A Classic Read?

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 ….

Thumbs Up:

  • 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

Thumbs Down:

  • 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?

Vix

xx

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53 thoughts on “A Classic Read?

  1. I know what you mean about Thomas Hardy. Although I did read the mayor of casterbridge the other day after I did it for A level 10th years ago. It was much better second time around.

    • I suspect books speak differently to you at different times in your life. I recently watched a Tess adapation on TV (the one with Gemma Arteton) and it was horrific 🙂

  2. The Clockwork Orange was one that I found extremely hard to read. So hard in fact that I didn’t even finish it, all four times that I attempted to read it. I’m so glad to too see that someone else doesn’t find all the classics to be deserving of such high praise. The Catcher in the Rye is still on my to read list.. might just get demoted to the bottom of the pile now…

  3. I was a dork-child and read Little Women in 4th grade! I loved it! I was also going through my teen-age rebellion while loving Edgar Allen Poe’s Ligeia. So creepy! I hated Moby Dick. I swear I was snoring after the 2nd chapter. Classic my butt!

  4. I’m a bit shamed to say that I’ve never read those books in your classics list…but I would really like to. I wonder what all the fuss is about.
    I did read Catcher In The Rye…enjoyed it, but wasn’t a mind-blower for me. In high school and university, I read and loved Huckleberry Finn (I’ve read this several times), the Lord of The Rings Trilogy (fell in love with these). I like The Great Gatsby, but again, it didn’t blow me away like so many praise it. I also liked Hemmingway’s Old Man And The Sea. Lots really…but still those real, real “classics”…haven’t read.
    As a kid and stuff I was also into Fear Street, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley, Nancy Drew, etc.

    • I started to read Lord of the Rings but then the films came out so I watched them instead, I found the books harder to get into. I also read those books althoigh not heard of Fear Street but Babysitters, SVH and Nancy Drew yes. I also had a big Famous Five phase. I think any reading is good, doesn’t have to be high brow or anything, just enjoyable!

  5. I think Classics just become classics because some men declared they were important. I love reading them, but it doesn’t mean I like them all. I find it interesting that all of your favorites are written by women (mine too when I think about it) but most of them were only allowed into the classic canon recently, I believe. Sorry, I’m back on my women vs. men kick. 😉

  6. I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t actually read a whole lot of classic books, I do find them really hard to read sometimes but I do LOVE Pride and Prejudice and Little Women. That may be the only two I’ve gotten all the way through… I also read Robinson Crusoe and couldn’t get through it all the way, I found it incredibly dry and hard to read. I’m thinking this summer I’ll try to read some more classics though!

  7. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about certain books appealing to certain people at certain times in their lives. I try not to put too much pressure on classics when I read them…but even despite that I was sorely disappointed a few months ago with Great Expectations–it certainly didn’t live up to mine!

  8. I don’t know what I would’ve thought of Great Expectations in my teens, but I’m reading it now (I’m about 75% through) on my Kindle and I’m really enjoying it. It’s funny and I’m so impressed with how he makes each character so memorable with a few choice descriptive phrases. Sure, there are some long passages I’d rather skip, but overall I’m loving it!

  9. i love tess. i also love to kill a mockingbird too. but i hated doing chaucer at school. and beowulf. it hard enough trying to understand their point let alone if its written in a kinda weird language that isnt spoken or used any more!

  10. We were made to read Lord of the Flies in Freshman year English Composition.

    I didn’t think I’d like it, but ended up loving it! I never did see the movie a few years back… I was grateful our English teacher was a male/and sports coach, so he picked something the football guys could get into, as well.

    It was interesting to see how the strong survived and came into “power” and the weak were tormented and what it says about society and man individually. How we would act when survival insticts kicked in…

    Sandi
    http://www.ahhsome.wordpress.com

  11. P.S. What about George Orwells 1984? We had to read that in highschool, as well and I ended up loving it! All about government and mind control in the future and we compared/contrasted to how close Orwell (I think that’s his name?) was to being accurate.

    When Gattaca came out (with Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman) it reminded me a bit of 1984.

    Sandi
    http://www.ahhsome.wordpress.com

  12. I actually loved Catcher in the Rye! Haha! And Wuthering Heights is my favorite classic. But I definitely agree it’s not for everyone. Love that you picked Jane Eyre and Little Women as some of your faves. Those two are great!

  13. In total agreement with you on Catcher in the Rye. Totally LAME! Not a fan at all. One of my favorites that we had to read in school was The Great Gatsby. Check it out, it is a quick read, not a lot of pages. All about reinventing your future to make up for the past. Plus, they are remaking the movie to star Leo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan and it is to be directed by Baz Luhurmann so it should be very interesting.

  14. I actually liked the three first ones in your thumbs down list.

    The one I never could go through was James Joyce.

    I started A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses and I didn’t manage to finish them. And I usually finish a book even if it’s just out of respect for the author who put a lot of effort into creating his work.

  15. I’ve never read any classics apart from Shakespeare at school….. I’ve always been more interested in contemporary novels than classics. Does that make me weird…?! Surely I’m not the only writer who’s never read a classic!

    And then is the question I don’t have the answer for: When DO I get the time to read a book…?!

    xx

  16. I think that these books are considered classics because of the way that they are written. The subject matter stays relevant no matter the era, strip away the background and the period language and you can easily see the events and thoughts as modern. But that isn’t to say that all books and subject matters are for all people. It looks like the ones that deal with the darker side of humanity are a bit of a turn off for you. Not only can they be dark and depressing but their sad endings can be totally unsatisfying.
    If you can’t relate to the main character, it’s not going to be a fun read. And there are too many wonderful things to read to waste time with something you don’t enjoy, just because it’s been categorized as a classic.

    • Ah you’re so right hun! I totally get there is bad points in life and tough times and it needs to be realistic but I like to see some hope, some redemption, some light at the end of the tunnel!

  17. I can’t stand anything Hemingway writes, but I love Faulkner. I wasn’t too crazy about A Tale of Two Cities, but I found Bleak House to be pretty good.

    Catcher in the Rye was funny, but I don’t really understand how it got to be a classic.

  18. I, like you, wanted to try out the classics 😉 sadly, I was very disappointed in The Catcher in the Rye. I HAVE however been meaning to read Wuthering Heights, but since it’s on the thumbs down list now I’m hesitant! What didn’t you like??

    • I didn’t like the two main characters really, you wonder what they see in each other. It’s quite a bleak book really. Maybe I was too you to get the intensity of the love story I don’t know.

  19. Great post. Books may be labeled classics because of the influence they had on literature in the period they were written. But I can’t stand when people say so and so is there favorite book just because of the intellectual kudos associated with reading it, rather than its actual worth today. I am sure there are ,any authors today who will never be published that are better than some of these guys! 🙂

  20. I just read this post (I vanished from the blogworld over easter, hehe) I loved Catcher in the rye – but it’s true that some books just don’t get under our skin, we have to be able to connect somehow to really enjoy a book. I have read several books that are supposed to be really good but I just didn’t get them… Like the Great Gatsby. I know it’s supposed to be so amazing but I just wasn’t able to relate or something. Jane Eyre and To kill a mockingbird are examples of “classics” I love though!

  21. the catcher and the rye is one of the books i dont hate my teachers for forcing us to read back in the day…it was SO good!!!

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