keep the bug population down, but also what a remarkable animal they are.

Reading as an adult I also keenly felt Charlotte’s sense of loss and sadness tinged with triumph as she realised she would never see her children, but had given them the best start she could. All this for a common spider.

The themes of friendship, kindness, working together, sincerity and ‘be yourself and people will love you for it’ are lovely sentiments to form a children’s book, and of course the book also deals with the cycle of life in a way that is honest and sensitive to its young readers. If you’ve never read it, I urge you to, be you 8 or 80, the themes are universal and the writing is exquisite.

Lord of the Flies:

A very different book featuring pigs.

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is an iconic piece of literature, used as a warning as to what happens when civilisation breaks down, it’s a tale of children losing not just their innocence but their very humanity. I knew the story but had never read the book before and I couldn’t put it down. By turns horrifying, heartwarming, dark and desperate, Lord of the Flies is the ‘must read’ everyone tells you it is. Golding lures the reader in with picturesque settings and tales of boyhood adventures so you almost ignore the underlying sense of danger which is present from the start. Then, like a master conductor, he skillfully manipulates the reader through a series of increasingly violent and disturbing incidences to a tragic and terrifying conclusion which stays with you long after you close the book. One word review? – masterful.

Death of a Salesman:

It’s always difficult to read a play as your brain has to fill in the blanks and try to visualise the stage directions, luckily for me I have a very visual brain and can usually do so. However I have to admit it was difficult to follow Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, perhaps partly due to the fact that I was reading it sporadically in my lunch breaks, but also due to the time hops in the story.

Again, I was aware of the basic narrative but have never seen or read the play so wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this one but it’s certainly emotive.

Miller’s play studies the sense of futility felt by someone who is out of time and place and simply isn’t equipped to evolve beyond who they have always been.

Willy Loman is disappointed with how his life has turned out, the reality of his limitations and those of his sons, but mostly he can’t understand why the world has changed around him and left him behind. His sons all put on a front and his wife loves him fiercely and unconditionally but senses it’s not enough.

The conclusion seems inevitable (not just because of the title) and captures the utter meaninglessness waste of suicide from the perspective of those left behind. Depressing but deftly constructed Death of a Salesman is an important piece but not one to read if you’re struggling with anything.

So there you have it, May’s reading so far.

I should say my mum is also undertaking this challenge, reading the books as I finish them, but I’d be interested to hear from anyone else ‘Reading like Rory’, be they Gilmore Girls fans or just avid readers.

331 to go!

Keep reading!

 

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