I’m doing something a little crazy and starting a classic book challenge! It’s essentially a challenge I’ve made up for myself, to read more of the classics. Something you might not know about me, is that I majored in English in university. My dream at the time was to become a high school English teacher—I wanted to inspire others to love learning as much as I did, and do. And reading and writing were first loves of mine, and I was so happy when studying literature.
As you can imagine, I read a lot of classics in university. The courses I opted to take focused a lot on women’s lit and Victorian literature so I read a ton of Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, George Elliot and other similar authors.
However, there are a ton of classics that of course, I didn’t read. I have continued to read many of classics but there are still many I haven’t read, and I really want to read. Book lovers like me will understand. Now, to be accountable to myself I plan not only to read these novels, but also to review them here on the blog. I have no schedule for this—I mean, I’m having a baby soon. I might not even have time to shower, never mind read dense classic novels—but this is the plan and I hope you’ll keep checking back for the reviews. Or, you could subscribe so you’ll never miss a post.
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Ah, Mr. Dickens. I can’t recall reading much of his work in university, but I did read a couple of novels. And Bleak House has made the classic book challenge list. They are somewhat daunting as they tend to be long and wordy but they are also extremely atmospheric and I love that they draw you into the times and lives of the story. Bleak House is a novel I have owned for years—decades?—but have never picked up but that lately I have been thinking I really ought as it sounds amazing.
Bleak House opens in the twilight of foggy London, where fog grips the city most densely in the Court of Chancery. The obscure case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, in which an inheritance is gradually devoured by legal costs, the romance of Esther Summerson and the secrets of her origin, the sleuthing of Detective Inspector Bucket and the fate of Jo the crossing-sweeper, these are some of the lives Dickens invokes to portray London society, rich and poor, as no other novelist has done. Bleak House, in its atmosphere, symbolism and magnificent bleak comedy, is often regarded as the best of Dickens. A ‘great Victorian novel’, it is so inventive in its competing plots and styles that it eludes interpretation
Related Article: Classic Novels You Need to Read
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Long ago, I read one novel, The Three Musketeers by Dumas, and I remember really liking that. But Dumas was not an author I encountered in my uni courses, and I have never read another novel by this French author. I loved the movie by the same title, and so I have been inspired to read this novel but let’s face it—it’s super long. So of course, it sits upon my shelf staring at me proudly because it knows it has me scared. But I *will* read this novel. I will. The classic book challenge demands I do so, and so read this monster of a book I will.
In 1815 Edmond Dantès, a young and successful merchant sailor who has just recently been granted the succession of his erstwhile captain Leclère, returns to Marseille to marry his Catalan fiancée Mercédès. Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.
The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I can’t recall how many times I’ve read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it made both my high school and uni reading list, and I never skipped reading that novel. It’s just so good! It’s the prose I think, so lyrical and yet simple too. I haven’t picked up any other novel by Fitzgerald however, which now strikes me as simply stupid. I do have a copy of The Beautiful and the Damned and I am excited to add this to my classic book challenge because…well, it just sounds so so promising.
The Beautiful and Damned, first published by Scribner’s in 1922, is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s second novel. It explores and portrays New York caf society and the American Eastern elite during the Jazz Age before and after “the Great War” and in the early 1920s. As in his other novels, Fitzgerald’s characters in this novel are complex, especially with respect to marriage and intimacy. The work is generally considered to have drawn upon and be based on Fitzgerald’s relationship and marriage with his wife Zelda Fitzgerald The Beautiful and Damned tells the story of Anthony Patch, a 1910s socialite and presumptive heir to a tycoon’s fortune, and his courtship and relationship with his wife Gloria Gilbert. It describes his brief service in the Army during World War I, and the couple’s post-war partying life in New York, and his later alcoholism. Gloria and Anthony’s love story is much more than just a couple falling in love. Their story deals with the hardships of a relationship, especially when each character has a tendency to be selfish. The way Gloria and Anthony are portrayed seems to draw on Fitzgerald’s personal life with his wife. Zelda was a firecracker of a woman, and Scott was quite the party guy himself. As Joanna Stolarek suggests, Fitzgerald draws on “Zelda, the object of the writer’s literary passion” (Stolarek et al 53). Considering that Fitzgerald uses his life with Zelda as a template for this novel, The Beautiful and Damned can be very telling of his personal life.Anthony Patch: He is an heir to his grandfather’s large fortune, and is unmotivated to work. He is entranced by Gloria and falls hopelessly in love with her, completely taken aback by her beauty. He eventually serves in WWI and has an affair, leading to the eventual downfall of his marriage to Gloria and decline of his mental health Gloria Gilbert: A beauty who takes Anthony’s heart, breaking a heart or two along the way. She is a dancer but strives to be an actress, and loves to party. She also enjoys to fight with Anthony. She is happy most when things go her way and has tantrums when things go sideways from what she wants. Gloria talks a lot about herself and does not talk much about anything else.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
I loved the Disney movie of Alice In Wonderland when I was a little girl, it was so fantastical and just captured my imagination and even now, I really enjoy watching that old classic. I did try and read the novel years ago and it really surprised me because it was so…well, weird. I mean, I was still in high school so I hadn’t yet been exposed to a lot of literature, my reading was confined to young adult and some contemporary fiction and I can’t remember whether or not I even finished the book. But, a few years ago I picked up both of these books because I am really curious to read these classics and really feel that I ought add them to the classic book challenge.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a work of children’s literature by the English mathematician and author, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, written under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit-hole into a fantasy realm populated by grotesque figures like talking playing cards and anthropomorphic creatures. The Wonderland described in the tale plays with logic in ways that have made the story of lasting popularity with adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of the most characteristic examples of the genre of literary nonsense.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
I did read this novel in my first year of uni, and I remember really hating it. Which begs the question, why would I want to read it again? And I think the answer is, that was twenty years ago, I wasn’t even twenty years yet. And I read a quote once that said that a book should be read in youth, middle age and again in old age. Well, I’ve paraphrased that but you get the idea. So I think I ought give this book, and possibly the author, another chance.
Heralded as Virginia Woolf’s greatest novel, this is a vivid portrait of a single day in a woman’s life. When we meet her, Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of party preparation while in her mind she is something much more than a perfect society hostess. As she readies her house, she is flooded with remembrances of faraway times. And, met with the realities of the present, Clarissa reexamines the choices that brought her there, hesitantly looking ahead to the unfamiliar work of growing old.
I’m super excited to have committed to reading these classics! This classic book challenge I’m imposing on myself might be nuts, but I love the idea of it so much! I’d love to have a larger list, but I think five is more than enough for now considering I have no idea what to expect as I enter life with a newborn. But I think reading and my other hobbies will definitely help me with self care and maintaining a self of normalcy as I enter motherhood. It might be a totally insane and unattainable goal but those are my thoughts at the moment.
Do you love reading? Do any of these classics sound interesting to you? Share your thoughts in the comments! And be sure to sign up for the newsletter for access to great freebies!