Deadline Diaries

Five Romance writers tell all.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Great Expectations

Today is the last day of school before Christmas vacation. And boy, have my kids earned time off, especially Son 2. He started high school this year and in his Honors English class they’ve been reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Parents were encouraged to read along with them, as the teacher acknowledged it was a challenging book for kids of this age.

Uh, yeah.

It was challenging for me, and I was an English major in college, I’ve read other works by Dickens, including A Tale of Two Cities, and I’m a very good reader. Not only does Great Expectations have a long cast of characters, but more than one character is not well-educated and speaks in a sort of dialect. For example, right away a man is demanding “wittles,” his pronunciation of “vittles.” And that’s one of the easier to decipher.

Don’t get me started on how the testing for this book was conducted in their class. Suffice to say that these kids who had tested into the honors track came out of the first exam with mostly Ds and Fs. But they kept on reading and kept on testing and I kept on encouraging. There were times Son 2 would read aloud a passage and ask me what it meant and I had absolutely no idea. Even when I went back to it in context, I couldn’t be entirely sure. And so I grumbled (silently) to myself about this literature choice while aloud I just told him to keep on keeping on.

And then it came to the last 100 pages. “It’s getting good now,” my student said. By this time, the cast of characters were familiar, the mysteries were being solved one by one, and there was a sense of impending threat. Pip’s life was almost taken, it looked as if the girl was gone for good, and on behalf of his “benefactor” there was an exciting attempt at escape on the Thames River.

When Son 2 turned the last page, he looked up. “I think that’s the best book I’ve ever read.”


I still think it’s a lot to bite off for freshmen. And perhaps there are some better ways to ease them into the story. But to Mr. Charles Dickens…my hat is off. Dude, you’re still relevant.

Do you have a book you thought you wouldn’t enjoy, but then ended up loving? It doesn’t have to be a classic!


At 9:09 AM, Blogger Maureen Child said...

Actually Christie, for me it was a classic....Jane Eyre. In high school, I wasn't so much into reading 'old' books and jumping into a hundred year old historical romance didn't sound like a good idea to me!

And yet....LOVED that book. Maybe that was the seed for becoming the romance lover I am today..

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Christine Rimmer said...

Interesting how long those guys like Dickens got to lure us in. Readers had such great patience back when.

But hey. Look at the payoff!

Book I enjoyed that didn't expect to...hmmm. I'm just so impatient. If it's not grabbing me, I put it down.

But I do remember back in college, sticking with King Lear and Macbeth and the Tempest and thinking how amazing they were when I finally had a handle on them.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Maureen Child said...

Popping in to let DDers know... Susan called this morning and asked me to post that she's out of commission at least for a few hours.

Seems Seattle had their biggest wind storm in like EVER and powers out all over everywhere, including Susan's house! She's okay, but they're going to one of the only hotels around with power!! So she doesn't know when she'll be able to check in......

Yes, Susan continues to be a Weather Magnet!

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Christie Ridgway said...

Oh, poor Susan. Hope everything's back up and running soon.

Chris: The teacher explained to the kids that for GE (at least, not sure about his other books) he was paid by the word...hence his wordiness! Put that together with the differences in language and Victorian pop culture references and it made the book quite a slog at first.

Some classis never swayed me. Could not get into Faulkner, ever. And on the romance front, I have never read Outlander. For some reason I didn't when it first was pubbed and I have yet to pick it up. Should I?

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Christine Rimmer said...

Hugs to Susan, Maureen!

Christie, I did read Outlander. Loved it. Jamie is one of the great heroes of modern storyhood. And it *was* kind of slow at first, but I think I was intrigued; I liked the voice. I read the second in the series, too. But it didn't...hold me spellbound like first, so I stopped after that.

Re Faulkner, I did love Light in August, which Faulkner addicts call one of his lightweight works. LOL I am a lightweight and proud of it!

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Kate Carlisle said...

I heard about that killer storm in Seattle! Good luck, Susan. I hope you're safe and warm!!

I loved my reading assignments in high school. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tempest, Merchant of Venice, etc. They never made us read Great Expectations!

I picked up The Outlander in Scotland and was thrilled. It was the only romance I could find in several stores, so I was predisposed to love it! LOL. Totally off topic, they renamed the book Cross-Stitch in the UK because an outlander is what we would call an alien. Go figure.

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Maureen Child said...

Talked to Susan a few minutes ago......she's okay, still no power, but they're in their hotel, along with all the pets!! =)

She says this is Seattle's "200 year storm"! Wouldn't you know it would hit as soon as Susan moved there???

At 6:55 PM, Anonymous Barbs said...

OMG Susan has had her share and someone else's of bad weather in Seattle.

My granddaughter has been in Honors English and has a different book with her everytime we see her. She hasn't mentioned the Classics to us but her Mom, ex-dil, is going to college and has complained a few times too me about the reading LOL

Before my romance reading days I did read more variety but less volume LOL One book that took a several times to get into was James Clavell's KING RAT but I did really like it. SHOGUN was good but I read it before seeing the TV movie and his other's were fluffy compared to KR. I have it still maybe I'll give it a reread. That's the only book that comes to mind but my mind is very small while I try to multi-task during this joyous season LOL Only 10 more days.

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Christine Rimmer said...

Barb, I did love Shogun. Never read King Rat. Hmmm.

Thanks, Maureen for letting us know Susan has weathered the storm. It's the big National News everywhere you look...

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Christie Ridgway said...

I loved SHOGUN too, but I think I saw the miniseries first.

Must give OUTLANDER a try.


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