The 19th-century Novel

Discussion in 'Reading & Writing' started by Tom Locke, Sep 27, 2015.

  1. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    I am an unabashed fan of the 19th-century novel. I love reading them, I studied them at university and I still read more novels from that century than any other.

    Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Emile Zola, Anthony Trollope, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joseph Conrad, William Thackeray, Nikolai Gogol, Emile Zola, HG Wells, Kate Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Thomas Hardy...and so many more. Was this the golden age of literature? I think so.

    There are so many classic novels that it's impossible for me to pick a favourite,

    Indulge me!
     
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  2. Mal Campbell

    Mal Campbell Well-Known Member
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    "Jane Eyre" was the first "classic" that I read. I was probably 12 or so, and found it so incredibly romantic - it was very emotional. After that I read "Little Women" and fell in love with that period of literature. I loved the Bronte sisters, some Dickens, Jane Austen, etc.

    A few years ago I read two books that were pretty good - "Confessions of Jane Austen Addict" and "Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict" by Laurie Rigler. The first is about a 21st century woman who wakes up in Regency England, the other about a Regency period woman who wakes up in 21st century LA. You realize they have switched bodies. They were both quite entertaining.

    Now that you've brought up the classics, I'll have to reread some of them - it's been a long time since I read something from the period. I'll have to see if the library has them in large print!
     
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  3. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    Jame Eyre was one of the twelve novels I studied on my literature course - I liked Jane, because she had a bit of attitude about her. For what it's worth, these were the novels I had to read on my course:

    Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
    Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
    Dombey and Son - Charles Dickens
    Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
    Germinal - Emile Zola
    Middlemarch - George Eliot
    Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
    The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
    Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
    Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
    Dracula - Bram Stoker
    The Awakening - Kate Chopin

    I had read a few of them before, which may or may not have helped. The only one I found slightly hard going was Henry James, but James was such a perfectionist, it always amazed me that he ever finished writing a novel. I always had a mental vision of James spending an hour writing a paragraph and then another two hours re-reading it before scrubbing it and starting all over again.
     
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  4. Brittany Houser

    Brittany Houser Well-Known Member
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    I love 'em too. I am a lover of Victoriana, including literature. Crime and Punishment, Pride and Prejudice, anything by Dickens, Alcott, and of course, Arthur Conan Doyle are some of my favorites. I'm happy to see other people who appreciate good reading.
     
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  5. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    There are two writers that I regard as seriously underrated: George Eliot and Anthony Trollope. Eliot, perhaps less so. I wonder if there is still some residual idea that somehow women cannot be serious novelists. People that think along those lines should treat themselves to a read of Middlemarch, one of the finest novels I've ever read. It's as much a social history of the early to middle 19th century as a novel.

    As for Trollope, I think that The Way We Live Now should be compulsory reading for money-grasping executives, bankers and anyone who is, or aspires to be, a politician. Even 140 years on, it resonates. While I have no hope of reading all 70-plus Trollope novels, I can console myself that I got all the way through the six-part Barchester Chronicles.
     
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  6. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    jane Eyre was one of the books that I read as a teenager, and loved, too. My mother had most of the Bobsy Twins books, which I read when I was younger.
    Another writer that I really like is Gene Stratton-Porter. She wrote Girl of the Limberlost, and also The Harvester, which was one of my all-time favorite stories, too.
    There was also Harold Bell Wright, who wrote The Shepard of the Hills, and I think that he also wrote the Trail of the Lonesome Pine.
    Most of those older stories were well-written, and they are the kind of book that can be read over and over, and you just never lose the enjoyment of reading them.
     
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  7. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    There is so much about Jane Eyre that I like. She is a strong-willed character and admirable in so many ways for that alone. Something that always amuses me is that the novel makes it abundantly clear that she is not pretty - plain Jane, indeed - but film makers will always find the most glamorous actress to portray her.

    I wrote a substantial dissertation (is there any other?) on Jane Eyre and while I am fully in spirit with feminism, I found it impossible to concur with 1970's feminist interpretations of the novel. Jane Eyre was an impoverished governess at the turn of the 19th century, for goodness' sake. In many ways, she was ahead of her time; she was bolshie and assertive, but she was a woman at a time when there were very, very few options open to women whatever class of society they belonged to.
     
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