Monday, 20 January 2014

Jess Suggests | Classics

Last week I gave you the classics I'd still like to read, so today I thought I'd recommend some of my favourite classics instead!

by Mary Shelley

At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

I didn't get around to reading Mary Shelley's infamous novel until I was in my second year of university, and I so wish I had read it sooner because it's now one of my favourite novels of all time!

What surprised me most when reading Frankenstein was just how easy it was to read. Unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of the Romantic movement in literature - I've always found the context of the period, like the French Revolution, more interesting than the literature it inspired - so I often find it difficult to read purely because I rarely enjoy it. Frankenstein, however, blew me away.

It's a fantastic, atmospheric, thought provoking piece of literature, and I can honestly say that if you haven't read this classic yet you're missing out!

by Wilkie Collins

‘When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else’

The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel’s household is above suspicion. Hailed by T. S. Eliot as ‘the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels’, The Moonstone is a marvellously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear.

Before there was Arthur Conan Doyle there was Wilkie Collins. The Moonstone is believed to be the very first detective novel, and it's a gorgeous one at that.

Collins expertly weaves characters and events to create a story that is rich with intrigue, suspicion and Indian culture. It's rather dense, as a lot of Victorian novels tend to be, but it's well worth your patience if you decide to give it a try!

There's an array of characters, some you'll love and some you'll despise, but all of them make up one of the best Victorian novels - and indeed one of the best novels period - that I have ever read.

by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"One of th' gardens is locked up. No one has been in it for ten years."
When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of mysterious secrets. There are nearly one hundred rooms, most of which are locked, and the house is filled with creepy old portraits and suits of armor. Mary rarely sees her uncle, and perhaps most unsettling of all is that at night she hears the sound of someone crying down one of the long corridors.
The gardens surrounding the odd property are Mary's escape and she explores every inch of them - all except for the mysterious walled-in, locked garden. Then one day, Mary discovers a key. Could it open the door to the garden?
Classics don't always have to be long, introspective pieces of fiction - The Secret Garden is proof of this!

Even though it's a children's story The Secret Garden deals with quite a few dark themes - as children's stories often do! - including child neglect and what initially appears to be terminal illness.

Unlike Sara Crewe, the heroine of Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess, Mary Lennox is a spoiled, selfish little girl, and yet we as readers still fall in love with her because, also unlike Sara, Mary develops a lot more as a character. We watch her learn how to interact with other children, and learn how to care for both them and the garden that she discovers.

I love this book, and I highly recommend it!

by Anne Brontë

'The name of governess, I soon found, was a mere mockery … my pupils had no more notion of obedience than a wild, unbroken colt’

When her family becomes impoverished after a disastrous financial speculation, Agnes Grey determines to find work as a governess in order to contribute to their meagre income and assert her independence. But Agnes’s enthusiasm is swiftly extinguished as she struggles first with the unmanageable Bloomfield children and then with the painful disdain of the haughty Murray family; the only kindness she receives comes from Mr Weston, the sober young curate. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë’s first novel offers a compelling personal perspective on the desperate position of unmarried, educated women for whom becoming a governess was the only respectable career open in Victorian society.

Anne Brontë has to be one of the most underrated English authors; she's often overshadowed by her sisters Charlotte and Emily, who are famous for novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Anne deserves a lot more recognition, as it is believed she is one of England's earliest feminist writers - this certainly isn't surprising when we look at Helen, the heroine of Anne's most famous work The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Agnes Grey, Anne's other novel, is much more autobiographical, and deals with the troubles many governesses in Victorian England faced. What I love most about this story is that it's just nice. While Wuthering Heights's Heathcliff murders puppies, Agnes Grey's Mr Weston rescues cats. 

Agnes is an endearing heroine, and I would so love it if more people read Anne's work!

by George Orwell

Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

This novella is brilliant because it's creepy. This shouldn't come as any surprise given that Orwell is also the author of the terrifying Nineteen Eighty-Four; the mother of the modern dystopian novel.

One of the main reasons I love this novella is because it's a political satire - it's based on real events in Russian history, and if that's not frightening I don't know what is!

It should also be praised for having one of the best last lines of any story ever, when I first read it it gave me chills!

Again, if you haven't read this already I highly recommend it. I only read it last year, and I really wish I'd read it sooner - it's a lot shorter than I initially thought!

With any luck you've seen something here that you might check out in future! If you could recommend a classic, which one would it be?

No comments:

Post a Comment