A Classics Challenge

It’s called a challenge, but it doesn’t feel like a challenge.

It feels like a very natural, and sociable, way to read some of the books I really want to read but never quite get to.

Let me explain.

A Classics Challenge is hosted by Katherine at November’s Autumn – you may also know her as Katherine of Gaskell Blog.

The basic premise is simple:

“Read seven works of Classic Literature in 2012. Only three of the seven may be re-reads.”

But what makes this interesting is what comes next:

“I’ve organized this challenge to work a little like a blog hop. I hope this will make it more interactive and enjoyable for everyone.

Instead of writing a review as you finish each book (of course, you can do that too), visit November’s Autumn on the 4th of each month from January 2012 – December 2012.

You will find a prompt, it will be general enough that no matter which Classic you’re reading or how far into it, you will be able to answer. There will be a form for everyone to link to their post. I encourage everyone to read what other participants have posted.”

So I’ve been through shelves and lists, and now I’ve narrowed down a long list of titles that I want to read or re-read to just seven books:

The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham (1925)

I must confess that I love the film, but I have never read this, or indeed any Maugham. Time to put that right.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (1866)

My mother loves Mrs Gaskell, but she lacks the short-term memory needed for keeping track of novels these days. But she loves watching television adaptations of classic novels, so my plan is to read the book and watch the mini-series with my mother. We did the same thing with North and South earlier this year, and it worked beautifully.

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (1841)

I began reading The Old Curiosity Shop last year, but though I was enjoying it life and other books distracted me. It’s time to go back to the beginning and see it through to the end.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1922)

I remember seeing the film at school when I was about fourteen. It was an end-of-term post-exam treat! I loved it, and I went straight to the library to find the book. I loved that too, and now it’s time for a re-read.

A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe (1790)

I picked this up a little while ago and the mixture of gotic plot and rich description looked wonderful. But I had commited to reading another gothic novel for the Classics Circuit, so I had to put this one aside.

The Warden by Anthony Trollope (1855)

The first time I tried Trollope we didn’t get on, but I knew that it was just the wrong book at the wrong time. several people have suggested that The Warden is the best book to start with, and so that’s where I am going to start again.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery (1848)

My mother has been telling me that I should read Vanity Fair, that it was a wonderful book, for years. And she’s generally right about these things.

And now I just have to work out what to read first …

9 responses

  1. The Warden is the right place to start with Trollope I think. I am on the 4th of the Chronicles (Framley Parsonage) and have enjoyed each new installment more than the last. With Maugham, I think he is at his best in the short stories — about three summers ago I sat down and read them all and a fine reading summer it was. I also like his memoir The Summing Up very much. Vanity Fair has been on my To Read list forever. I need to get to that one. And more Gaskell as I loved North & South.

  2. I’ve been thinking about doing this too, as you say it doesn’t feel like a challenge – I wish there was a better word for these type of things. I have read three of your choices – The Painted Veil, The Great Gatsby and Vanity Fair – all excellent, so I’d suggest starting with one of these. As The Great Gatsby is a re-read it may be easier (or not) to start with that or maybe Vanity Fair, which, I agree with your mother, is a wonderful book.

  3. I’m going to join this endeavor also as soon as I can get organized and figure out which books I want to read! I have only read The Great Gatsby from your list and really liked it. I have read Maugham and was entranced by his writing. I’ll be interested to see your thoughts on The Painted Veil because I loved the movie as well!

  4. I loved The Painted Veil, it’s one of my favorite works by Maugham. I didn’t put any Maugham on my list so maybe I’d better fix that!! And Wives and Daughters is one of my absolute favorites. The BBC adaptation is wonderful too.

  5. I was reading your post and thinking, “you know, this might fit in rather well with Simon’s Century of Books” (which I’m planning for madly in my usual OCD sort of way), when I scrolled down and saw that Simon had said just that! I’ve got a Maugham on the list for the CoB already 🙂

    Your list sounds wonderful! I hope you find Trollope more satisfying this time.

  6. “It feels like a very natural, and sociable, way to read some of the books I really want to read but never quite get to.”
    That is exactly what I hoped, so glad you feel that way! 🙂

    Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters is a real treat. I’ve heard great things of Vanity Fair but have yet to read it myself. I’m planning on reading The Warden too, only for Sarah’s Classics Challenge.

    Thank you for joining, Fleur! 🙂

  7. It doesn’t feel like a challenge – very liberating and I love the idea of prompts and no reviewing pressure.
    Anthony Trollope almost made it onto my list and may still – have never read anything of his.
    The Painted Veil I’m sure you’ll enjoy. I did.

  8. This sounds like fun. I didn’t realize there was a little twist to the challenge–I may have to join in as well. I loved The Painted Veil and really liked Wives and Daughters, too. I just read her North and South and thought it was excellent. I love your choices!

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