Book reviews

The Classics Club is celebrating its tenth birthday and has provided the following ten questions for members to answer.

When did you join the Classics Club?

August 2018. I’m currently reading the 41st book of my first 51 book challenge and yes, I know the challenge is to read 50 books over five years but I miscounted. I’ve always preferred reading to math (since you’re reading this, I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt the same way).

What is the best classic book you’ve read for the club so far?

Villette. Charlotte Bronte’s story and writing were beautiful and the heroine, Lucy Snowe, was one of the most resilient characters I’ve ever met. The ending made me cry great big, gulping sobs.

I wish I’d read Villette years ago so I could have had the pleasure of re-reading it over the years.

What is the first classic you ever read?

If Little Golden Books count, my Grade One teacher gave me a copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson although I didn’t love this book as much as Tommy Visits the Doctor (while not a classic I couldn’t resist including the book in my photo).

Little Women, which I read so many times the cover has fallen off, the Heidi series, Aesop’s Fables, The House at Pooh Corner, Pollyanna and What Katy Did would have come my way later, although I couldn’t say which came first. I think Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty, the Billabong books and abridged versions of Pride and Prejudice and The Hound of the Baskervilles came my way later in childhood.

Which classic book inspired you the most?

Out of the forty or so books I’ve read in this challenge, this has to be Dubliners by James Joyce. Dubliners made me want to tell the story of the place where I grew up and the people who lived and visited. unfortunately, I don’t have the talent but the following excerpt from my review will give you an idea of ‘my’ Dubliners.

“stories about the old women who gathered weekly to cackle over afternoon tea at each other’s homes, farmers who worked hard, raised families and brought their daughters up to know they could do anything, eccentric fishermen, lonely local children who looked forward all year to the arrival of playmates in summer, a handful of mad artists, a school teacher who took drugs and fell into a chest freezer, one or two blow-ins who resented anyone whose family had been in the area for generations and in summer, hordes of moneyed, boarding school-educated squatters from the Western District who sun-bathed together, played golf with each other then drank all night at the golf club without ever noticing a local.”

What is the most challenging one you’ve ever read, or tried to read?

Out of everything I’ve read so far for this challenge, Pamela by Samuel Richardson has been the most irritating, slowest moving and dull, and not surprisingly, I didn’t finish the book.

I didn’t much like Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald because I felt as if the author wrote too freely of his wife’s personal affairs even though wanting to know more about the Fitzgerald’s private lives had been one of the reasons I initially added the book to my Classics Club list. However, I found the story to be tawdry and felt that the author had taken too much advantage of his wife’s history and mental health issues in writing about them.

Favourite movie adaptation of a classic? Least favorite?

Favourite: Vanity Fair with Reece Witherspoon as Becky Sharp.

Least favourite: None. All of the movie adaptations I’ve seen of books from my list have been good.

Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?

Seriously? You have to ask? Aren’t we all Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice?

Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving? Respecting? Appreciating?

Wuthering Heights. I read this as a teenager, hated the story and couldn’t understand what Cathy and Heathcliff saw in each other. When I re-read Wuthering Heights as an adult I realised the book was not a romance, but a story about the cycle of family violence.

Classic/s you are DEFINITELY GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?

Middlemarch. I’ve been putting this book off for years because it is so long!

Favorite memory with a classic and/or your favourite memory with The Classics Club?

Taking part in a review-along of L.P Hartley’s The Go-Between with other Classics Club members and WordPress bloggers. The experience of sharing ideas about a book I loved with other reviewers brought me more joy than I could have imagined.

Comments on: "The Classics Club 10 year Celebration questionnaire" (34)

  1. It’s fun reading folks’ answers to these questions. I loved Pollyanna as a child, too. I had a disease that required leg braces and confined me to a wheelchair for a number of months, so I took the story to heart. You had me thumbing through my copy again!

    • Pollyanna was delightful, wasn’t she? I think there were a heap of books in the series, although I only ever found a few of them.
      I hope you enjoy revisiting Pollyanna and the glad game 🙂

  2. What a lovely post, Rose. I still have my Child’s Garden of Verse; it’s much cherished. You’ve convinced me of Villette, which I think was on my sadly-abandoned classics club list; I responded to Dubliners just as you did and I’m hoping that next year will be the year for Middlemarch. You’ve made me smile – aren’t books wonderful! x

    • Hi Sandra, lovely to see you about 🙂
      Are you reading at all at the moment?
      I don’t think I was overly fond of my Child’s Garden of Verse as it is still in almost new condition (although having said that, Mum did keep ‘special’ books in a cupboard so they wouldn’t get wrecked).. My absolute favourite books, Little Women and Anne of Green Gables have almost fallen to bits.
      I hope you do read Villette, there is so much about it to respond to.
      I couldn’t agree more with you, books are indeed wonderful 🙂

  3. What a great post, it’s so interesting to hear about other readers’ experience with classics. You’ve made me curious about Vilette and I wish you good luck with Middlemarch. The page count alone puts me off!

    • Middlemarch is such a lump of a book! I’ve put off reading all the longest books from my Classics Club list and now I’ve got a year of heavy reading ahead to finish them all.
      I hope you do read (and review) Villette. I could not have been more surprised by the direction of the story and by how much I enjoyed it.

      • Fingers crossed that the remaining ones from your list will all be great. Getting through a so-so chunkster, could be challenging.

