Throughout 2012 I’m taking part in the group read of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, hosted by JoAnn of Lakeside Musing and Terri of Tip of the Iceberg. I probably won’t be posting an update every month but I thought it would be a good idea to at least post at the beginning, at the end and a few times in between.
For those of you not familiar with Clarissa, the book was published in 1748 and has over 1500 pages. The story is told in the form of 537 letters, the first being dated 10th January and the last 18th December. The idea of reading Clarissa over an entire year is so that the letters can be read on or close to the dates mentioned in the book.
January’s letters form a series of correspondence between Clarissa Harlowe and her best friend Anna Howe. In the first letter we learn that Clarissa and her family are involved in some kind of scandal and Anna wants her friend to tell her the truth about what has happened. Clarissa then replies to Anna with an account of the events that followed her family’s introduction to Mr Lovelace. At first Mr Lovelace had been interested in Clarissa’s sister, Arabella, before turning his attentions to Clarissa herself. It seems that Clarissa’s entire family disapprove of Lovelace, particularly after her brother James gets into a fight with him and is wounded. In the last of the January letters Clarissa has been given permission to visit Anna and stay with her for a few days.
I love the concept of reading each letter on the correct date, but I’ll admit I haven’t been sticking exactly to the schedule. I’m concerned that although January and February have a manageable number of letters (6 in January and 5 in February) some of the other months have a lot more to read (61 letters in March, for example). I don’t want to fall behind later in the year so I’ve been reading slightly ahead of schedule to make sure that doesn’t happen. I know this isn’t quite the idea of the group read but I think it’s the only way I’m going to have time to read the whole book before the end of December.
As I didn’t already have a copy of Clarissa I considered buying the paperback for the readalong, but in the end I downloaded the Kindle edition of the book, which is divided into 9 volumes. There are a couple of advantages to this, I think. I know from my experience of reading other books with 1000+ pages that they can be physically difficult to hold, so at least I don’t have that problem with the ebook version. And it also seems less daunting somehow to be reading 9 separate shorter volumes instead of one thick book.
I was expecting Clarissa to be a difficult book to understand as I haven’t read a lot of 18th century literature, but I actually haven’t had too much of a problem with the language. I wouldn’t describe it as an easy read and I certainly haven’t understood every word, as there are some that are no longer in use or that had different meanings in the 18th century, but I’m trying not to worry about that as long as I can still follow what’s happening. I’m enjoying the story so far and looking forward to continuing with it throughout the rest of the year!