Friday 23 July 2010

On re-reading old friends

I wonder whether I'm alone in finding that some books which I used to love no longer hold the same attraction? This can be very disappointing; a bit like going off a lover you thought you'd be with for life. My worst disappointment was The Forsyte Saga. In my early twenties, I absolutely adored this book, which runs into several volumes, and which I took everywhere with me until I'd finished it (them). But on trying it again a few years ago on holiday, I couldn't even get through the first chapter. What on earth had I seen in it which was no longer there? I will never know.

But some novels - reassuringly - elicit the same response from me as they ever did. I re-read Emma recently (for the umpteenth time, it has to be said), and still love it, and Sense and Sensibility was just as silly as I'd thought it was when I read it in my teens. And favourite children's books still hold their magic: The Secret Garden, Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, Little Women. It seems that it's the books I read in my teens and early adulthood that seem different. Or maybe it's just that I am...


  1. "Emma" survives even for (and possibly especially for) the most jaded. ("P&P" holds up pretty well, too.)

    "Emma" is one of those odd books like "Candide," which manages to be postmodern even though modern hadn't been invented yet. Amazing trick, that.

    "Tristram Shandy" would fall into that category, too, if the language and pacing weren't so dated.

  2. I tried Tristram Shandy years agao, and couldn't get through it. Must try again. The only thing I remember (with affection) is his mother asking his father (during his conception ) "have you not forgot to wind the clock?" Women obviously don't change much.

    I agree about P&P. It's got everything.