A Struggle

This is all I want to read.

Remember back in March when I posted a passionate pledge to read more novels by American women? At the time, I was very determined to commit the rest of 2012 to exploring and reading American writing. Well, just two short months later I feel that I am completely off-course and am struggling to find any interest in American novels. The only ones I’ve read since I made my pledge are Olive Kitteridge, The Blank Wall and The Song of the Lark , all of which I enjoyed, but mostly I only want to read British novels. I have to admit that in my heart of hearts I am an Anglophile. I like to believe that my heritage accounts for that – my paternal ancestors lived in Headcorn, Kent – but I really think  it is my early indoctrination via British tv series. I started watching Masterpiece Theater when I was pretty young, 12 or 13, and that led me to watch the Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes series (the Jeremy Brett one) on Masterpiece Mystery and I was hooked from then on. Twenty years later I still have a major predilection for British films, tv shows, and novels and so I find myself failing at the challenge I set for myself because I can’t let go of my taste for British culture.

I have tried to read several American novels in the past month and I just find them so depressing. It strikes me that a lot of them are about ‘issues’ and I really don’t like being preached at. I suppose I prefer novels that are more drawing room-centered, more relationship-based than those that are trying to make a statement about social concerns.   Maybe it really isn’t an American thing, maybe I just like reading more domestic-type novels (yes, I do) and I haven’t found the right American authors to read that are suited to my reading preferences.

I’m not going to abandon my plan, but I can’t abandon my fondness for British authors either. The above picture shows a few novels I want to read in the next few months and I am greatly looking forward to them. Perhaps I’ll slip in a couple of American-written novels in between these as a way to have the best of both worlds. I’m sorry not to have devoted myself to the works of my countrywomen the way I had planned to, but I hope that you (and they) will understand.

16 thoughts on “A Struggle

  1. I’m a firm believer in reading what you want to, the books that interest you or call to you, so I don’t think you need to feel guilty at all. I can’t force myself to read something that doesn’t interest me – the literary equivalent of eating broccoli, I don’t care if it’s good for me, I’m not going to do it 🙂


    1. I really like broccoli, but no way am I eating brussels sprouts!
      I always get myself into trouble when I try to impose any kind of discipline on my reading so I completely agree with you. I’m reading by whim from now on!


  2. Ah, I understand this so well! I have exactly the same problem – quite honestly, only Little Women has elicited the same kind of lasting enthusiasm in me as English fiction. Which means I’ve never got around to reading people like Faulkner. Oops.


  3. You might as well read what you know you’re going to enjoy most. There are so many books to read and we’re never going to get through them all, why waste time slogging through things you won’t love as much. What a good selection you have, I really want to read Greenbanks too.


    1. I can’t wait to read Greenbanks. I got it from my Persephone Secret Santa back in December and forgot that I had it. I’m so glad I rearranged my bookshelves and found it again!


  4. It’s no secret I’m an Anglophile, so I completely understand where you’re coming from. This is probably somewhat of a generalization, but it seems like American fiction often tends to deal with more blatantly dysfunctional characters or situations, whereas British fictions takes a more subtle approach to its themes (although with no less depth). Maybe that’s a result of the stiff upper lip reserve those Brits have 🙂


  5. That looks a tempting array of books, particularly Greenbanks. I’d like to re-visit Cranford, too. I think you just have to go with the flow and meander down your own reading path!


    1. Yes, and my reading path just happens to be in England – I will enjoy meandering down it!
      I am in the middle of Cranford now and it is kind of slow, a bit meandering itself, but lazily enjoyable. I really like the vignette style Gaskell uses.


  6. I agree with Lisa — if you don’t need to read it for a book group or for school, don’t force yourself and suck all the fun out of it. Of course, you could always choose an American author and decide to read a chapter or the first 50 pages and see how it goes. You might be surprised. And I completely understand your obsession with British writers, sometimes I think my entire to-read list is British!

    If you are determined to read Americans, I can recommend a couple of Persephones I really enjoyed: The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and Brook Evans by Susan Glaspell. I’m also reading Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty right now, and I’m really enjoying it. Or Edith Wharton! She’s just wonderful. I loved House of Mirth and Ethan Frome especially.

    I did read The Rector’s Daughter this year. I liked it but I wasn’t as enthusiastic as some of the reviews I’ve read.


    1. Thanks for your recommendations! I’ve wanted to read The Home-Maker for quite a while – I need to break down and buy a copy. I do like Edith Wharton very much and I have read a few of her novels, but never Ethan Frome. I will definitely try it!


  7. read what you want I loved american fiction in my twentys bellow mailer updike roth burroughs irving et al then english fiction in my thirties I think reading moves with time Anbolyn now its translation another ten years it maybe classics for me books are a journey take the ride unplanned always best ,all the best stu


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