Earlier this week it was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. A satire of the middle classes of the time, the book and it's various films and TV series still capture our imagination. There is a massive fan fiction following, where you can find all kinds of what happened nexts, or the bits she left out. There really is something out there for everyone. And written by all kinds of people. And those who haven't read the book will surely know a fair amount of what happens in it, whether that be due to Colin Firth in a wet shirt or Keira Knightly's pouting, or just because the story is part of our culture, one of those that somehow you just know. As if absorbed. Like Oliver Twist. I've never read it (hate reading Dickens, stone me if you must), never watched it on stage pr in film, but somehow know the basic plotline.
So I thought to celebrate the book's 200year birthday, I'd blog about my five favourite classic novels, or novels which I consider to be classic.
1. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte.
The atmosphere created in this book is one of fear, intrigue. It deals with subjects which are still very much relevant today: alcoholism, domestic abuse. A woman running away with her son from a violent husband. It is difficult to imagine how shocking this would have been then, but Anne Bronte dared. A wonderful novel.
2. Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier
This book has bumped Rebecca off this list, because I don't want two books by the same author. Another book which covers difficult subjects including alcoholism and domestic violence (hmm, there might be a theme here). It's particularly interesting as the main character doesn't quite know what to make of her relative, and feels pulled towards him while also repulsed. It's the kind of book that has you saying 'what on earth are you thinking?' And wanting to put it down in frustration, but it is so well written and so absorbing that you can't. A not particularly likeable heroine, but you end up rooting for her all the same.
3. The Woman In White, by Wilkie Collins
Detective fiction, and one of the first, and one of the rare books that I have re-read again and again. Another book which deals with issues that are still relevant today, in this case mental health and emotional abuse. Very readable, enthralling (don't you just love that word) and full of twists and turns.
4. Emma, by Jane Austen
I prefer this book to P&P. The matchmaking heroine is very irritating but fascinating at the same time. It's another satire of the middle classes, funny but fairly biting at the same time.
5. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
Did you read these stories as a child? I did, but I didn't really remember them. So I re-read them more recently, and they are great. As a child they were simple animal stories; as an adult they are funny, wise, somehow comforting tales. The best children's books do manage to be enjoyed on a child's level and an adult's level, and these are beautiful stories.
What about you? If you were advising someone to read the classics, with which ones would you start? Which classics do you go back to again and again? And do you agree that Emma is a better novel than Pride and Prejudice, or do you think I am nuts even suggesting that?