Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Classics Challenge

It occurred to me this morning that this challenge,which I've come across in various places as people post their lists, might fit in very nicely with another project I have lined up for next year. It is hosted by Katherine at November's Autumn, and the challenge is to read seven classics in 2012. Each month there will be a prompt to encourage participants to write about their current book. Although only three re-reads are allowed, seven suitable books are easy to find, with several coming off the shelves. My chosen books are from the twentieth century, but I might allow myself a brief flirtation with the nineteenth if I feel inclined! In which case, Trollope, Mrs Gaskell or Wilkie Collins would be the most likely candidates. Some classic crime would also be a possibility, or even some classic science fiction!

The books I plan to read are:

Margaret Kennedy, The Constant Nymph (1924): this is a re-read. I read it when I was in my teens, and loved it - having, I think, first seen it referred to in another book, though I can't remember what. But I seem to remember another character measuring herself against Tessa's behaviour, and being very influenced by her, after seeing the stage adaptation. I wonder who it was?

W. Somerset Maugham, The Gentleman in the Parlour (1935): I've read many of Maugham's novels, but had never seen this travel account before. The style looks very readable.

Dorothy Whipple, Someone at a Distance (1953): I'm been saving this up for a while, it's one of the fist Persephones I bought. I think people would agree that, since its reprint, it has achieved modern classic status?

Sylvia Townsend Warner, either Mr Fortune's Maggot (1927) or After the Death of Don Juan (1928) - both are on my shelves.

Barbara Comyns, The Vet's Daughter: I don't think I've read this! I've loved her work ever since I came across a copy of The Skin Chairs and bought it for its title.

Elizabeth von Arnim: I like her writing, and there are several I haven't read. All the Dogs of My Life (1936) appeals to me greatly and, although I'd have to buy it, it would be easy to pass on.

Monica Dickens, Mariana (1940). Another book by an author I like, and another Persephone Classic. Dickens is a wonderfully immediate writer, and I rather expect to fall in love with this one. Also not on my bookshelf.

As an alternate, I'd like to include Rose MacAulay, possibly even a re-read of The Towers of Trebizond, which I adore, but perhaps Told By an Idiot, for the fun of something new.

I'm desperate to get on to my twentieth-century reading! Everything I want to read right now was published before 2000. Everything I ought to be reading, admittedly, because the TBR pile is mostly review books, is recently published and rats! if I haven't missed the publication date. Ho hum. Actually, I'm sure it's better for authors if there's still someone writing about their books after all the hype is over...


  1. Hmm... so, how is a classic defined? What criteria are used, and who says in the end "yes, this is a classic" or "no, this isn't one"?

  2. I dunno, Librarian! I decided that I would count almost anything from the Virago Modern Classics, Vintage and Persephone lists, and make my own case for "forgotten classics" if necessary, but actually I think everything on my current list has been published by one of those three. But it's an interesting question, and the answer is probably very subjective. I suspect I'd be much more willing to award "classic" status than many - as, for instance, in the case of crime and SF. In the latter case, you might include Asimov, Heinlein, Blish and so on, and I'd argue for William Gibson - so over the course of the year, I might get provocative!

  3. Excellent list, full of authors I've been meaning to read or read more of. I look forward to reading your thoughts on them!

  4. Oh my. This sounds like one I just might have to join this year, seeing as I'd really like to read more and more classics.

  5. P.S. So excited about joining that I forgot to say you can't go wrong with either Mariana or Towers of Trebizond. Both favorites of mine.

  6. @Geranium Cat: Ooh! Persephone books. I can't wait to get started on reading some myself-- must decide which will be my first. ;)

    Elizabeth von Armin has been on my list for awhile. Ever since I downloaded some of her work from GirleBooks to my Nook.

    I love your list, mainly because I recognize very few of the authors, looking forward to reading what you have to say about their works and adding some of them to my TBR.

    Thank you for joining the challenge!

    @Librarian: I think a Classic is a work that transcends time. Usually it's well recognized but there are many lesser-known gems too.

  7. Nymeth, I shall do my best!

    Oh Emily, do join in! And I love Towers of Trebizond (right from that very first sentence that always makes me smile, and want to read it again) but maybe I should read Mariana...being one of your favourites is a good start!

    Katherine, it's interesting to try to focus in the 20th century, because it *does* bring up some less obvious authors. And, you are so lucky id you haven't started on Persephones yet! lots of wonderful books. So far, my favourite has been Saplings, by Noel Streatfeild - not an easy book, but very rich. And I'm so looking forward to the challenge and to your prompts, and lots of discussion!

  8. What a wonderful list. Books I have loved and books I so want to read. So many classics are calling!

  9. Thank you, GeraniumCat and Catherine, for your opinion/explanation about what makes a Classic.

  10. Ok, between you and Emily, I'm going to join in too1 lol I had been considering the challenge, then last night picked up North and South, read the first line, and thought, wait, there's a challenge this would fit into.....I have some new Persephone Classics too I've been meaning to read. I love the idea that a classic is a book that transcends time. Yes, I'm joining!

    I really like the wide variety you have chosen. Like Emily you have authors I've heard of (Monica Dickens, Elizabeth von Arnim) and authors I haven't. This sounds like a good challenge for all of us to read those books we want to read, but leave for later, doesn't it?

  11. FleurFisher, it's going to be fun!

    Susan, I'm so glad you're going to join in - and still finding things that I might add, including the odd Canadian classic!

  12. This sounds like an exciting challenge! I loved 'Someone at a Distance', though it broke my heart and Marianna is wonderful, IMHO. I'm off now to search out 'The Towers of Trebizond' and 'The Constant Nymph'! Thanks! :o) And I'm looking to reading your reviews!

  13. What idead is a classic? - I hadn't thought of many of these as classics - I'm an old lady and so I guess my mind set is 'transcends time' means longer ago than when I was actually around!!:) I must investigate these editions of classics and see what gems I may read - in 6 decades+ of reading I seem to be running out of my classics and obviously need to update myself - I do love doing that thanks for the list

  14. What a beautiful blog....and what great books. Embarrassed to say, I have not heard of any of them......I need to get more classics in my reading stack.

    I just found this challenge but am not going to join in.

    It is wonderful seeing everyone's answer, though.

    Silver's Reviews

    1. Hi Elizabeth! I haven't done very well on answering challenge questions, I'm afraid, though I have read and posted on three of the authors I listed now: The Constant Nymph, Mariana and Elizabeth von Arnim's Princess Priscilla's Fortnight (which is lovely).