This is the fourth book I have read for A Year of Big Books. Over halfway through the book, I became very annoyed with it. Anxious to finish reading, I read as often as possible with lots of speed and little care for the book in general. At the start of reading this book, I was convinced it was the best of the year thus far. With my opinions clearly altered very quickly, I began to question what it was that made me take this from being a 4 star book to a 2 star book.
When I first started reading, what stood out to me was the multiple perspectives in the novel. I loved seeing America from different P.O.V’s and reading about the bonding between Orry and George at West Point. You remember, I love war novels. I’m still not quite sure why. This book didn’t have many war moments, being that it wasn’t actually a war novel as expected, but the few it had were okay to read. Looking back, when I came to this book I thought it would be a legit Civil War book and it was more of a pre-Civil War book. Sad face. Perhaps this is why I didn’t enjoy the book the more I read on.
Another reason I believe I may have grown sick of the book after a couple hundred pages was because the tensions in the book are so similar to the tensions in today’s politics. Reading about people (main characters!) defending their views on slavery and acting like people were being mean to them because they held slaves was so bizarre to me. Uh, no people are not being mean to you. You are holding human beings hostage against their will! They are fighting to stop you from being a jerk!
I just couldn’t get past these details. And I know one could argue that this was a different time and it is hard to change opinions but eff that. We are human beings! We are smart! We have self awareness and can move far past our animal instincts. I can’t sympathize with opinions that are based on holding power and are inhumane.
And what was worse, the book seemed to demonize those fighting against slavery over those who held slaves or did nothing. Take the character of Virgilia for example. She was more of a forced, villain type character and for no reason! When we are first introduced to her she is angry about slavery and uses stark language to convey the need to stop the institution. As the book continues, she becomes a vengeful and mean character simply for the sake of living up to what the book has implied about her. Ugh!
I was going to send you this book, friend. Being that you enjoy history, I thought you would appreciate it…but never mind!
Now, please don’t think I want to dismiss a book because characters disagree with my opinions. That is what is great about books. Characters are their own people and we love them despite their faults. We can also acknowledge that they may be right and this forces us to ask questions about our own morals and beliefs. This is why I love books!
But here is my issue with this text. It wasn’t self aware. The execution of the book clearly was taking sides of being sympathetic with the South instead of those fighting for the freedom of slaves and I just grew frustrated with it.
Sorry if this letter seems more like a venting. It basically is….
But I have noticed a pattern. Have you? You probably haven’t. I just tend to overthink things.
What I have noticed is that with every book I have read this year, I have grown sick of the book when I hit the halfway point. Well, I guess that is not totally true. I wasn’t too sick of Cider House Rules until the very end. And what made me sick about that experience of reading Carry On was all of the letters I had to write…no offense. Like, I was done with that book way before those letters and it was so annoying to not let it go! My point is, am I doomed to feel this way about every single book? I really hope not!
I smell a podcast topic!
What can I say about these final chapters of North and South though? Well…it wasn’t that enjoyable of a read. As I said, I went from thinking this was the best book I’d read so far this year to I HATE THIS BOOK IT SHOULD DIE in a matter of days. The book continuously villainized those who seemed to be legitimately trying to do good things. Also, not sure if villainized is a word but it is appropriate!
One thing I hated was the relationship between the main two characters, George and Orry. Like, friendship is great. Right? It is. I love our friendship and I know even though we disagree on things, it doesn’t tear us apart! But…George acted like his friendship was more important than the fact that his friend owned human slaves with no rights! Like, it isn’t as if they were disagreeing on their favorite color. The book finally seemed to recognize this in the page 600 region and it made me very happy but it did not make up for the entirety of the book not doing this.
“To me, words like fight and quarrel have a – well, almost a trivial sound. They suggest that people are falling out over…over hairstyles or the cut of a lapel. This argument runs much, much deeper. It goes all the way down to bedrock. Are you entitled to hold someone in bondage just because that person has black skin?…In the face of such issues, how can you stand up for what you believe and keep from losing a friend at the same time?”
I think this could have been a really great issue to explore and I know the book was trying to do this but as I already mentioned, the execution did not back this up. It just flopped and became tiresome.
Anyway, sorry for my damper of a letter. I’m just tired of books sucking. Like, when am I going to get to that amazing book this year? I’m definitely getting anxious! Do you ever feel this way?
Until next time, friend. Danielle.