Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser
2001
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: return to my grandmother

http://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/virtualTour2/swanhouse_front.html




My grandmother has been trying to get me to read this book for years, but I kept putting it off. There were several reasons. The main one being that I (wrongly) thought we had very little in common and because we've had some rough patches. Also, The Swan House is a real place. It is a mansion. I have zero desire to look at, read about, and think about mansions. They are useless and tasteless, in my opinion.

A couple weeks ago I visited my grandparents. My grandmother was about to have surgery on her knees, and we were all hoping for a quick recovery. We talked a lot, and we had a really good time. She told me stories from her past (as did my grandfather) and there were many I had not heard. It changed me, and my feelings shifted dramatically. I went from keeping this book at a distance to having an overwhelming desire to sit down and read it all in one day. I wanted to understand her through reading it. I am not sure if that is possible, but I did enjoy the book in spite of myself.

It was a multi-genre novel set in historic Atlanta. I enjoyed learning about my city while reading it, and the mysteries kept me going. There was something wonderful about it that I cannot put my finger on. There was something about the wealthy boarding school girls that drew me in even as my resentment surfaced. I saw the trite descriptions of class and race at every turn. I left this book with a mixing of feelings. I can mostly only think about all the things I didn’t like, and yet I did not dislike the book. I know everything was overly simplified, and the story verged on “white man’s burden” material. I had to skim through some of the more lengthy religious proclamations without fully reading them. They were so frustrating and totally took me out of the story when I was completely sucked in. And yet and yet and yet…

What does it all mean in the context of my grandmother?

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