Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Well That's Not British!

I recall when I decided to join the classics book club over at 5 minutes for books that it'd be just the incentive and motivation I needed to read all of those books that a person really should read before they die.

I figured with all the novels of Austen, Dickens and Hardy alone we had a good few years worth of titles to trudge our way through.

So when I saw this last months selection was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn I thought to myself 'WHAT?' I came to the sad realisation that I am a patriotic literary snob, a fact that I had never previously discovered about myself. How could this Betty Smith woman and her book that I had never heard of in all my life be regarded as a classic?

How could it be in the same league as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre (even if it was a bit of a yawn-fest)? I almost opted out. After all nobody cares if I play along or not. But then I saw the selection for January was Hamlet. I am most definitely skipping that one.

Now don't get me wrong I don't mind some Shakespeare, the fellow was an odd looking genius and I have spent many a day visiting his hometown of Stratford Upon Avon but please oh please spare me the Monarchy and spare me the tragedies. I love Shakespeare for his comedies and his comedies alone (truly you have to watch Much ado about nothing if only for Keanu Reeves in leather pants and not a stitch else).

So not wanting to slack off for two months I decided to read A tree grows in Brooklyn. I put my British literary snobbishness aside and dove in.

The result?

Never have I been both so depressed and so inspired by the same book.

I loved it.

I also have to admit it was a welcome relief to read it after the wordiness of those Austen and Bronte chicks.

I found the character of Francie enchanting from start to finish.

I love that Sissy reaffirmed to me that we can judge people for their actions but their hearts may make them better people than we actually are.

I loved too that I came to the realisation that parenting isn't about being perfect. It is about doing the best we can to make our children's lives better than our own. Though I may not be able to meet every single one of my children's needs perfectly if I do what I can it will benefit them and they in turn will benefit their children.

As one generation passes and another is born new opportunities abound and families are the vehicles for these opportunities.

Generally when I read I give the book away when I am finished (or else our house would be a library by now) but this one I am keeping in my permanent collection.

The selection for next month is Charles Dickens:A Christmas Carol (to be read by December 2nd) so I'll happily be resuming my British literary snobbishness for that. Why not join in?

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22 lovely comments:

Julie said...

Wonderful review, Carol! You made some great points. I agree that this book was welcome after the "wordy" ones we have read before. :)

Aprille - The Muddled said...

Yea, were not completely culturally worthless. Despite all our reality TV we have some redeeming value... like Krispy Cream haha I will have to break out some selections from my american lit class for you. Also, thank you guys for Harry Potter hehe Still turning out worthwhile reading centuries after the classics were born!

Barbaloot said...

Okay-how have I not known about this Keanu in leather pants, business? I may have to go rent that movie tonight.

The White House said...

wow! Keeping it in your permanent collection? I will suggest it at my book club next month!

Jill said...

I am sooo happy you discovered "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." It is one of my favorite books as well. I LOVE LOVE LOVED it.

There are a few redeeming qualities that American authors can offer....

And I am an American snob...

:)

Mama Smurf said...

I have that book on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Just haven't gotten around to it yet. Eventually.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I am going to join!

I loved "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"--I have not read it in so long. I need to read it again!

EmmaP said...

i preferred the movie hamlet over the book, thank you very much! and good job for branching out of your british snobbiness... whew!

Nise' said...

You are too funny! But I may be skipping Hamlet with you as well. I like the comedies better too! Most of us have a Sissy in our families, at least I do.

Jen said...

This one has been on my "to be read" list for really long time. I need to bump it up to the top. Thanks for the recommendation.

Barbara H. said...

Amazing how the same book had such beauty and such ugliness -- a study in contrasts.

Beeswax said...

First of all, I am also a British literary snob, and I haven't been British for at least 4 generations. But ever since I took Romantic literature during my London study, I've been hooked. Still, I'll agree. Francie is fab. One of my favorites.

But I think I'll disagree about Much Ado. I think Michael Keaton steals the show (okay, Ken steals the show, but aren't we all tired of Ken stealing the show?) as Dogberry the Constable. If Keanu would just stand there in the leather pants, and not talk, he might be worth watching. But unfortunately, he does talk. Is so sad.

Alyce said...

Great review! I'm so glad that you liked it. This is one of my favorite books of all time.

I'm not planning on skipping Hamlet, but I was hoping for a Shakespeare play that I hadn't read before, and I've read and seen Hamlet many times. I'm sure I will still enjoy it though.

Melissa said...

have fun reading "A Christmas Carol"! That's one of my Christmas favorites!

Susan said...

I too found it odd that I had never heard of that book and yet somehow it was on a list of classics. I read it last summer and, like you, really enjoyed how deeply it affected me.

kipi said...

It was nice to read something a little easier than the "Austen and Bronte chicks" - LOL - even though P&P is probably my all-time favorite. I've only seen Much Ado once, but now I may have to rent it again! I, too, love the comedies, but Hamlet is my favorite of the tragedies.

Loved your review!

Heather J. said...

I remember first discovering this book myself - now I can't imagine not loving it! :)

Melissa said...

p.s. there's something waiting for you over on my blog!

Heidi said...

Love. Love. Love. You know I love you, and all that, but YOU CANNOT SKIP HAMLET. I'm sorry. You cannot.

Here's what you have to do: rent the Kenneth Branagh version and enjoy it the way it was meant to be: performed, by an uber-talented BRITISH actor. Seriously. Don't miss out.

Julie said...

You are reading the same books I am. I just finished A Tale of Two Cities for the first time in my life and I am now in the middle of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and am liking it.

Science PhD Mom said...

Believe it or not, I have never read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". Maybe someday--just too busy of late!!

ibeeeg said...

I really enjoyed reading your insights. Many of your insights I thought but did not put into writing as well as you.