Monday, March 30, 2009

Some thoughts on rereading Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

I have a friend who says rereading books is like revisiting old friends. She doesn’t own very The Diviners by Margaret Laurencemany books, but most of the ones she does own are books she’s read and reread over and over again, until she can practically recite them. Until recently, this made no sense to me. I read to be entertained, to learn, to visit new places, to get inside other people’s lives and heads, to escape, and most of all to find out what happens next—familiarity is the last thing I want when I’m reading. The only time I reread books is when I loved them, but read them so many years ago that I only have a vague recollection of what happened. (I’ve reread The Diviners by Margaret LaurenThe Women's Room by Marilyn Frenchce, The Last Magician by Janette Turner Hospital, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and more recently Chocolat by Joanne Harris, to name only a few, and loved each of them all over again.) I also occasionally “reread” books that I didn’t finish the first time around when I think I may just have picked them up at the wrong time, such as The Women’s Room by Marilyn French, which I couldn’t get into the first time I tried reading it but really enjoyed the second time around.

However, I recently found myself in a reading slump—in great part because I’ve been in a reviewing slump, and the more I read, the more behind I get on reviews. I had pretty much stopped reading altogether to avoid adding to my to-be-reviewed pile,Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott but not reading feels a bit like an amputation (a case of the cure being worse than the disease). I had picked up Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott (read my review) and was rifling through it to find words for the Wondrous Words Wednesday meme, when I decided to start it over from the beginning and got caught up in the story again. And this time, the familiarity was reassuring: I was feeling out of sorts, unsettled, scattered, and re-entering a known story was a bit like eating comfort food—a return to the known. The place was familiar, I knew the characters and what they were going to do, how the story was going to end. I could relax and enjoy the journey, noticing things I hadn’t noticed before, deepening my attachment to my favourite characters.

Endicott’s writing style reminded me again of those long takes you sometimes see in movies where the camera follows one character and then another in one long uninterrupted shot. Similarly, Endicott often shifts from the point of view of one character to another without any cuts other than paragraph breaks. Since there are no visual cues to guide you, this can be a bit confusing at first, but once I got used to her style, I enjoyed sliding from one character’s viewpoint to that of another, experiencing the same scene from different perspectives. Here, for example, is Clary’s impression of Fern, followed by Dolly’s (I’ve cut out some dialogue to make the excerpt shorter):
“To Clary it seemed that Fern was still in pretty rough shape. Her thin skin looked raw, and she wouldn’t make eye contact. Shame destroys us, Clary thought, and led her to the bathroom. . . .

Dolly took one look at Fern and loved her. Her hair was the palest apricot colour. It glowed. And she looked so sad. Fern’s back slanted in a long S, her pelvis titled and swung, her legs were long and thin in her tight jeans, and she had a closed, secret shell all around her. Her face looked as if she washed it all the time” (pp. 125-126).
Marina Endicott recently won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award for Canada and the Caribbean region for Good to a Fault.

Read Alexis’s thoughts on re-reading this book at Roughing It in the Books.

Do you reread books? When? Why?


  1. Re-reading something I really enjoyed doesn't always pull me out of a reading slump but it makes me feel better! I only re-read books that I haven't read in five or more years because by then I've forgotten just about everything in the story except the basics and maybe one or two scenes that really stick out in my mind.

  2. Funny, because I reread _The_Women's_
    Room_ and although I'd enjoyed it the first time, the second time I felt like I was walking through molasses. Ditto _The_Poisonwood_ Bible_ which I started to reread, and wasn't liking much at all, so I gave up on it!
    I guess I'm not a rereader, other than my all time favorite _Door_Into_Ocean by Joan Slonczewski which I've read three times (in +/- ten years)
    ...and I am on the list for _Good_to_a_Fault now (from the library) on account of your review.

  3. ohhh..i'm the queen of the 're-read'. 90% of the books on my shelves are 'old friends' and read them every year or so. they get all comfy, like a favorite pair of jeans or loafers. it's kind of like watching a movie more than once...or reruns of a tv show...even though you know what's going to happen, you still enjoy the show.

  4. Ladytink, that's generally what I do too; this is the first time I've read the same book twice within months (I read it the first time in December). It definitely made me feel better, although I probably won't do it again (reread so quickly) any time soon.

    Brogan, I read The Women's Room the second time years ago, so I'm not sure I'd enjoy it as much if I read it again now. I'm surprised you didn't enjoy The Poisonwood Bible the second time around though! But sometimes it's all about the timing. I hope you enjoy Good to a Fault. You'll have to let me know...

    Natalie, I've only just started doing that with movies and TV (over the last couple of years), although I will generally rewatch with someone who's never watched it before. With books, well, there are so many that I haven't read yet, that I'm less tempted to reread!