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How to appreciate a book better? (Part 2)

Post by: Deepti Khanna

Last week we spoke about how the author's writing style and character sketches within any given novel enrich the book reading experience. This week we shall touch upon autobiographical traces and visuals, something that again adds greatly to the entire reading experience.



Autobiographical traces
Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence is a good example of semi autobiographical work. The setting, premise and characters of such novels borrow heavily from the author’s life. For instance, Sons and Lovers is the story of Gertude Coppard the refined daughter from a well-to-do family who marries a miner. But soon after her marriage to Walter Morel, she realizes the difficulties of living off his meagre salary. The couple fights and drifts apart. Gradually, Mrs. Morel's affections shift to her sons. Lawrence’s letters demonstrate the admiration he felt for his mother - viewing her as a ‘clever, ironical, delicately moulded woman’ - and her apparently unfortunate marriage to his coal mining father, a man of 'sanguine temperament' and instability. He believed that his mother (Lydia Lawrence) had married below her class status.

Slyvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar is another example of a semi autobiographical novel. In the book Esther G`reenwood gains a summer internship at a magazine in New York but she is not excited by the glamorous lifestyle like girls her age. Instead her experiences disorient her. During her stay in New York she hoped to return to another opportunity, a writing course taught by a famous author. Upon her return home, her mother tells her she wasn’t accepted for the course. Esther becomes increasingly depressed and makes several attempts at suicide, which she survives and is sent to a mental hospital, where she meets Dr. Nolan. Under Dr. Nolan, Esther improves and regains her sanity.

The book review contains many references to real people and events in Plath's life. Plath like Esther did a magazine internship at Mademoiselle Magazine in 1953. Plath was also rejected from a Harvard course taught by Frank O'Connor. A good portion of Dr. Nolan’s part is said to be based on Plath's own therapist, Ruth Beuscher, whom she consulted for several years. And Plath committed suicide after several unsuccessful suicide attempts.

Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens, The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth by Leo Tolstoy are some other examples of semi autobiographical works.

“Knowing why the author sketches a character a certain is always interesting. For instance, Leo Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth tell us a great deal of the challenges he faced when he was growing up. We could also know why Slyvia Plath’s poems are sensitive and dark, due to the depression and suicidal tendencies she suffered from. Her novel The Bell Jar reveals quite a bit about the problems she went through,” states Rajany Das, an avid reader of English classics.

Visuals play a very important role when it comes to children's books. Any book that pairs a narrative format with pictures can be categorized as a picture book. In the best picture books, the illustrations are as much a part of the experience with the book as the written text.


Picture books are most often aimed at young children, and while some may have very basic language especially designed to help children develop their reading skills, most are written with vocabulary a child can understand but not necessarily read. For this reason, picture books tend to have two functions in the lives of children: they are first read to young children by adults, and then children read them themselves once they begin to learn to read.

Some picture books are also written with older children or even adults in mind. Tibet: Through the Red Box by Peter Sis is one example of a picture book aimed at an adult audience.  Tales of Krishna, Vishnu, Veer Savarkar are some of the examples of popular picture books by Indian author Anant Pai.

So the next time you pick up a copy of a book, look for these two pointers and see how much it helps you improve your reading experience. 

1 Comment

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I liked reading this :)
Wed,May 11th 2011 11:06 AM