A couple of months ago Matt at A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook wrote a book review on The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Matt read this novel shortly after reading Virginia Woolf’s classic, Mrs. Dalloway and made this observation: Although The Hours repeats some of the darker events from Mrs. Dalloway, and at some points follow its cadence too closely (a literary parallel), Mrs. Dalloway is not a prerequisite to The Hours.
Since I have had Mrs. Dalloway on my bookshelves for several years now, I knew that I had to also acquire The Hours so that I could attempt to make the same literary comparisons that Matt found. I tend to do this. I LIKE reading similar literature at the same time. I think it helps me to hone my literary analysis skills as it forces me to focus on subtleties of language and style, and not just plot and character. However, just because I like to do this, does not mean that I make the time to do it very often. In fact, I have several literary pairings that I would read “when I have the time.” A few of those that interest me are:
All 6 of Jane Austen’s novels in the order in which they were published. Her literary canon is so small compared to other great authors (Shakespeare – Dickens etc) that this seems like it would be an achievable goal. I would love to see how this woman of meager means who focuses solely on the inhabitants of small English villages rather than the politics of the world at the time manages to fully develop characters and story lines that are uniquely different and positively engaging.
Jane Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice and then some of the more recent Elizabeth and Darcy spin-offs (most notably Pamela Aidan’s trilogy that looks at the novel from Darcy’s point of view and Rebecca Collins who extrapolates the story after their marriage).
The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens and Drood by Dan Simmons. I have heard such rave reviews of Drood and have wanted to read it since it was first released, but somehow I have convinced myself that I will not truly appreciate this work unless I read Dickens’ original work first.
The entire Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis – in “chronological” order (rather than the order in which they were written). I have thoroughly loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I have not allowed myself the pleasure to learn the history of Narnia nor to follow the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy post White Witch encounter.
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff and The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. Both of these novels surround the polygamy issues of the Mormon tradition, although The Chosen One is written as a YA novel and therefore for perhaps a younger audience. I think the theme is mature enough for any adult and I have read fabulous reviews of both these books. I think to read them in combination with one another would be a powerful literary experience.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and March by Geraldine Brooks. I read Little Women many decades ago when I think I was much too young to fully appreciate the story. I would love to re-read this classic and then follow up with the 2006 Pulitzer Prize winning book which focuses on the parallel story of Mr. March and his adventures in the civil war.
While I am sure that I could go on forever with possible literary pairings that would be of interest to me, I am very excited to hear from you. Do you ever read books in conjunction with one another (either several books by the same author – or all the books in a particular series – or perhaps two completely different authors in totally different time periods?) I would love to hear your favorite pairings in the hopes of expanding my literary horizons and adding variety to my ever growing TBR bookshelf.