Charlotte Reads Classics

Slowly, slowly, she sipped a sentence.

Travels With Odysseus

There is no man living – there never will be – who could come in enmity to the Phaeacian land; we are loved too well by the immortals. We live apart, with the billowing sea all round us; we live at the world’s edge.

I can’t get over how different this was to what I was expecting. It is readable, for a start! I think formatting The Odyssey for today’s audience as prose rather than a poem helped a great deal – thanks very much, Oxford World’s Classics. When I originally signed up to read on Bloomsday all those months ago my plan was to read The Odyssey beforehand so I’d be ready for Ulysses. This didn’t happen as I’ve been totally sidetracked by my war books, but it seemed only right to read The Odyssey now because I have been looking into it so much for Ulysses. I didn’t do any more research whilst reading though because I just felt like enjoying the story. I think you can read the book on a lot of different levels – if I had done loads of research into every unfamiliar name and myth I’d have finished The Odyssey knowing so much more than when I started. BUT the story is such an iconic tale that is still recycled in so many plots today that I enjoyed it on this basic level without doing more than the briefest of research.

The Odyssey has everything – love, jealousy, family, home sickness, adventuring, journeys, gods and goddesses, battles, friendship, kings and beggars, hidden identities, disguises and tricks. Odysseus is a great main character, a mix of warrior king and Everyman. He makes some pretty questionable decisions, but his crew don’t always listen to him.  The other part of the book I particularly enjoyed was the way the Gods were always meddling with human affairs. All the human characters were permanently questioning what was the luck of the Gods and who was worthy of favour.

All in all I’d recommend this, I was pleasantly surprised.

Then of a sudden the wind dropped and everything became hushed and still, because some divinity lulled the waters.

Regeneration: War Books [7/15]

So, I’m back to war! I actually finished this book just before starting Ulysses but didn’t get around to writing about it until now – I’m currently finding my opinions of Ulysses too difficult to summarise! Regeneration is a fantastic book and I’ll definitely read the rest of the trilogy when I allow myself to buy some more books. Surprisingly, a lot of the same people from Goodbye To All That  appeared as characters in this book which was a nice link – Graves himself, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen being a few.

The story revolves around Sassoon and his decisions to write his Soldier’s Declaration, which was a kind of open letter that stated why he didn’t want to fight in the war anymore. Sassoon didn’t object to soldiering in principle, but he disagreed with what he saw as the prolonging of war and needless sacrifice of young lives. He is sent to a military hospital called Craiglockhart (which was a real hospital) specialising in healing soldiers with mental traumas like shell shock, loss of speech, and psychological distress. It raised lots of interesting questions about what a ‘normal’ reaction to the horrors of war would be, and why some soldiers couldn’t carry on when others did. It was moving to read about how much the survivors were suffering, but they were only being recuperated so they could be sent back to die.

I enjoyed the mix of historical fact and fiction and liked the emphasis Barker placed on war as a psychologically damaging experience, which is something Louisa Young did with My Dear I Wanted To Tell You. Is healing more of a modern preoccupation? The books I have read recently that have been published in the last twenty years or so have tried to continue the story past the end of the war, which I have found fascinating.

I bought this book from a charity shop a couple of weeks ago, and when I picked it up to start reading I found an old photograph inside. If finds like this aren’t a good reason to buy second-hand books, I don’t know what are. I’m slightly obsessed with wanting to find out when the photo was taken, and who the boy is, who left it in the book and why.