Monday, 22 July 2013

My Favourite Classics - How About Yours?

Morning everyone
Happy Monday! The last day of the sunshine I believe, so I intend to make the most of it.

I am managing to read quite a lot despite having a new baby - who is 4 months old today - those who said babies grow up fast weren't kidding!  I often think about the fact that perhaps I should be reading the classics and not just the contemporary fiction/crime/thrillers and chicklit I prefer to read. But, five years of doing a degree in Literature and being forced to read certain texts had put me off reading high brow books for such a long time.
I have some classics in my home library - Dickens, Jane Austen, mainly, only one I've read is Pride & Prejudice. You see, I did French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese literature, so apart from the Shakespeare I did at school and the poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley, I haven't read that many British classics. I loathed Silas Marner by George Eliot and absolutely loved T S White's The Sword in the Stone, about the legend of King Arthur.  I remember being in 2nd or 3rd year at high school and realising I had read past the section of The Sword in the Stone I was meant to read aloud in class, but no-one had stopped me, as they were all transfixed, as I kept doing the voices for each character!

So, I thought I would share with you today, some of those novels I studied at university, which you may have heard of and which I actually liked! Believe me, there were far more which were seriously hard work and I hated!
You've probably all heard of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert - a tad raunchy, Mme Bovary is very bored and how she resolves her boredom is kind of the crux of the novel - worth a read.

Stendhal's The Red and the Black, which was televised round about the time I was at university and which many of my classmates made the mistake of watching instead of reading the book...the differences were unbelievable and they all failed their essays!  It's an historical, psychological novel, about a young man who wants to rise above his current station and what he does to get there - so valid in today's world too.

Now to Italy
Boccaccio's Decameron - oh, how I laughed. It's so bawdy and I tittered at the lewd tales, all set centuries ago. 100 tales told by 10 young Florentines, over a period of ten days. Guaranteed to make you giggle, but each with a lesson. Inspired Chaucer.

The Prince by Niccolo Macchiavelli - well, you know the word Macchiavellian? It didn't spring from nowhere! How to be a successful statesman and the treachery involved - again, another tale relevant today - perhaps moreso!

INFERNO and no, I don't meant the new Dan Brown, although I believe he makes reference to Dante in his novel. I loved the constant symbolism in Inferno and Purgatorio, but I chose not to take Italian to Honours and so never did read the third part of the trilogy, Paradiso - something I need to rectify - maybe this year. The trilogy is known as The Divine Comedy. If you fancy finding out more about the seven circles of Hell, then these are the books for you.

And now to Spain!
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - everyone raves about A Hundred Years of Solitude, which is much better known in the UK and which I read the week I left university, after first reading 5 Agatha Christie novels back to back, but Chronicle was much more to my taste - Santiago is murdered in a small town by 2 brothers - everyone knew it was going to happen, even the victim. Years later someone will try to discover why.

There were so many other great books, I really did read a lot, under duress sometimes! Here are a few other favourites -
Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis - Brazil - a story of love, betrayal and suspicion
Tiempo de Cerezas by Montserrat Roig - Barcelona (Time of the Cherries) - if you like your contemporary feminist fiction in Spain!
Moliere - The Miser - a comedy - in the traditional sense - fun play!
Victor Hugo's Notre Dame De Paris - probably needs no explanation

Now to the three classics I want to make sure I read soon
Tess of The D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy - this is cheating slightly, as I downloaded this when I first got my Kindle 3 years ago, but only read about 30% - I enjoyed it too. It was actually very funny  and not at all what I expected.
The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - well, I saw the movie and have been told the book's only 160 pages long, so why not - it was a great movie!
Hmm. can't quite decide on the third. I think it has to either be a Dickens (David Copperfield, The Old Curiosity Shop or Great Expectations) or one of the Jane Austen's I've had for years - I have the complete works. I'll let you know how it works out!

