[Click in the newly-created Books With Spines: The Complete List to see the list of all your suggestions, including Books About Adoption. Please also go to the bottom of this page to see just the list of Books About Adoption.]
This week’s theme –suggested by Jamie Spencer—is Books About Weapons. We’re going to confine ourselves to one suggestion: Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, about a young lawyer at the time of the French Revolution who turns himself a master fencer so as to achieve revenge on the evil Marquis de la Tour d'Azyr.
What do you think are the best Books About Weapons? Why? Please tell us by the afternoon of Friday, July 29!
- Ben-Hur. A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince in Roman-occupied Judea is wrongfully convicted of a crime and sentenced to life as a galley slave in the Mediterranean. He is freed and adopted by Quintus Arrius, commander of a Roman fleet in which Ben-Hur served. Arrius credited Ben-Hur with saving his life after their ship sank in a battle against pirates. Ben-Hur returned to Jerusalem and had his revenge against the Roman Messala, who had arranged his earlier conviction. Jesus, with whom Ben-Hur was a contemporary, makes several appearances in the novel, and Ben-Hur becomes a believer. Many will have seen the extraordinary film (1959) the high point of which was a thrilling chariot race, which Wallace (a former Civil War general) graphically describes in the novel. That film won eleven Academy Awards. Let us hope that the forthcoming remake will be half as good. (The first Ben-Hur film was a silent version, 1925. That chariot race was good too.)
- Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Spider adopts pig and saves his bacon.
- Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. Eliot’ s last novel which, among other aspects of its complex plot, offers a sympathetic view of the then nascent Zionist movement. Daniel Deronda, the principal, is the ward of Sir Hugo Mallinger, a wealthy gentleman who envisions a university and political career for his adopted son. Deronda isn’t certain of his exact relationship with Malllinger and, like many others wonders if he is actually his illegitimate offspring. By many intricate twists and turns, Deronda eventually learns that he is the son of Maria Alcharisi, a famous Jewish opera singer, for whom Sir Hugo carried a very bright torch in his youth. It was this devotion that led him to adopt her son and honor her request to raise him as an English gentleman without revealing to him his Jewish origins. Daniel, however, does discover his roots, marries Mirah, a Jewish girl whom he meets by odd chance, and embraces his true identity with gusto.
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The beautiful young Estella by the eccentric old Miss Havisham.
- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). Huck by Miss Watson. It seems to me that Huck's final declaration—“… Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me. and I can't stand it. I been there before."—capture Huck in a nutshell. "Bad" grammar and spelling. But the use of the pronoun (it) and the adverb (there) while grammatically indefensible is a brilliant summary of Twain's astute "take" (i.e. condemnation) of civilization and its discontents.
- Galatians by Paul. Christians are adopted by God, via Christ. Paul explains this mystery of the gospel to the church at Galatia.
- Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Cosette is adopted by Jean Valjean.
- Out of the Blackout by Robert Barnard. Our hero remembers nothing before showing up with a queue of children evacuated from London during the Blitz. Grown now, he tries to find out who his parents really were … and uncovers a deeply unpleasant part of the English past in doing so.
- Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery. Jims is adopted by Rilla.
- Silas Marner, The Weaver of Raveloe by George Eliot. Marner is a hard luck character whom fortune seems to have cursed: everything bad and nothing good seems to befall him. He’s been betrayed by a close friend who frames him for the theft of church revenues and, to salt that wound makes off with his fiancé and marries her himself. Marner is forced to leave town, and re-locates to Raveloe, where he is moderately successful as a weaver, but otherwise a reclusive bachelor who hoards and idolizes a cache of gold. Alas, that is also stolen from him, and he sinks into despair. H’s lifted from the depths, however, by the sudden appearance at his doorstep of a toddler,, a two-year old whose mother has perished nearby from an opium overdose. He decides to keep her as his adopted daughter, whom he names Eppie, after his own mother. Eppie is the ray of sunshine Marner needed, and brings him happiness he had never known. And when her biological father turns out to be one of the local gentry, she declines his offer to make a lady of her and remains with her adoptive father. In the end,, Eppie marries a local farm hand who moves and everyone lives happily together as an extended family.
- Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander. Taran tries to find out who his real parents were. This is the most mature of the Chronicles of Prydain; I didn’t like it as a child, but was moved by it as a teenager and a grown-up.
- The Foundling Fox by Irina Korschunow. An orphaned fox kit is adopted by a vixen. This is a picture book for young children: my daughter Phoebe came home from kindergarten enthralled by the book which her teacher had read the class, and recited the entire book to me from memory, her beautiful big eyes wide with the horror of being motherless, and the relief of being found again.
- The Harry Potter novels by J. K. Rowling. Lawrence Squeri writes: Harry's parents are dead and although not formally adopted, he is raised by his aunt Petunia and her husband Vernon Dursley. The Dursleys treat Harry very badly and it is amazing that he grows up to be well adjusted. Although Harry has every right to be bitter, he instead is generous and heroic. Harry is heroic not only because he defeats the evil Voldemort but also because he does not allow an ugly childhood to poison his character. Only in the world of fiction - or magic - can this happen. In the real world, though, someone who is treated like Harry would end up being an emotional basket case. Jamieson Spencer replies:Lawrence is right on Harry P. Power of fiction (esp "children's" fantasy to point us toward an impossible level of perfection. (otoh: Is Oliver Twist any less credible?) (2 recommendations.) (2 recommendations.)
Finally, a beautifully large number of suggestions from Tom Horrell:
A difficult question. There are, of course, books about being adopted and/or adopting, in the traditional sense of the word. But there is also an entire subgenre which explores the fortuitous 'adoption' ... the mentoring 'adoption' ... the friendship 'adoption' -- all focused upon the idea that one can be 'made' family (or create 'family') even without an adoption process or formal familial context. As we lump these categories together we can find ourselves in the world of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield & Oliver Twist, just as easily as we might discover ourselves deep into T. H. White’s The Once & Future King, with the fostered Wart & Co…..or chasing evil men with John Connolly’s detective, Charlie Parker (and his ‘brothers’ Louis & Angel). Apocalyptic Adoptions might even comprise an entire sub-sub-genre as we consider the ‘adopted’ families who undertake their world-shaping odysseys, as in Stephen King’s The Stand….or Robert McCammon’s Swan Song….or Justin Cronin’s The Passage. And, of course, no list of Adoption Stories would be complete without noting both, A Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and, again, Peter Lake’s adventures in Winter’s Tale (by Mark Helprin).
Image Credit: Public Domain.