Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Book 15 of 2014: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I know I’ve mentioned it numerous times, but each year I reread The Lord of the Rings and each year it gets written up in my book journal and I write a review of it. I think this is my third time reviewing it here on this blog and in my personal book journals I’ll have reviewed it four times in total. I’m sure that most of the time I just repeat the same things but each time I try and read it in a different format/edition so occasionally I do notice things I haven’t before. Even on my fourteenth re-read.

Do I really need to summarise The Lord of the Rings here? Hopefully you know the basic story. Extremely abbreviated version goes like this: Short guy with hairy feet inherits Ring of DOOM!™ and must destroy it, travels a very long way with his gardener to throw it in a volcano while the rest of the world goes to war.

I started out this year determined to read The Lord of the Rings in the big hardback illustrated edition that I got for Christmas a few years ago. It is beautiful and spends most of its time living on my bookshelf because it is not exactly a portable book. About two chapters in I realised that this was not going to be practical at all. I couldn’t take it out of the house with me and it wasn’t even very comfortable reading it in bed. The best place to read was sitting in the living room with it in my lap (which isn’t even that comfortable because it’s so heavy) and I was conscious of the danger of spilling food or drink on it.

So in the end I switched to mostly reading it on my Kindle, occasionally switching back to the illustrated copy to look at the pretty pictures. Some day I will sit and read it from cover to cover in the illustrated hardback edition, but alas, now is not that time!

Now The Lord of the Rings is not a short book. It stands at somewhere approaching 1140 pages, so you kind of have to expect it to take a little while to get through. Though in the past I’ve sailed through it easily. There was one year when, in my determination not to have an unfinished book at the end of the year, I read the entire final half of The Return of the King between about 7pm and midnight on New Year’s Eve. This year it took me AGES to get through.

In my defence, I did have a lot going on at the time. Not really a huge excuse for spending over a month reading it (honestly I was reading it from the 19th of March right the way through to the 2nd of May, that means I read less than one book this April!) but makes it slightly justifiable. During that time I had OU work to do, if you remember I’d read the final books for my course prior to starting this so I was still doing all the work for those, plus assignments.

This was also around the time that I was travelling down to Manchester to take part in calls for Sport Relief. I thought I’d get quite a lot of reading done on the journey down and back up, but there were four of us going and we had a lot of changes and a lot of chatting going on instead. I read wee bit in the hotel room but then when I got back from the actual event it was very late and the following morning I took advantage of the free wi-fi to read the news.

I will add here, whenever I have somewhere to go, The Lord of the Rings is kind of my go-to book. It’s long enough that I know it’ll keep me going for a good long while. That’s why it was the book I decided to take to Russia with me when I did my ten day stint out there (Scotland – England – Finland – Russia – Finland – Estonia – Finland – England - Scotland). Without a doubt, it’s my Desert Island Book.

While I was reading it I rediscovered a blog which was written by a woman who was reading it for the first time and blogging about it as she did so, in the run up to the release of the first film. As well as a blog of reading it chapter by chapter on One Ring.net, these two things kind of inspired my own Chapter-by-Chapter posts which I’m doing at the moment with The Series of Unfortunate Events and intend to go on to cover the Twilight series when I’m done. It was interesting to read it from the two different perspectives; one of someone who has never read it before and everything is new so she doesn’t know what direction it’s going to go in, and one which has quite detailed references looking at such topics as race and the role of women in Middle-earth.

I was careful to read these blog posts alongside the chapters that they were related to so that I could see them through new eyes. It was really interesting, and certainly the blog reading it for the first time helped to recapture some of the feeling of reading it for the first time.

I should add as well, for someone who normally speed reads books, I don’t think that I enjoyed it any less for reading it slower. I’ve noticed since my literature courses I read slower because I’m looking at the texts in a different way. On the one hand, it’s frustrating because sometimes you just want a quick read, but on the other hand it’s quite nice to look at familiar books in unfamiliar ways.

With each reread I find myself enjoying different bits and appreciating the appendices a little bit more (particularly now they feature so heavily in the Hobbit movies). I’m already looking forward to my reread next year when I intend to read my edition from the 1960s, with all three books in the one volume (though with noticeably fewer entries in the appendices), or maybe I’ll go back to the three volume edition which was the one I used the very first time I read it all the way through.

At least I have plenty of time to decide that.

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