In Mudboud (2008), Hillary Jordan’s narrative voice is easily engaging about a white and black family living in the Mississippi Delta during the Jim Crow era. It took a minute to get used to her storytelling style which is first person pov from multiple characters (up to six characters in all). The book got my attention when the movie by the same name garnered critical acclaim last year. I said I’d watch the movie when I finished reading the book but after finishing the book, I’m in no hurry to watch the movie. Anyway, the book was a fast read at 328 pages long. My rating is a 2/5. The fact that it was an fast read is about the best thing I can say about it.
“When I think of the farm, I think of mud.” Laura from Mudbound
The book is notable for its setting and depiction of racism, farm life and for breaking down the sharecropping system, showing how easily people get into debt. The main characters are a white family, Henry and his wife, Laura McAllan. We follow them as they start a family out on their farm in rural Mississippi . Living with them is Henry’s racist father, Pappy, who represents the worst of the south. He is the most vile character in the book along with some other, minor characters. Their tenants are a black family, whose son has returned home to help his father with his farm. He runs into some problems with the white folks there and that storyline is as predictable as other books about the south.
Beloved is Toni Morrison’s 1987 Pulitzer -winning novel where the author uses true events to inspire her story of a black woman and runaway slave in the pre-Civil War days who kills her daughter rather than have her return to slavery. Oprah Winfrey bought the film rights and spear-headed the movie with herself in the starring role as an ex slave living with her daughter in a haunted house in Cincinnati in 1873. The movie garnered critical acclaim although not many people went to see it. Most of the viewer reviews sounded like people didn’t understand it. Alas, the movie has languished over the years. Recently, I watched an edited version of it on TV and decided to read the book for myself. I’ve avoided Morrison’s work because stupidly I believed her to be “too hard to read.” It took a minute to get into the flow of the story and her words but after that, the book was smooth sailing. My rating: 5/5.
So, I’ve created a category to track all of my classic literature reads this year. That’s my project this year. I’m on a mission to read as many of them as I can. I’ve bought new and used copies of so many great titles. I don’t know if I’ll ever read another crime novel again. Just kidding. I still love to read a good crime novel but I’m enjoying the classics now. I’ve decided to tackle Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and I’m reading the definitive and unabridged Signet Edition published in 1987. The length of the book is 1469 pages long (without the Afterword) and it would be the longest book I’ve ever read. Just if you’re wondering, the last big book I read was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke which was 782 pages long. Very good reading! Edited to add: No, I read Stephen King’s The Stand, which was 1200 pages. Not so good reading.
I went looking up the best translators and found that many people enjoy Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee based off the C.E. Wilbour translation. I’ve heard Wilbour’s translation is stilted and hard to follow but true to the original text. You almost have to find a copy where there’s a balance between readability while keeping close to the original story. It’s tricky work and readers have their favorites. Julie Rose came up but someone described her translation as the MTV version. I’ve discussed this topic-translations- before and can no longer find it so I’ve searched out opinions on what’s the best translation for some of these earlier books. In a reader poll for Hugo’s book, Norman Denny’s translation came out on top.
I’ve seen the film version of The Age of Innocence (1920) and read the book and enjoyed both equally well with the book edging out the movie. Set in 1870, the book is about New York high society. Rich people with influence on the social mores of the time. The Age of Innocence won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1921 making Edith Wharton the first woman to win it. That’s why I decided to read it. My enjoyment of this story is similar to my enjoyment of Jane Austen’s works: the portrayal of the moral and social attitudes of high society; these kind of stories are utterly fascinating to me. Edith Wharton shows how happiness and desire are sacrificed for duty and convention.
“The real loneliness is living among all these kind people who only ask one to pretend!”