Victorian Musings

Since I gave up on Trollope for the Classics Circuit a strange thing has happened. I thought that I would veer away from Victorian novels and towards something else. But that hasn’t happened. The great Victorian authors are calling me loudly.

It’s strange because the eight books I read this year for Our Mutual Read weren’t typical Victorian classics.

I read two wonderful travelogues by Victorian novelists who toured Cornwall: Rambles Beyond Railways by Wilkie Collins and an Unsentimental Journey Through Cornwall by Mrs Craik.

My third Victorian travelogue was an account of Thomas Cook’s first tour to Switzerland that was rediscovered after being lost for many years: Miss Jemima’s Swiss Journal.

Back with fiction I met two gentlemen – Mr Tress and Mr Pugh – with extraordinary stories to tell in Curios by Richard Marsh.

I read two wonderful French works from the Victorian era: The Child by Jules Vallès and One Thousand and One Ghosts by Alexandre Dumas.

And I read two works by Louisa May Alcott for Margot’s All Things Alcott  Challenge. Thank you Margot, for inspiring me! I read Eight Cousins and A Long and Fatal Love Chase. I had intended to read Harriet Reisen’s  biography too, but the year is winding down and it’s not a book I want to rush. Next year, definitely.

Eight wonderful Victorian books and two challenges completed.

But I dropped Trollope and drifted away from Dickens, and now they are calling me back.

This year life got a little too busy and so I think I rushed a little too much at my reading. And now I realise that what I need is to immerse myself in a long slow-paced book, the kind of the books that Victorian Authors did so well.

I’m looking forward to reading some Dickens over Christmas, and in the new year I’m going to pick up The Old Curiosity Shop again. I have learned that one of the great things about reading Dickens is his stickability: I can put his books down for ages but I still remember everything when I pick them up again.

And I’m signing up for The Victorian Literature Challenge at Words Words Words.

I’m not reading from a fixed list, I’m going to read the books that call and the books that I discover along the way.

But a few authors and books are calling particularly loudly:

I’m going to try Trollope again: I just need to pick the right book at the right time, and not go wrong as I did this year.

Lifetime Reader has inspired me to reread Thomas Hardy.

And this might just be my year to read Vanity Fair. My mother had been telling me to read it for years, and she’s generally right about these things.

Mrs Gaskell is one of her favourites, and that’s part of the reason why I’m signing up for the Gaskell Reading Challenge at Gaskell Blog too. I’ve only read Cranford, so I have a good number still to choose my two books from.

My mother is quite frail now and she doesn’t have the concentration or the short-term memory to do much reading, yet she remembers details of books like Cranford and Vanity Fair that she read st school more than fifty years ago.

She will be pleased to see me reading the books that she loves, and she remembers enough details for us to be able to talk about them.

It’s a tribute to the skills of many Victorian novelists, and to the power of a wonderful teacher whose words my mother can still quote too.

12 responses

    • I love the idea that I’m reading books that previous generations enjoyed too. We still have my grandfather’s volumes by Dickens on the shelves, buit I’m afraid I’ll be reading modern copies because the print is too tiny for my eyes.

  1. Though I’m concentrating on interwar fiction in 2011, I will still read my fair share of Victorian novels as I have TONS of them on my shelves that I’ve never read. I hope to remedy this and I look forward to reading your impressions of Dickens as I’ve never been a fan of his.

  2. I’ve signed up for the Victorian Literature Challenge too, though like you, I haven’t prepared a fixed list of books. I love both Trollope and Hardy, but I’m still undecided about Dickens so will probably give him another chance in the new year. I haven’t read anything by Gaskell yet – maybe I’ll sign up for the Gaskell Challenge too!

    • I’m a recent convert to Dickens. I treat his books as serials – soap operas even – and read a chapter or two a day in between other books, and that way I really enjoy them now.

  3. I read Vanity Fair on holiday a few years ago and loved it – hope you enjoy it too. I’m a big fan of Dickens, my blog was even going to have him in the title at the beginning – he seems a little unloved in the blog reading world. so glad to see a fellow Dickens friend.

    • I love the idea of Vanity Fair, it’s just the size and the commitment that has stopped me reading. But tonight it’s Mister Dickens and A Round of Stories By The Christmas Fire for me.

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