Charlotte Reads Classics

Slowly, slowly, she sipped a sentence.

Tag: Lists

Gathering Books and Blankets: Why I Saved My Reading for Winter

Every year I am taken aback by nature’s force in changing seasons. When summer arrives – glorious! The light and the colour makes me feel as though I have been looking at the world through a film of silk that has slowly rippled away. For some, the end of summer is a terrible and inescapable fate. For me – not so. There is work to be done in the winter.

How could it be any other way for us readers? September is forever associated with going to school with sharpened pencils and enthusiasm and it will always make me yearn for the first experiences of discovering and dissecting great novels. Hugh Walpole (more on him later) said The years of our childhood are of course the foundation of all our life. We never altogether emerge from them. So it looks like I’ll be stuck with odd urges to write essays about literary devices forever and ever. October then. Bringing a dark and nostalgic spirituality – I want to read ghost stories and I will read Wuthering Heights for the billionth time and I wouldn’t have it any other way. November and December come forth with traditions – the Victorians, please.

If you have been reading Charlotte Reads Classics since my old, infinitely more productive writing days, you’ll know that nothing fires up my enthusiasm like a book with big landscapes. Most recently found in Sons and Lovers, akin to the natural, pastoral, wildness of the Brontës. This is what I need in the winter – big reading.

Books I would recommend saving for winter:

  • Bleak House, Charles Dickens
  • Clarissa, Samuel Richardson
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë
  • The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

My winter book this year might be The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling by Henry Fielding. Have you read it? I also would like to try The Castle of Otranto this month to get a quick gothic fix. If I should have a studious book blogger month, I would like to compare the new Rosamund Bartlett translation of Anna Karenina to my dearest, most beloved copy. We shall see what the nights bring.

The book that prompted me to write my first blog post in months (I have of course missed you dreadfully) was one I found in the library this afternoon: Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole. I had never heard of it before, but the blurb was utterly impossible to resist:

The first volume of The Herries Chronicle, which recounts the dramatic fortunes of one family from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century, in a magnificent Lake District setting. Here is fiction in glorious, sweeping measure, set against wild and beautiful scenery and crowded with fairs, balls, weddings, duels, witches, abductions, murder and romance.

Rogue Herries tells the story of the larger than life Francis Herries who uproots his family from Yorkshire and brings them to live in Borrowdale where their life is as dramatic as the landscape surrounding them. Proud, violent and impetuous, he despises his first wife, sells his mistress at a county fair and forms a great love for the teenage gypsy Mirabell Starr. Alongside this turbulent story runs that of his own son David, with enemies of his own, and that of his gentle daughter Deborah, with placid dreams that will not be realised in her father’s house.

The book was published in 1930 and the author was a contemporary and friend of writers like Henry James, John Galsworthy and Virginia Woolf. Whilst they have entered the canon, Walpole’s popularity seems to have vanished almost entirely after his death. There also seems to have been a bit of a scandal regarding W. Somerset Maugham’s novel Cakes and Ale. So with positive and negative reviews, we’ll see.

If you’d like to take my advice on winter reading, here is a handy checklist for when you’re inspired:

  1. Mood lighting. No winter reading should be indulged in harsh glare. Candle light whilst romantic, will hold you back. Aim for something in between.
  2. Heating. It’s cold outside and you will need to be tucked under your finest quilt or woolly blanket for the most immersive reading. Hands can be warmed around a hot mug. Get someone to cook something homely for you.
  3. Reading material. Preferably over 400 pages because you’re compensating for an extra four hours daylight. Pick a classic because they’re tried and tested. Bonus points for themed reading.

The City of Heroes


Happy last days of the year everyone! I hope everyone’s Christmas was special and relaxing. I’ve managed to be ill since Boxing Day, lucky me, but I am on the mend, and it didn’t dampen my spirits one bit.

And now, the Christmas books post. The serious ones first: I got a really nice edition of my favourite ever book – Anna Karenina, and a brand new (to me) classic – La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas.

