10 Classics for 2017

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The Ten Classics I Want to Read in 2017

I started seriously reading the classics again in 2016. This year I’ve joined the Classics Club and made a list of 50 books I plan to read in the foreseeable future.

I ended 2015 with a plan to read 12 Classics. I ended up only reading about half that number of books, but the books I read were incredibly enriching and rewarding. And I’m excited to read more classic literature (I classify this as having been published pre-1900) in 2017.

 

My list of Classics

Charles Dickens:

To Be Read:

A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield – last year I started to make a dent in my Dickens’ bibliography. I started with the rather chubby Bleak House and since then I’ve added Great Expectations to the ‘read’ list. Reading Dickens gives me a wonderful insight into Victorian England. Social classes, poverty, moral issues- glimpses of London and wonderful, wonderful language. Dickens’ characters are so memorable too!

Anthony Trollope:

To Be Read: Framley Parsonage

-last year I started reading the Barchester Chronicles with a group of lovely people over at Instagram. I’ve found Trollope’s writing style to be quite witty and descriptive, even if his stories (like Dickens) could do with a shortening edit at times. Framley Parsonage is next on the list and who knows? We may carry on from there to continue the series next year. I’ve found that, so far, the books in the Barchester series can be read as standalones.

Elizabeth Gaskell

To Be Read: Ruth and Cranford

-the high point of my classic’s reading last year was discovering Elizabeth Gaskell, namely, her novel ‘North and South’. I waxed lyrically about the romance and delicate detail in this lovely novel over on Instagram and our group read was made so much nicer through splendid direction from Gaskell enthusiast, Shelbi, from the blog ‘The Nobby Life’. I hope to read ‘Cranford’ next year as it’s a short one and I love the TV adaptation starting Dame Judy Dench.

Anne Bronte:

To Be Read: Tenant of Wildefell Hall

-the neglected Brontë in my life. I hope to rectify this. I have a gorgeous Penguin English Library edition crying out to be read on my shelf too!

Wilkie Collins:

To Be Read: Woman in White

-how can I read Dickens without reading the works of his compatriot and contemporary, Collins. Eager to read this book and ‘The Moonstone’ soon.

Charlotte Bronte:

To Be Read:Villette

-Jane Eyre is perhaps my favourite Classic novel to date. I’m eager to discover ‘Villette’- slated as the author’s personal favourite.

Thomas Hardy:

To Be Read: Tess of the D’Urbervilles

-I’m a big fan of ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ so having read that and also ‘Mayor of Casterbridge’ I look forward to delving into ‘Tess’. I do enjoy the BBC dramatization too.

George Eliot:

To Be Read: Middlemarch

-I feel a tad sheepish about this one. It was on my TBR for 2016 and somehow I never got to it. Hoping 2017 will see me reacquainted with this much-loved classic.

 

Concluding Thoughts About My Classics List for 2017

So that’s me done for planning classics reading next year. Who knows what might happen? Perhaps I will read exclusively Gaskell. But I always like to start off with a plan?

How about you?

Top 10 Books of 2016

 

This was a really satisfying year of reading good literature even though I didn’t read that many books (about 35). I was able to read Dickens, Trollope and Gaskell from the classics and a few interesting biographies and modern classics.

There are several books on my Top 10 list that I know I will be re reading again and that have become great favourites. Read on and discover a few of my favourites (in no particular order).

1) A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr. Full review here.

 

2) Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield. Find my review for Novelicious on their website.

 

3) Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Find review here.

A few days ago we discussed Dickens' opening of Bleak House and so many of you commented on the narrative structure of the novel. Bleak House is considered by many to be Dickens' masterpiece. For one, the narrative technique is extraordinary. In Bleak House we observe Dickens using two different types of narrative. The first is the omniscient narrator who is impersonally telling the story in the third person. The second is the first person narrative via the character of Esther. Whilst reading the story I immediately felt I was drawn intimately into the story in the 'Esther chapters'. The tone of the young girl is fresh and innocent although meek and considerably self-deprecating. This contrasts sharply with the satirical rather jaded tone of the omniscient narrator. In providing this vivid contrast in narrative and the tense in which the story is told (present tense for the omniscient narrator, past tense for Esther) we are alternately pulled in and out of the narrative. The use of the omniscient narrator broadens the scope of the novel, however. There are certain situations that Esther cannot be part of although we do see the narratives intersecting in certain parts of the novel (eg. The event of the young law-writer and lodger at Mr Krook's dwelling). ~ Here are a few questions for us to ponder: ~ What did you think of the narrative technique? Did it feel modern to you? Did you feel that the transitions were awkward or did they provide you with a respite from the intensity of a first person narrative for a novel of this immense length? Do you feel Esther is a reliable narrator at this point in the story? What do you feel about Esther's character so far? She opens her commentary with the disclosure that she is 'not clever'. Did you gain this same impression from her narrative technique? Is she how you imagine a Victorian woman to be represented? ~ We are a fourth of the way into the novel. Are you enjoying it so far? Feel free to also post your own discussion questions too below. I have not added any spoilers (I think!) but please realize a few may crop up in the comments below.

