Historical Musings #27: A new list…

I have almost reached the end of my Classics Club list – a list of 100 books I put together in 2012 and have been slowly working through for the last five years. I was officially supposed to finish in March this year but didn’t quite manage it – although I’m not too worried about that, as I think taking my time to enjoy the rest of the books on my list is more important than rushing to meet a self-imposed deadline. Over the five years, I have discovered lots of great authors and have tried different types of books that never really appealed to me before, such as classic science fiction and plays. However, you won’t be surprised to hear that I also read a lot of classic historical fiction!

The books I have read for the Classics Club which can also be considered historical fiction include:

Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (and its sequels)
Mary Anne, Frenchman’s Creek and The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier
Romola by George Eliot
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Scaramouche, Bellarion, The Sea-Hawk and Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Ivanhoe and The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott
Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger
The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

And a few others, including my current read, The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. When I finish The Leopard, the only books remaining on my Classics Club list will be my long-anticipated re-reads of two of my favourite books, Rebecca and The Count of Monte Cristo. I have already started thinking ahead to creating a second list to begin later in the year – and I would like your help!

Can you recommend some classic historical fiction for my next list?

I know I asked a similar question a while ago, but that related to classics by women only. I received some interesting suggestions at the time, particularly these four:

The World is Not Enough by Zoe Oldenbourg
The Fortunes of Garin by Mary Johnston
Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter

I have also been considering these:

Claudius the God by Robert Graves
The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade
In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
The Fifth Queen trilogy by Ford Madox Ford
Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger
Something else by Rafael Sabatini
Something else by Sir Walter Scott

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Do you have any more suggestions for me?

To decide whether a book is ‘historical fiction’, I use as a guideline the Walter Scott Prize definition: the majority of the storyline must have taken place at least 60 years before the book was written. Defining a ‘classic’ is more difficult, so I’ll leave that up to you to decide!

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Classics Spin – The Result

On Friday I mentioned that I was taking part in the latest Classics Spin. The idea of the Spin was to list twenty books from my Classics Club list, number them 1 to 20, and the number announced today (Monday) represents the book I have to read before 1st August 2016.

The number that has been selected by the Classics Club this time is #15, which means the book I’ll be reading is:

Prince of Foxes

Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger

This is what the book is about:

Prince of Foxes, set in Renaissance Italy, is the fast-paced, suspenseful story of Andrea Orsini, a peasant boy who rises far and becomes a secret agent for the cunning and powerful Cesare Borgia, who entrusts him with the most delicate political, military and romantic missions. It is a classic of American popular fiction. When first published in the mid-twentieth century, it became an instant best-seller and was turned into a hit movie with Orson Welles cast as Borgia and Tyrone Power as Orsini.

One of the things I like about the Classics Club is that each individual member can decide how they want to define a classic. As well as conventional classics, my own list also includes modern classics, ‘forgotten’ classics, and books like this one, which are classic historical fiction. I’m very pleased that the spin has chosen Prince of Foxes for me as I’ve had a copy on my shelf for a long time and have just never managed to get round to reading it. I’ll do my best to read and review it sometime in June or July, but I want to finish Kristin Lavransdatter, my book from the previous spin, first!

Have you read this book? If you took part in the classics spin too, are you happy with your result?

Classics Spin #13: My list

The Classics Club

The Classics Club have just announced another of their Classics Spins. It’s hard to believe this will be the thirteenth! I probably shouldn’t be taking part in this one as I haven’t even finished my book from the last Spin yet (although I think I have a good excuse, considering it was Kristin Lavransdatter) but as usual I couldn’t resist joining in.

Here is a reminder of the Spin rules:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Monday the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 1st August 2016

And here is my list:

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (re-read)
2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
3. Louise de la Valliere by Alexandre Dumas
4. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
5. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
6. Howards End by EM Forster
7. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
8. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
9. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (re-read)
10. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
11. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
12. The Red House Mystery by AA Milne
13. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
14. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
15. Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger
16. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
17. The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe
18. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
19. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (re-read)
20. Louise de la Valliere by Alexandre Dumas

I have exactly twenty books left to read for the Classics Club, so this list was very easy to put together. However, I haven’t included The Man in the Iron Mask as it comes after Louise de la Valliere in the d’Artagnan series and I don’t want to read them out of order. I’ve listed Louise twice instead.