I had never heard of La Regenta until very recently when my brother mentioned he wanted to read it. It is a Spanish Classic, originally published in 1885, and it caused quite a stir. It is about a wife who becomes stifled by her conservative and routine life and embarks on a quest for fulfilment – cue adultery and religion. I am really excited to read it, especially after opening it and reading the first line:

The city of heroes was having a nap.

I am pleased to report the whole family gasped at this.

The other books I got were all of the Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (yay!) and the ever entertaining Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.

Last but not least, my lovely boyfriend bought me an iPad mini, which I am currently composing this post on, and it took me all of about four minutes to download my first ebook, so far I have read Gone Girl and The Silent Wife. Neither are my usual reading taste but I loved both.

Here is to new books and more reading in all forms for 2014.

All the Charm, All the Beauty of Life is Made Up of Light and Shadow

russian literature 2014

As many of you will have already seen, o is reading Russian Literature in 2014.

A plan I had for this year but made no progress with whatsoever, other than writing many many enthusiastic posts about Anna Karenina. At the moment the list I am considering is:

  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, again, always
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  • Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev
  • Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov

There are some re-reads but mostly I’d like to read the fill some of the more obvious gaps in my knowledge. I do love this time of year when it comes to making reading lists, and plans, and lists, and piles of books stacked by the bed, and more lists, and ambition, and learning, and more and more lists of life changing books.

Time Regained

Two lads that thought there was no more behind
But such a day tomorrow as today,
And to be a boy eternal.

– The Winters Tale

Reading classics inevitably means looking backwards. Our favourite times have been and gone, people have lived and died, and events have run their course. In some ways, each of our reading days could be the same as they were yesterday.

But we know, as a collective of  classics readers that our reading lives will never get stale. Each new book we find takes us to, quite literally another time. And are we not able to define ourselves in the contrast?

In this spirit and inspired by o I’ve put together a list of ten classics that I would like to read sooner rather than later. Five are completely new to me and five are re-reads.

Five classics to move forward:

  1. The Red and the Black, Stendhal
  2. The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, Henry Fielding
  3. Pamela, Samuel Richardson
  4. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  5. The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope

Five classics of eternal boyhood:

  1. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë
  3. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  4. The Shooting Party, Isabel Colegate
  5. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James

Let’s travel the world together.

The Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels [30/100]

Now here is a goal: The Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels list. This is my favourite 100 list so far because I’ve read enough to not make me disheartened, there is plenty on it that I want to read and a few things I haven’t heard of or wouldn’t normally pick. So it is a challenge, but an achievable one. Plus, I always enjoy a list.

  1. Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes
  2. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
  3. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  4. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
  5. Tom Jones, Henry Fielding
  6. Clarissa, Samuel Richardson
  7. Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne
  8. Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
  9. Emma, Jane Austen
  10. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  11. Nightmare Abbey, Thomas Love Peacock
  12. The Black Sheep, Honore De Balzac
  13. The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal
  14. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  15. Sybil, Benjamin Disraeli
  16. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
  17. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
  18. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  19. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
  20. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  21. Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
  22. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  23. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
  24. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  25. Little Women, Louisa M. Alcott
  26. The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope
  27. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  28. Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
  29. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
  30. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
  31. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  32. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
  33. Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
  34. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
  35. The Diary of a Nobody, George Grossmith
  36. Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy
  37. The Riddle of the Sands, Erskine Childers
  38. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  39. Nostromo, Joseph Conrad
  40. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  41. In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust [In progress III]
  42. The Rainbow, D. H. Lawrence
  43. The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford
  44. The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
  45. Ulysses, James Joyce
  46. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
  47. A Passage to India, E. M. Forster
  48. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  49. The Trial, Franz Kafka
  50. Men Without Women, Ernest Hemingway
  51. Journey to the End of the Night, Louis-Ferdinand Celine
  52. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
  53. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  54. Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
  55. USA, John Dos Passos
  56. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
  57. The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford
  58. The Plague, Albert Camus
  59. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
  60. Malone Dies, Samuel Beckett
  61. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  62. Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor
  63. Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White
  64. The Lord Of The Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
  65. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
  66. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  67. The Quiet American, Graham Greene
  68. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  69. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  70. The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass
  71. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
  73. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  74. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  75. Herzog, Saul Bellow
  76. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor
  78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, John Le Carre
  79. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  80. The Bottle Factory Outing, Beryl Bainbridge
  81. The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer
  82. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, Italo Calvino
  83. A Bend in the River, V. S. Naipaul
  84. Waiting for the Barbarians, J.M. Coetzee
  85. Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
  86. Lanark, Alasdair Gray
  87. The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster
  88. The BFG, Roald Dahl
  89. The Periodic Table, Primo Levi
  90. Money, Martin Amis
  91. An Artist of the Floating World, Kazuo Ishiguro
  92. Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey
  93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera
  94. Haroun and the Sea af Stories, Salman Rushdie
  95. La Confidential, James Ellroy
  96. Wise Children, Angela Carter
  97. Atonement, Ian McEwan
  98. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
  99. American Pastoral, Philip Roth
  100. Austerlitz, W. G. Sebald

