~ Not all books, or literary opinions, are created equal. ~
This is something that I’ve more than learned over the years. Throughout my journey as a student of English, I was exposed to a number of different literary texts, from classic novels to poetry to memoirs and everything in between. Some of them I absolutely loved, some I despised and could barely get through, and others I felt entirely neutral about. What I also discovered during each one of my classes is that readers’ opinions about certain texts can vary so widely. I’ve never been a fan of American literature, it’s just not my thing, but I sat in an American literature seminar during my Master’s with students who absolutely lived and breathed it, with fellow cohorts who couldn’t stand the idea of delving into one of Dickens’ long and winding works but who were more than comfortable nestled in the pages of Huckleberry Finn (which I have yet to read and probably never will). Each person’s preference is dependent on what they enjoy reading, on the sorts of narratives they identify with, but is also influenced by the works they have encountered in the past and by the representations of various themes and ideas that they have become accustomed to in literature and have begun to ascribe to. I’m a fan of the swooping romances of the Victorian era, and that made it very difficult for me to get into some of the more cynical and less emotional American “romances” I encountered; other people find Victorian literature too grandiose and detailed, and prefer texts that are more straightforward and stripped down. To each their own – a motto every reader should live by!
So, believe me when I say that my take on the novel I am currently reading (albeit slowly) is shaped entirely by the works I have encountered in the (not so distant) past. I mentioned in last week’s post that I’m chugging along through Emily Giffin’s newest novel First Comes Love. I talked a lot about the fact that I am less than enthusiastic about it – I’ve read other books by Giffin, which I enjoyed well enough, but this one isn’t speaking to me or intriguing me in quite the same way. I mentioned that I was struggling to pick quotes to post on my Twitter page for my #JNGReads initiative, and I was a little fed up with myself for it. But, then I realized that I shouldn’t be frustrated by my lack of enthusiasm for a novel because perhaps that says more about my tastes and preferences than about my ability to be a good reader. As I said above, every reader has his or her own literary loves, and if this particular work by Giffin isn’t one of mine, so be it. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.
What did bother me, though, and what made me feel like I was letting you all down is the fact that I used this as an excuse not to tweet any quotes and not to share my opinions with you about the novel, however nonchalant they are. I almost didn’t write a blog post last week but then I felt so guilty about that and decided to write one later in the evening. I realized that, despite how bored or uninterested a novel might make me, it is still necessary to talk about it, to share my feelings on it and get my opinions out there. That is the ultimate purpose of this blog that I so adore, after all!
So this week, I decided on a new tactic. There weren’t any quotes from First Comes Love that I was dying to share, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t find something to post. I chose to flip randomly through the book, stop on a page I had already read, and pick a quote from that page, to give you all a sense for just what the feel of the novel is. I must admit, I forgot to do this on Thursday and Friday, which is testament to the fact that none of the quotes I chose really inspired me all that much. But, I made up for it on Saturday by posting a few quotes, and I’ll rewrite some of them here so you can all get a sense for how the novel is written…
“I couldn’t stand him, and I made the mistake of telling her as much – which almost always backfires.”
“But I remind myself that modest interest is no longer my thing.”
“If only it had been me…then my parents would still have a daughter to spare.”
– First Comes Love, Emily Giffin
Here are three entirely random quotes from Giffin’s novel. They pretty accurately represent the struggle I am having with the novel because they each address a specific theme or idea in a way that I don’t feel is that unique or interesting. For example, the first two quotes talk about love and relationships, which is one of my favourite topics. However, I don’t feel that they say anything groundbreaking or unique about this topic. I’ve read novels recently, such as Katie Cotugno’s How To Love, that take stereotypical, routine opinions and describe them in unique and meaningful ways. I don’t feel that Giffin does that in this book, and the feelings that her characters articulate, while relatable, aren’t described in a manner that would be memorable to the reader. The same can be said for the last quote, which discusses the difficulties of grieving. I feel like Giffin is touching on something profound with this statement that someone can feel guilty that they weren’t the child who died, but she sort of presents this opinion blatantly and then moves on from it quickly without delving further into the psychological implications. I still have a ways to go to finish the novel, so I hope something really exciting will happen in the conclusion, but I’m just not at the point where I think that’s likely.
Anyway, there you have it, a simple review of what I’m reading. I hope this week of reading will pick up and that I’ll be able to turn my feelings around and have something amazing to report to you soon!
Girl with a Green Heart