I don’t really mind which book I get at this stage as I’ll be reading them all soon anyway. I’m always happy with Dumas or du Maurier, though, and I would also love to get The Leopard this time.

Are you taking part in the Classics Spin? Which books from my list do you think I should be hoping for?

Classics Spin #12: My list

The Classics Club

The Classics Club have announced another of their Classics Spins today; I wasn’t sure whether to take part as I’m already reading two classics (Mauprat by George Sand and Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray) but I’m more than halfway through both so I’m sure I’ll have time to read one more before the spin deadline!

Here is a reminder of the Spin rules:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Monday the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 2nd May 2016

And here is my list:

1. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
2. Louise de la Vallière by Alexandre Dumas
3. Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
4. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
5. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
6. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
7. Howards End by E.M. Forster
8. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
9. The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge
10. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
11. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
12. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
13. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
14. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
15. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (re-read)
16. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
17. Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger
18. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
19. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
20. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

It was easy to put this selection together because I only have 25 books left on my Classics Club list now. At this stage, I really don’t mind which one I get, but I’m particularly hoping for number 2, 3, 10, 12 or 17.

Have you read any of these books? If you’re a member of the Classics Club, will you be joining in with this spin?

Classics Spin: the number has been chosen!

Last week I decided to take part in the Classics Spin. The idea of the Spin was to list twenty books from my Classics Club list, number them 1 to 20, and the number announced today (Monday) represents the book I have to read before 1st February 2016.

The number that has been selected by the Classics Club this time is 19, which means the book I’ll be reading is:

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

This will be a re-read for me and I’m looking forward to it as it’s been such a long time since I last read it. I also have a re-read of Wuthering Heights on my Classics Club list and I’m thinking that maybe I should read it as soon as I finish Jane Eyre so that I can compare my thoughts on both. That would make an interesting post for the Women’s Classic Literature Event.

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

The Classics Spin #11: My list

The Classics Club

I was just thinking yesterday that it’s been a while since the last Classics Spin, so I’m pleased to see that another one has been announced today! It’s hard to believe that this is the eleventh Spin – I think I’ve taken part in all but one of them and have been very lucky with most of my results.

Here is a reminder of the Spin rules:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Monday the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 1 February 2016

And here is my list:

1. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
2. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
3. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
5. Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
7. The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge
8. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (re-read)
10. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
11. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
12. Louise de la Valliere by Alexandre Dumas
13. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
14. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
15. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
16. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
17. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
18. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
19. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (re-read)
20. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

I have been making good progress with my Classics Club list recently and I’ve found it much easier to choose twenty titles for the Spin now that I have fewer books left to read.

The odd numbers on my Spin list are books by women and will count towards the Women’s Classic Literature Event which I’m participating in. I would be happy to get any of those numbers, particularly one of the Brontë re-reads as I just never seem to be able to find time to re-read my favourite books anymore. The even numbers on my list are by male authors and again, I think I’d be happy with any of them. I’ve included some very long books, but I’m not too worried as I’ll have until February to read them.

Will you be taking part in the Spin? Are there any numbers you think I should be hoping for?

The Women’s Classic Literature Event

Womens Classic Literature Event

The Classics Club have announced an exciting new reading event: The Women’s Classic Literature Event! Between now and December 2016 we will be reading and writing about classic works by female authors. There are no other rules and there’s no upper or lower limit to the number of books we need to read – as long as a book is written by a woman and (preferably) published before 1960, it counts towards this event. By ‘book’ I don’t just mean novels, because letters, poetry, plays, essays, journals, short stories and biographies all count too.

