So I’ve been making an effort recently to read some of “the classics” – my husband seems bemused by this, but I feel like I’ve reached a point where I can appreciate literature in a way I just didn’t when I was younger. I’ve always loved to read – but it was all about being wrapped up in the story. As I’ve gotten older, read more, become a mom in need of intellectual stimulation, and become more experienced as an editor and beta reader I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the art of writing. You can get a three-star review from me for an engaging story without amazing writing, but the fives are reserved for those that do both and also convey some sort of life message – communicate some great truths about life.
This year so far I’ve read 1984 and Animal Farm (George Orwell) and I’ve begun reading The Innocence of Father Brown (G.K. Chesteron). In 2019 I read Les Miserables (Victor Hugo), Under the Lilacs (Louisa May Alcott), and Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte). In 2018 I read The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia #4, C.S. Lewis), Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen), and The Valley of Fear (Arthur Conan Doyle). I only actually enjoyed two of those: The Silver Chair and Wuthering Heights. The rest I’m glad to have read, but didn’t love while I was reading them, if that makes sense.
Since I let this post sit for four months without touching it and don’t remember at all where I was going with it, I’ve decided to offer my quick takes on each of the books I mention above:
The Innocence of Father Brown — It is SLOW. Father Brown always solves the crime, and he usually imparts some bit of Catholic wisdom in the process. But it is slow.
1984 — I finally understand so many cultural references to Orwell. I also do not understand how people do not see the parallels to our modern life. Telescreens remind me an awful lot of Alexa…or Facebook. Scary stuff.
Animal Farm — I never took a European History class, which put me at a great disadvantage when it comes to understanding this book.
Les Miserables — Would any editor anywhere let this book get published nowadays? I LOVE the musical and know all the songs by heart, and the core of the story is wonderful. But we need to slash like…half the book.
Under the Lilacs — I just feel ambivalent about this one. I reread Little Women and Little Men as a kid (rereading books is not something I typically do) because I loved them so much and this one…was just harder to get into and love.
Wuthering Heights — This book is SO DARK. In the past I’ve found it hard to get into books where I can’t identify with the characters, or where the characters are unlikable. Pretty much everyone in Wuthering Heights in unlikable, but I think the story is wonderfully written and so heartbreakingly realistic. Maybe I’ve just reached a point in life where I realize there are no perfect people and so I’m not looking for perfect characters? I think, though, it might be that I found it a fascinating look at why people do horrible things. What makes these people tick? That understanding brings empathy, even the face of human awfulness.
The Silver Chair — Narnia is eternally captivating and all the books have been spectacular so far. I should get back to that series!
Sense and Sensibility — I really, really, really WANT to like Jane Austen. I’m just not sure I do. Some of the characters are infuriating and I’m glad I didn’t live in that society.
The Valley of Fear — I was largely unimpressed, to be honest. Which was a little disappointing.
Have you read any of these books? What do you think of them? Are there any classics I should be sure to read?