Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday 1

I've decided to jump on board the "Top Ten Tuesday" blog hop this week because the prompt was irresistible. I've noticed this blog hop because it seems to be highly popular among the book bloggers I've connected with and a great way to meet more. So the prompt this week is the Top Ten characters you'd like to be best friends with. As I made my list, I realized that I would not like to be friends with most of the characters in my favorite books... They're all pretty dark and depressing! I mean, I do love Raskolnikov and Jean Valjean, but it wouldn't be very fun to be friends with them. However, I did find ten characters I'd love to know, even though they may not come from my all-time favorite books. Enjoy!

1. Harry Feversham from The Four Feathers
Harry is an incredibly loyal friend who will literally go to the ends of the earth and the depth of prison to save his friends. He never holds grudges against them or resents their mistakes. And I bet he was fun when he was in a good mood as well. For more thoughts on him, check out my Four Feathers review.

2. Lee from East of Eden
Who doesn't want a wise, lovable, faithful Chinese man in their life? Lee is my favorite character in this book, and I explain that in more detail in my East of Eden comments if you're interested. I think he would make a fantastic friend and a great mentor.

3. Charles Wallace Murry from A Wrinkle in Time
I hope you all read this Madeleine L'Engle growing up and can appreciate how fun it would be to have little Charles as your best friend. He's quirky, nerdy, and just plain awesome. He's very sweet and loyal as well and is willing to do anything to save his friends and family. Plus, he seems to invite time-traveling adventures into his life, and I'd love to be a part of that!

4. Antonio Corelli from Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Corelli is a fun-loving, Italian musician with a big heart. He's incredibly gifted with the mandolin; I would love to hear him play beautiful tunes to me at night. Even in the darkness of war and in a country that resented his presence, Corelli managed to make a lot of friends. As my best friend, I'm sure he would keep me laughing and dancing in the toughest times.

5. Shel Silverstein... the author
Ok, I'm kind of cheating on this one, but I couldn't leave him out of the list. I read every single book he wrote, from Where the Sidewalk Ends to the Giving Tree. He has a fabulous sense of humor, and I bet he would keep me cheerful all the time. And if I had a bad day, he could just whip up a little poem for me.

6. Hercule Poirot from the Agatha Christie novels
I would love to be friends with Hercule! He's an odd Belgium detective with a keen sense of observation and intuition. Even when he's not trying, he always seems to come across another mystery to solve. I would like to team up with him and watch him work as the drama unfolds. Plus, he'd always be saying silly French proverbs and expressions to me - how great is that?

7. Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby
He's cool, he's rich, he's mysterious, and he throws some really great parties. Sure, he has his issues, but I would have a lot of fun with Gatsby as a friend.

8. Huckleberry Finn from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Huck would be a great friend and fellow adventurer. I'm sure I would laugh a lot with him and gain from his carefree spirit. Even as an adult, I think I would at least chuckle along with his comments and unique perspective, all of which come from a good heart.

9. Peter Pevensie from Chronicles of Narnia
So the truth about this one is that I want a way to get into Narnia. And out of all the Pevensie kids, I think Peter would make the best friend. Lucy's a little annoying, Susan's a little bossy, and Edmund has his ups and downs. So Peter it is.

10. Odysseus from The Odyssey
King of Ithaca and total badass - Odysseus rocks. He's tough, hot, and clever. He loves his family and he can out-think anyone. Sure, he might make a better husband than friend, but I'll settle for friendship. I'd get to ride his ship, traveling to the ends of the world and getting rich. Sign me up!

Thanks for reading. I'd love your feedback!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Native Son

To follow Dickens, I want to write about a novel that receives less attention in lists of Classic Literature.  Published in 1940, Native Son by Richard Wright is a phenomenal and heart-wrenching book that deserves to join the "greats" of Classic Lit. I'm not sure why this novel hasn't yet received the recognition it deserves, for there are several books published in the 1950s and 1960s that have already achieved this kind of acclaim, including several I have previously discussed: East of Eden, Catch 22, and In Cold Blood.  Nevertheless, I consider Native Son a piece of Classic Literature for a number of reasons.

Perhaps the primary attraction for me in the book is that the main character is once again a sort of "misunderstood criminal."  I don't know why this always appeals to me (such as Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment or Jean Valjean in Les Miserables) but I am so captivated by the protagonist Bigger Thomas.  Let me warn you - there is a lot of dark content in this novel.  Bigger murders two people throughout the course of the novel, and similar to In Cold Blood, the author never forgets or diminishes the significance of these crimes.  It is painful to read about his actions and the kind of train wreck self-destruction that follows.  The plot falls into a violent, spinning-out-of-control pattern out of which Bigger cannot wrench himself free.  I was overwhelmed with sympathy for Bigger, and my heartstrings intricately tied him up as an unforgettable character in my mind. 

There is a significant dimension of the novel that I haven't yet mentioned but you might have guessed if you are familiar with Richard Wright.  Bigger is an African American, and his struggle to grapple with his racial identity controls just about everything that happens in the story.  Wright powerfully illustrates the psychological damage that an unjust social structure can cause an individual.  Bigger does not particularly experience overtly hateful actions and slanders, but he implicitly views himself as dangerous through the stereotype whites have pressed against him.  In effect, Bigger is forced to embody the worst of the prejudices white people tend to set against him.  However, Wright also illustrates that Bigger has prejudices against white people as well, and he cannot see them as individuals.  Likewise, the psychological effects of these stereotypes affect the white people as well.  There are many symbols throughout the text that additionally suggest the oppressive roles that have engulfed black-white relationships in the novel.

Finally, I must mention the writing style, for Wright is an incredibly talented writer.  The novel moves very quickly and smoothly because of the skillful details and dialogue he includes.  Adding to the intrigue, Wright portrays the novel from Bigger's point of view and consciousness.  Bigger is an uneducated, reckless sort of character, and it is fascinating to get inside his head while he processes what happens to him.  His reasoning and self-perception create a fascinating experience for readers who would otherwise view the plot from a much more rational perspective.  There are many other dimensions of the novel that are worth studying and discussing, but I will end for now on these thoughts.  I truly believe this is a magnificent novel that is well worth your time, even though it is a difficult and depressing story to experience.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My favorite Dickens

I feel like all lists of Classic Literature include at least one book by Charles Dickens, which draws mixed opinions from readers.  Some people love Dickens and read each and every work.  To those who fall in this category, I tip my hat to you in admiration of your devotion.  On the other hand, I know there are a lot of people who do not enjoy his writing style and tire of the long passages of description.  These people struggle to finish the lengthy novels and maintain their attention levels.  I fall somewhere in the middle.

I would not include Dickens on my list just because I felt like he is often included on these lists.  I am only going to write about the books that I believe deserve their positioning in the shelves of Classic Literature.  I don't love everything by Dickens, and I haven't read most of them, but I do think there is at least one of his novels that has secured its spot in timeless literature.  And for me, this is my favorite book by Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities.  It has an epic-feeling nature and fascinating plot, with many surprising twists to keep it interesting, along with a variety of characters and excellent writing skills.

One of my favorite things about this novel is its culture-crossing between France and England.  The characters are from both countries and move back and forth between the nations throughout the course of the story.  The languages are also frequently represented, although Dickens writes in English.  Perhaps the best example of this is the epic battle between Madame Defarge (French) and Miss Pross (English).  France has a particularly strong identity in the story because it is set during the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille.  The historical dimension this provides is fascinating to me because I enjoy the different perspectives Dickens creates on the meaning of this war.  For some, it is deeply personal, and others are torn in loyalty between the two nations.

The variety of characters is another of my favorite aspects of this novel.  I don't know that Dickens was especially skilled in the development of individual characters, but he did offer enough different personalities to provide an interesting spectrum for readers.  Madame Defarge is one of the most intriguing to me; her strength and fierceness are quite intimidating.  At times, she seems "good" and in the end we view her as "evil," but she is nevertheless a pillar of strength in the story.  I also love Sydney Carton, the tragic yet lovable character and foil of the hero, Charles Darnay.  Some of the characters provide a little comic relief, which is much-needed in this heavy tale of war and suffering.  However, the humor is more subtle than in some of Dickens' other novels, which ensures that he doesn't cheapen the depth of the emotions he has established in the characters and setting.

Before I end, I have to note the narrative style.  In this book, I never tired of Dickens' descriptions, and the various moments of pure narration are often brilliant and memorable.  There are so many great quotes to pull from this novel.  Who doesn't know the opening lines?  "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity..."  There's a reason we all know this.  The pattern it creates, the rise and fall of the words and the meaning, breathes the message of the text before we even get into it.  It may seem simple, but mastering simplicity is one of the skills of great writing and is evident throughout this novel.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Literary Blog Hop 2

This Literary Blog Hop is quickly becoming one of my favorite things in the week.  I really enjoy connecting with all you fellow book lovers and bloggers and hearing your various thoughts.  This week, the question is easy for me.  "Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction?"  Yes!

In my opinion, the very best response to this question is the book by Truman Capote: In Cold Blood.  I have already written some of my thoughts on the topic.  Please check it out HERE or you can find it in my List of Reviews tab.  This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I believe it absolutely qualifies as "literary."  The writing is phenomenal and compelling, and yet the subject matter is 100% true.  I believe it is literary because it tells an engaging story and reveals a lot about human nature in the course of the work.  It sparks thought and controversy, and I don't think I'll ever forget it.  If anyone else has read it, I imagine they'll be singing its praises today on the blog hop.  Again, I explain it better in my earlier review.

However, I think I would be cheating if I left my blog hop entry just like that.  I have no doubt that there are more literary non-fiction books out there.  It's been a while since I've read The Color of Water by James McBride, but from what I remember of it, I think it could qualify as well.  I think it's more difficult to assess non-fiction in this category, especially with the celebrities' books that seem to be pouring into our bookstores these days.  I would be cautious before I allowed an autobiography or memoir to come into the literary classification, but I do think it's possible.  I'm eager to read the other blog hops today to find out what some of the other books out there in this category are!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Old, Old Classic

I decided to head back into literary history to one of the earliest works we have on record - Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  It's a wonderful collection of stories that can be daunting/baffling in its Middle English text but well worth the effort.  To summarize quickly, the book follows a group of pilgrims on their way to the shrine of the martyr St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury.  To pass the time on this long journey, each character takes a turn and tells the rest of the group some kind of tale.

First of all, I want to say that there is no shame in reading a modern translation of Canterbury Tales.  Yes, if you have a Middle English dictionary at hand and hours to pour over the text, you will discover the genius in the original language.  But very few of us can afford to do this, and I do not think Chaucer's tales should be neglected because they are difficult to understand.  So please don't hesitate to pick up an easier version of it if that is what is stopping you from reading this great collection.

One of my favorite aspects about Canterbury Tales is that it gives us a fascinating peek at society in the late 14th century.  Particularly as an American, I feel that my sense of history earlier than the 18th century is weak at best.  I can hardly wrap my mind around the kind of life that functioned before our detailed historical documentation and instruction.  Yet covering everything from friars to cooks, physicians to sailors, Chaucer portrays myriad social classes and backgrounds, which creates for readers a sense of medieval reality.  We get a taste of so many different kinds of people and manners of life in this one collection of tales.  Each narrator is unique, with a distinct story to match his or her personality.  It certainly doesn't get repetitive.

Another of my favorite things about this collection is the audacious and dynamic Wife of Bath.  She is one of my fictional heroes.  For a 14th century figure, she is absolutely remarkable.  She openly expresses her enjoyment of sex, she unabashedly proclaims her thoughts, and she offers equality as a solution for marital strife.  I feel that Chaucer made a bold and feminist move with this character that was light-years ahead of its time.

And, of course, I cannot talk about Canterbury Tales without talking about its humor.  Some of these tales are absolutely hilarious!  I read "The Miller's Tale" in a very quiet library and had to slap my hand over my mouth to keep from breaking the silence with a loud laugh.  The tales are full of sexual innuendos and crude jokes, which get me chuckling despite my resistance.  It's really quite shocking for the 14th century.  I think we tend to assume that it has only been within the last fifty years that this kind of humor has seeped into our literature, but Chaucer mastered it long ago.  Even the research on Canterbury Tales can't hide from the jokes.  One of the funniest things I've ever discovered was a scholarly analysis of Chaucer's use of "literary farts."  It's hysterical to read someone trying to approach the issue so seriously and academically.  Chaucer knew a cheap joke when he wrote one; let's just enjoy it.

