but she won’t discover that it’s him ’til chapter three.

When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to be a film critic when I grew up. Obviously, that didn’t exactly pan out. But I’ve decided to dedicate the occasional blog post to what I’m watching (and reading and reading before I watch). This time around, I’m channeling my inner Belle to share with y’all a little of what I’ve been reading lately. Disclaimer–I can’t promise I won’t digitally burst into song…

Two years ago my sister gave me a book for Christmas entitled My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. I first discovered Conroy my junior year of high school in American Literature when I read his book The Lords of Discipline, and he quickly became one of my favorite authors. (I also met my future best friend in that class, so AJG, this one’s for you!) Maybe it was because the book was dark AND romantic. Maybe it was because he was a quintessential Southern author, capturing the charm and sometimes brutality of the South. Whatever it was, I was hooked and read anything by him I could get my hands on. I had read his autobiography years before, but My Reading Life was his newest work, more of a literary autobiography where he wrote about the books that inspired him as a writer. I was not only struck by the variety of books that served as his muses, but by how many of those books I hadn’t read myself. Most were classics—the ones I had been meaning to get around to, but had subconsciously been avoiding, afraid that I would find myself bored and consequently uncultured. His depiction of the heroes and heroines of these novels came alive on the page. Needless to say, I was intrigued. I had finally found the inspiration I needed.

Phase 1: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Wow. Four months later, and I finally finished this book. I must admit, I was not only inspired by Conroy to finally read this book, but also by the film The Last Station (there will be tears, but it’s just so good), which depicts the final years of Tolsoy’s life. He seemed like such a delightful human being (or maybe that’s just the effect Christopher Plummer has on me?) that I just had to start reading him. By page 10 I was in it to win it, and even though I still had 794 pages to go, I couldn’t wait. What stuck out to me most about this book, was Tolstoy’s ability to seamlessly blend so many layers of culture, politics, philosophy, family drama and of course romance (read: revenge, infidelity, insecurity etc…) and my ability to follow it. I’ll be honest–I’m not that deep, but like I said, I was in it to win it.

I also commend Tolstoy for his portrayal of a female protagonist, although I use that title for Anna with question. (I know you can be a protagonist, and I know you can be an antagonist, but can you ever just be a tagonist?) I don’t consider myself much of a feminist, but it still shocks me that I find male authors more adept at capturing the feminine struggle within the construct of society. I hated Edna in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I found her whiny and obnoxious and selfish. But on the other hand, I found Nora, in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House to be the complete opposite. Both characters leave their husbands and children to “find” themselves, but I found the character portrayed by a male author much more relatable. I had the same reaction to Anna, and I commend Tolstoy for his depiction. Don’t get me wrong—Anna is cray! But I think what makes her character so relatable, the book still so relevant, and Tolstoy’s writing so poignant is that every woman has felt the same emotions, paranoia and insecurity. Not all of us jump in front of a train to deal with those emotions, but most of us have entertained slightly less dramatic ways of reconciling our feelings. You go, Glen CoCo! Long story short (no really, this book is long) it’s definitely worth a read!

Phase 2: Gone With the Wind–and you know this Southern girl is going to have more than a few words to say. But there are 998 pages to go…