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?

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff

 

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‘The Fortnight in September’ by R.C. Sherriff is the evocative account of an ordinary, middle-class family’s annual holiday at the English seaside town of  Bognor Regis. A most vivid story, recording the minutia of human existence, this gem of a story is far from being ordinary. Cozy and comforting and ever so intimate, the slow pace of the novel affords a glimpse of a way of life that has long become obsolete.

It had always been Bognor-ever since, on her honeymoon, her pale eyes had first glimpsed the sea.

 

The story opens through the eyes of Mrs. Stevens, wife of 20 years and mother to Mary, Dick and Ernie aged twenty, seventeen and ten respectively. We learn very quickly that the Stevens, as a family, are creatures of habit. They have always holidayed at the same time each year, at the same guest-house in Bognor Regis. The meals they eat, the activities they embark on, the traditions that they hold so dear, are a part of their collective history as a family. A history that does not and must not change. Right down to the clothes they pack, how they unpack, how they organize their holiday schedules, even down to the beverages they drink as special holiday treats: Mr. Stevens’ crate of dinner ale, the large stone jar of draught ginger beer holding a week’s supply of refreshment and Mrs. Stevens’ special bottle of port, to be enjoyed a glass at a time after supper.

Throughout the story, the narrative shifts to different members of the family. R.C. Sherriff uses the narrative shift as a useful plot device so that we are afforded a more personal glimpse of the character and inner thoughts of each family member. Each of them has a small but personal story to tell.

Mr. Stevens, middle-aged, staid and respectable has a wistful story to tell. It touches upon loss of prestige and the unfulfillment of ambitious dreams. Mrs. Stevens does not share the same enthusiasm for the family holiday as the others, and strives to keep this to herself. The best part of her day is when she has the guesthouse to herself in the evenings, to sip on her glass of port wine and not think about the call of mundane household chores. Mary, twenty years old, young and innocent, longs to find holiday romance to break the monotony of her sheltered life. Dick, recently graduated from school, on the cusp of youth and locked in a boring but respectable job, plots ways to break free from middle class shackles. Ernie is too young and carefree to think of matters more complicated than the working and design of automatic machinery.

Holidaying at the seaside town has become a tradition for the Stevens family. Every inch, nook and corner holds some sort of memory for them.

There were associations: sentiments. The ink stain on the sitting room tablecloth which Dick made as a little boy: the ornament that Mary made by glueing seashells on a card; which had been presented to Mrs. Huggett at the end of one holiday, and was always on the sitting-room mantelpiece when they arrived each year.

‘The Fortnight in September’ is tinged with an air of wistfulness for dreams and ambitions that remain unfulfilled. In a way the story is not just the story of the Stevens, it is representative of the English middle-class in the 1930’s, showcasing their trials and tribulations. These were people who were by no means financially deprived but they were always wanting and yearning for a little more in life. The neat row of nondescript houses with the white picket fences and carefully manicured lawns were their lot in life along with the two weeks in a dilapidated guesthouse at Bognor. But if by chance they could gain that promotion at work, then they could aspire for something bigger and not so ordinary.

Mostly the fortnight’s holiday was a time to remember the trials of the past, to nurse old wounds, to contemplate the present and to make plans for the future.

Some readers might complain of the slowness of the narrative style of the book and the lack of plot but I enjoyed this book immensely. Never, to my mind, has a family holiday reached such heights of descriptive perfection.

When I was reading ‘The Fortnight in September’ I kept waiting for something awful to happen- some disturbing revelation about the past of a particular family member, a skeleton in the closet, or a shocking incident to disturb the coziness of the novel- much like the disruptive moment that shakes up a Katherine Mansfield story. I will leave it to you, to find out if R.C. Sherriff takes us down that same path…

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12 Classics I Want to Read in 2016

I love making lists, especially end of the year lists. A new year provides a subtle pause, a moment of reflection, a chance to redirect and reboot. I always look upon this time, to reflect upon on how I can enrich my life. One of the ways I thought of, was to read more classics. Sadly neglected for a few decades, I did most of my classic reading in my adolescence and youth.

My mother always urged me to read the classics before I read other books because she said it was easy to fall out of the habit of reading them, and how right she was.

So, 2016 will be a year of revisiting some classics (I want to re-read Emma) and reading some classics by some venerable names: Dickens, Trollope, Eliot and Wharton. Since, Charlotte Bronte’s writing is my favorite of the Bronte sisters, I look forward to picking up ‘Villete’ and also reading Hardy’s ‘Tess’, as Far From the Madding Crowd is a personal favourite.

Throughout, the year, as I finish the books, I will report back and hold myself accountable.

If you would like to read more about the book lists I have made for 2016, please see my list of 12 New Authors I would Like to Read in 2016.

These covers are so beautiful, I will let them speak for themselves

cranford book

The Warden

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What do you think of my list?

What are some of your favourite classics or books you plan to read in the New Year?