The View from Saturday

Many people haven’t read this book. I did, probably when I was ten or eleven. I don’t really remember exactly how old I was when I first read it, but I did notice that small glimpses came back to me. So, as I went through Konigsburg’s collection, I was very excited to read it again. I realized that I had forgotten most of it.

This particular story is structured differently from the other two. This one works in multiple frames. The frame is a middle school quiz team named “The Souls.”  Each of the four, and then their teacher/sponsor tells his or her story as the major competition runs. What I also discovered that what I remembered from the book was one particular of the framed story.

For me, at least on this reading, it started off a little slowly. Not bad, but not as good as I had built in my head. Still, somewhat clever, and creative at the very least. However, each of the stories is necessary, because they are all very intertwined and have recurring ideas and even recurring notes that create “inside jokes” in the narrative.

My favourite story is in the middle, and it is the one that made the biggest impression on me. Reading it this time, I believe that I like that character as a narrator the best of all the characters. As well they should, each character has his or her own narrative voice and style.

The themes in this book are a little more advanced than the other books in the collection. The most obvious and direct theme is fitting in and acceptance. I really like the book for this theme. It approaches the nature of trying to fit in with others vs. being yourself, but it throws a new spin on this problem. Here, the solution is to find a group that encourages you to be yourself. Interestingly, it begins with each being “selected” very discreetly by an outcast. No one knows they associate with each other, but they create a strong, supportive bond. The fluidity of the group, their fit and genuineness are in the end what creates their success. They do more than just enjoy each others’ company. They strive to do good things for others and work together as a unit. They are loyal and take care of each other.

Which takes us to our second theme of friendship. If we compare this to the idea from JHMWMaME, we see almost polar opposites. Where as Jennifer and Elizabeth feel rather manipulative, this relationship is mutually supportive. Having these two foils is a great lesson for children, and especially older children that are trying to find themselves while fitting in. Instead of forcing each person to be a certain way, this group maximizes each members natural self- a true marker for great friendship.

Before this sounds all mushy, let me point out that the relationships are not perfect. The characters are very human. They hesitate to like each other, for reasons such as jealousy, shyness, or perhaps wanting to maintain one’s current status in families and school. The book is also quite honest about how cruel or ruthless even young people can be. What makes this work is that, despite the fairytale/inspirational nature of the book, it is, for the most part, set in a recognizable version of reality, straight down to the bureaucratic and political nature of administration and public office.

Another interesting element is how putting others above our hesitance or self-centered thinking can really work out better for us in the end. It suggests not necessarily that altruism is it’s own reward, although the factors of that are in the book, but it also suggests that it pays back directly to us, possibly more than self-interest.

The final theme I want to note is that it establishes many, many different kinds of relationships and life paths. It includes divorce, marriage in late life, long-term marriages, single parenting, focus on career, friendships, being a loner, and avoidance. This is a very important concept to introduce, because we often become socially stuck and limit ourselves, because we think of only three or four acceptable relationships or life structures, when in fact, there are numerous ways to be functional.

The View from Saturday is appropriate for many ages, especially around middle school, because that is the age of the characters. Children somewhat younger than that will probably enjoy this book as well.

Inklings Recommended

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