Monday, May 10, 2010Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath
Esther Greenwood is a young woman who wants to become an author. She's trying to understand social norms for women in her generation and work out what she actually wants from her life, as opposed to what's expected of her. She feels disconnected from most of what is happening around her and the book chronicles her decent into mental illness.
I read this for the first time as a teen. Rereading it now was an interesting experience. I identified more the main character when I was younger, but I had a better understanding of the wider scope of the message this time around. Also, Esther's struggle with embracing motherhood had a bigger impact on me this time, now that having kids doesn't seem impossibly far away. I knew Plath committed suicide, but I didn't know until recently that it was only a month after this was published.
by Jane Yolen
Becca's grandmother Gemma has told her the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty (Briar Rose) her whole life. When Gemma passes away Becca realizes that her family barely knew anything about her past. She begins a search to uncover the secrets of her own heritage and in doing so finds the truth woven into the fairy tale story.
This brilliant retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale broke my heart. I was hooked from the first pages. It combines elements of the classic story with real facts about the Holocaust. Then weaves other important issues into the fold, prejudice, cowardice, homosexuality, wartime heroes, sibling relationships, the importance of knowing your history and the power of stories. I loved the characters and though the subject matter is obviously difficult, the story is so well done that I still enjoyed reading it. I know this is one that I will be rereading in the future.
Rip Van Winkle
by Washington Irving
Rip Van Winkle is a man who lives with his family in the Catskill Mountains before the American Revolutionary War. One day he escapes his nagging wife by going up into the mountains. He shares a few drinks of liquor with a stranger he meets and falls asleep under a tree. He awakes to find that 20 years have past, a revolution has taken place and his wife has died. His grown daughter takes him in. It's a quirky short story, but not one that was terribly impressive. As a side note, I had no idea that Irving was considered the first American short story writer (with this story and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow).