Jan 2013 month of rereadingWell, this is a bit of an odd Month of Re-Reading post. One book isn’t a re-read at all, but I started it in December and couldn’t bear to skip over it for a whole month (Tony Blair is, however, languishing unread for the duration). The other, dear readers, is A Mistake. Find out why later on …

George Eliot “Daniel Deronda”

(21 January 2012 – from Bridget)

A lovely Everyman edition – I was going to keep it for best and read the text on my Kindle, then I thought better of it, took the cream dust jacket off it and got stuck in.

An amazing book. Given that “Middlemarch” is one of my favourite books ever, I’m not sure why I have never read any of Eliot’s other novels. That will now change. I couldn’t put this book down throughout its 900 pages.

It’s the story of Daniel Deronda, of course, with whom we rather fall in love, as he works his way rather circuitously towards finding his roots. Even though Eliot clearly loves him, too, she draws a rounded character so he never becomes annoying, even when being saintly (there are some great bits about how annoying it is when everyone looks on you like a saint and never asks how you are!), and his interactions with the proud Gwendolyn, a rather Hardyesque character, I felt, are full of feeling and goodness.

Eliot leads us cleverly through the clues and hints, never letting us get lost or confused by the large cast of characters, and I was enthralled at the depictions of different characters, classes, genders, levels of morality, sibling relationships and indeed races. Although she uses the dreaded word, “Jewess”, not a word that is found acceptable nowadays, George Eliot is firmly on the side of the Jewish characters, and examines conscious and unconscious anti-Semitism with a clear eye.

My only criticism is that I could have done with a few notes to explain some of the more contemporary and obscure references. But how lovely to find a book I know I will return to again and again!

Jenny Diski – “Skating to Antarctica”

(26 February 1998)

My first Month of Re-reading dud! But wait: it’s only the wrong blooming book! The one I meant to read was Sara Wheeler’s “Terra Incognita”. I had even had a conversation about this with a friend in a cafe in December, when I dredged her name out of the back of my mind.

I only realised it was the wrong one when I was part way through, so I persisted, as it was a fairly short book and quick read. This was an odd mixture of Antarctic travel – which did have its interest and good descriptions – and early misery memoir, describing a seriously odd upbringing, her attempts to find more about that from her old neighbours, and several bouts of mental illness and hospitalisation, which all made for decidedly uncomfortable reading!

In fact, I’m surprised I kept it, and will be deaccessioning it now. Here’s my unrevealing review from my first read in March 1998 (oh for the days where I read books a mere month after acquiring them!)

A great book, about her relationship with her parents and self, seen through a trip to Antarctica. Combines self-examination and emotional/intellectual rigour with good, classic travel writing.

——

I’m currently working my way through the Susan Cooper “Dark is Rising” sequence, about to start the third volume. I have had to derail from re-reading again, as I have a LibraryThing Early Reviewers book to read and review by the end of the month, but I’m 68% of the way through that (an e-book, as you may have guessed) and once that’s done I’m off to Casterbridge with Thomas Hardy!

Are you taking part in the Month of Re-Reading? Do tell me all about it!