Tagged: Classics Club

Classics Club #16: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The house was a sepulcher, our fear and suffering lay buried in the ruins. There would be no resurrection. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a masterpiece of suspense that should not be missed by anyone who loves atmospheric settings, classic mysteries, or gorgeous prose. Ranked as the 9th greatest mystery novel of all time by the Mystery Writers of America, Rebecca entrances the reader with its lyrical sentences as the story slowly unfolds, picks up speed, and then builds into a page-turning climax. I enjoyed every sentence of this haunting...

Classics Club #15: Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol reaffirmed one thing for me: I really don’t like classic satires. From Candide to Gulliver’s Travels to Zuleika Dobson, they hold very little interest for me. I’ve had a bit more success with modern satires like the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, but in general satire is not a genre I appreciate. Dead Souls is an episodic story in which the main character Chichikov travels to various Russian estates trying to purchase “dead souls.” It’s not as creepy as it sounds. Dead souls are peasants that...

The Worm Ouroboros detail

Classics Club Book #14: The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

Abase thee and serve me, worm of the pit. Else will I by and by summon out of ancient night intelligences and dominations mightier far than thou, and they shall serve my ends, and thee shall they chain with chains of quenchless fire and drag thee from torment to torment through the deep. The Worm Ouroboros might be called world-building fantasy in the tradition of The Lord of the Rings but for two details: it was published 22 years before Tolkien’s trilogy, and it is much darker. In fact, though Tolkien himself...

Harvard Classic Books

Classics Club Challenge Update: Year One

One year ago I marked my 50th birthday by joining the Classics Club Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to read fifty classic novels in five years, and after one year I’m ahead of the pace by three books. In the last twelve months I’ve read the following thirteen books: The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni (1842) The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson (1908) Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson (1908) The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (1927) Conan –...

Florence, Italy

Classics Club Book #13: Romola by George Eliot

Under every guilty secret there is hidden a brood of guilty wishes, whose unwholesome infecting life is cherished by the darkness. I chose to read Romola for the 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge as my “Classic set in a place you’d like to visit.” The story takes place in Florence, Italy, which is one of my bucket-list destinations. Written by George Eliot in 1863, Romola transports the reader to Florence in 1492, where the main characters rub elbows with Niccolo Machiavelli, Girolamo Savonarola, members of the Medici family,...

Ewan McGregor and Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma

Classics Club Book #12: Emma by Jane Austen

The last time I read Jane Austen’s Emma was long before I had seen the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow. Since then I’ve seen the movie maybe half a dozen times, as it’s become one of my girls’ favorites. Because I’ve seen it so many times, the movie has overshadowed the book in my memory. So as I picked up my Kindle to read the novel for my Classics Club Challenge I was curious about how different the two might be and how the movie would stand up next to the...

Classics Club Book #11: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman. O Pioneers! deserves more, but this is going to be a short review, because I’m catching up on reviewing books I read this summer. Willa Cather’s novel of the Nebraska prairie reminded me of Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley, which I read earlier this year. Both novels are beautifully written stories drawn from their authors’ childhood memories. In the case of O Pioneers!, the memories are of life on the plains of Nebraska,...

Lonesome Dove

Classics Club Book #10: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

He had known several men who blew their heads off, and he had pondered it much. It seemed to him it was probably because they could not take enough happiness just from the sky and the moon to carry them over the low feelings that came to all men. Lonesome Dove has been on my to-be-read list for over twenty years. A classic western and a Pulitzer prize winner, I’ve started it at least three times. I’ve even successfully avoided watching the Lonesome Dove TV miniseries all these years...

The Trial by Franz Kafka

Classics Club #9: The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial by Franz Kafka is one of the masterpieces of existential literature. Or so it is said. Since I’m not up to date on my existential philosophy, the book was largely wasted on me. It’s always a challenge to read books that come at life from a different world view than one’s own, but to give them a fair chance requires wrestling with their philosophical underpinnings. I’m not at a point in my reading life or my intellectual life where I’m interested in exploring the existential experiences described...

Far from the Madding Crowd

Classics Club #8: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd is 10th on the The Guardian’s poll of greatest love stories of all time. I did not find it as great as that. Yes, Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak are well realized characters, and Hardy’s descriptions are evocative and detailed, but the plot did not grab me at all. I can appreciate a good classic romance now and then, but for some reason Far from the Madding Crowd lost my interest fairly quickly. Maybe it was the fact that Bathsheba kept shooting herself in the foot, so...

Welsh Valley

Classics Club Book #7: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come. How Green Was My Valley is a gem of a novel. It took me a while to warm up to it, since it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but instead is a coming-of-age story that unfolds the way life does. It’s the story of a coal mining community in South Wales as told through the...

Classics Club Book #6: Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

Because I graduated from high school in 1984, I’ve always had a connection with both the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell and the rock album 1984 by Van Halen. Over the years, the former has grown in my estimation and the latter has declined. The album by Van Halen is something you outgrow. The novel by Orwell is something that grows with you. I put Nineteen Eighty-four on my Classics Club list because I knew my daughter would be reading it in her senior high school literature class,...

Conan Ace Paperback Covers

Classics Club Book #5: Conan – The Definitive Collection by Robert E. Howard

I first read the stories of Conan the Barbarian over thirty years ago, in the Lancer/Ace paperback versions that included stories by his creator Robert E. Howard as well as new tales by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. The Lancer/Ace editions presented the Conan stories in the order of the fictional barbarian’s life, and traced his progress from thief to king. For my Classics Challenge, I wanted to read only the original stories by Howard, and in the order they were first published, so I chose...

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Classics Book Club #4: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

“Why did this happen to those five?” If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were any pattern in a human life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off. Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan. I’ve had The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder on my to-read list for probably twenty years. I had vaguely heard of it growing up, but it really...

Lord of the World

Classics Club Book #3: Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson

The two Cities of Augustine lay for him to choose. The one was that of a world self-originated, self-organised, and self-sufficient, interpreted by such men as Marx and Hervé, socialists, materialists, and, in the end, hedonists, summed up at last in Felsenburgh. The other lay displayed in the sight he saw before him, telling of a Creator and of a creation, of a Divine purpose, a redemption, and a world transcendent and eternal from which all sprang and to which all moved. Before Fahrenheit 451, before Nineteen Eighty-four,...