When I first read Canterbury Tales, I was in high school and severely lacked appreciation for it.  But I read the tales again within the last year or so and fell in love with them.  So if you are in a similar situation, I urge you to try again.  If you don't want to read them all, just start with "The Miller's Tale" and "The Wife of Bath's Tale" and see how you feel.  Are there any other Chaucer lovers out there?  I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Steinbeck's Great One

I'm moving this posting back to the top because it's one of my favorite books, and I don't want it to get buried.  The Literary Blog Hop was a huge success, and I had a great time reading other people's thoughts and conversing about The Waves.  Yet East of Eden by John Steinbeck is one of my favorites for its depth, timeline, and themes that all evoke for me the classification "epic."  It is one of those books in which you can tell that the author was proud of his work.  I can feel Steinbeck preparing for his crystallization in literature, and he deserves it.  And I want to know what you all think about it too.

I first read East of Eden by suggestion of a friend, which is part of the reason I love all the literature bloggers out here.  Recommendations from fellow book lovers rarely fail to meet my expectations.  So keep them coming!  Anyway, I know that if I don't structure myself, I will babble endlessly about all the things I love in this book.  So I will just talk about one thing: the character Lee.

To give you a quick summary, the story weaves in among several characters, but the focus is on Adam's family.  Adam, whose story we receive in flashbacks, bought a farm from the lovable Hamilton family in order to start his own family.  He marries Cathy, a cold, manipulative woman who leaves Adam as soon as she has given birth to their twin boys, Caleb and Aron.  The boys are an explicit reference to the Biblical brothers Cain and Abel throughout the story.  Lee is Adam's household help whom I will discuss in more detail in just a moment.  And I have to include the narrator among the list of characters because he brings his voice into the text from time to time, coloring our vision of the story.

Lee is my favorite character in this novel.  He is a Chinese immigrant who initially appears to fit the stereotype of an uneducated, simple servant figure.  However, Steinbeck plays on this idea by subtly making Lee the actual head of the household as well as the wise philosopher.  As we read, we discover that Lee plays up his accent to make a show of ignorance in order to meet his "master's" expectations of him.  While Adam is turned stagnant by his wife's cruel abandonment, Lee steps up to be the backbone of the household and take care of the twin boys.  Even when Adam is back on his feet, this role is never reversed.  For the rest of the novel, it seems that the underlying strength in this male-dominated house is Lee.  The boys always love Lee and look to him for guidance, but they both try to protect and delicately please their father.  In their minds, Adam is not the force of strength and steadfast love they long for.  Lee takes care of the boys, cooks, manages the household, and even studies in his spare time.  In my mind, he is the pillar of the novel, even among the characters with whom he does not directly interact because even the readers can always come back to him for support.

Yet perhaps most significantly, it is Lee who introduces the most fundamental and binding theme of the novel: timshel.  Earlier in the story, Adam and Lee looked at the Biblical story of Cain and Abel together.  Steinbeck in no way attempts to hide the allusions he makes to this text.  Yet Lee was not satisfied with their short discussion.  He dedicated himself to understanding this text, breaking it apart word by word.  He even seeks counsel from other wise, non-Christian men to share in the discussion.  He gets stuck on one phrase the Lord says to Cain.  In some translations, the Lord says that Cain will rule over sin, and in other translations, he says that Cain must rule over sin.  Ultimately, Lee looks up the Hebrew translation of this word to discover that the true meaning  - timshel - is that Cain may rule over sin.  It all comes down to choice.  Essentially, every individual person is responsible for himself or herself.  We all have the choice to do good with our lives or to do evil.  It is far too easy to blame society, a rough upbringing, or the sinful nature on our bad actions.  Lee is overjoyed at the thought of this notion.  Timshel thus becomes a beacon of hope and redemption for all of the characters in the story.  Almost every one of them does some kind of "evil" action against another person.  There are no perfect or ideal characters in the plot.  However, timshel offers them the chance to start fresh

Although I am by no means anti-Christian, I love that Lee, the character who so passionately believes in the significance of this phrase, is not a Christian.  He does not attach to this concept because he thinks it is the faultless word of God but because he thinks it contains a truth that transcends religious, race, and culture.  Steinbeck is offering freedom in the novel, but a freedom that comes with responsibility.  And once this is in our minds, we read the rest of the story in this light, right to the very last word.  It's a brilliant novel with a plethora of fascinating themes, so many that I may have to return to this book for another entry later.  For now, I just want to bask in the central concept of free will.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Literary Blog Hop!

