A few nights ago, while sipping red wine, a friend and I discussed rereading books from our childhood and how our opinions and perceptions have changed since we first read them. She brought up reading The Good Earth with her teenage daughter and, as they read the first chapters together, wondering if this fictional portrayal of marriage was the best thing for her impressionable daughter to read. “I never realized what a misogynist the main character was,” she said. I confessed rereading Jane Eyre this past winter and thinking (horror of horrors!) that my beloved Mr. Rochester was kind of an ass. We laughed about how we never noticed these things as young teenagers, and how we brought our adult baggage and opinions to stories we had loved as children, thereby diluting the magic somewhat.
This conversation made me think of the magic I have encountered in books and some films, and I wonder if that magic still exists. As an occasional series of posts, I’d like to explore re-encountering some of my favorite stories to see if that magic holds up. Does the romance still exist?
Recently, in anticipation of viewing “Before Midnight,” I saw “Before Sunrise.” I hadn’t seen it since 1995, when I watched it in the movie theater underneath my college dining hall. Would Jessie and Celine’s story hold up, or would I no longer find it as sweet and romantic as I did when I was 20? Thankfully, it was just as beautiful the second time around, perhaps even more so because I watched it: a.) knowing that the two characters eventually end up together, and b.) with a certain nostalgia for that innocent, more romantic time in my life. Less than a year after watching “Before Sunrise” the first time, I, too, had a Eurrail pass and was traveling through Western Europe during the many Spanish university holidays. I went by “Kat” then, and it was a time in my life when I felt plucky and independent, when I was certain that romance and magic were just around the corner.
So, “Before Sunrise” holds up, and now I gaze at my bookshelf, wondering which novel to choose. So many—the classics I read for high school and college, a Victoria Holt novel, the Dragonriders of Pern series. So many. All these stories that nourished me, that brought magic during the hours I spent reading them—I’m curious if the magic holds.