When Dutton reached out to me about a copy* of this book for its new paperback release I jumped at it because of my trip to China this summer! What I didn’t realize was that it was predominantly set in two of the cities I visited: Suzhou and Beijing! It was really neat to read through the fictionalized life of Sai Jinhua and actually feel like I know what and where she was talking about for the post part!
This is a debut novel that I probably would not have read just because I don’t read too many, but with my trip to China, the cover and having someone reach out to me about it, I figured I would give it a chance and I’m glad I did. Add in that the book also featured a subplot line about the one non-English classic from Asia I chose for my Classics Club list: Dream of the Red Chamber and it was well worth the read.
It will come as no surprise that this is the first book to reach three re-reads since I started The Oddness of Moving Things. I read it twice in 2013, January and August, in honor of its 200th publication date.
What WILL come as a surprise is that I was supposed to read this for our final installment of Jane Austen Book Group and I didn’t! Everything was so busy and I somehow got so flustered that I didn’t read it in time. Thankfully, I know the story so well and had read the Marvel Illustrated version earlier this year, I was capable of discussing it without too much effort. I did know that as soon as I finished trudging through The Dante Club I had to get this re-read to feel as if I’d completed our Jane Austen Book Club for the year! And it’s a great refresher before I dive right into Prejudice & Pride a “gender-bendy twist” on the original by Lynn Messina that comes out December 15th.
As a part of every episode of Come Read with Me, I ask my friends to recommend a book. I do this because I know it will take me out of my comfort zone, but I also do it because it helps me get to know them better. Mike from Episode 5 where we discussed the first half of the Hyperion Cantos recommended this and WOW.
I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books that continues to grow on me the further I get away from it. I only rated it “4 out of 5” on Goodreads, but I’m already wondering if as the ideas presented in the book sink in if I will adjust that even higher. I looked into the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award (aka read the Wikipedia link) and found it interesting, but I’m not sure if it does what the award wanted. Ishmael is incredibly creative and I think does most of what the award wanted, but I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t on the committee.
I had a vague idea these adaptations existed, but I’d never encountered one in the wild until I read Jane Austen: Cover to Cover and went out of my way to visit a comic book store to look for one. I got lucky on my second try with Comicazi in Somerville, but they only had the one. (Hub Comics in Somerville was also great, but didn’t have any in stock.)
What truly strikes me, having finished this in one commute to and from work, is that doing a bit of research I’m not surprised I didn’t know these existed. Butler in the introduction talks about how these titles came about for Marvel Illustrated (full list of titles available under the imprint) and mentions that she said they needed to do some for young women and girls. When I did a bit of research I found that the imprint was only active from 2007-2011 and they didn’t finish Jane Austen’s novels😦 However, I did find out there’s another imprint, Classical Comments, has WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Let me repeat this one more time, there is a are multiple graphic novel versions of WUTHERING HEIGHTS.
What a journey! I don’t know what I was thinking waiting this long to read this novel. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for almost 10 months and has been out for over a decade! In the last few months I finally heard enough about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell to pick it up and read the tome that it is. (AKA the boyfriend wants to watch the new TV adaptation and I said I couldn’t until I read the book.)
I am most definitely beating myself up for not reading it sooner. Sure I was a bit scared of the length, hello doorstop clocking in at 846 pages, but I was even more concerned with the comparisons to Dickens! How wrong I was; how wrong I was. For some reason I let this one comparison (I still think Dickens needed an editor) blind me from the wondrousness that was this book.
Lucky for you I’ve re-read this for our Jane Austen Book Club, so you get to hear about it again, almost exactly three years after I last read it.
Following Sense andSensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813) this was Austen’s third published novel in 1814 and it is a clear shift away from the whimsy and light previous novels. I talk about this in my last response, but I wonder if this has to do with feedback from the first two novels or if it’s her own personal experience and maturation as an adult. We already know that when Austen published Emma, her fourth work, in 1815 that she was comfortable with sassing her critics. She openly says at the start of Emma that she’s writing a character NO ONE can dislike, because so many people disliked Fanny, or Fanny’s decisions.
As with 99% of the Classics I’ve read, I’m wondering what took me so long to read this one! Not only is it under 200 pages, but it’s quick and fascinating read. Add in that Shelley was only 19 when she wrote it and I’m like WHOA. This is my second Classic’s Club book this month, so yay for finally making progress on that again.
As when I read Dracula, I was surprised at how much of Frankenstein’s story was different from what has become the common perception of Frankenstein and his monster in pop-culture.I am happy to report that my reading of this coincided really well with other books I’ve read that are fan-fiction pieces, like Meghan Shepherd’s A Cold Legacy, and tangentially related books about the authors and their connections like another piece of fan-fiction, like Michael Thomas Ford’s Jane Fairfax Trilogy (Jane Bites Back in particular).