My class, Great Books for university has me reading classics. I’ve never been good at reading classics so I thought I would do a series on my blog called How I Survived Classics. This week is Patrick White’s, The Aunt’s Story.
Somebody help me right now. I feel like I lost part of my brain somewhere in the attempt to read this book. You know a book is bad when you struggled to get through one half, couldn’t get through the second half, and felt brain damaged from reading it.
And *inserts Goodreads blurb* once again…
With the death of her mother, middle-aged Theodora Goodman contemplates the desert of her life. Freed from the trammels of convention she leaves Australia for a European tour and becomes involved with the residents of a small French hotel. But creating other people’s lives, even in love and pity, can lead to madness.
Her ability to reconcile joy and sorrow is an unbearable torture to her. On the journey home, Theodora finds there is little to choose between the reality of illusion and the illusion of reality. She looks for peace, even if it is beyond the borders of insanity…
I got over half way, and by that point you probably should push on. That’s what I always think anyway because you’re almost there! You’re over the hump! But by this second part of the book, I was getting pretty stuck in mud to the point I was sucked in and couldn’t move. Trust me, I have physical experience with this and it is not fun.
So let’s dissect those parts a little bit further.
So the first part wasn’t terrible. A little boring, I’ll admit, as it went through day to day routines. Theodora was a little lost while her sister, Fanny was glowing in the spotlight. She had a hard life being misunderstood and so we followed that life and came out at the other end somewhat okay.
And then there was the second section which was confusing. In the second part we enter Theodora’s travels to Europe and things get messy (for me anyway). Suddenly I couldn’t tell what was real, what was imagined, what was fake, what was a memory. If it even was a memory? And don’t even get me started on the full sentences and paragraphs written entirely of French. Like great for you if you can read both English and French, but too bad if you can’t read French at all. So that ended up with me just skimming a large part of the book.
And the third part? I didn’t get that far.
There were a lot of descriptions which led you to having to stop and think about how one object related with another. And eventually once you’ve done that a few times, you stop doing it and just accept that White, as the author of the novel, understands that these two things do match up in some way.
I found myself having to think more than I wanted to while reading. I found that I couldn’t just read the book from beginning to end and still be sane. So once things started getting into the second section, I gave up. I closed the book and put it back on my shelf, and decided never to read it again.
I rate Patrick White’s The Aunt’s Story 1 star.
Have you read The Aunt’s Story? What were your thoughts on the book?