Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) - People are usually obsessed with Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but after reading her very first novel Sense and Sensibility, I knew that it would be my favourite one. Do not expect anything unusual. As always, Austen follows lives of ordinary people from the English upper class living in the countryside, trying to find love, solve their financial problems and behave in accordance with the public manners and habits. But two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, are not ready to always hold in their feelings, causing some stir in the stiff English society back in the 18th and 19th century.
I come here with no expectations, only to profess, now that I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is and always will be...yours.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870) - Although the plot is set on Christmas Eve, following the story of old bitter Mr. Scrooge who hates Christmas, for me it is a universal story about how people can change. Short to read, you should not miss this timeless novella full of ghosts, past and hopeful future (damn, I am getting poetic when writing about classics!).
I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (1820 - 1849) - I used to be obsessed with her sister Charlotte's famous Jane Eyre, but that was before I read this book about Helen, who with her young son escapes her alcoholic husband and seeks a refuge in a remote house, earning money by selling her paintings. Reading about Helen's true independence, Jane Eyre almost looks like a puppet. Do not take me wrong, I adore Jane, but in the end, her level of being brave and courageous is completely different compare to Helen's. Some readers have called Anne's book to be one of the first feminist novels out there. For me, it is a book representing a strong woman who defies Victorian society with all its gossips and rigidity.
You may think it all very fine, Mr. Huntingdon, to amuse yourself with rousing my jealousy; but take care you don't rouse my hate instead.
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900) - Everyone knows Wilde for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, but have you tried this short novella? It is about a family which moves into a haunted castle by the ghost of a husband who killed his wife. It might seem slightly grim, but those who know Wilde will not be surprised that this is a comical story rather than a dark gothic tale. I read it years ago, but I still laugh when I think of some of the scenes.
The blood-stain has been much admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed." "That is all nonsense," cried Washington Otis; "Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent will clean it up in no time," (...). In a few moments no trace of the blood-stain could be seen.
A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen (1828 - 1906) - The Norwegian literature has always had a special place in my heart. Notably thanks to Ibsen's play about a housewife who makes a life changing decision. The play was premiered back in 1879 and immediately caused heated discussions on its main themes, the position of men and women in society and the marriage in the 19th century. If you decide to read one book out of this reading list, I would strongly advocate for this short and still influential play.
Oh, sometimes I was so tired, so tired. But it was tremendous fun all the same, sitting there working and earning money like that. Almost like being a man.
My Ántonia by Willa Cather (1873 - 1947) - I came across this book when I was studying American literature back in the third year at University. The story about settlers taming the wilderness of the New World, and the themes of friendship, national heritage and the endless possibilities that America was offering to its new inhabitants back in the second half of the 19th century, make the book a perfect read for long, rainy autumn days when you want to escape to a different world. For some readers the plot would seemingly need a little bit more of action, but do not get discouraged with the gradual pace. Cather slowly builds up her story and it is through her beautiful use of language that you fall in love with her maturing characters, Jim and his friend Ántonia.
I know so many women who have kept all the things that she had lost, but whose inner glow has faded. Whatever else was gone, Antonia had not lost the fire of life.
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence (1885 - 1930) - Oh, Lawrence is definitely on the top of the list with my favourite writers of all time! This English author reflects in his novels on the quickly changing world around him, on the industrialisation taking over the natural world and what it consequently means for humankind. Lady Chatterley's Lover has been causing a lot of uproar, but for me it is a beautiful story of a woman who decides to follow her heart despite the painful cost of her actions. Please, forget Fifty Shades of Grey! This is a true love story!
I believe the life of body is a greater reality than the life of the mind.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1902 - 1968) - And here comes the sobbing part of my favourite classics. John Steinbeck, the winner of the Nobel Prize, depicts in his work the Great Depression and average people trying to cope with its impact on their everyday lives. It is a story about two men, intelligent George and mentally disabled Lennie Small, who seek for a job opportunity at a farm, where a woman enters the scene... Truly beautiful story for its simplicity and yet complexity at the same time!
As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment. Then gradually time awakened again and moved sluggishly on.
1984 by George Orwell (1903 - 1950) - This book is not exactly the easiest one to read, but is definitely worth of your time. In this dystopian novel, Orwell imagines what could possibly happen, explores the power of language and the basic human needs. I had to read it twice to fully comprehend even the smallest details and hints, but it was worth it. Give it a chance. If you are feeling like you should start with something slightly easier from Orwell, try his Animal Farm (but I almost cried in the end, so...).
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
'Modern Classics' - when you feel like you need something slightly lighter...
Mrs Osmond by John Banville - Here Banville celebrates the
talent of Henry James (1843 - 1916), an American writer who often compared and contrasted the
differences of the New World, America, with the Old World, Europe. In his newly
released book, Banville reimagines what happens after the ambiguous ending of
James's famous A Portrait of the Lady,
bringing back to life James's typical use of language and long sentences,
creating a psychological portrait of a lady who needs to figure out her future.
Her thoughts were dashing here and there, like a wild bird trapped in a room, seeking escape or shelter.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham - You might be surprised that Virginia Woolf did not make it to my list. Well, the thing is that I truly admire all of her novels and essays, but I have been struggling to finish any of them. I tried Mrs Dalloway or To the Lighthouse, but never made it further than sixty pages. If you are just like me, then I would recommend you to try Cunningham's The Hours. Why? Because in this book he celebrates Woolf's writing style as well as her famous book Mrs Dalloway. The result is breath-taking, making me not to want to read the final sentence... By the way, did you know that originally Woolf was planning to title her (arguably) most well-known novel The Hours...
She could have had a life as potent and dangerous as literature itself.