At the beginning of the month The Classics Club posed a question:
“What is the best book you’ve read so far for The Classics Club — and why? Be sure to link to the post where you discussed the book! (Or, if you prefer, what is your least favorite read so far for the club, and why?)”
I usually struggle with this sort of question, because I love many different books for many different reasons, but as I thought about it I realised that I could put the 5 books from my Classics Club list that I’ve read into order.
I loved and appreciated them all, but I know in my heart that some had greater claims than others …
In first place:
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
“All life is there, from quiet domesticity to grand events, and through everything in between. And lives are lived. A broad cast of characters – no not characters, people, because everyone is so perfectly drawn – live, love, make mistakes, learn, enjoy good or bad fortune, feel every emotion under the sun ….and so completely realised, real lives are reflected in the pages of these book.”
This was heaven: a fully realised world that pulled me right in, a story that captivated me, and a book that I know I will pick up again. I could quite happily go and live in Wives and Daughters.
Very, very close behind, in second place:
The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
“The very, very best novels leave me struggling for words, quite unable to capture what it is that makes them so extraordinary. The Home-Maker is one of those novels. It was published in the 1920s, it is set in small town American, and yet it feels extraordinarily relevant.It is the story of the Knapp family – Evangeline, Lester and their children, Helen, Henry and Stephen. A family that was unhappy, because both parents were trapped in the roles that society dictated a mother and a father should play.”
A significant statement, an extraordinary book, I can only say that it wasn’t quite as profound or well written as the book that preceded it.
And the book that comes third:
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
“I was held from the first page to the last and, though this is a big book, the last page came very quickly. Because there were so many twists, so many questions, that I had to turn the pages quickly. It’s lucky that Collins writes maybe the most readable prose of all the Victorian greats!”
I can’t quite believe that Wilkie Collins is down in third place, but although he’s a wonderful storyteller and this is a wonderful story, but I do think that the books that came before are greater works.
Some way behind that in fourth place:
The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy
“The Constant Nymph was wildly successful in the 1920s. A bestselling novel! A popular play! A Hollywood film! And yet it disappeared. Fell out of print, until Virago picked it up and made it a Modern Classic – number 121!”
I loved Margaret Kennedy’s writing, and I shall be seeking out more of her work. I loved much of the story, but I was just a little disapponted in the way it played out in the end.
It’s a cliche I know, but it really is a case of last but not least:
“I have been to 19th century Paris, but I barely knew it. Because I have read a book with a style, with themes, with a story, that felt so very, very contemporary. This is a story of journalists with dubious ethics, of politicians who use their position for personal gain, of men and women caught up in the quest for power, money and social status.”
It was a wonderful story, and I’m glad I read it, but I did’t miss it or wish for a copy of my own when I had to give it back to the library.
So that’s five books read, 10% of my list behind me, but still lots of wonderful classics to come.
I just finished “The Woman in White” this month, and I wholeheartedly agree with it being very “readable prose”. I only wish they introduced him in high-school reading programme instead of some other authors, who are a bit too complicated for 16-year olds to wrap their heads around.
Yes, though I found reading a book for school helped me through some books I might not have picked up otherwise.
I loved your top three, too, and will investigate The Constant Nymph.
I had slightly mixed feelings about The Constant Nymph, but I’ve just started another Margaret Kennedy and she does write well. So if you see anything of hers it’s worth a try.
I’m going to add all of these to my TBR. I forgot I own a copy of The Home-Maker – that is going to the top of the pile.
Anbolyn, you must read The Home-Maker. It’s stunning and the author seems like a really interesting woman.