  4. Lovely answers! Do you really still have all your childhood books? I’ve no idea what happened to mine. Mind you, my mother was a terror for getting rid of things as soon as she felt we’d grown out of them – these days she’d probably be on youtube, making videos about decluttering! 😉 The Go-Between review-along was great – it was so good that we all loved it unanimously. Have you got your second list ready to go?

    • Some of the books in my photo I’ve had since childhood but some were collected later on. I wish I still had my childhood copy of Pride and Prejudice (think it fell to bits) and my AA Milne boxed set (I’ve no idea what happened to them).
      I’m going to have to prune my second list as it is already at 60!
      The Go-Between makes me smile every time I think of it, mostly because it was a shared experience. Hopefully there will be more books in all of our futures which we all enjoy – loving the next one unanimously is probably too much to hope for 🙂

      • Our little review-along group seems to have shrunk – a couple of people aren’t around much any more. But maybe we’ll be inspired one day to do another one! Ha, I’ve just started my second list and I’ve already got about twenty possibles for the third!

  5. I enjoyed reading your post about your experiences with the classics over the years. And you’ve helped me solve a problem…I created a list of classics by women to read for 2022 and I’ve gotten bogged down with Mill on the Floss. I now plan to cut my next book (Middlemarch) and replace it will Villette.

    I also plan to read Dubliners this year.

    • I hope you love Villette as much as I did 🙂
      Will be interested to learn if Dubliners has a similar effect on you.
      I got bogged down in the middle of Mill on the Floss too, but persisted because so many others loved the story, but I’m dreading Middlemarch. Leaving so many longer books on my list until the end of the challenge was a big mistake!

  6. Rose I loved all your answers here! I remember all of the reviews you’ve mentioned here, especially Dubliners. I do hope you enjoy Middlemarch, it was the first book I read for the challenge and although a slow start ended up really loving it!

  7. I gave up on Pamela too – such a dreary book!
    Middlemarch is my favourite classic of all time. I know it’s long but it has so many themes and ideas that each time I read it I find new meaning

    • I find that knowing I don’t have to finish every single book I start and deciding not to finish a book are two different things, but making this decision was easier with Pamela than I’ve found before!
      So many people have said that Middlemarch is their favourite classic that I’m feeling a little intimidated by the book. Hoping to have the same experience of it as you in that it will turn out to be a book I want to read again and again 🙂

  8. No, I’m not Lizzie, but I love your answers here. I’m going to do a post like this next week!

  9. Congratulations on being so close to finishing! I miscounted on my original CC run, too: I included the Gulag Archipelago, but didn’t realize it was three volumes. When I drew up my 2nd list, I was careful to list Plutarch’s “Heroes” as two seperate entries! 😉

    • Three volumes! You were even worse off with your list number than I was 😉
      I haven’t heard of the Gulag Archipelago so read your review. Had to laugh when you commented on starting with the obvious – must have had me (or others who were equally clueless) in mind 🙂

      • GA is an incredible book, but I don’t know how much name recognition it has — I consider myself fairly literate as far as ‘classics’ go, but I hadn’t heard of it until an author I was reading (Joseph Pearce) mentioned it. It’s gaining some prominence thanks to the popularity of Jordan Peterson in recent years — he draws on it a lot in his lectures.

  10. Where to start? Early classics loves definitely included Heidi. Adored that book, and ALL the Pollyannas as my Mum had them. Plus the Billabong books. Wasn’t a big Pooh person but loved his poetry, When we were very young and Now we are six.

    First loved adult classic was P&P of course.

    I read The Dubliners in Fifth Form, year 11, and loved it. Read Pamela at university. Didn’t hate it but I think there was a funny spoof Shamela by Henry Fielding that was fun.

    I have a Middlemarch next to my bed, part read. Was enjoying it but got distracted, probably by a reading group book – years ago – and have not got back to it.

    I’ve forgotten the other things I wanted to say, so will finish. Enjoyed the post. So sorry I’ve been AWOL for so long. Life has just been too busy. I’m just not keeping up.

    • Oh, how funny! I was just commenting to someone else how fond I was of AA Milne’s poetry when I was a child.
      Dubliners must have been interesting to study. I’d love to know what a classroom full of 16-17 year-olds thought of it if you remember. Feeling a little sorry for your teacher.
      Middlemarch, hmm. I’m steeling myself to start (and hopefully finish) this, too.
      I see you’ve been busy, lots of travelling and other things on. Glad you’re taking the opportunities that come your way 🙂

      • Sorry, Rose, I can’t remember beyond my closest friend and me, and we loved it. We just soaked up whatever we were given, but the Dubliners and Voss, are probably the two standout prose works for me from those last two years.

        As for A. A. Milne . How great was he.

  11. Very interesting answers! I should definitely check out Vanity Fair with Reece Witherspoon! It is also impressive that you most enjoyed Villette. I read it and found it ok. I have this feeling that if I read it again in say five years time I would truly appreciate it for what it was. Maybe I should “grow” some more to appreciate it fully.

    • Villette might be the type of book that when you are in exactly the right mood for it, it will be beautiful. I certainly didn’t expect to be so taken with the story, or to feel as much as I did.
      Vanity Fair with Reece Witherspoon was fun, probably lighter than the book but there was a lot of story to condense into two and a bit hours.

  12. This was fun to read! Your comment on Wuthering Heights makes me wonder if I should re-read it. I read it years ago in high school and hated it because it had been sold to me as a romance and I thought the characters were terrible. But maybe if I read it now I would see something different in it.

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