Review: The Seagulls Woke Me, Mary Stolz

I usually read The Seagulls Woke Me when I have just finished Greensleeves and cannot bear to leave it absolutely behind right away; they are both books about girls who get away from (or find?) themselves.  The Seagulls Woke Me is a good transition from Greensleeves to, you know, regular life.  It helps me to be less disappointed in other books.  I am always pleased when I find a book that makes this nice transition for me.  Tam Lin for Fire and Hemlock; Rebecca for Jane Eyre; if I ever find one for The Book Thief, that will be a good day.

(I just reread The Book Thief.  Blown away once again by how good it is.  I started it, and immediately went to find my mother to pester her to read it.  “It’s not that sad,” I said.  “It’s sad but it’s really great, and it’s not like, you know, it’s all sad at once, so you could still enjoy it most of the way through,” and then when I got to the place where it gets really sad (around when they start using the bomb shelters), I had to go back and tell her that no, actually, it is that sad, it is the saddest book in the whole world and I cry like a baby every time I read it.  My little sister just read it and loved it, of course, though she also cried and cried.)

The Seagulls Woke Me is about a sixteen-year-old girl called Jean who is shy and socially awkward, and can never seem to say the right things, and her mother smothers her, and one day she goes off to spend the summer on a Maine island with her uncle and aunt.  Where she finds herself a perfectly viable person, after all.

I like this sort of book because I like the idea that you can go off to a new place and be a better version of yourself.  Greensleeves has a slightly harder time of it, but I suppose that’s because she dislikes herself more to start with.  The Seagulls Woke Me is a gentle, peaceful sort of book – it’s set on a sea island, and it reminds me of the sea itself.  Jean cuts her hair, and makes new friends, and learns to assess people with more – what? – acuity maybe?  I don’t know.  She grows up a lot over the course of the book without seeming too mature for sixteen, and when the book ends I always imagine good things for her future.

Do you have any books like this, that you enjoy reading straight away after another book?  Do you enjoy books where people reinvent themselves?  Any favorites you want to share?

20 thoughts on “Review: The Seagulls Woke Me, Mary Stolz

  1. I hardly ever reread, so I don’t have a reading sequence, as it were. But I’m thinking about rereading more this year, so maybe one will form. But I like the sound of The Seagulls Woke Me – that sounds like a very coo novel.

  2. I saw The Book Thief in the book store today and contemplated buying it. I couldn’t remember what I’d heard about it so I didn’t take the plunge.

    I now realize that I should have snatched it up! I love love love to cry in books. Oh man. Thanks for making me realize my mistake!

    • You should go back and get it straight away. Seriously you should get it. Even if you hated crying at books, you should still get it. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read, ever. Markus Zusak is good at having an emotional impact using only his words.

    • I love it when I find a book that matches to something else – you know, where the stories have a lot in common but one is not quite as good as the other. It’s nice because it makes the reading experience last longer.

  3. Oh, my God, I remember that book! She has long, heavy, unfashionable hair, and then she bobs it and her father gives her a green leather jacket and two college boys promptly fall madly in love with her, right? And she learns that peasant skirts suit her better than taupe party dresses.

    • Yes! And one of them teaches her how to dance – younger me really resented how easily this came to her, because I am completely unable to follow someone’s lead when dancing.

    • And she gave it away to Mona at the end, which shocked me. I always thought her father would be hurt when he found out she’d given away his gift.

      • That’s what I thought! Jean says her father will understand, but it was such a lovely gift, and I can’t believe he wouldn’t be just a bit hurt!

    • Not even my intention, but all the books I mentioned are quite superb. Especially Greensleeves! Nobody will read it but I swear it is wonderful! 😛

  4. I read War and Peace for the first time in 2008, and I remember finishing it and just thinking “Oh dear. What could I possibly read next?” I went for Ishiguro, and he was a great choice, because he’s a wonderful author in a completely different way than Tolstoy.

    • Ishiguro is always a great choice, I think! This year I’m planning to read his other books – maybe I will finally give Tolstoy a go as well. I’m so intimidated!

    • Aw, you’re missing out! It’s incredibly sad, but it’s so beautifully written. Markus Zusak, the author, is very gifted at packing small moments with emotion.

  5. I have always loved this book. I just reread it again (for the probably 20th time) and was struck again at how intelligent the writing is. I read it for the first time when I was around Jean’s age and now 25 plus years later I still get such a good, calm peaceful feeling when reading the book. I, also always liked that green jacket Jean’s father gave her and the peasant blouse and dirndl skirt that Mona lent Jean for the dance.

  6. I too reread this book almost every year at the beginning of summer, sort of my welcome to summer ritual. It IS so peaceful yet so many changes unfold for Jean. Living in South Dakota I know nothing of life in New England and fishing but the sea has always entranced me. I have often wondered if there were any sequels to this book and have toyed with the idea of writing one. I have also wanted to draw the characters as their appearances are very vivid in my mind, I wish I was a better artist! I was almost afraid to go see the movies of Lord of the Rings because those characters were so firmly pictured in my mind as well (also a series I reread almost every summer). Luckily, most of the characters were close to what I had pictured, especially Eomer and Sam. There are no bookclubs of any kind out here so I’m happy to find a place to share. I have toyed with the idea of trying to start a Jane Austen bookclub (like in the movie)….

    • Oh, I love the sea. My family used to go to a beach in Maine every summer for vacation, and I loved the sea. I never realize how much I’ve missed it until I see it again.

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