The Last Book List of 2012

I’ve been living in my new house for a couple of months now and I have finally got all my bookshelves back up and organised – including my bookcase of classics.

A small selection…

Obviously this means I have been rediscovering my books and I am craving a doorstop of a read. Chunky books, long reads; I love them. These are the ones from my bookshelves that I am itching to start:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  • Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (well, I did start this one… I just stopped)

Alas with seven weeks of the year left I won’t be able to read them all this year, plus I’m not mentioning that I started and laid aside both Martin Chuzzlewit and Shirley. I will get around to finishing both (I don’t give up on books!) but neither of them are right for what kind of book I’m in the mood for.

I am currently reading The Quincunx by Charles Pallister – also a long read at 1191 pages! I’m just over half way through so I think I’ll finish this week. Has anyone else read this? I am really enjoying it. It is a Victorian mystery but written by a modern author. I’ll do a proper write up when I’ve finished but so far, so good, and its great for storytelling in the style of Dickens and Wilkie Collins.

The next book I want to conquer is Clarissa. I’ve already read 500-ish pages of it so it only seems right to read this before I start another massive book. I’ve got 957 pages to go, and six weeks to read them in. That amounts to 159 (and a half) per week – easy. We’ll see anyway. I originally wanted to read Les Miserables by the time the film was released in January (I think) but that might be a bit too short notice. But that will be the next long read after Clarissa because I keep reading other people’s posts about it at the moment. Original credit must go to o, because I immediately bought a copy after reading this.

In conclusion – let’s celebrate winter 2012 by staying inside and reading really long classics.

Remember When I Thought I’d Read a Few Books About War?

Canadian Stretcher-Bearers, Flanders Fields, 1915

Back in May, I came up with an idea to read more books about War. I had several unread books about WWI and WWII on my bookshelves and on my Classics Club list and thought I would make a bit of a themed reading event (albeit just for myself) where really the main outcome was to get the books crossed off. Here is my very naive original post.

What I hadn’t anticipated when I collected these books and stacked them oppressively next to my bed was that the project would turn into the biggest interest of my reading life. Seriously. It is about five months since I started, and I haven’t even made it to WWII yet. And the list has grown and grown. I am really surprised at how much this has inspired my reading – a few years ago I couldn’t have imagined anything worse than being forced to read about horrible historical events over and over again. Ah, the misguided opinions of youth.

Read the rest of this entry »

The News Where You Are

I am so pleased to be able to say in this update that on Sunday evening I finished Parade’s End! As good as it was, I couldn’t concentrate on it any longer. Look out for a proper post about it later this week, along with an update on my original War Books project (hint: it is a much bigger list than when I started).

So my enthusiasm for re-reading Anna Karenina has not gone to waste – I’m just starting the second part this evening. All the comments on my last post made me look forward to reading it even more and so far it is just as great as I remember.