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4) Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. Find review here.

 

'Someone At a Distance' by Dorothy Whipple and published by @persephonebooks is a story about adultery. It is a story about a husband’s weakness, a wife’s short-sightedness and a young, ambitious girl’s yearning to rise up from her provincial upbringing and to destroy the happiness of others. But the book is more than the sum total of these individual parts and the title reveals this. The title 'Someone At a Distance’ is a curious one. It is only towards the latter part of the novel that the significance of the title emerges and one realizes it has been used with much thought. The title deals with the idea that a person’s negative actions and thoughts can have a far-reaching consequence on the lives of people far removed from them. It is like a ripple effect. A strong undercurrent of ill-will may wreak havoc on the hitherto peaceful lives of people on distant shores. Such is the inter-connectedness of the world and its people. It is a beautiful book. I read it in one breath. It was virtually unputdownable. Whipple’s storytelling is superlative. The psychological tension she develops in taut situations can be felt acutely. When Ellen grieves in the aftermath of her husband’s desertion, which has been dealt to her out of no wrong-doing of her own, we grieve along with her. We feel and comprehend her every emotion. We sympathize with her and we yearn for her strength and salvation. On the opposite side of the spectrum we despise the young French girl Louise’s every movement and intention. And we hope and pray for some kind of justice. Whipple manipulates our emotional well-being, during the reading of the novel to good effect and delivers yet another stellar story. To read the full review please click on the link in my profile. I highly recommend this one!

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5) Look Back With Love by Dodie Smith. Full review here.

 

"Next to the morning-room was the very large kitchen, with two tall dressers, a long row of iron bells, and a vast kitchen range with a glowing fire in front of which, in our early days at Kingston House, I had my nightly bath. Above me hung the family washing, on a wooden rack that could be pulled up to the ceiling". -'Look Back With Love' by Dodie Smith. ~ If you like me, loved reading Dodie Smith's classic novel 'I Capture the Castle' you will realize, upon reading the memoir, Look Back With Love, that Cassandra is to some extent Dodie Smith. They feel one and the same. Besides providing a detailed historical description of life and times in the Edwardian age, this bookish memoir is an intimate glance at the person who created a veritable body of literature. The anecdotes are splendid and unique. I cannot recommend this memoir published by @foxedquarterly enough and I hope to read later episodes in her life history in future. For a full review on my blog please click on the link in profile! Everyone, have a great day. Grey skies here in Kolkata! 🌧

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6) The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff. Full review here.

"He had had the idea for his novel at Bognor Regis: watching the crowds go by, and wondering what their lives were like at home, he ‘began to feel the itch to take one of those families at random and build up an imaginary story of their annual holiday by the sea…I wanted to write about simple, uncomplicated people doing normal things". ~ This is RC Sherrif's motivation for penning the classic 'The Fortnight in September' which is what I am #currentlyreading as part of #persephoneseptember. Deliciously detailed, very very slow and highly evocative, the book deals with the minutiae of middle class living, the joys of the annual holiday, the small rituals of family and I am enjoying it very much thus far. This is also my book for @bookclubcollective's #septemberScollection for books or writers beginning with the letter S. Do you enjoy writers who write with exacting detail? Of course Proust comes to mind and among modern writers A. McCall Smith.

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7) The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield-Fisher.

 

8) A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell.

Today is the release date of several long forgotten books published in conjunction between #deanstreetpress and Scott from the blog The Furrowed Middlebrow. Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell is described as "a remarkable memoir, one of the finest to have emerged from the Second World War. Kate Atkinson calls it 'a gem of a book, one of the best personal memoirs of WW2 on the home front, written with an artist’s eye for detail and immediacy.' I'm a few chapters into the book and I am captivated by the detail with which the author describes the build up to the war, the emotions of the civilians and how human nature can adapt to very striking, sudden changes in circumstance. More thoughts later. I'm drawn to war memoirs. Do you have any particular favourites?

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9) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

 

10) Period Piece by Gwen Raverat.

PERIOD PIECE by Gwen Raverat was one of my most favourite books read in the past few months. I am a huge Charles Darwin fan. In my opinion, his theories on evolution were the singlemost important breakthrough in the collective scientific history of mankind. Hence, to be given an insight into life and times in the Darwin household (Gwen Raverat was his granddaughter) was an extra special treat. If you are curious to know about Victorian customs and etiquette in the vicinity of Cambridge, during these times, this is an excellent personal recounting. Gwen Raverat intersperses the narrative with a number of eccentric, wonderful characters that you might read about in books or imagine but never think existed in real life. It has been a couple of months but this book has secured a corner of my bookish heart. Do give it a try if you can find a copy. 💕

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So that’s my ten from this year. Honourable mentions should be given to ‘Our Spoons Came from Woolworths’ by Barbara Comyns, ‘Britannia Mews’ by Margery Sharp, ‘ The Warden’ and ‘Barchester Towers’ by Anthony Trollope and ‘The Constant Nymph’ by Margaret Kennedy.

My Top 10 Books from 2015 can be found here

See you next year for more delightful reading and I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday and rest of the year.

Arpita.