When I was in my early teens, I went through a stage of reading “The Classics”. I was interested to read the books that were seen as important in literature. Obviously we read some at school but I always found school reading was never as pleasurable as reading books at home alone, letting them fully sink in.
What I found was that I liked some and not others. some were relevant to me, to life today, others seemed to far removed to be enjoyable. Some were well written, others were difficult to get through. Some I could understand why they had their “important” tag, others I was confused why they had been given such reverence. I suppose I assumed they would all be fantastic as they were so famous. But what I learnt was The Classics are just like any other book – you may like it or you may not.
The reason this subject has come back into my head, is that I’ve jut finished reading The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger for the first time. This is a book I see frequently in people’s favourite reads list, a book seen as important, a book that so many seem to love and admire. So I finally brought a copy and if I’m honest I don’t quite understand the fuss.
For those who’ve never read it, the book is written as a stream of consciousness novel, narrated in the first person by Holden Caulfield, a young adult who has been expelled from yet another school and wonders aimlessly around New York sliding into mental illness. To be honest not lot happens in the book. I didn’t feel like I understood the character, why he struggled so much or why he was failing so badly – we were given hints like the death of his younger brother but mostly it seemed like he was a whining teen – the no body understands me routine. I just didn’t like him very much. Plus the book was contreversial at the time (1950’s) but to modern readers it’s pretty tame. Apologies to those that love the book, perhaps I need to be a teenage male to fully get it but it won’t be hitting my best of list.
I think it’s interesting to look at why certain books are called classics. It’s a mystery as to what books may make this list in the future. Harry Potter could be the subject of A Level essays one day – if you were a wizard for the day, what would you do? Maybe not 🙂
Here’s my list of “The Classics” I’ve read and my verdict – thumbs up or thumbs down ….
- Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion (I’m not so keen on Mansfield Park or Northanger Abby but they just make a thumbs up)
- Louisa May Alcott – Little Women
- Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre
- Elizabeth Gaskell – North & South, Wives & Daughters, Mary Barton
- Dodi Smith – I Capture the Castle
- Daphne Du Maurier – Rebecca
- Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights
- Thomas Hardy – his books are so depressing! The Return of the Native and Tess especially.
- Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
- Virgina Wolf – Mrs Dalloway
- Edith Warton – The Age of Innocence
- George Eliot – Silas Marner
- William Thackerary – Vanity Fair
Were you ever disappointed by a classic book? Do you have a favourite one?