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?

I have been up into the attic ….

…. and I came down with a large carrier bag.

You may recall that a few weeks ago I was reorganising shelves and boxes of books, and bringing my LibraryThing records up to date. I should have known that as soon as I had everything straight books that I had put away in the attic would call. Loudly.

And so I went up with a bag, and I came down with this:

All of the Penguin Classics I could carry!

Next year I plan to read more classics and less crime. And maybe to knit a little less and read a little more.

Of course I won’t read all of the books I brought down next year, but I want to have them around again.

(I hate having to keep books in the attic, but there is no alternative while I am living with and caring for my mother in her home.)

It all started when I read the Review section of the Saturday Telegraph a week or two ago. There was an article about One Day by David Nicholls, pointing up all of the references to Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Suddenly I was interested in a book that hadn’t called me at all.

But then another thought struck. Wouldn’t it be better to re-read Tess?!

And then other classics began to call. It was time to go up into the attic.

Tess came down, and so did all of the other works by Thomas Hardy I own.

Middlemarch, and all of George Eliot’s other novels came down, because I really should like to read again, over an extended period, with Team Middlemarch.

Jane Austen’s novels came down, to celebrate Advent With Austen.

Les Miserables came down, because I have wanted to read this book for so long and Kate’s Library is hosting a readalong that will help me to work my way through slowly over the course of next year.

With all of those books coming down I really couldn’t leave Wilkie Collins or the three Bronte sisters behind.

It was fortunate that those works I own by Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell, plus my copy of Vanity Fair, were downstairs already, as my bag wouldn’t have held any more books.

I’ve also moved my Elizabeth Taylor collection to the front of the Virago bookcase, ready to read with the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics Group.

My Virago copy of The Odd Women by George Gissing, that Darlene recommended so warmly is also to hand.

So I’m not going to run out of classics to read, and re-read, any time soon …..

18th & 19th Century Women Writers Challenge – Complete


Becky from Becky’s Book Reviews has been hosting  the 18th and 19th Century Women Writers Reading Challenge for 2009.

Pparticipants are asked to read no fewer than four and no more than twelve books written by a woman who lived and wrote from 1700 to 1900.

I’ve read six:

All good but The Yellow Wallpaper has to be my favourite, with Paul Ferroll and Behind a Mask not to far behind.

A lovely challenge!

What’s in a Name Challenge: Complete!


This was a lovely challenge. Lots of time was spent happily browsing for titles to fit the categories.

And now I’ve read my 6 books for the 6 categories.

Here they are:

1. A book with a “profession” in its title

A Bookseller‘s War by Anne and Heywood Hill

2. A book with a “time of day” in its title

The Swan in the Evening by Rosamond Lehmann

3. A book with a “relative” in its title

Brother Jacob by George Eliot

4. A book with a “body part” in its title

Every Eye by Isobel English

5. A book with a “building” in its title

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

6. A book with a “medical condition” in its title

Among The Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

Thank you to Annie for hosting!

Brother Jacob by George Eliot

Brother Jacob

Virago Modern Classic #312

Brother Jacob is George Eliot’s shortest and most obscure work.

I’m pleased that Virago reissued it back in the day – if they hadn’t it probably would have passed me by.

My edition runs to just 74 pages, but it contains a fable, a morality tale in four acts:

Act 1

On a visit to town young David Faux sees a high class confectioner’s shop. It leads him to believe that confectioners must  be the happiest and most popular of tradesmen, and so when it comes to the time for him to take up a trade he becomes a confectionery. But when David finds that the realitly of life as a confectioner has more work and less status than he imagined, he decides that his future lies elsewhere.

The prose in this section is rich and lovely. George Eliot must have had a sweet tooth! But David’s discontent stops things getting sickly and sets the real story in motion.

Act 2

David decides that his future lies in the West Indies, But how does he get there? Easy! He tricks his slow-witted brother Jacob so that he can steal his mother’s life savings. And then, of course, he vanishes.

A swift change to a much darker style and tone. Interesting, well executed and things play out well. But not so easy to engage. David is unpleasant and Jacob is dull. No heroes here!

Act 3

Some years later and some miles away a new confectioner’s shop  opens. The proprietor, Edward Freely, establishes himself in society and is clearly set to make a great match with the local squire’s daughter.

A lovely portrait of a community. Of course, with the short format, it is reasonably clear who Edward Freely must be and what is likely to happen next. After all, the title is “Brother Jacob”.

Act 4

Sure enough, Jacob arrives. He, quite disingenuously, identifies the confectioner as his brother David Faux. Not a gentleman merchant, but a working class thief and cheat. The confectioner disappears, never to be heard from again.

A tidy ending, but a little downbeat.

Brother Jacob has a few flaws common in short works. There is little room for character development and the story quickly becomes predictable. But it is engaging and very readable.

The core idea wouldn’t have been enough to sustain a novel, but does provide a sound basis for this little volume.

Not essential, but very interesting.

Teaser Tuesdays / It’s Tuesday, where are you ?


Just quote a couple of spoiler-free sentences the book you’re reading to tempt other readers.

Here is mine:-

“Among the many fatalities attending the bloom of young desire, that of blindly taking to the confectionery line has not, perhaps, been sufficiently considered. How is the son of a British yeoman, who has been fed principally on salt pork and yeast dumplings, to know that there is a satiety for the human stomach even in a paradise of pink jars full of sugared almonds and pink lozenges, and that the tedium of life can reach a pitch where plum buns at discretion cease to offer the slightest enticement?”

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB


I am visiting Brigford with my uncle. He is a butler at the great house. We have seen the most wonderful shop, and now I am quite certain that I must become a confectioner. Confectionery is so beutiful to behold and provides the very best of eating. Confectioners must be the happiest and the foremost of men.

It’s Tuesday, where are you? is hosted by raidergirl3.

This all comes courtesy of Brother Jacob by George Eliot.