Saturday, January 25, 2014

Classics - 2014

Sometime, in December last year, I was overwhelmed with the strong urge to re-read my classics. While looking for someone else who is doing the same, I stumbled upon Heena's blog - Lazy Bookworm. 

I read the challenge she is doing, and decided to join in. Here is it.
I have been a little late in listing the books I plan to read, but here they are. I will re-read one classic a month and write about it. Not review, just write about it. The list is in no particular order, I will pick them as the mood of the month is and later, link them to the blogpost which talks about them. All these books are specially close to my heart and great favourites. I hope to read more than one classic a month, in which case, I will be adding to the list.

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Vanity, not love, has been my folly When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited, while he struggles to remain indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.
  2. Good Wives {sequel to Little Women) by Louisa May Alcott: Amy looked relieved, but naughty Jo took her at her word, for during the first call she sat with every limb gracefully composed, every fold correctly draped, calm as a summer sea, cool as a snowbank, and as silent as the sphinx. In vain Mrs. Chester alluded to her 'charming novel', and the Misses Chester introduced parties, picnics, the opera, and the fashions. Each and all were answered by a smile, a bow, and a demure "Yes" or "No" with the chill on.
  3. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë: At age 19 Anne Brontë left home and worked as a governess for a few years before becoming a writer. Agnes Grey was an 1847 novel based on her experience as a governess. Bronte depicts the precarious position of a governess and how that can affect a young woman. Agnes was the daughter of a minister whose family was in financial difficulty. She has only a few choices for employment. Agnes experiences the difficulty of reining in spoiled children and how wealth can corrupt morals. She later opens a school and finds happiness.
  4. Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde: Oscar Wilde's story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is one of his most popular works. Written in Wilde's characteristically dazzling manner, full of stinging epigrams and shrewd observations, the tale of Dorian Gray's moral disintegration caused something of a scandal when it first appeared in 1890. Wilde was attacked for his decadence and corrupting influence, and a few years later the book and the aesthetic dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde's homosexual liaisons. Of the book's value as autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be--in other ages, perhaps."
  5. Phantom Of The Opera by Gaston Leroux: First published in French as a serial in 1909, "The Phantom of the Opera" is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine's childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous 'ghost' of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster. Leroux's work, with characters ranging from the spoiled prima donna Carlotta to the mysterious Persian from Erik's past, has been immortalized by memorable adaptations. Despite this, it remains a remarkable piece of Gothic horror literature in and of itself, deeper and darker than any version that follows.
  6. Lady Chatterly's Lover by DH Lawrence: Lady Chatterley's Lover is a novel by D. H. Lawrence, first published in 1928. The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable words.  The story is said to have originated from events in Lawrence's own unhappy domestic life, and he took inspiration for the settings of the book from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, where he grew up. According to some critics, the fling of Lady Ottoline Morrell with "Tiger", a young stonemason who came to carve plinths for her garden statues, also influenced the story. Lawrence at one time considered calling the novel Tenderness and made significant alterations to the text and story in the process of its composition. It has been published in three versions.
  7. Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain: In this enduring and internationally popular novel, Mark Twain combines social satire and dime-novel sensation with a rhapsody on boyhood and on America's pre-industrial past. Tom Sawyer is resilient, enterprising, and vainglorious, and in a series of adventures along the banks of the Mississippi he usually manages to come out on top. From petty triumphs over his friends and over his long-suffering Aunt Polly, to his intervention in a murder trial, Tom engages readers of all ages. He has long been a defining figure in the American cultural imagination.  Alongside the charm and the excitement, the novel also raises questions about identity, and about attitudes to class and race. Above all, Twain's study of childhood brings into focus emergent notions of individual and literary maturity.
  8. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." - Ernest Hemingway  Of all the contenders for the title of The Great American Novel, none has a better claim than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Intended at first as a simple story of a boy's adventures in the Mississippi Valley - a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - the book grew and matured under Twain's hand into a work of immeasurable richness and complexity. More than a century after its publication, the critical debate over the symbolic significance of Huck's and Jim's voyage is still fresh, and it remains a major work that can be enjoyed at many levels: as an incomparable adventure story and as a classic of American humor.
  9. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens: 'Let him feel that he is one of us; once fill his mind with the idea that he has been a thief, and he's ours, - ours for his life!'  The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens's tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters — the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, in Oliver Twist Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.  This is the first critical edition to use the serial text of 1837-9, presenting Oliver Twist as it appeared to its earliest readers. It includes Dickens's 1841 introduction and 1850 preface, the original illustrations and a glossary of contemporary slang.
  10. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: 'Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; -- the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!'   After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.  This edition uses the text as it appeared in its serial publication in 1859 to convey the full scope of Dickens's vision, and includes the original illustrations by H. K. Browne ('Phiz'). Richard Maxwell's introduction discusses the intricate interweaving of epic drama with personal tragedy.
  11. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: David Copperfield is the story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr. Murdstone; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora; and the magnificently impecunious Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations.  In David Copperfield—the novel he described as his “favorite child”—Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of his most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure.  Originally published as a monthly serial, from May 1849 to November 1850.
  12. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: One of the best-loved and most quoted stories of “the man who invented Christmas”—English writer Charles Dickens—A Christmas Carol debuted in 1843 and has touched millions of hearts since.   Cruel miser Ebeneezer Scrooge has never met a shilling he doesn’t like...and hardly a man he does. And he hates Christmas most of all. When Scrooge is visited by his old partner, Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, he learns eternal lessons of charity, kindness, and goodwill. Experience a true Victorian Christmas!
I am currently reading Oliver Twist (Jan, '14).

Synopsis credit: Goodreads

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