Wahey we made it to part 4!! As I said in the first week, I’m going to pause this series after this post, though I’d like to continue it someday. For now though, I’m working with a more “realistic” (*ahem* mostly) theme to round off these favourite classics:
Canterbury Tales– I was endlessly surprised to find how realistic the characters in this were- not least because this was written OVER 600 YEARS AGO! And yet the fundamentals of human nature haven’t changed. What is also incredible is how complex and layered each of the stories are, how they tales interplay with their role in the prologue and how this all builds up the character study even more.
Great Expectations– ahh the king of realism- Dickens. And this happens to be my favourite I’ve read so far. A part of this comes down to how much I adore the story- and yet I find that somewhat imperfect- not intentionally so (I just prefer Dicken’s original ending where *spoiler alert* he doesn’t end up with Estella, it made more sense from a narrative standpoint). But mostly, because I cannot get over that image of Miss Havisham, sitting in her wedding dress. It’s both tragic and horrifying.
Catcher in the Rye– this one will surprise people straight off the bat, because it is such a Love-it or Hate-it book. I for one won’t pretend that I liked Holden Caulfield- in fact I spent a good deal of time disliking him- and yet… there was something so compelling about him. I could not deny the realistic tenor to his character. Nor could I say that I didn’t grow sympathetic to him over the course of the book. That change struck me and took me by surprise- it felt like getting to know an actual person. Yes he may be whiny and difficult on the surface- however strip away the layers and there is so much more to him. So feel free to love him or hate him, but you can’t deny that this book captures something very real.
To Kill a Mockingbird– I genuinely do not have any words for this book. The realistic characters, the finest fictional father figure of all time, the story, the beautiful writing, the message- ah it makes me speechless. If you do not know why it is on this list, then quite simply you haven’t read it.
King Lear– okay, yes I’m following with a shall-we-say less good fictional father? (yes, I will admit I didn’t know what book to put next). But on the positive side this play made me cry… wait a second… JK- what I mean is this is a deeply moving play (not that I’m a masochist who seeks out stories that will make me cry… okay I totally do that- whatever 😉 )
Brother’s Karamazov– speaking of dysfunctional families (gosh I ought to make a “favourite dysfunctional families” list) In all seriousness, this book is magnificent- not least because this has some MAGNIFICENT characterisation. I have to say that I love the intellectual tussles between Ivan and Alyosha (#teamAlyosha… which is weird because I should rightly pick Ivan… whatever I’ll psychoanalyse that comment later 😉 ). Incidentally, anyone that knows me might be surprised to have found no Dostoevsky’s my favourites so far- never fear, this part has three- pahahaha!
Hamlet– but if what you’re looking for is philosophical questions, why not get to the crux of the existential issue. To be or not to be– damn I get shivers from that speech every time. There’s a reason it’s quoted a million times. And sure, Hamlet might procrastinate for half the play about whether to avenge his father, but all his romps through faux madness and his eventual spurts of violence are so worth it… err… sort of. Stay in school kids.
Waiting for Godot– well since we’re on the subject of existential despair, we may as well go in for a penny in for a pound. And okay, this slightly surreal play is kind of the opposite of the realism theme I’ve been leaning towards here. Despite the strangeness of the play, however, it’s very clear that the themes it plays with- the passage between life and death- are very tangible issues. Some could say the most real of all. And of course, I could give any number of reasons for this being on the list- but what I will say is that what makes this play special is how it makes you feel alive with laughter one minute, and then, all of a sudden the warmth fades away, and you are left with nothing but a chill.
Notes from the Underground– I actually studied this for a “Novel and the Collapse of Humanism” course (I know, cheery stuff). Here Dostoevsky explores the paradoxical nature of man- both alien and atypical of his society. It is a work of pure genius- exhibiting the internal chaos of humankind- as we struggle to find our place in the world (and if you’re in any doubt as to how seriously cool this book is, this 19th century book smashes through the fourth wall, like a Deadpool comic)
The Idiot– and yet it is The Idiot which probably takes the spot as my favourite Dostoevsky. I’ve mentioned time and again how I love the hero, Prince Myshkin (#relationshipgoals), because he is one of the most saintly characters ever written… and that’s his greatest failing. Which leads me onto my rather bizarre favourite thing about this book- it kind of fizzles out at the end- yes, it’s unintentional, but that’s what I like about it- it’s a failed book about failure.
Jude the Obscure– okay, let’s be honest, if we’re going to talk “doomed from the start”, Jude really takes the biscuit. I’m not saying that this is a dark book, I’m saying THIS IS THE MOST DEPRESSING THING I HAVE EVER READ IN MY LIFE. I really don’t blame people for not liking this one to be fair- nonetheless, for me, this is one of the most memorable books I have ever read. I can never shake the images it has planted in my brain. So I guess all that’s left to say is: hey Jude, don’t be afraid… watch out for women who try to trap you in marriage, just sayin’
Richard III– okay to leave off on a more positive note- let’s talk about someone who actually deserved to get their comeuppance. Cos let’s face it, from the opening speech, we can be certain Richard’s the baddie. And I know, I know, some historians and novelists have tried to rewrite the character in a more sympathetic light BUT there’s no following Shakespeare. He is “determined to prove a villain”- and what a villain he is! Too bad he couldn’t get hold of a horse.
I will admit that over the course of these posts I did add to this list, but I’ve decided to give it a rest for now. Anyway, have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!