TotG (was Re: Introductions)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Mon Jun 23 15:04:05 EDT 2003

Directly replying to Elise, but incorporating Minnow's and Charlie's 
remarks too:

First, from the last post, about the scariness factor:  I don't find 
TotG any scarier than a lot of the other books in a 'normally' scary 
way, but I find the beginning, where the narrator doesn't know who 
she is, absolutely terrifying.  That whole idea, of the possibility 
of losing your own sense of identity, is real nightmare.

>   By extension, one can see that - yes, many things were rotten 
>about the childhood of DWJ and her sisters - but while they were 
>powerless to change their circumstances for a while (and no doubt 
>family has been an ongoing challenge since) and I feel for them, it 
>isn't pity that I feel. Hmm, I feel sure there is more to be said 
>about that, but it isn't coming together for me at the moment.

Not sure this is at all together, but - it ties back to Charlie's 
'resilience' comment for me.   In fact, I gave my copy to a  friend 
because she's desperately worried about her three granddaughters, 
(with good reason) and needed the hope from seeing that someone (and 
someone she already knew I considered wonderful) *had* survived a 
potentially very damaging childhood.  And there's what DWJ keeps 
saying about people thinking better about problems if they have hope, 
as well.

But on the same point, I often find myself doing serious 
teeth-grinding when people trot out the cliche about children being 
so resilient.  It can be used as a refusal to acknowledge the 
capacity of children to suffer as much as adults, IMO.  And there's 
more to TotG's power than simply saying 'I survived this, so anyone 
can', which can be another variant of the same dismissal.  Whatever 
it is, it works!

>Hallie! I will try not to become a *complete* lurker again :)

Good!   You're missed when you leave.

[doing some snippage]
>I do recall saying here I felt familiar with Totg, but in retrospect 
>I worry that how I said it may have left the impression that there 
>was more similarity between our experiences than there actually was.
>For us there was much more challenge of taking on responsibilities 
>though, rather than leaving, as the book (as in life) resolved that 
>part of their lives.  And of course, our parents weren't cold, but 
>overwhelmed by circumstance, and that is a *very* different thing.

Well, I remember a huge number of things you said, Elise, and as one 
of your list memory holders, I never got the slightest impression you 
were saying your parents were like the TotG parents.  :)  (Wasn't 
the Awful Boyfriend similarity in here too? )  But I wouldn't have 
taken your saying the characters reminded you of you as meaning a 
literal parallel in situations anyway.  There's something about the 
way really *good* books (and please, nobody take me up on that one - 
I'm not up to a fight about literary merit just now!) can speak to 
people in situations with no obvious similarity as well.  I've 
mentioned this here before perhaps, but my one of my favourite 
examples is given by Michele Landsberg in _Reading for the Love of 
It_.  Her son, who had a lateral lisp, had astonished speech 
therapists by overcoming it (at all, and so quickly) - and when 
asked, he put it down to remembering the boy in Rosemary Sutcliff's 
_Warrior Scarlet_.   (Who's 'crippled', and fails the ritual rite of 
passage, and is outcast as a result, for those who haven't read it.)

>So that's my perspective on it.  I am curious to hear different 
>ones. Certainly, I would think that one couldn't live too long 
>without meeting people who have had all sorts of things happen in 
>their lives? Is it that the book gives it visual immediacy?

I think for me some of it was the shock of coming to TotG fairly late 
in DWJ reading, and suddenly understanding the recurring theme of 
absent/neglectful/incapable parents in the books and at the same time 
being in awe that she herself survived that kind of childhood.  Not 
just survived, of course, but had so much to offer so many other 
people - family and friends and us!


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