May was a slow month for reading, but I am hoping things will pick up now that summer has arrived. In warm weather, I love to curl up on the deck with a good book and a glass of lemonade.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
I spent the better part of the month dragging my feet with this book: only reading at work or to fill the time when I could find nothing better to do. Of the Jane Austen novels I have read, this was the least appealing and most tedious of the bunch. Yes, this book has more characters than the majority of her other novels, but these characters are largely unlikeable and predictable. The novel itself is slow moving and I found only two or three instances when I could truly feel for the characters.
I am still not entirely sure how I feel about the main character, Fanny. There were points within the novel where I admired her and others where I wanted to jump into the pages of the book and strangle her. Fanny is very timid, shy, and eager to stay out of the way of the other characters within the novel. I guess all I can really say about her is that Austen does a splendid job of writing a main character that is weak, rather than the strong-willed characters of many novels.
Overall, there is not much I want to say about this novel. I did not enjoy it.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
My reading took a turn for the better last week when I picked up Watership Down by Richard Adams. The story follows a group of rabbits who, after a vision of doom for their warren, strike out to find a safe place to make a new home. Along the way they face various dangers from predators, befriend a bird and mice, and encounter other rabbit societies. Watching the abundance of rabbits around my own neighborhood, I could not help but feel for these resolved, strong creatures that were forced to overcome their natural fears in order to create a new home for themselves.
Admittedly, the sense that there was much more going on within this novel than the surface story did, at times, make me feel vaguely uneasy. Maybe part of that was my inner English major telling me to look out for things, and my inner reader telling me to just enjoy the story for what it is. Nevertheless, there is certainly a lot that can be said about this novel in terms of its themes and literary elements from the legend-like stories of El’ahrairah and the epic nature of the rabbits’ travels.
I enjoyed the novel. There were moments when Adams’ descriptions of the rabbits’ perceptions of the world, their fears, and their relationships to the world at large, that had me holding my breath. I only wish I had read this years ago and certainly encourage younger readers to pick this up.