In which The Classics Club poses a question …

It sounds like such a simple question:

What is your favourite classic book? Why?

But to provide a single answer, to pick out just one author and one book is very nearly impossible.

So many wonderful books, with so many different qualities. And I know that how I feel about books will change with my state of mind, will change as my life evolves, will change as I read and re-read books ….

I might have given you a different answer, tomorrow I might hear the call of another classic. but today I know which book I must choose.

It leaves me lost for words, and so I shall leave you with a cover image and with opening words that must surely draw you in ….

“A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its green banks to the sea, and the loving tide, rushing to meet it, checks its passage with an impetuous embrace. On this mighty tide the black ships -laden with the fresh-scented fir-planks, with rounded sacks of oil-bearing seed, or with the dark glitter of coal – are borne along to the town of St. Ogg’s, which shows its aged, fluted red roofs and the broad gables of its wharves between the low wooded hill and the river-brink, tingeing the water with a soft purple hue under the transient glance of this February sun. Far away on each hand stretch the rich pastures, and the patches of dark earth made ready for the seed of broad-leaved green crops, or touched already with the tint of the tender-bladed autumn-sown corn. There is a remnant still of last year’s golden clusters of beehive-ricks rising at intervals beyond the hedgerows; and everywhere the hedgerows are studded with trees; the distant ships seem to be lifting their masts and stretching their red-brown sails close among the branches of the spreading ash. Just by the red-roofed town the tributary Ripple flows with a lively current into the Floss. How lovely the little river is, with its dark changing wavelets! It seems to me like a living companion while I wander along the bank, and listen to its low, placid voice, as to the voice of one who is deaf and loving. I remember those large dipping willows. I remember the stone bridge.”

Which classic would you pick?

11 responses

  1. Oh, my. That passage is gorgeous. Allie gave me a copy of this book a few months ago. I am waiting for the perfect time, to read it. 🙂

  2. Oh yes! That must surely be the most beautiful opening chapter ever and I never tire of reading it. Having only read The Mill on the Floss recently, and loving it, I’m saving it to feature in a later CC meme.

  3. I was lucky enough to win a copy of that very Penguin editon in a blogging give-away last year, and I’m looking forward to reading it. The only book of hers that I’ve read is Silas Marner, which I thought was wonderful.

  4. I know I’ve read ‘The Mill on the Floss’ ages ago, but I can’t really remember much about it. I would love to try it again. The opening passage is wonderful.
    My favorites seem to shift position all the time, but right now I would say my favorite classic is ‘Howards End’ – A beautiful and joyous book!

  5. Synchronicity is a wonderful thing. I lay in bed last night deciding I was now strong enough to read The Mill on The Floss again! I last read it when I was ten years old,and thought I would die of grief at the end! Haven’t felt strong enough to re-read it since! Those opening paragraphs are exquisite, and I know I didn’t appreciate that writing when I was ten, so here we go again! Thanks for the gift!

  6. That is a beautiful passage. Thank you for sharing it. I think you are spot on with regard to favourite classics, and how, as our lives change and we change, so our responses to these novels change too. My favourite is The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, though I think it meant more to me as a teenager when I first read it than it would do now.

  7. I read this in a Victorian Studies class in college and really enjoyed it…I need to pick it up again! Sometimes I just wanted to shake Maggie, but wanted to hug her just as often.

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