The Blue Bookcase is hosting a really neat "event" today called the Literary Blog Hop.  What happens is they post a question for the book bloggers out there to each answer on the same day.  It's a great way to network with fellow book lovers and hear about some interesting topics.  They kindly invited me to take part, and I'm excited to share in it.

You can check it out here.  (Sorry I couldn't get an image for you!)

This week's question is: What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read?  What made it so difficult?

This is a tough one because I've been challenged by a lot of reading.  I'm tempted to say The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot because I eventually had to spend hours breaking it down line by line to really grasp its significance.  I also think of Les Miserables because it's the longest book I've ever read, but I don't think it was actually the most difficult.  (If you're interested, I reviewed it here.)  The answer would definitely be Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals but that would not make for an interesting blog entry because I would basically just say, "I don't think I get it and that frustrates me."  So where does that leave me?  I'm going to go with The Waves by Virginia Woolf.

Woolf writes in a stream-of-consciousness style, which can be quite difficult to follow when you're not accustomed to it.  There's no strong direction of plot, and it's often unclear which character is the one in focus.  I found this difficult to follow at times in To the Lighthouse, but when someone simply classified it as "stream-of-consciousness" I suddenly grasped what she was trying to do and was able to work with it.  However, she pushes this even further in The Waves.  In this book, there are no characters and no plot.  The entire story is run by six different people's dramatic soliloquies.  At first, I found this extremely irritating and confusing.  I was not interested in the text nor appreciative of any skill involved in it.  The people do not really interact with each other, and the things they are saying do not fit together in any thematic or chronological order.  They spit out their random thoughts and emotions, often in short, uninteresting sentences or fragments.  No one responds to anyone else, and yet their speeches are so intertwined that it's difficult to discern who is supposed to be speaking.  It felt like nonsense to me.

So this was a difficult read because I struggled to understand what was going on and to grasp its purpose.  I didn't like what I was reading, which always makes it harder to get through it.  Ultimately, however, I grew to appreciate it as a representation of the relationship between Self and Other.  I think Woolf was trying illustrate that these two entities are not as disconnected as we like to think they are.  The Self cannot exist outside of relation to Others.  However, I still feel like it was a pretty obscure way to reach that point.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Four Feathers

Sorry I let so much time slip away between posts.  But now it's time to introduce you (if you're not already familiar with it, of course) to one of my favorite books - The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason.  It was published in 1902, one hundred years before its 2002 movie release starring Heath Ledger and Kate Hudson.  So please keep in mind that I am talking about this great Classic novel rather than the movie.  :)

I love just about every character in this novel.  The protagonist is Harry Feversham, a young British soldier who resigns his commission when he learns that his troupe is being sent to war in the Sudan.  Seeing this resignation as cowardice, three of Harry's friends, along with his fiance Ethne, each give him a white feather as a sign of cowardice.  In 1882 in which the novel is set, a stigma like this was enough to ruin a person's reputation entirely.  To regain his honor, Harry thus begins a heroic effort to prove himself to each person who gave him a feather.  He dedicates his life to this task, spending three years in the Sudan patiently waiting for his opportunity.  Once he begins his journey, there is nothing too dangerous to stop him from completing it.

On the surface, it does appear that Harry resigned out of fear.  However, Mason provides a deeper explanation for this by starting with a scene from his childhood.  Because his father was a soldier, he grew up listening to old army men scoff and scorn those who did not fulfill their duty or acted cowardly in war.  Harry was so fearful of condemning himself by acting in this way that he thought he could avoid the problem if he didn't go to war at all.  He was also greatly worried about bringing down his fiance in this shame if that were to happen.  However, his strategy backfired on him because his resignation was seen as a cowardly act in itself.  When he is faced with danger, it ironically turns out that he confronts it nobly and bravely.  Together with his intense loyalty to his friends, all these qualities make Harry an admirable character rather than a despicable one.

