Why I Love to Reread: The New Brontë Craze

A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.”
― Robertson Davies

vintage woman reading book stock-illustration-21375543-vintage-woman-reading-book-and-holding-cup-of-coffeeThere is a secret bloom that arrives in late middle age.

It has to do with books.

Rereading a book for the first time in decades is an entirely new and delightful experience.  You remember your first reactions, and add new impressions from years of reading history and reviews.

I always have my nose in a book.  From Virgil to Virginia Woolf, from Catullus to Colette, and from Gogol to Edward Gorey.

Below is a humorous image of Rory (Alexis Bedel) on The Gilmore Girls, with her nose in a book at the Harvard Library.

For a couple of decades after graduate school, I had little time to reread the classics.  In my free time I reviewed contemporary fiction for newspapers and (now defunct) literary journals. I was remarkably well-informed on the trends of the 1980s:  the minimalist stories of Ann Beattie, the gritty working-class fiction of Raymond Carver and Andre Dubus, John Updike’s suburban adulterers, the  bizarre humor of T. C. Boyle (then known as T. Coraghessan Boyle), and the magic realism of Louise Erdrich.

The bad thing about reviewing is that you don’t get to choose the books.

The good thing about not reviewing is that there is no longer pressure to keep up with the latest books.

And so I have been free to reread the classics.

I have reread all of Austen’s novels several times.  Emma is my favorite.   But, yes, you can read too much Austen.  I am on an Austen break at the moment.  But never fear, I’ll be back.

anne bronte tenant of wildfell hall 51Sp7PW34wL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My latest craze is rereading the Brontës.  I just reread Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  Is Anne as interesting as Charlotte and Emily?  No, but she is very good indeed.

Although her style is not  as poetic or striking as that of Charlotte or Emily, I love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne’s feminist novel about the perils of romantic love.  The frame construction reminds me of Wuthering Heights.   We get to know the heroine, Helen, through the narrator’s intense  letters to a friend, and then through the diary she gives him to read, and then back to his letter.  She marries an attractive man who turns out to be a dissolute drunk.  She escapes with her son to live in the run-down Wildfell Hall.

I wish Anne had written more.  I like Agnes Grey less than the intense Tenant. 

Are you or aren’t you a rereader?  What are your favorite books to reread?

8 thoughts on “Why I Love to Reread: The New Brontë Craze

  1. I *do* like to re-read (and I’ve been doing so lately) but I get terribly conflicted sometimes because there are so many books I haven’t read yet. I’ll just have to take early retirement….

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  2. I used to reread Alice in Wonderfland every year, but finally did have enough. I have reread Jane Eyre several times. Now i like to reread the great Victorians, Dickens, Trollope and Eliot. Like Kaggsy, not enough time. I find I am reading almost no new fiction.

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  3. Yes I am. As I grow older different books become what I reread. I re-listen to books too. Just now rereading Trollope. I hope to reread Gaskell later this year. I also love to re-see great films. People feel they must self-improve and not waste time as there are so many books. Somehow that’s a wrong view — we do not grow richer necessarily by new texts; deepening our understanding of one we knew before may enrichen us more. I do read some new fiction but it is often of the historical fiction (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies) and semi-life-writing type (memoirs).

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    • I so agree with you. Some people are very severe with themselves, ticking off new books on the list and never stopping to reread. Rereading enhances our pleasure and deepens what we read. I read new fiction, too, and I did love Wolf Hall! One of the best living writers I’ve discovered this year is Elizabeth Harrower, but the last book she wrote was in the ’70s.

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  4. I re-read, especially classics – Jane Austen, Dickens, Trollope, Wilkie Collins, the Brontes, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot… And books I had as a child (classics again, I’m afraid, with The Secret Garden top of the list). They’re the books I return to again and again, and each time something different leaps out at me. I do re-read modern authors as well.

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