Classics Week 2: My Favourite Classics

Hi all,

For this second day of Classics Week and as a continuation of yesterday’s post, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite Classics in the hope that you will be inspired to dive into some of them.

There are 10 books on this list, hopefully one of them will be to your liking. They are not in any particular order because choosing number one would be like picking my favourite child.

With no further ado, here are 10 of my favourite Classics:

1.The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden was published in 1911. This novel tells the story of a young girl named Mary who grew up in India but is forced to return to England to live in a strange house with even stranger people. It is a mysterious and fairytale-like story in which Mary learns to look beyond physical and metaphorical walls to discover a world with more beauty and love that she could have ever imagined possible. The language in this novel is absolutely superb and it is definitely a must-read.

I’ve talked about a quotation from this novel HERE.

2. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

Obviously, I had to include one of Dickens’ novel in this list. I chose A Tale of Two Cities because it’s the first of his novels I read and I remember exactly how I felt about it. To be honest, at the time, reading it was a bit of an ordeal. I was 14 and my English wasn’t great. I struggled through the plot and the hundreds of pages. However, a week after finishing the book, I realised how amazingly complex the plot was and how proud I was that I had gotten through this book. Finishing a Charles Dickens’ novel always makes me feel a bit of pride for having managed to go the distance. And once you do, you realise what the value of what you’ve gathered along the way.

The story is set in Paris and London before and during the French Revolution. The historical context is more than just background and is a prominent element of the plot.

3. The Awakening – Kate Chopin

I mentioned this novel in my Favourite University Reads post (take a look HERE). A few of the books in this list are part of my Favourite University Reads. What can I say, I have an English degree.

This book centres around the character of Edna Pontellier, a woman who is struggling to come to terms with the restrictions of being a wife and mother. The story is set in New Orleans and the coast of Louisiana. Both settings offer a beautiful background to a powerful story. Edna is one of the most complex characters I have ever read. Her behaviours left me perplexed at times because I both hated and admired her, resented her and felt sorry for her. The fact that I both blamed and understood Edna for what she was doing to her family opened my eyes to the reality of being a woman, realities that I wasn’t yet aware of at 19.  Although this book was published in 1899, the conflict between family life and self-realisation that Edna is facing remains extremely valid today.

4. Dead Souls – Nikolai Gogol

This novella made it in My Favourite Covers post (have a peek HERE). It is a brilliant novella that gives a satirical yet quite realistic portrayal of Russian society in 1842, when it was published. This book has a dark premise as it deals with a man who trades in dead slaves. However, you can’t help but laugh at the caricatural characters that Gogol paints. He is brilliant at bringing to life characters that are both real and absurd at the same time.

Do yourself a favour and pick up Dead Souls.

5. The Red and the Black (Le Rouge et le Noir) – Stendhal

This novel, published in 1830, is a masterpiece of French literature. It tells the story of a young man called Julien Sorel, who is torn between becoming an army man to follow his idol Napoleon (symbolised by the colour red) or to join the Church (symbolised by the colour black). His ambition contrasts with his poor background and it soon becomes obvious that his vision of the world is extremely naive.

This novel is a great representation of the first half of the 19th century in France and its slow distancing from aristocracy and the Catholic Church.

6. Macbeth – William Shakespeare

Macbeth was first performed in 1611 and tells the story of a man who has received the prophecy that he will become King of Scotland. His wife encourages him to kill the actual King and take his place. However, once Macbeth has committed the crime, he is consumed by guilt and madness and continues to perform atrocities to protect his throne.

This play is amazingly creepy. The opening scene with the witches gave me nightmares for weeks. It is a very exciting read and a great way to get into Shakespeare.

Macbeth also made it to one of my T5W (check it out HERE).

7. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

This novel has to be the most heartbreaking yet sweet book I’ve ever read. Little Women is the story of four sisters going from childhood to adulthood. In this book, we follow Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy through all the ordeals of becoming a woman, falling in love and overcoming the status quo. You can’t help but get attached to these genuine characters and feel everything they are feeling.

I read this novel when I was in Canada and feeling quite homesick. There’s a passage in the book when two of the characters are vacationing in Nice. It made me feel right at home and much better.

Little Women is a novel that will stay with you forever and I highly recommend it.

8. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë, as her name indicates, is one of the three Brontë sisters. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, published in 1848, is one of her two novels. In short, it tells the story of a woman named Helen who has run away from her alcoholic husband and is looking to build a new life for her and her son. I absolutely love the fact that the story is told from various point of views and that women’s thoughts are given as much importance as men’s.

If you want to read a Brontë novel, I highly recommend this one despite the fact that it’s not as well-known as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

9. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

Another French Classic! Madame Bovary is a very famous French novel whose main character is very similar to Edna Pontellier from The Awakening. Emma Bovary is a married woman who is utterly bored with her life and tries to find excitement in affairs that never lead her anywhere except to financial ruin.

Throughout the novel, you can feel Emma’s desperation to escape. Much like Edna, her life doesn’t seem terrible from an outsider’s point of view; she has a loving husband, an healthy child and enough money to live a somewhat comfortable life. Much like Edna as well, I found myself very torn when trying to make up my mind about Emma. Is she being selfish or is she just trying to free herself from the boundaries societies has inflicted upon her? Flaubert’s writing, although very descriptive, remains poetic throughout the book .

10. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

And last but definitely not least, we have the great Jane Austen with Pride and Prejudice. I absolutely adored this novel. Jane Austen is one of the funniest writers I’ve ever read. Her prose is brilliant and this story is like a 19th century soap opera. I’ve just started watching Downton Abbey and I’m reminded of Austen’s novel, mainly because of the  plotline in which girls need to get married to have a situation.

This novel is extremely famous and for very good reasons. I do have to admit however that I really disliked the movie adaptation with Keira Knightley. I found that she portrayed Lizzie as too coy whereas in the book, she is a strong and smart woman who wants to be more than just a wife.

And we are done for today. I hope this list gave you a few ideas and books to add to your TBR.

See you tomorrow!

Toodles,

Pow.

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