I rarely reread books. I often feel that there are so many classics I haven’t read, so many authors’ works that I haven’t explored yet, so many exciting books being published that I always have something new to read – and not enough time to read it all! So if I reread a book, it’s often got something special that makes me return to it.
With this in mind, I thought I’d go through my bookshelves, pick out the books that I’ve reread and tell you a bit about each one. I found that there were more books than I thought, so I’ve split them into two posts – part 2 will follow shortly!
Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
Set over the course of one day, Mrs Dalloway follows Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party she is throwing that evening. We also see the day of Septimus Smith, a solider who has returned from the war suffering from shell shock, and we begin to see the similarities between him and Clarissa. As the story travels backwards and forwards in time and memories are recalled, the book explores war, homosexuality, feminism, and mental illness.
I’ve spoken before about my love of Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf when I nominated it as my #thisbook for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (you can read that post here). I’ll try not to repeat myself in this post, but I will say that this was one of the first adult books I read where I knew I wanted to write, and I wanted to write like this. I loved the stream of consciousness technique, the slipping between different characters’ perspectives, the book taking place over the course of just one day, the bustling London streets and Woolf’s descriptions which perfectly capture a moment. I’ve reread the book a number of times and with each reading I discover something new or find myself being affected by different passages or parts of the book to previous readings. I can see myself rereading Mrs Dalloway many more times, and I would call it one of my favourite books.
The Hours – Michael Cunningham
Mrs Dalloway was originally going to be named The Hours, so it makes sense that Michael Cunningham’s novel takes its name from the book which inspired it. Mrs Dalloway plays a central role in The Hours which tells the stories of three women who are all linked by Woolf’s classic novel: Virginia Woolf in the 1920s as she starts writing the novel; a young wife and mother living in Los Angeles who is desperate to escape and read her copy of the book; and Clarissa Vaughan in 1990s New York as she buys flowers for a party she is throwing that evening for her dying friend.
I can’t remember how I discovered that there had been a book written which was based on Mrs Dalloway, but as soon as I did, I ordered it. I remember reading the prologue (depicting Woolf’s suicide in 1941) and knowing, almost instantly, that I would love this book. I love Cunningham’s writing style which reads like an homage to Woolf. I love the symmetry of this book with Mrs Dalloway at its centre and the stories of the three women linked by the novel. The Hours draws Woolf’s novel in a new light and complements it perfectly. Of course, it can be read without having read Mrs Dalloway, but reading Woolf’s novel before this one means that you notice those subtle nuances and similarities that might otherwise pass you by. There’s a film version of the book too, which I also enjoy.
Little Women – Louisa M. Alcott
Little Women tells the story of four sisters as they approach womanhood. We watch their struggles and joys and the important lessons they learn.
If I remember rightly, my Mum gave me her copy of Little Women to read when I was younger and I loved it. It was one of those books where I identified with some of the characters: the shyness of Beth and the love of writing and reading of Jo. I can’t count the number of times I read this as a child and I’ve also reread it as an adult. Reading it recently, I remember feeling that the Mother’s teaching came across quite strongly, but when I was younger this wasn’t something I noticed. I just remember enjoying reading about the sisters’ adventures, their friendships, their trials, and their small joys. I believe I have read the books which came after Little Women (Little Men and Jo’s Boys) but neither of them gripped my imagination as the first book did.
The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
When the novel opens, Claire is twenty years old and has known Henry since she was six – but he has no idea who she is. Opening with this perplexing scenario, we soon learn that Henry has a genetic condition which causes him to be wrenched backwards and forwards in time without warning. We follow their story as they attempt to build a life together – one where Henry is regularly pulled away from Claire to his past or future.
When I moved out of home for the first time and started University I had boxes of books that I needed for my course. But I wanted to take a few familiar books from home that I could read if I wanted. The Time Traveller’s Wife was one of these books that occupied shelves dominated by required reading. I enjoy the love story of this book, but it’s the time travelling element that interests me the most. Through this science fiction/magical realism prism, there is a very human element: two people who love each other but are continually wrenched apart by a force they can’t control. It’s a story filled with love, loneliness, and loss. It’s a moving and enthralling story and one that I can’t help but keep returning to. I haven’t read it since that first year in university though, so perhaps it’s time for another reread…
Part 2 of this post should be up soon where I’ll run through a few more books I’ve reread. Do you reread books? If you do, which ones do you return to most?