Classics and Winners!

When my daughters were young, I read to them all the time. This summer, I had the joy of doing it again.

We’ve always had a rule of reading the book before watching the movie. I wanted us all to be able to watch THE LORD OF THE RINGS together, so I was urging my younger daughter to start reading THE HOBBIT. Although an avid reader, she resisted, saying she didn’t like reading books with long paragraphs. And so I decided to read THE HOBBIT aloud to her, and discovered that she was right. Tolkien did tend to use longer paragraphs than is common in more recent fiction and it can look a bit daunting on the page.

The previous summer, I read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to my older daughter, again in preparation for watching the films. Much as I love Jane Austen, I know her style is difficult for young teens, with sentences that can run paragraphs long and paragraphs that can take over a whole page. And confusing period details. (“No, undressed ball does not mean they go naked.”) So when I suggested she try NORTHANGER ABBEY this summer, she still wanted me to read along with her. How could I refuse?

The whole reading-together project was a huge success. My younger daughter is now reading THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING on her own, and the older one is moving on to EMMA. So I’ve got them firmly hooked on some classics! I feel vindicated as a mother.

As an author, though, I’m aware that modern readers can have difficulty with older styles of writing. I would never write a sentence as long as this one:

Mrs Morland was a very good woman, and wished to see her children everything they ought to be; but her time was so much occupied in lying-in and teaching the little ones, that her elder daughters were inevitably left to shift for themselves; and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books—or at least books of information—for provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all.

There are also some grammatical constructions that trip up the reader, such as “Are not you wild to know?” Did your mind automatically change it to “Are you not wild to know?” That’s what happened to me as I was reading aloud, and it made me stumble.

I want to have a period feel to my books, but I do avoid anything like that that could trip up a reader. I also tend to use pretty short paragraphs, because I think having some white space is easier on the eyes.

But what a shame it would be if no one bothered to get past some of the challenges in the classics, if the stories lived on only in their films (fantastic as many of them are).

What do you think?

But before we chat, here are the winners of this week’s drawing for the Kindle edition of LADY EM’S INDISCRETION.

Cathy P

Congratulations! Please send your email and the email of a friend who you think might enjoy the Kindle ebook to elena @ elenagreene dot com.


About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
This entry was posted in Jane Austen and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

What a great mom you are!! I wish mine had done that with me. It’s what I always promised myself I would do when I had children. I read part of Pride and Prejudice with my nieces, but they grew frustrated with keeping track of the characters in the dialogue. So did I. There isn’t always a clear indication as to who is speaking. I find that with dyslexia, shorter sentences and paragraphs make it easier to keep my place. I read The Hobbit out loud to my dog one night when the power went out. The quiet made her nervous and reading aloud calmed her. My new copy of the book had come in the mail recently, and it was the perfect opportunity. She didn’t care if I stumbled or worry about understanding. LOL! I still try to tackle the more difficult reads, but I give myself time to do it. Then again, I’ve read LOTR enough times now that I don’t struggle with it anymore. Familiarity does make it easier. As much as I loved the movie, I wouldn’t have appreciated it the way I did if I hadn’t been familiar with the books. Tolkien had a gift for describing things in such a way that anyone could see his vision of Middle-earth from things they’d experienced in their own life, which is why when the Shire popped on the screen everyone was able to say, “That’s it!!” Fun post.

Diane Gaston
10 years ago

I’ve found the old books rough going, too, so I sympathize with your daughters, Elena, and your nieces, Judy. Jane Austen is comprehensible but Mary Brunton is harder and news articles are an even greater challenge.

Cara King
10 years ago

Elena, I love what you’re doing. I think it’s good that most parents and schools only give kids books that the kids want to read, but I think the downside is that sometimes kids are put off by something that seems a little unfamiliar or hard, and if they never venture that way, it never becomes easier…and if in high school or college suddenly they’re expected to deal with Shakespeare and Henry James, it’s that much more difficult.

I recall being dismayed when my niece, who was a pretty good reader at the time, tried and rejected “Little Women” because it was “too hard.” I’d read and loved it when I was nine, but apparently at age 11 or so, she found it unreadable…and this really got me thinking… I was the generation that all read the Little House books, and by the time I tried Little Women, I’d also read all the Oz books, and Caddie Woodlawn, and lots of 1930s Nancy Drews, and the Narnia books. And I think perhaps that made older-style word choice and sentence structure much less scary for me.

Anyway, I love to think of you and your girls sharing Austen and Tolkien!

Elena Greene
10 years ago

I’m sorry it didn’t work out with your nieces–there definitely are challenges in reading these older books! I totally agree about reading the books first. I loved the LOTR films and (heresy, gasp!) think some things were improved upon, like giving Arwen a greater role. But I still think reading the books is important.

Cara, I know what you mean about the reading that most kids are doing now. The schools have a tough challenge getting kids interested in reading at all. They’re dealing with parents who don’t read themselves, with parents who think their kids’ sports are more important than homework (because they hope they’ll get athletic scholarships, LOL).

I really can’t say I worked that hard on this with my girls, though. Apparently, they’ve inherited my love of a good story and they’re willing to dig a bit to get the gold. 🙂

10 years ago

Thank you for the book! I’ve emailed my info and my friend’s info.

My son is an excellent reader, but tends towards books with lots of pictures and white space. (He’s autistic, so is perhaps especially drawn to pictures.) He loves being read to though and has heard the Hobbit and the Harry Potter books (twice.) Since I know he can read and enjoys the longer stories, I’m much happier about him choosing mostly less challenging books for his own reading. But I hope he’ll tackle some on his own someday. — willaful

Louisa Cornell
10 years ago

You are giving your children such a gift! My Mom gave my brothers and I our love of books and reading. She taught all of us to read long before we went to school and she read with us almost every day when we were little. She taught my niece and nephew to read from the same books.

I bought them the 40th anniversary edition of To Kill a Mockingbird a few years ago and it renewed their interest in reading. We read the Harry Potter books together, the Lord of the Rings and Alex and I read Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters together. I just hope they retain their love of reading for years to come.

Elena Greene
10 years ago

Willaful, sounds like you’re doing a great job with your son.

Louisa, it’s great that you’re passing on the love of books. I believe it will stick. 🙂