30 Day Book Challenge: Day 16!

With an unexpected day off again tomorrow – thanks to an unwell child, poor thing! – it is possible that I may be able to catch up a day or two! Maybe.

But today’s challenge is to name a 

book you’ve read more than once.

Now, this is a tricky one. If we look at books I read for work, then there are so many I have read time and time again: Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and Much Ado About Nothing; An Inspector CallsA Christmas Carol… 

But that seems cheating somehow. I think the challenge is to select a book I have chosen to read again.

And that really narrows it down.

I very rarely re-read books. I hoard them after reading them, true; I will run my fingers over their spines and dwell on them again; I will linger over them. But I rarely go back to them. I find, when I have, that I remember them too clearly! The events of the books, obviously, but also where in the book, how far down the page things occur. Even the type face. It’s usually a good thing: I can start a book and return to it weeks, even months, later and find that – within a heartbeat – I’d be able to pick it up again, straight away, as if there’d been no break in reading it.

What I might offer up are either The Rehearsal, the debut novel by Eleanor Catton who won the Man Booker with The Luminaries, and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, both of which I have read and listened to as audiobooks.

The Goodreads summary of the novel, for me, misses the point where the deliciously subversive saxophone teacher’s relationship with her pupils is the core of the novel: enigmatic, tender, seductive, toxic and wonderful simultaneously.

All the world’s a stage – and nowhere is it that more true than at an all-girls high school, particularly one where a scandal has just erupted. When news spreads of a high school teacher’s relationship with his underage student, participants and observers alike soon take part in an elaborate show of concern and dismay. But beneath the surface of the teenage girls’ display, there simmers a new awareness of their own power. They obsessively examine the details of the affair with the curiosity, jealousy, and approbation native to any adolescent girl, under the watchful eye of their stern and enigmatic saxophone teacher, whose focus may not be as strictly on their upcoming recital as she implies. 

Goodreads

For American Gods, again the summary is brief and terse for such an ambitious and rich narrative – not without its flaws and pacing issues – but still wonderful.

Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what – and who – it finds there…

Putting these two novels side-by-side like that and feeling somewhat obligated to make a choice between them, I would choose the Catton any day of the week. It was a thoughtful, artful book which could have failed so abominably – I mean it was touted with the word experimental on the cover and for me, generally, an experimental book is likely to be greeted as enthusiastically as the critics greet a deconstructed dish on MasterChef! – I could have failed so abominably but it maintained its balance between the real, the constructed, the perceived worlds so beautifully; it explored a coming of age and a growing into sexuality  without sentiment, cliche or sensationalism; it created the cliquey closeness of the school almost palpably. It was, bluntly, beautiful.

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