Would love to hear your favourite classics or those you feel guilty about not having read. Or even better, which classic has touched you the most?

Have a great week everyone



  1. Great Expectations is mega, the best Dickens I've read :)

  2. Well, I'll make that my Dickens read then, Terry - thanks!

  3. I tend to read mainly literary fiction,but this year am doing a classics challenge on Goodreads to try to at least read 25 classics this year. I read Call of The Wild by Jack London for the first time and found it strangely moving, as well as 'A Tale of Two Cities', the ending of which had me in floods...

    1. that's some challenge! I hope you are on target. Now my target of 3 seems paltry - but then I do have a new-ish baby! haven't read Call of the Wild or a Tale of Two Cities. More to add to my list (2014 at this rate!) thanks for commenting, Sooz

  4. So many to remember... Les Miserables (yes I've read the whole dang thing - TWICE!), Little Women, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Lord of the Rings, Gone With The Wind (more times than I can count), everything ever published by L.M. Montgomery, The Great Gatsby, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility. The list goes on.

    1. Well done on reading Les Mis twice. I still haven't managed to see it at the theatre or the cinema! LOTR I've read. Have never even thought about reading Gone With the Wind and now I wonder why. Huck Finn - read, years ago. Sense and Sensibility and To Kill a Mockingbird will need to go on my TBR. Thanks for stopping by, Sooz

  5. Oh, Sooz, what a fun post! I love that you've read so much literature in other languages. My list of fave classics would have to include The Great Gatsby, Gone With the Wind, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Charlotte's Web, Jane Eyre, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, and Vanity Fair.

    Classics that are still on my TBR list - The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Passage to India, Rebecca, Lady Audley's Secret, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Edwardians, Green Darkness, and The Female Quixote.

  6. hi Tracie - so glad you liked it. I think I read around 200 foreign language novels during my degree, plus about twice that on texts on the novels! Oh, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is an all-time favourite of mine. I kept checking our wardrobe couldn't do the same thing! Alice in Wonderland I loved too. The others I need to add to my TBR. I hadn't even heard of The Mysteries of Udolpho, or the three after that - clearly I'm a philistine! Thanks for commenting, Sooz x

    1. Sooz, I know about The Mysteries of Udolpho because it was mentioned frequently in one of my fave Austen books, Northanger Abbey. Udolpho was a gothic novel and considered very racy and titillating for its time.

    2. Tracie - going to suggest skipping A Passage to India. Remember finding it very boring in high school AP English. (And not just cuz I was a bored-with-everything teenager.) We also read Great Expectations for that class and I loved it! Sooz, we read Tess otD as well for that class. I remember we were all like "wait... what just happened" for the non-existent sex scene. :)

      Oh, and Tracie - go and read Rebecca immediately! One of my fave books!

    3. you realise I am going to have to bump TOD back up my TBR, so I can get to the 'non-existent' sex scene you are talking about!

  7. Great post, Sooz! I loved Madame Bovary! Quite risqué for that time period, too. ;)

    1. glad you liked it Brea. Yes, Madame B - very daring - bit of a rebel!

  8. Great post, Sooz. I love to read the classics. A few summers ago I read "Vanity Fair" and it was wonderful! So funny. The following year I read "A Tale of Two Cities" and it was great too. I always knew the beginning was famous - but I didn't realize that I knew the last line as well.

    As for faves... gosh there are so many. I love all the Dickens I've read (esp'y G.E. and A Xmas Carol - have read that one many times), loved Jane Eyre, love all the Jane Austen books. I also love Les Mis, but I read the cheater's 600 page abridged version rather than the 1200 page version. :)

    I haven't heard of a lot of those foreign books you mention - will have to check them out! Great post!

    1. hi Jackie. I haven't read Vanity Fair or A Tale of Two Cities. I feel such a philistine now! Yes, I love A Xmas Carol too. Haven't read Les Mis. So glad you liked the post, Sooz