Thursday, December 22, 2016

Potpourri of Classics

Now that we're in the final days of 2016 and Christmas and post-Christmas vacation to Florida are looming, I'm trying to tie up loose ends.  Here are some reviews of classics read in 2016 for the Back to the Classics Challenge that I didn't get around to reviewing when I read them.

For the 20th century classic category...

By the Shores of Silver Lake, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Earlier in the year I read Pioneer Girl, the original source material for the Little House series and was inspired to reread one of my favorites in the series, By the Shores of Silver Lake.  There is so much that I love about this book.  We get to experience what it was like for the Laura and her sisters and mother to ride a train for the first time, we get to experience life in a railroad shanty town and see the railroad being built, and we get to see a town being built out of nothing but prairie.

This book sets the stage for the rest of the series--we meet Mr. and Mrs. Boast and the Wilder brothers, and we learn about the landscape, the Big Slough, the lakes, and the winters.  I love the time the Ingalls spend in the surveyors house, I love Laura and Carrie sliding on the ice under the watchful gaze of the moon and the wolves, and I love hopefulness and energy that pervades the book along with the feeling of finally being home.

For the reread of a classic read in high school or college...

Emma, by Jane Austen

I read Emma first when I was in high school but it was for fun and not for school.  I read it next for a English lit survey class in college (Austen to Dickens - we also read Bleak House, Vanity Fair, and something else that slips my mind just now).

When I was young, I didn't care for Emma Woodhouse, and saw her, as so many do, as snobbish, meddling, and trivial.  I appreciated the novel Emma, though, and always enjoyed reading about the artistry of Austen in developing the story and keeping the reader and Emma in the dark about what was really going on with Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, Mr. Elton and Harriet, and Mr. Knightley.

I did find, however, that as I got older and reread Emma, I grew to like Emma Woodhouse and see her for the kind, generous, well-intentioned, very young woman she was.  Yes, she was blind and self-centered, but she outgrew her immaturity in the course of her story.

I love the biting wit of Austen as well as insights and reflections on the plight of women, the vagaries of luck, and the strength of friends and family and community.

I've lost count as to the number of times I've read Emma, but I never get tired of it.  I know I shall read it again!


  1. I was just pondering which Austen I should read in 2017. Maybe Emma...

    I'm always apprehensive to start an Austen b/c it requires commitment; and I agree that a reread often provides a renewed outlook to characters and plot. I struggled with Mansfield Park last month, but I know I need to revisit it to truly experience it. I should just reread it for 2017, but I also want to read Emma and Northanger Abbey. Hmmm...

  2. I am not sure what it says about me, but I have always liked Emma! I can't stand the milquetoast Fanny from Mansfield Park and I don't really like Anne from Persuasion either because she is so passive. Emma is interesting because of her flaws, I think. Who knows, however, what I might feel if I were to re-read Persuasion or MP...maybe I would feel more empathy the second time around!