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July 4, 2012

Maybe reading fiction was a bad idea . . .

Filed under: Books, Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 2:19 am

Before I left Utah last summer, we had dinner with our friends the Dyers. We talked quite a bit about reading fiction because that’s a passion for Aislin, and of course, Neal. Interestingly, though, Aislin talked about how at this stage of her life (three young children and now number 4 on the way), she rarely reads fiction because she gets too quickly engrossed and bothered by interruptions. I think I sort of nodded and had a vague sense of what she was trying to say. But after my foray into North and South (recommended by Carissa and Ishkhanoohie on this post), um, I get it.

It kind of snuck up on me because initially I was forcing myself to read it rather than the 4 nonfiction books I also checked out from the library (even though I vowed to read fiction, I guess I couldn’t resist their siren call). But about 100 pages in, I was super impressed with Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing skill. And about 300 pages in, well, I was pretty much obsessed with finishing the book, ignoring pleas for food and diaper changes from my baby girl. I even tried to persuade Neal that it would be fun to stay up half the night finishing our books. I was reckless, I tell ya! But I totally escaped for a few hours (and Addison survived the deprivation), so it was worth it.

Although Gaskell’s writing didn’t have the wit and vivacity of a Jane Austen novel, I was oh-so-impressed by the breadth of issues she addressed. Loss of faith. Challenges to authority. The process of industrialization. Capitalism and market forces. Interaction between different classes. That last one was especially impressive because although Austen addresses that in a high class vs. shopkeepers sort of way, there is never much notice paid to servants. Gaskell isn’t necessarily railing against that system, but she is examining it in a way that felt distinct from other period work I’ve read. And dang it, can she write a heart-fluttering love story! I’m not ashamed to say I reread the last two pages a couple of times. I think I might have felt a little bit transported. That’s real progress!

Now I just gotta get my hands on this BBC version . . .



  1. I love love love getting into a book that totally engrosses me and as soon as I realize it is one of those rare magical ones, I feel sad because I will soon be done reading it and then I’ll never get the chance to read it for the first time ever again. So sad. Sadder that I’m admitting it!

    Comment by kei02003 — July 4, 2012 @ 2:36 am

    • Funny I just came across this

      Comment by kei02003 — July 4, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

      • That is really well put! I think all the reddit links you’ve sent me have been so interesting, but I have a really hard time getting past the formatting and user interface. Maybe if I used it more?

        Comment by llcall — July 4, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

      • My tip for delving into reddit is to use the subreddits way more than the default ones. I find the subs way more tailored to my interests and generally speaking, people seem like angsty in them 🙂

        Comment by kei02003 — July 5, 2012 @ 3:31 am

  2. I love Gaskell SO much. And that movie is incredible. Believe me, you want to see it. As well as the Wives and Daughters movie/book. It’s funny because I’ve been reading so much non-fiction lately, I actually have surprised myself and thought I need to dip back into fiction for a little while.

    Comment by Jen — July 4, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

    • I’m trying to borrow the movie from a friend this weekend, though July is so busy I have no idea when I’ll fit four hours in…but it feels like a moral imperative to try 🙂

      Comment by llcall — July 4, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

  3. Once you go black you can’t go back:-) haha. I love that Gaskill explores so many themes and that romance can blossom but it isn’t the only focus, does that make sense? I have a whole list of books that explore controversial issues and teach you something about humanity when you’re ready

    Comment by Carissa — July 4, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

  4. Just come and visit me! It’s on netflix- so if you have any friends with netflix you can hit them up. I just finished another non-fiction that I was really impressed with. It’s a quick read, “The Language of Flowers”. The main character grew up in foster homes- kind of interested to get your POV.

    Comment by Ishkhanoohie — July 5, 2012 @ 12:07 am

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