Friday, 17 January 2014

TBR | Classics

I love a good classic - who doesn't? - and while there are quite a few I've already read there are so many more that I still haven't read yet, so I thought I'd share them with you!

I don't know if I'm going to read these classics in 2014, it'd be nice if I did but I'm not going to put any pressure on myself to read things I'm not in the mood to read. I think that's why I had so many slumps in 2013 - all I could think about was the challenge to read 50 books that I'd set myself. I'm very proud I completed that challenge but I won't be setting myself another one this year just because reading became a chore rather than something I enjoyed.

So, here's the list of classics that I own which I still haven't read. I'd like to try and read them this year!

by Alexandre Dumas

Imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Edmond Dantès spends 14 bitter years in a dungeon. When his daring escape plan works he uses all he has learned during his incarceration to mastermind an elaborate plan of revenge that will bring punishment to those he holds responsible for his fate. No longer the naïve sailor who disappeared into the dark fortress all those years ago, he reinvents himself as the charming, mysterious, and powerful Count of Monte Cristo.

The Count of Monte Cristo is the one book on this list that I have actually started, though I think I've only read the first two chapters so far, which is barely any of the book at all.

I certainly should have read this book already, given that I'm fairly sure I've owned my copy for about six years. Oops! I think the main reason I haven't started it until now is just because I've always found its size intimidating. The story sounds amazing - I love a revenge story - and I think there's a very good chance it could become one of my favourite books once I'm done with it, I just need to get through it all first.

More than any other books on this list, I'm determined to read this one this year!

by Charlotte Brontë

With neither friends nor family, Lucy Snowe sets sail from England to find employment in a girls' boarding school in the small town of Villette.

There she struggles to retain her self- possession in the face of unruly pupils, an initially suspicious headmaster and her own complex feelings, first for the school's English doctor and then for the dictatorial professor Paul Emmanuel. Drawing on her own deeply unhappy experiences as a governess in Brussels, Charlotte Brontë's last and most autobiographical novel is a powerfully moving study of isolation and the pain of unrequited love, narrated by a heroine determined to preserve an independent spirit in the face of adverse circumstances.

As much as I love the Brontës the only novel written by Charlotte that I've read so far is Jane Eyre, it being the most well known of her works. I've heard great things about all of her novels, though, and I bought myself this copy of Villette last year purely because I thought the cover was really pretty.

Villette was Charlotte's final novel and the story sounds pretty interesting, so I'm hoping I'll get around to reading it this year!

by Bram Stoker

A young lawyer on an assignment finds himself imprisoned in a Transylvanian castle by his mysterious host. Back at home his fiancée and friends are menaced by a malevolent force which seems intent on imposing suffering and destruction. Can the devil really have arrived on England’s shores? And what is it that he hungers for so desperately?

Considering I had to study this novel for the final two weeks of my Victorian Gothic module I really should have read it by now. Though I feel I should receive some credit for managing to discuss a novel I hadn't read in class...

I've tried to read this book several times, but each time I've tried I just haven't been able to get into it and I'm not entirely sure why. It was written in Whitby, though, a town very close to where I grew up, and I'd love to finally be able to say that I've read it.

I can't see myself reading it any time soon - unless the Dracula show I've recorded puts me in the mood - but I may save it for Halloween 2014 and read it then!

by Jane Austen

'I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.'

Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

I'm going to tell you a secret: I don't like Jane Austen's novels.

The stories themselves are entertaining enough to watch adaptations of, but I just can't get away with Austen's writing style. People are always trying to tell me how funny and witty she is, and while sometimes I can see it there are other times where I want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon.

I think one of the biggest reasons I dislike her novels is that the first Austen novel I read was Persuasion, which I had to read for school when I was seventeen. I absolutely hated it. Mainly because of the heroine; I finished that novel feeling as though she had learned nothing, and I hate it when a book makes me feel like that.

Since then I've had to read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey all for university and I just didn't enjoy her writing style. 

So why do I want to try and read Emma? Well I can't judge it until I've at least tried it, and it seems a shame that it's sitting unread on my shelf. I should also point out that I bought my copy of Emma before I read Persuasion, so I had no idea I was going to dislike Austen's writing then.

If I'm in the mood perhaps I'll give Emma a try this year!

by George Eliot

Dorothea Brooke can find no acceptable outlet for her talents or energy and few who share her ideals. As an upper middle-class woman in Victorian England she can't learn Greek or Latin simply for herself; she certainly can't become an architect or have a career; and thus, Dorothea finds herself "Saint Theresa of nothing." Believing she will be happy and fulfilled as "the lampholder" for his great scholarly work, she marries the self-centered intellectual Casaubon, twenty-seven years her senior. Dorothea is not the only character caught by the expectations of British society in this huge, sprawling book. Middlemarch stands above its large and varied fictional community, picking up and examining characters like a jeweler observing stones. There is Lydgate, a struggling young doctor in love with the beautiful but unsuitable Rosamond Vincy; Rosamond's gambling brother Fred and his love, the plain-speaking Mary Garth; Will Ladislaw, Casaubon's attractive cousin, and the ever-curious Mrs. Cadwallader. The characters mingle and interact, bowing and turning in an intricate dance of social expectations and desires. Through them George Eliot creates a full, textured picture of life in provincial nineteenth-century England.

