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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Challenge check-in: halfway(ish) through April

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

This is very late, but I have two excellent excuses. 1) I have tried two times to type this post and had technical difficulties, and 2) I've had alot of IRL stuff going on this week. So, here, goes. (Note: now it is even later, because with all the other glitches, the site has not been able to determine whether something is published or not!)

I have read two novels, started a loooong poem, started a book of essays, and started another novel, which I am about halfway through. I'm taking a couple of days off work this week, and I think that I may still finish everything except for the loooong poem. That will carry over into next month, and that's fine.

The poem is Paradise Lost by John Milton, widely regarded as one of the greatest literary works and one of the greatest poets in English literature, and regarded by my senior English teacher as something that I read more than 20 years ago, but we know better.

Well, I'm trying to read it now, and it's slow-going, but I'm not mad at myself. I wanted to read poetry this month, to celebrate National Poetry Month, and I've always meant to read this one that's supposed to be so amazing, and one of my reading challenges is an actual difficult challenge, that I'm calling my "stretch" challenge. Paradise Lost certainly fits that bill.

I won't go into a synopsis because it's literally hundreds of years old and almost everyone has read at least a part of it in school. I'll just say that it has been hard for me. There are long descriptions that go on until that I forget at the end what it was that he started going on about. I thought that I would read it really quickly, because mine is an old annotated edition that literally has about one inch of poem per page, surrounded by notes. I'm not reading all the notes, but it takes me forever to get through the poetry, because my mind keeps wandering. I'm in book 3 of 12 now, and I feel like I'm started to follow it better. I don't think that you read something like this once and know that you really understand it. I mean, I get the plot, but I feel like I'm missing something, but I don't mind because I feel like this is a practice round, and I won't really feel like I've read it until I've read it more than once.

The book of essays is Living With Shakespeare: Essays by Writers, Actors, and Directors, which I chose as my nonfiction book this month in honor of Shakespeare's birthday. Maybe it will talk about his sonnets and tie into poetry month too, although so far, just the plays. I'm not very far into it, but I like it. If you're a huge Shakespeare nerd, it's a good book.

I read Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell from my Goodreads list. I saw a fantastic adaptation of this back in the 90s on PBS's Masterpiece, and since it was one of the first Masterpieces that I watched and was the beginning of my obsession with period films, I've always remembered it. I have read and watched Gaskell's North and South before, and that's another fantastic adaptation. I decided that it was high time to look up an e-book of Wives and Daughters, because I already knew that we didn't have it in print at our library, and I read about it when I was re-reading Novel Interiors last month. So, anyway, I remembered the outlines of the plot from the movie, and I think it was mostly a very faithful adaptation, although they modernized the ending a bit. And, although I did enjoy it very much, there was one disparaging comment about a Jewish banker, and one of the main characters was a scientist who went off to explore Africa, so there was some fairly ignorant talk of "negros." It was set in the 1830s and written in the '60s, (Someone also referred to Africa as "a country," and several things like that.) It didn't completely destroy my enjoyment of the book, because it was secondary to the plot, and the main character didn't join in it, that I remember. But it was so strange to read it coming from characters who were otherwise intelligent, decent people.

The book is about a teenage girl named Molly whose mother died when she was very little. She and her father were very close, but when one of his pupils, who lives in their house, falls for Molly, her dad sends her away on a visit and decides that he needs to get married. While he is deciding this, Molly is getting closer with the family that she is visiting. She returns home when her father is ready to bring a stepmother into the house. The stepmother's moods and whims are a minefield for Molly. Later, a stepsister joins them. There's all kinds of drama and intrigues. A good deal of the drama that befalls Molly and her stepsister stems from the completely unreasonable expectations that people had of young women back then, and the rampant gossiping that could bring a girl's reputation down.

The ending seemed a bit weird and tacked-on, and I read in Wikipedia that the author passed away before finishing it, and someone else had to write an ending.

I read The Night Swim by Megan Golding for my alphabet challenge. This was a terribly sad book. An investigative reporter with a true-crime podcast travels to a small resort-town to cover a rape trial, and a woman reaches out to her about an older case that happened in the same community twenty-five years before. Both cases involve sexual assault of a teenage girl and the way that society punishes the victims. ***SPOILERS***In the older case, which happened in 1992, a young woman was gang-raped and then bad-mouthed by the perpetrators, turning all the other kids in the community against her. I was nearly the age of this character in 1992, and I've been trying to remember how we talked and thought about girls who were "easy." I don't think I ever would have been half as hateful as some of the people in this story, but I can remember some pretty awful things that were said and done. Things have changed alot, but I hope that they go on getting better. This is like a mystery set in a crime novel, because in the case that the reporter is covering for her podcast, there isn't much mystery, just some suspense about what the verdict will be. In the cold case, she does quite a bit of sleuthing.

I've started Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth, with illustrations by Sara Lautman, from my Goodreads list, and I like it. A mysterious book, a possible haunting, a big old scary house in New England... This is my jam.

Now, I've got to get back to reading.

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