Yesterday evening I went to a talk called Dickens and the House of Fallen Women which was set in the most amazing library I’ve ever been in. Think of hundreds and hundreds of old leatherbound books on dark wooden bookcases, cracked leather armchairs, fireplaces, a ‘polite literature’ section – it was the stuff of a book lover’s dreams. The talk was good too, which was much needed because I haven’t read a Dickens novel in ages and am planning on Martin Chuzzlewit next month. I’ll give you the two most interesting snippets of the evening:

  • Dickens’ morality runs through all his stories, as he judges which characters are deserving of punishment. Generally speaking they are either female characters who ‘fall’ or male characters who treat women badly. These are always the characters who die. The characters that are able to be saved – i.e. re-establish themselves in society – live.
  • A nature of writing for serial publication was that Dickens often had to drastically change characters or storylines according to readership figures. Now I know why people say Dickens would be writing for soaps if he was writing today!

This afternoon I bought some new books:

On a war theme:

  • Toby’s Room and Life Class by Pat Barker
  • The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston by Siegfried Sassoon which includes Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man – which I have wanted to read ever since I read Rachel’s post back in April, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer and Sherston’s Progress

I’ve also picked out:

  • The Charmers by Stella Gibbons
  • The Ladies’ Paradise by Émile Zola

I’m really excited to read my first Émile Zola – I’ve picked The Ladies’ Paradise because of the imminent BBC drama and thought a trip to nineteenth century Paris would be the thing, but my hype is really down to Fleur and o‘s posts recently.

Hope you are having a great literary week too.

What Anna Karenina Made Me Do Next

I am going to make a bold claim. I have an all time, number one favourite book. My top ten, top five books change all the time, but first place never does. Anna Karenina is my favourite book because I think it is the best book ever written.

This claim is particularly bold because of the following confession: I have only read it once. Several years ago.

Having been to see the new film earlier this week I have been thinking about how much I love it and how I really should read it again.

Russian literature is something I have not got a lot of experience of, yet all the Russian classics I have read I have really enjoyed. So, after reading this article  about the top five books Russian writers on the Penguin Classics website, I have decided that next year I shall read something by each writer. The top five Penguin choose are:

  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
  • The Devils by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov
  • The Steppe and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov
  • The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov

I reckon this should get me off to a good start in finding more Russian books and authors I’d like to try. I’ve studied The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov and have absolutely no memory of it at all, so that doesn’t count. I’ve read Lolita but would love to read another Nabokov too. I’m pretty sure Crime and Punishment is on my Classics Club list because I have my dad’s old copy floating around somewhere so that will take care of Dostoyevsky and after that – we’ll see.

I am putting this goal off until next year because I am determined to read the following by the end of the year:

  • Anna Karenina because my favourite book deserves more than one reading.
  • Clarissa because it needs my full attention and wasn’t supposed to take a year to read!
  • Martin Chuzzlewit because I want to read this with o.

I am confident about having three definite good books to see the year out with. If I get time I’d love to read Les Miserables, but I think I’d struggle to read so many huge books in what now seems like not much time! Plus, I do need to leave some time free for some wintery books when the weather changes.

Here’s to favourites and spending time reacquainting yourself with them.

I Make an Underwhelming Return

Hello, bloggers! Its been two weeks and feels like longer. There are a slightly intimidating 160 posts queued up in my reader but I’m determined to catch up this week. I am all moved into my new house and mostly unpacked, but what’s more: I have an internet connection. I adore my new house and am very happy with the move.

But enough of that – more book chat! Since my last post, I’ve read:

  • No More Parades, Ford Madox Ford
  • John Saturnall’s Feast, Lawrence Norfolk
  • A Change of Climate, Hilary Mantel
  • NW, Zadie Smith
  • The Greatcoat, Helen Dunmore
  • On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan

Two blew me away, one was amazingly disappointing, one wasn’t really for me and one suited me fine. Any guesses which was which? I’ll put some reviews up shortly. You’ll be surprised to see that some of them are what I said I’d intend to read – unusual for me! I am still working my way through Parade’s End and am about 70 pages from the end of the third book.

Looking forward to catching up with you all, hope you have had a good September so far.