Ethne is one of my favorite female literary characters in existence.  At the beginning of the novel, she seems to act selfishly and superficially.  She rejects Harry because she is concerned about the stigma his resigning will create, even though she still loved him.  Yet throughout the rest of the novel, her character grows tremendously.  She is haunted by her action and vows to make up for it.  She never ceases loving Harry, but she lets him go because he vanished.  "Two lives shall not be spoilt because of me" becomes her creed, and she dedicates her life to this at the cost of her own happiness.  She develops into a truly beautiful character with a heart of gold, and I found it very easy to connect with her thoughts and emotions.

I feel the need to take a minute and say that this is not the most well-written novel I've ever read.  It has some depth in the character development, for Ethne, Harry, and his best friend Jack each change significantly by the end of the novel.  But I don't know if I would label this one as "genius."  Nevertheless, it is a very enjoyable read.  The story takes off from page one, and I can fly through it without ever losing interest.  It's one of my favorites because it's so much fun, and it seems to appeal to everyone I know for different reasons.  I recommend it all the time because I think everyone would like it.  The plot is exciting; there are many adventures that come and go, with interesting characters mixed in.  The love story of Harry and Ethne is sweet, even though they are separated for the majority of the book.  So try it out and let me know what you think!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wuthering Heights

In my last entry, I heavily emphasized the strengths of feminism, and then I realized that I had not yet written an entry about a Classic book by a female author.  What a crime to Classic Literature!  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is my favorite book written by my own kind.  And since we just celebrated Halloween, the dark and eerie nature of the plot seems to fit right in with this time of year.

Every Christmas and summer for the last four years, a good friend and I have given each other reading assignments.  We have different tastes in literature, but we both love to read.  It's a great way for each of us to broaden our horizons.  When she told me to read Wuthering Heights a couple years ago, I must admit that I felt a bit reluctant.  I assumed that it would be another frilly, fluffy romance about socialites and witty banter.  I expected a predictable plot and a neat, bow-tie ending.  Boy was I wrong!  In fact, if you reverse those descriptions completely, you'll get a much better picture of this fantastic novel.

The story of Catherine and Heathcliff is the most riveting love story I've ever encountered.  I could not tear myself away from it.  They are both quite flawed characters, but that's what builds the tension.  There are so many moments in which the two just barely miss each other in some way or another.  As a reader, this can be very frustrating, and some people may view their feelings of frustration throughout the novel as a weakness in the story.  On the contrary, I think this is the strength of the story because it compels us to keep reading.  Through our frustration, we are engaged and attached.  We don't read it passively or even clouded in the bliss of peaceful reading.  It is meant to be a painful, frustrating read because it's painful and frustrating for the characters too.  It is, after all, a dark story.  Yet even when the odds are stacked against them, there's an undeniable pull you can feel that Catherine and Heathcliff have toward each other.  I will resist saying more about their relationship so I don't spoil it for you if you haven't read it. 

I especially love the character of Heathcliff.  He is so complex, full of moments that make you love him and moments that make you cringe.  He does not follow a particular framework of "good" or "evil," for he exhibits features of both almost equally.  He often acts out in anger, but there is a genuine, vulnerable sweetness deep in his heart.  And only Catherine can tap into that sweet spot.  I found myself completely forgiving of him, rooting for him, and hurting with him.  Not everyone will feel this way, but I was a sucker for him.

Now this is one book that I fully intend to reread.  I'm sure that there are layers of meaning in the text that can be found in symbolism if you look closely.  For example, the children of the story add an interesting dimension to the novel.  They get so strangely mixed up in both their names, family lines, and personalities that it can be hard to keep track of them.  I'm sure that this confusion was created intentionally, and I would love to study the children in detail to figure out what they reveal about the adults.  I also think it's a fascinating narrative structure.  The story is told through the perspective of the only character who wasn't really involved (Lockwood).  Nevertheless, he's still a character interacting with the others in the story.  Of course, this challenges the veracity of the events because we can only see them through a certain level of subjectivity.  (Familiar theme, once again).  I do not think we should be deceived into thinking that this has no relevance on the story.  Nelly, the housekeeper who dishes on the past, must be an important key in the understanding of all the characters.  Maybe I should have saved this entry for later because I don't have a great theory right now of what that "key" is. I hope you all can fill me in on some of the depth and various messages you discovered in your reading of this book.  I'd love to hear it!