George Eliot was another author I was introduced to in school, and, unlike Jane Austen, my introduction to her was much sweeter.

So far all I've read of Eliot's is the novella Silas Marner, a classic which I love. Unlike Persuasion, the characters in Silas Marner all get their just deserts and I love to see that happen in a story because it rarely happens in real life!

During the second year of my A Levels I studied the theme of 'love through the ages'. We looked at extracts of prose, plays and poetry from Renaissance to Contemporary literature, and this included a few extracts from Middlemarch. The extract I remember reading most vividly involved poor Dorothea thinking of how disappointing her marriage had turned out to be.

Since then it's been on my to-read list, and I might just get around to it in 2014.

by Charles Dickens

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... These well-known and loved lines begin Dickens's most exciting novel, set during the bloodiest moments of the French Revolution. When former aristocrat Charles Darnay learns that an old family servant needs his help, he abandons his safe haven in England and returns to Paris. But once there, the Revolutionary authorities arrest him not for anything he has done, but for his rich family's crimes. Also in danger: his wife, Lucie, their young daughter, and her aged father, who have followed him across the Channel. 

I have to admit I haven't actually read much Dickens at all. I read Oliver Twist when I was a child after my parents bought me a beautiful, illustrated version. Since then I haven't gone back to it, however, because Nancy's death terrified me when I was little.

I've also read A Christmas Carol - the Christmas story - and I love it! I think it's also one of Dickens' more enjoyable stories purely because it's more of a novella than a novel, and therefore isn't as intimidating.

Other than that, though, I've only watched adaptations. I'd never been particularly interested in reading A Tale of Two Cities before last year - I always found the 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' quote rather irritating - but recently I've been developing more of an interest in French literature and French history. I had no real idea what A Tale of Two Cities was about, so when I discovered it was set during the time of the French Revolution I bought a copy!

by Victor Hugo

In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer. Mocked and shunned for his appearance, he is pitied only by Esmerelda, a beautiful gypsy dancer to whom he becomes completely devoted. Esmerelda, however, has also attracted the attention of the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo, and when she rejects his lecherous approaches, Frollo hatches a plot to destroy her that only Quasimodo can prevent. 

Speaking of the French, here's another French classic!

Like a lot of people out there I'm a huge fan of Disney's version of Hugo's classic tale, but I'm aware that the original source material is much darker. Even though I'm fairly sure the novel doesn't include talking gargoyles or sing-alongs I'd still love to read it, especially considering I've yet to read anything written by Victor Hugo.

I'd love to work my way through Les Misérables at some point, but The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a lot shorter, so I think I'll start with that one first!

by Elizabeth Gaskell

When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. 

Gaskell is yet another author whose works I've barely read. So far the only story of hers I have read is The Old Nurse's Story, a short ghost story which I liked a lot, but I'd love to sink my teeth into one of her novels.

I already know the story behind North and South as I watched the BBC adaptation a couple of years ago, and it only made me want to read the book more. Richard Armitage will forever be my John Thornton; he looked brilliant in a top hat!

Not only that, but I think Margaret Hale will be a literary heroine I can relate to. I know from personal experience what it's like to have to move from one end of the country to another because of my dad's work - in fact I've done it several times.

So with any luck, North and South will be another classic I get through this year!

by Wilkie Collins

"There in the middle of the broad, bright high-road-there, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven-stood the figure of a solitary woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments."

Thus young Walter Hartright first meets the mysterious woman in white in what soon became one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century. Secrets, mistaken identities, surprise revelations, amnesia, locked rooms and locked asylums, and an unorthodox villain made this mystery thriller an instant success when it first appeared in 1860, and it has continued to enthrall readers ever since. From the hero's foreboding before his arrival at Limmeridge House to the nefarious plot concerning the beautiful Laura, the breathtaking tension of Collin's narrative created a new literary genre of suspense fiction, which profoundly shaped the course of English popular writing. 

I read The Moonstone for a module in Victorian Popular Fiction back in 2012 and it quickly became not only one of my favourite classics, but one of my favourite books of all time. Ever since then I've been dying to read something else by Wilkie Collins, and I believe The Woman in White is his most famous work.

Like The Count of Monte Cristo, however, I've always found its size kind of intimidating - it's a pretty big book! Even so I'd like to try and read The Woman in White this year if I can!

If you read all of that I applaud you! This turned out to be a longer post than I'd expected...

Are there any classics you'd like to cross off your list in 2014?


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  2. Okay, trying again because I messed my original comment up :p

    I'm hoping to read more classics this year too....eventually :p At school I only have The Great Gatsby and Brave New World...the rest are at my parents' house. I think you'll enjoy Dracula though! It's the only one on your list that I've read. It does start out a little slow, but it's about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way in where it starts to pick up a bit more. I had to read it in grade 11 English back in the day, but it's one of the only books I've studied that I read for enjoyment.

    1. I'd definitely like to try and cross Dracula off my list this year if I can! :) It's been sitting on my shelf long enough, I think I just need to be in the right kind of mood for it. If you enjoyed Dracula then I definitely recommend Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone! :D It's told in various entries and letters too - it's a wonderful novel. :)

    2. I have The Moonstone at my parents' house! :D I'll have to get my hands on it in February when i'm home :)

    3. Do! :D It's one of my favourites.

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