At a moment when I have 25 books out of the library, a bunch of exciting new releases buzzing around me, and personal recommendations thrust upon me, I am somehow right now doing more rereading than I've done in years. In addition to all the new books I'm in the middle of, I keep picking up old favorites.
I've been meaning to reread The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for probably years. I finally took it off the shelf this weekend when I realized that the movie is available on Netflix. I've rushed through it and it's as much of a delight as it ever was; Juliet's letters remind me of Helene Hanff's correspondence in 84, Charing Cross Road. I'm a bit suspicious of the movie version, mostly because it's quite clearly a straight-up romance, and I didn't see the romance coming for the first two-thirds of the book the first time I read it. On reread, I agree with myself; it's not a romance. It's a bigger, more deeply human story than that.
Then, while transcribing an old episode of the Reading the End bookcast, I was reminded of the existence of Sorcery and Cecilia, and so now I'm reading that, too, because Regency! Dresses! Friendship! Sassy narrators are great, but sassy letter writers are something else again. I wish I could figure out how to tell an epistolary story. I just love the vehicle it gives you for tone of voice, when it's done well.
Finally, somehow, I find on my bedside table my copy of Archangel, by Sharon Shinn. Another romance, this one has a very formal narrative voice, quite the opposite of my other two reads. I'm finding myself burning with rage on Rachel's behalf, maybe even more than the book intends me to. Gabriel's a jerk (but I'm only a quarter of the way in). I'm realizing in this read through that some of the "forced to marry" elements here that seemed so romantic before now have me right brassed off.
There's a tag in some fanfic called "dubcon," short for "dubious consent," which means one or more of the characters are on board with shenanigans, but against their better judgement. It's a gray area that covers a lot of plots, and to each his/her own, but I don't like the "forced to do something and, once begun, realizes that maybe it's not that bad." I don't like that in real life and I don't really like it in my fic. When Rachel is told that she has no choice but to marry Gabriel, it's not okay in the book. She's been a slave, and her freedom was within her grasp when he takes it away again. The fact that her new fate ends up being okay does not really detract from it being essentially another form of slavery. Though, I'll admit, I haven't finished this reread; I'm curious how much nuance this issue gets.
So Archangel is getting away with something when it convinces me to love it. Also, look at the cover it has to overcome! That might be the worst cover I've ever seen on a book I love. And it's weirdly...symbolically sexual? Or something? And yet I love the book.
Looking back over this, I realized that they are not just favorites; they are all three comfort reads. This makes sense; it's been a bit of a rough month. I didn't realize I was doing it, but this looks suspiciously like self-care. And yeah, I have a pile of library books to get back on top of, but darn if this isn't a freeing feeling--reading for the known quantity, rather than a battle with the TBR list. I feel nourished.