Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Reading for Renewal and Childhood Obsessions Revisited

The Sunday

For the past few weeks I've been waking up early. By early I mean between 4 and 5 in the morning. I've actually been enjoying my early days. It gives me a chance to prepare for work with no harried rush and I have a chance to start my day doing things I love.  I've baked, written, stitched and blogged, but my favorite activity, reading, is by far the most wonderful way to start the day.

I've had a really tough time at work lately.  The tension in the air is palpable and we are dealing with impossible deadlines.  For some reason waking up at 4 in the morning, creeping downstairs, brewing some coffee, and reading Villette has been my salvation.  When my reading time is up, I feel cleansed, renewed. 

Early on in Villette we find the heroine, Lucy Snowe, completely alone.  She has no family, has lost touch with her godmother, and her employer -- the wealthy Miss Marchmont -- dies a day before leaving Lucy a vast amount of fortune. Lucy, bravely, sets off for London to find employment.  Fully aware that she is quite alone in the world, Lucy, nonetheless, feels a sense of freedom.  On her first day in London she wakes up in an inn and looks out of the window at the vastness and grandeur of London:  "While I looked, my inner self moved; my spirit shook its always-fettered wings half loose; I had a sudden feeling as if I, who had never yet truly lived, were at last about to taste life..." (Chapter 6, page 52).  Frankly, that is precisely how I feel when I read.  I'm able to be myself, throw off any constraints, and live.  Some wiser persons may feel that living through books is not healthy, I say that living through books helps me to survive the nasty parts of life and relish the good things.

This is my second time reading Villette, I read the novel in college when I was supposed to be reading post-modern theory (bleh).  I did that quite a bit in college, I read what I wanted and ignored assignments!  I remembered that I loved Villette, but I didn't recall much of the plot.  This reading is far more rich and engaging.

The other book I'm reading at the moment is Frost in May by Antonia White.  Frost in May is about Nanda Grey, a convert to Catholicism experiencing Catholic boarding school for the first time.  She is at the Convent of the Five Wounds, the nuns range from the sympathetic to harsh, and Nanda is both comically and pitifully pious.  This book recalls one of my childhood obsessions with Catholicism.  I grew up in Northeast Georgia as a Southern Baptist and Catholics always seems so exotic!  I spent a portion of my girlhood wishing I could be Catholic, partly because it would give me a chance to learn Latin and partly because I was equally obsessed with Mary Queen of Scots.  Now that I'm all grown up and solidly against organized religion, I find that I still have a soft spot for Catholic novels.  These same memories occurred when I read Brideshead RevisitedIn fact, I would consider Frost in May a young girl's Brideshead Revisited.

My goal for this week is to finish Frost in May and at least get through half of Villette.  I need to start and finish a library book with a fast approaching due date -- Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont -- and start on A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book.

Happy Reading!


Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Sounds as if the early morning reading (and this particular book) is exactly what you need right now with all the work turmoil. Sorry to hear of all the stress (I'm right there with you).

readerbuzz said...

Ugh. Work turmoil. Yes. Continue to combat work turmoil with delightful mornings.

Thank you for the heads up on the Bronte novel. Sounds lovely.

Amateur Reader said...

I read Villette last summer with the group at The Valve. I was shocked at how good the book was - how complicated it was.

It does some things with that narrator that seem unprecedented, for the time, and for decades to come.

Clover said...

Reading is definitely the best way to start the day. Especially if things are hectic with work. I hope things get better!

I've always meant to read Villette. Maybe the next time I go to the library I'll pick it up!

Andi said...

Speaking of the ever-lovely Bronte sisters, I just started looking over The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I happened to see it at the library, and I snatched it up. Enjoy your early mornings. Mine aren't quite as early as yours, but I enjoy the solitude in the house nonetheless.

mel u said...

"Some wiser persons may feel that living through books is not healthy, I say that living through books helps me to survive the nasty parts of life and relish the good things."-beautifully said-I agree for sure

Amanda said...

You all are such kindred spirits!

Amanda said...

Amateur Reader - I'm actually reading this book with a group. We've read The Mill on the Floss and now Villette. All of this to build up to Virginia Woolf's The Waves and To the Lighthouse. The narrator's voice is playing large role in establishing an idea of the "British Feminist Novel." Interesting stuff!

saveophelia said...

Amen to reading whatever the heck you want in college. I'm so nervous to go back because I really enjoy the reading time and quite frankly, all of the free time that I have now.

I'm looking forward to your review of Villette - it's been on my list for some time - and I can't even remember who put it there. It'll be great to have a refresher.

Amateur Reader said...

As a brand new college professor, none to sure about what he's doing, I have to say:

Please, kids, do not read whatever the heck you want. Read what I tell you to! Otherwise, I'm in trouble.