When I started reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, I was reminded of that chant. Many novels are told from the perspective of first person -- presenting the events from that person's singular and peculiar point of view.
For example (and these first lines are identified at the end of this blog entry): "I have just come home from a visit to my landlord -- the only neighbor I shall be troubled with," or "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," or "You don't know about me without you have read a book called The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain't no matter," or "The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it."
The Weird Sisters (the title a reference to Shakespeare's King Lear) takes first person to an unusual level: the plural. Instead of "I," it's "we" talking to the reader.
The story is told from the collective point-of-view of three sisters rather than alternating between each one, as they face a variety of family crises. Here's a quotation showing the clever sleigh-of-hand the author uses to tell us about one of the sisters while maintaining the sense of being a group of sisters:
"Cordy had never stolen anything before. As a matter of pride when our friends were practicing their light-fingered shuffles across the shelves of Barnwell's stores in our teens, she had refused to participate, refused even to wear the cheap earrings and clumpy lipstick or listen to the shoplifted music. But here she was in this no-name desert town, facing off against the wall of pregnancy tests, knowing full well she didn't have the money to pay for one. A Wild West shootout: Cordy versus the little pink sticks at high noon."
A book-end companion to The Weird Sisters is Jeffrey Eugenides's first novel, The Virgin Suicides -- a novel narrated by the collective "we" of the boys in the suburban 1970's-era neighborhood who observe and try to understand while a family of girl-children implodes.
"We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn't fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them."
It's an old truth that bears repeating: the perspective from one tribe never quite reaches the far side of other people's lives. Maybe this is the work of all good novels, to give the tribe of readers a peep into someone else's experiences.
* Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell