Well hello! After my post the other day, where I showed off my bookshelves, and just generally talking a lot about books I love a lot recently, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favourite classics. Now of course, I quickly realised that there was no way I could do this in a single post, so decided to turn this into a mini-series. I’ve arbitrarily decided these posts will go out on Tuesdays for four weeks (basically because I wrote four posts before deciding to put a lid on it) so that’s what you’re getting… for now 😉
Obviously, this list is not the “best” classics- just books that hit me on a deeply personal level. Nor is it a “finished” article: a) because I’ll be adding to it as I read more and b) because there were books that are hovering just outside the list and I’m always careful about saying whether a book is something I love vs a favourite. To my mind, it takes a significant amount of time and emotional connection for a book to be established as a favourite.
In the interest of keeping this list to a reasonable length, I also won’t be including: fantasy, sci fi, non-epic poetry, literary fiction or basically any other genre fiction. This is not a comment on whether they are/could be classics- only that I would prefer to talk about them in other lists- in fact I have a favourite fantasy list which I *definitely* plan on adding to with new favourites at some point cos they’ve been mounting up.
Lastly, before we get into this week’s selection, I’ve split these vaguely based on theme and don’t be alarmed by the fact there’s an uneven number each week (even after everything I’ve just said, I didn’t want to be stuck with silly, self-imposed rules)
Okay, rather long winded preamble- let’s get started with my rather romantic first set of favourites:
Emma– what could I actually say about Emma that hasn’t already been said? There’s a reason why this has been dubbed the perfect novel: the character growth, the plot structure, the romance, the friendship and the lessons that are so subtly woven into the story. I could go on, but the reason why this hits a personal note for me is that this was the book that made me appreciate Austen’s humour (though it was not the first Austen I read) and it’s because of this that I came to love all her work. I also happen to think Mr Knightley is the most appealing of all Austen’s love interests- sorry Mr Darcy fans 😉
Little Women– oh gosh, this book gives me the warm fuzzies whenever I think about it. There’s so much to love about it- the romance, the heartbreaking ups and downs of the story, the characters- however one of the biggest elements which always strikes me with this story *has to be* the family dynamic- the March sisters really capture that feeling of sisterhood.
I Capture the Castle– speaking of families and relationships, this one is slightly more dysfunction. Still, this quirky coming of age story is set in a crumbling castle and will always have a place in my heart (and inspires me to one day live in my own derelict castle… even though I hate the cold… whatever it’s a nice dream 😉 )
Rebecca– so, spoiler alert, next week I’ll be doing more gothic-y themed books and this book could certainly compete there. However one of the best things about this book is the romance- no not the romance between the unnamed protagonist and her new husband- but the ongoing romance with his dearly departed wife. I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t read it, but this book illustrates what it feels like to be a third wheel… even though the third person in the relationship is in fact already dead.
Wuthering Heights – speaking of more gothic-type books, this certainly has that feel some of the time. Yet it also is one of the most intense romances I’ve ever read. Now, I will admit that there are some faults on a structural level- however the heart of this book is one of the most sublime, passionate affairs I’ve ever read. And yes, Heathcliff and Cathy are horrible people- that’s half the point- their sole redeeming quality is there love for each other (well, it’s also their doom, so there’s that)
Jane Eyre– we can’t speak of one Bronte sister without mentioning another, and this book is wonderful in a different way. Of course, the main characters are flawed, but they’re not totally unlikeable; there are elements of destructive love, but it’s not the end of the world (mostly); and I can safely say the structure is tidier. And, above all, the romance still captures my imagination (that and the mad woman in the attic)
Tess of the D’Urbervilles– however if you’re looking for something slightly more on the tragic side- look no further. It’s such a sob-worthy story, from beginning to end. Poor Tess can’t catch a break. This is the book that made me fall in love with Hardy’s bleak, fatalistic outlook and visualistic world. Yes, I admit it, I’m somewhat pessimistic and this appeals to my dark side.
Romeo and Juliet– speaking of star crossed lovers- where would we be without the ultimate ill-fated duo? (still referring to Tristan and Isolde no doubt, but I digress) I have two reasons for adoring this play: 1) the language and 2) the play with genre (yes I’m a dork)- it’s a fairly straightforward ploy of tricking the viewer into thinking it’s a comedy and then *BAM* Mercutio gets it and we’re into tragic territory. Simple, yet genius.
Persuasion– a slightly more romantic Austen, I read this one last in my Austen journey, and it’s always competing in my mind with Emma for the position of favourite Austen (incidentally most Austen books could have ended up on this list). Unrequited or long lost love really gets to me, so I found myself crying when they kept being frustrated in their romance (yes, I know it’s not a sad book, only the heightened romantic feel gets to me, cos I’m a sap)
Midsummer Night’s Dream– this was my first ever Shakespeare play and can always put me in a good mood. Lighthearted and fun, there’s a spirit of mischief in the air. One of my absolute favourite things about it though, is how Helena’s story in particular captures that feeling of being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. It’s still just as poignant as ever.
Importance of Being Earnest– and let’s round this off with the play that is the most fun of all! Why do I love it? Because this is Wilde at his wittiest and honestly this can still make me laugh, no matter how many times I hear the jokes (I also highly recommend the 1952 movie version)
Hope you enjoyed that- I loved making it. Have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments! And I’ll have another one of these next week…