I will definitely be participating, but I’m not sure how I want to approach this event. I still have a lot of classics by women left to read on my Classics Club list, which I’m listing below:

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (re-read)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (re-read)
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (re-read)
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge

I’ll take this list as a starting point and read some of these books for the event, but I would like to do more than that. I would like to also read books by women who are not on my list, by women who are new to me, by women I’ve never thought about reading before – and maybe some children’s classics by women too.

The Classics Club have also posted an introductory survey. Here are my answers to the questions:

1. Introduce yourself. Tell us what you are most looking forward to in this event.
I’m Helen and I joined the Classics Club in 2012. I’m looking forward to discovering some new female authors through this event and I’m also hoping it will encourage me to pick up some of the books on my existing list that I’ve been putting off reading.

2. Have you read many classics by women? Why or why not?
Yes, I’ve read quite a lot of classics by women (including some of my absolute favourite classics) – but probably not as many as I’ve read by men.

3. Pick a classic female writer you can’t wait to read for the event, & list her date of birth, her place of birth, and the title of one of her most famous works.
I’m looking forward to finally reading Charlotte M. Yonge. I’ve been meaning to read The Heir of Redclyffe for such a long time, but for some reason have never got round to doing it. Yonge was born in Otterbourne, Hampshire, England on August 11, 1823. As well as the title I’ve already mentioned, her other works include The Daisy Chain and The Clever Woman of the Family.

4. Think of a female character who was represented in classic literature by a male writer. Does she seem to be a whole or complete woman? Why or why not? Tell us about her. (Without spoilers, please!)
I’ve chosen a character from a classic I read earlier this year and who I certainly didn’t consider to be a whole or complete woman: Dora Spenlow from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I often find Dickens’ female characters irritating (although there are a few exceptions) and Dora is probably the worst – a woman who is happy to describe herself as ‘a silly little thing’.

5. Favorite classic heroine? (Why? Who wrote her?)
I can think of lots of great heroines in classic literature, but one of my favourites is the wonderful Marian Halcombe from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I know Collins has been criticised for making Marian unattractive and unfeminine while the beautiful but much less interesting Laura Fairlie is the romantic interest of the novel, but I still think it’s great to see a male Victorian author create such a strong, intelligent, courageous heroine.

6. We’d love to help clubbers find great titles by classic female authors. Can you recommend any sources for building a list? (Just skip this question if you don’t have any at this point.)
This list of Virago Modern Classics should be a good place to start (be careful as there are a few male authors on there too).
http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/User:Christiguc

7. Recommend three books by classic female writers to get people started in this event. (Again, skip over this if you prefer not to answer.)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

8. Will you be joining us for this event immediately, or will you wait until the new year starts?
I’ll be joining immediately. I’m sure I’ll be reading some classics by women during the remainder of this year and I would like those to count.

9. Do you plan to read as inspiration pulls, or will you make out a preset list?
Apart from reading some of the remaining books on my current Classics Club list, I’m not planning to make any other preset lists. I never stick to them anyway, so I’m just going to read whatever I feel like reading.

10. Are you pulling to any particular genres? (Letters, journals, biographies, short stories, novels, poems, essays, etc?)
I expect that I’ll be reading mostly novels (there’s a reason why I didn’t call my blog She Reads Letters or She Reads Journals) but I would like to be adventurous and read some other formats as well, particularly short stories and poetry.

11. Are you pulling to a particular era or location in literature by women?
No, not really. I’ve already read a lot of classics from the Victorian era, though, so I’m going to try to read more books from the twentieth century for this event.

12. Do you hope to host an event or readalong for the group? No worries if you don’t have details. We’re just curious!
I don’t think so, but I haven’t ruled it out.

13. Is there an author or title you’d love to read with a group or a buddy for this event? Sharing may inspire someone to offer.
Nothing in particular, but I’ll look out for any group reads that interest me.

14. Share a quote you love by a classic female author — even if you haven’t read the book yet.
“And certainly, the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.” – George Eliot, Middlemarch

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Will you be taking part in the Women’s Classic Literature Event?