Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Catherine by April Lindner

Let me begin by saying that Wuthering Heights  has never been one of my favorite books.  I think it was always just too dark and a little messed up for me.  Even in high school when we are all supposed to be so moody and deep it was too much for me.  I always felt like there were some very strange relationships in the book, especially with Catherine and her brother Hindley.  It could also be the persistent desire for revenge throughout the novel that grated on me.  Whatever it was, I could never say I enjoyed reading it.
That said, I just finished reading Catherine by April Lindner, the author of Jane, another book I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed.  Like Jane , Catherine  is a modern retelling of a classic book, in this case Wuthering Heights .  This novel is told through two perspectives, Catherine's and her daughter Chelsea's, separated by two decades.  Honestly I did not expect to enjoy this book and had initially passed it by with no intention of reading it.  I'm so glad that I changed my mind.  While the themes remain consistent with the original, the updating of the situations make it a fun read.  Catherine falls in love with Hence (Heathcliff) and her brother Quentin (Hindley) hates him and blames him for taking away his father's love.  Catherine and Hence fight and split up.  She later marries someone else and has a daughter. Chelsea (Cathy).  Chelsea grows up believing her mother died, but sets out to find the truth.  This leads her to Hence where she discovers her mother's diary and learns so much about Catherine as a young woman. 
Reading a novel while knowing how it ends is an interesting experience.  In this case, I found myself still hoping it would turn out differently.  I kept wishing for the happy ending that was so elusive in my high school English class.  I commend Ms. Lindner for staying so true to the original story. A lesser writer might be tempted to change the events or add more salacious details and she resisted that.  I am hoping that Ms. Lindner will continue to write either more classic retellings or her own stories. 
So how do you feel about the classics being retooled?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

One Mississippi by Mark Childress

Have you ever gotten to the end of a book and thought to yourself, "That was messed up"?  That was pretty much how it went for me today.  At first, I was really enjoying One Mississippi by Mark Childress, our book club selection for August.  The book begins as a kind of coming of age novel about a sixteen-year-old boy, Daniel, who has just moved to Minor, Mississippi, from Indiana.  He has to make new friends and adjust to the culture of the deep south that is so new to him. 
Daniel begins school and feels lucky to have found a new friend.  "All you need is one friend who makes you laugh, who laughs at the same  things you do.  Almost at once I knew Tim Cousins would be my friend....He enjoyed making fun of everything as much as I did.  Right there on the first day of school, we formed a team, just the two of us." 
I was less than 100 pages into the novel when I started having an unsettled feeling and it continued throughout most of the book.  Something bad happens and the way the boys handle it worries me.  One wants to tell the truth, one wants to pin the blame on someone else entirely.  I just knew something bad was going to happen and I just kept waiting for it like waiting for the other shoe to drop.  As the story progresses, more and more anxiety just piled onto the heap, finally peaking with a huge disaster.  I won't give away more than that, but I will say that once I saw what was coming the sense of foreboding was almost unbearable. 
On the front cover of my copy of this book is a recommendation from renowned author Stephen King.  He says, "Funniest novel I have read in ten years!"  Really?  This was the funniest novel he has read in ten years?  I will admit that I have never read any Stephen King because his genre doesn't appeal to me at all.  I have no interest in reading horror novels.  Perhaps our distinct differences in taste account for him thinking this novel was funny and me thinking it was a tragedy.  I know I laughed at parts of the book, but once I got to the end and noticed King's quote on the front of the book, I suddenly couldn't remember any of the funny parts.  To me it just felt disturbing.  Maybe I worry too much.  Maybe the humor was just too dark for me. 
Have you read One Mississippi?  What did you think?