Robinjn emailed me the following message, and not only got me thinking about old favorites I see differently now that I’m a little older but also about age differences in general, which I’m going to write about in a separate entry (stay tuned). Robinjn recently went back and re-read a book she enjoyed, but found herself reacting completely differently to the book now that she’s older.
Prompted by the “Mourning” thread**, I went and rooted out my old original copy of LaVyrle Spencer’s Years, one of my favorite books ever, and have been re-reading it.
[**WARNING: the “Mourning” thread is full o’ spoilers. Be ye warned. – SB Sarah]
I read the book when it was originally published in 1986 and several times in the years after, but it has probably been well over 15 years since I picked it up. I was delighted to find that it has more than withstood the test of time; fine writing is fine writing and Spencer’s descriptions of time and place on the North Dakota prairies in 1916 still resonate with truth (and if I ever decide to write a book, this is a primer for how to write descriptive passages with such clarity they ring like a bell).
What was unexpected was my different view of the chief protagonists. Years concerns Linnea, an 18 year old schoolmarm fresh out of normal school, and Teddy, an embittered 35 year old widower with a boy almost Linnea’s age. She, as young girls do, falls and falls hard. He agonizes over the feelings he has and tries to deny them every way he can. He knows darn well she is far too young for him. For him the years are the ultimate stumbling block, for her they are meaningless numbers.
When I first read this in my 20s I had very little understanding or appreciation for Teddy’s position. I thought the author dwelled too much on the years to create almost an artificial conflict and I was impatient with the concept that years would make a difference. Now, reading it at age 51, I find myself with a completely different viewpoint. Linnea really is too young. Teddy is right to be concerned and fearful of this relationship. My views of a 35 year old man and an 18 year old girl are completely switched from when I was 26 and reading the book for the first time.
I wonder if others have set a favorite down for many years, taken it back up and found a completely different story than they remembered, or a different opinion of the characters than they had when young? And when picking that book back up, has it withstood the test of time? Or, as many of the books I read when young have done, has it proven to be more shallow and far less well written than remembered?
It’s funny how one’s reaction to plot conflicts can change as one grows older and wiser. What about you? Have you ever gone back to a book and found your older/wiser/moreawesomer perspective changed a book entirely?
(Stay tuned for a long-mo-entry on age difference with more from Robinjn.)