One more note about my Year in Books, at least for now. This year, I read aloud to my family in the evenings quite a bit. I generally read for twenty minutes or so in the early evening, which means that it takes quite a long time to get through even a fairly short book. Anyway, these did not make the Year in Books list, as they are all re-reads (I would not generally undertake to read aloud to my family a novel I had never read before, unless it was perhaps the latest in a series that we had already embarked on) but I thought I’d make a few notes about them anyway.
Watership Down, by Richard Adams. This works very well aloud, although one has to have a little patience for the writer’s penchant for listing every individual plant found in the location the gang are in at the time. I found that it was important to have four really distinctive voices for Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver and Holly—if the rest of the rabbits all sound a good deal like each other, well, nobody really remembers which one is Silver and which is Dandelion anyway. The bird needs an outrageous accent, of course, which is provided in Mr. Adams somewhat irritating eye-dialect. For the first warren they come across, I used effete upper-class British accents, which seemed appropriate. I knew I wanted to avoid a German accent for General Woundwort and his warren, and so embarked on a French one, having forgotten that there really are a variety of different characters from that warren who need differentiated voices. This was a mistake. I can’t do six or seven different French accents, at least not without a very great deal of preparation. I think perhaps making that warren’s voices either Spanish-inflected or Southern US would have been better. At any rate, it’s a terrific book, with lots of excitement—battles, chases, escapes, plots—and those wonderful folktales interspersed. Also, I do an excellent Fairy Wogdog.
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle. We picked this one in part because the movie was coming out, of course, and eventually we watched the movie together, and then the Youngest Member was assigned it in sixth grade. At any rate, I’m not sure how well it worked aloud. It’s a terrific book, of course, and perhaps the problem is that I didn’t voice Meg sympathetically enough. Also, I don’t think it’s really possible to voice the Misses—nothing against Oprah or indeed Mindy Kaling, but nobody is ever going to match the writing. I do think that my offspring enjoyed it and wound up liking the book, though, so that’s all right.
Fly By Night, by Frances Hardinge. This is, as I have recently posted a few times, a great, great book by my favorite writer currently working. And it works extraordinarily well aloud. Lots of wonderful characters, lots of action, lots of incident.
The Mask of Apollo, by Mary Renault. Unfinished as of the end of the Old Year. It’s one of my very favorite books ever, and I insisted on starting it, and the early bits are so very good that my children enjoyed me reading it to them. The problem with it as a book is that all the worst bits are piled up toward the end, and that’s made worse by reading it aloud, where you can’t skim over stuff. Also: the Perfect Non-Reader of this blog said at the end of one recent chapter No wonder this is your favorite book—it’s all politics and theater! Yeah, it is.
The excellent suggestion has been made that when The Mask of Apollo is done (at this writing, we're six chapters from the end), I read either Leave it to Psmith or some Damon Runyon stories. Something light and comic, and not too suspenseful at bedtime.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,