Book Reviews

Book Review: “As For Me and My House” by Sinclair Ross

  

Published: 1941

Summary from Goodreads: “It’s an immense night out there, wheeling and windy. The lights on the street and in the houses against the black wetness, little unilluminating glints that might be painted on it. The town seems huddled together, cowering on a high tiny perch, afraid to move lest it topple into the wind.” The town is Horizon, the setting of Sinclair Ross’ brilliant classic study of life in the Depression era. Hailed by critics as one of Canada’s great novels, As For Me and My House takes the form of a journal. The unnamed diarist, one of the most complex and arresting characters in contemporary fiction, explores the bittersweet nature of human relationships, of the unspoken bonds that tie people together, and the undercurrents of feeling that often tear them apart. Her chronicle creates an intense atmosphere, rich with observed detail and natural imagery. As For Me and My House is a landmark work. It is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the scope and power of the Canadian novel.


Thoughts: 

I remember when I first read this in November, I found it really boring…I thought it was one of the worst books I had read. But as I started to take notes in class on it, it was then that I realized how much I appreciated this book. And here’s why: 

1)Mrs. Bentley (the narrator) – it is in fact interesting that she doesn’t even give herself a first name, we simply refer to her as Mrs. Bentley. I really didn’t like her much, I thought she was just the annoying clingy wife who hovered around, waiting either for sex or her husband (Phillip’s) approval. She’s a woman in her 30s, married to a poor preacher and childless – she actually miscarried their only child, and after that it was just doors closed, sexual tension arising between the two (at least, that’s how I interpreted it…feel free to give your own! I’m open to anything). She is a very interesting character, and a lot of psychologial realism surrounds her, which (after we talked about the book in class) really made me appreciate her character more! 

2) The form – Mrs. Bentley logs her daily life in a diary form, so again it just adds some interesting elements to the plot itself – we only get her point of view, not Phillip’s. So is what she says true, about how his paintings have gotten darker, more depressing? Or is that just based on her own psychological reading? Also, the way she interprets events to happen, is that REALLY how they happened, or again, is her psychological state allowing her to disfigure her interpretations and/or thoughts? A lot of aspects come into play in this novel, which I think made it better. 


Final Grade – 

This book get a 6/10 from me. Although it has all these interesting elements that I mention above, I still can’t get over ho boring and difficult it was to understand throughout. I never would have thought about certain things had I not been forced o read this. Well actually, I never would have picked it up if I DIDN’T HAVE TO. If you’re looking for a challenging read that makes you think and you’re up to the challenge to decide what Mrs. Bentley actually means, then go ahead and take a stab at this book. If not, then just DON’T. 

Has anyone read this? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! 

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