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Monday, September 18, 2017

Green Mansions

 
A few years ago, I came across a copy of a book at a rummage sale that I'd been wanting to re-read. The book is Green Mansions, by William Henry Hudson, published in 1904. Although he was an ornithologist and naturalist, and wrote many books, he is perhaps best remembered for this work. It was required reading in one of my high school English classes.

Green Mansions
And that brings me to why I wanted to read it again. It's certainly not my kind of book. Not then, not now. However, all I could remember from so long ago was the basic plot and that I found it strangely disturbing. There are only a few books that have ever left me with that kind of feeling. As an adult, I finally figured out that the stories that confused and troubled me this way were ones where I identified with more than one of the main characters.

Ever since I realized this, I'd been looking for a copy of Green Mansions. Found this one for a dollar!

I'm going to digress a minute to talk about the book itself. This is a Heritage Club reprint (1937) of a special book club edition. The Limited Edition Club was a subscription service created in 1929 by George Macy with only 1500 copies of each book printed. The Heritage Club offered more affordable reprints. The originals had stunning artwork, by famous artists. This book was illustrated by Miguel Covarrubias.

Green Mansions
Anyway, I wanted to find out if I would still react the same way to this book that I did as a young teenager. The answer is "no." Not at all. In fact, I had to force myself to finish the book.

I think back then I saw myself both as the explorer who wanted to search out the unknown parts of the jungle (not really the point of the first person protagonist- but I was too naive to "get it."), and as Rima the almost magical girl of the forest who could communicate with the animals, appear and disappear almost mystically, and who had no people, was unique. I think I somehow guessed that the story could not end well, but didn't understand why.

The style is flowery and romantic. Very much the style around 1900, but not so much a century later. It's the kind of book I can't really stand any more, where we hear every nuance of thought and emotion.

Even so, it will probably end up on my best books of the year list (that I haven't shared for a few years), because now it's disturbing for different reasons. It's all about lost love, and love that can never be fulfilled, and the death of innocence, and tragedies of non-acceptance. Classic literature is usually good for a reason, no matter the writing style.

It can be read online for free, at several sites that carry books that are out of copyright.

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1 comment:

Ann said...

Probably not a book I would like :) I've tried to read a few classics and I find them difficult to read for some reason

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