Going back in time

I was planning to go out of sequence on the Reading Challenge, jumping right to “a book that was originally written in a different language” with Nana by Émile Zola. I’d read Germinal and L’Assommoir when I was studying French in university, and enjoyed them thoroughly, and having read that Nana is the most popular of the series, I suggested it to my book group.

I downloaded a free version from Feedbooks and it was such a terrible translation that I couldn’t read more than a couple of chapters. I realize it’s an old book and I can tolerate sentences like this:

“Still the same acidulated voice, only that now it tickled the public in the right quarter so deftly that momentarily it caused them to give a little shiver of pleasure.”

But seriously, do you have any idea what this means?

“You’re going to see my wife’s costume for the second act, old fellow. It IS just blackguardly.”

One of my friends tried the audiobook and said the translation was fine, but the narrator sounded like a robot. We decided to pass on this book and choose something else, but I may try again in the future, either in the original French or a better translation. Apparently the one by Douglas Parmée is quite respectable.

Returning to the original line-up, I started to think about books from my childhood that I might like to read again. Around the same time, I cleaned out my office closet and discovered a box of books which had been packed away for years because they were in rough shape and there wasn’t enough room for them on the bookcase. One of those books was The Head Girl’s Sister by Dorothea Moore, which was clearly a favourite since it was one of the few I still have from my younger years. I must have read it many times, because when I read it again, it was all very familiar to me.

The Head Girl's SisterThere was a situation in it involving a triangle between three girls, where two of them were competing to be the third one’s best friend, and I remember going through something similar when I was in grade 4 or 5, which may be when I read it for the first time.

For some reason, the book really appealed to me, and I remember wishing I could go to a boarding school just like the girls in the book, which is quite bizarre, since I was as much of a homebody at that age as I am now.

My copy looks just like the one in this photo, which I scooped off a site where they sell rare books, except that mine is in rougher shape and is missing the binding on the spine. Although there’s no date inside, according to Goodreads it was published in 1918, while Amazon lists the publication date as 1935. The inscription in the front is in my mother’s handwriting – not printing – so the latter date seems more likely.

2015 Reading Challenge

It was fun reading it again! I strongly encourage you to dig up something you enjoyed reading as a child and to go back there for just a little while.

If you were to do that, what book would you choose?

Image courtesy of Bonnyb Bendix


  1. What an interesting idea, Janet — to reread a childhood favourite. One of mine was Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, which I’ve reread many times. But you’ve inspired me to see if I can find one of my favourite childhood novels and reread it. It might be one of the books about the Moffats: The Moffats, The Middle Moffat, or Rufus M.

  2. It should definitely be something you haven’t already read as an adult. I think it would be fun to re-read one of the Kim & Katy books which I’ve spotted in your basement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.