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A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.

I read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck as a teenager. Connected as it was to high school study, I liked it well enough, but coming to it within the boundaries and strictures of a classroom tarnished it somewhat.

A decade later, laying on the beach, relaxed and enjoying the sun, I read it again. And cried. I didn’t remember coming close to such a visceral reaction as that in school. I’ve since read it a few more times and the rest of Steinbeck’s stories, discovering along the way a writer who seemed to sneak in lines and observations of human nature that cut to the bone.

Does having to study novels for high school English spoil the enjoyment of the reading? Was it a case of having a fresh perspective gained from a chunk of life experience?

Have you come back to a novel and found your understanding and response to it at odds with your original reading?

There are several books I’ve reread and each time finding something different within the covers that resonates in differing ways and patterns. Not always in a good way. The Belgariad series by David and Leigh Eddings, for instance, read in my late teen years when it was sparkling new. I waited eagerly for each book in the series (sometimes two years!) and loved every story, every character, and every location and theme. I still do, but I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again. The last few times, I’ve found it hard to digest the stereotypes and gender inequality embedded in the storylines.

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. John Steinbeck

We might also add, no two stories are alike, and no two readings are alike. How can they be? A reader’s perspective changes from the first line to the last, through time in between readings, and by life.

We are not the same people we were at the start.

We are not the same people at the end.


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