Sunday Salon: Books that changed meaning as I grew up

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There are a number of books that I’ve reread at various times in my life, and each time they have generally changed each time I’ve read them

First is the Narnia books – I loved these as a child as I saw them purely as escapism. Then I read them again when I was in my early twenties, and reacted badly to them . Aslan = Jesus, metaphors laid on with a trowel (this being the same book I had read 10 years earlier, of course). I was having a reaction to the Catholic Church in my early 20s and and included Narnia as part of the “antidisestablishmentarianism” feminism reaction. I read TLWW again in my 30s, and wasnt so reactant to it – but still didnt have the warm and fuzzies from when I was a child

Second is Jane Eyre – when I read her in my early teens I got bored with the endless droaning text. blah blah blah. I read it again when in my 20s, and liked it, but wasnt in love with it. I read it again in my 30s when the BBC did a version with Toby Jones, and  loved it. I was reading it for the subtext, and naturally found loads of it!

The third is “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”, which I read in my teens, but then again in my thirties, where I picked up more of the subtleties, such as the threat of domestic violence from the drunken husband.

A book that *hasn’t* changed for me over the years is Wuthering Heights – I’ve never enjoyed this book, no matter how many times I’ve read it. I simply dont get the hype.

So what about you, constant reader? are there any books that have changed meaning when you read it later in life

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7 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Books that changed meaning as I grew up

  1. There aren’t many books that I have reread but yours is certainly a similar list. I specifically haven’t reread the Narnia books for the reason you give but I have kept hold of them and maybe one day. Jane Eyre I have always loved but the reasons have changed. I worry now I would hate Rochester but I’m sure I’d still love Jane. I’ve only read Wuthering Heights once and, like you, didn’t love it. I just didn’t feel the romance, it was all far too angsty.

    Another book I have reread is Rebecca. In my teens it was essentially a (psuedo) ghost story. In my 20s it was a psychological thriller and in my 30s it became a character study. Loved it every time, though I like the main character less and less.

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  2. I know as a teen, I read a lot of Louis L’Amour books. Now as an adult, I’m sure I’d find them fairly insipid. I think similarly with TV that I watched as a teen. I remember rewatching Miami Vice as an adult and not believing how cheesy it was at times and how often suicide came up in the shows.

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  3. I have had similar reactions to rereads. I loved the book A TOWN LIKE ALICE and reread it several times. The last reread finished it for me, though, and I thought, “hmm, I wonder why I liked that book so much before?” I also reread A WRINKLE IN TIME, my favorite childhood book, as an adult and was underwhelmed. In fact, I had to clear that whole reread experience so the book wouldn’t be wrecked for my memory of it. I am currently rereading THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO and I am finding it much letter than the first outing. This time, however, I am listening to its audiobook. Much better. (Try Wuthering Heights audio, I think you will like it better.)
    My Sunday Salon

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  4. When I first read Middlemarch in my late teens, I thought it was about love and marriage. In my 20s, I thought it was about politics. In my late 30s – definitely politics and inheritance!

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    • What about feminism? the whole aspect around Dorothea and Causabon (sp?) her belief in what is her role as daughter, wife and an woman, to be reinforced by Causabon’s will, for her to then to have the strength to reject the conditions for love rather than money? Does this tie in with your point on inheritance?

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      • I’ve seen the feminism each time I’ve read it, and the web of society, it’s the rest that’s changed as I’ve got older. One of the things I love about re-reading!

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