In case you missed my last post, I’ll be participating in Femathon in March. If you’ve been following me for a while you probably know that I don’t really read much in the classics department. In fact, I’ve only read three of the books in this list so far. Nevertheless, here are some books I’ve heard are classics that you may want to consider.
This is the Manga Classics adaptation for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have read this version and thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s also a “and Zombies” adaptation as well if that sounds like it might be fun.
Since its immediate success in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in the English language. Jane Austen called this brilliant work “her own darling child” and its vivacious heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, “as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print.” The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen’s radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England.– Goodreads Book Blurb (for the original story)
Jane Eyre … because Brontë? This is one of those classics I still haven’t gotten around to yet, but there’s a Manga Classics adaptation with my name on it from the library, so I’m finally going to try it.
As an orphaned child, Jane Eyre is first cruelly abused by her aunt, then cast out and sent to a charity school. Though she meets with further abuse, she receives an education, and eventually takes a job as a governess at the estate of Edward Rochester. Jane and Rochester begin to bond, but his dark moods trouble her. When Jane uncovers the terrible secret Rochester has been hiding, she flees and finds temporary refuge at the home of St. John Rivers.– Goodreads Book Blurb
Austen, the queen of regency writing strikes again! I still haven’t read this one either, but the Manga Classics version definitely puts it on my radar now.
When Elinor Dashwood’s father dies, her family’s finances are crippled. After the Dashwoods move to a cottage in Devonshire, Elinor’s sister Marianne is torn between the handsome John Willoughby and the older Colonel Brandon. Meanwhile, Elinor’s romantic hopes with Edward Ferrars are hindered due to his prior engagement. Both Elinor and Marianne strive for love while the circumstances in their lives constantly change. Manga Classics brings new life to Jane Austen’s very first novel. Sense and Sensibility is a classic tale about love, romance and heartbreak in this brilliant manga adaption.– Goodreads Book Blurb
MOAR AUSTEN! Can you tell I have a friend that loves her work and had me put these on my TBR when I was 13? Wow these have been on my TBR for ages…
Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?– Goodreads Book Blurb
Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.
Ha! Finally another one on this list that I have read … once … in high school … and immediately mostly purged from my memory because it was filled with sooo much bigotry, among other things. I added it to this list for a historical reminder of how far women’s rights have come (and a reminder that sometimes stuff like this still happens today for some reason).
Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, Massachusetts, during the years 1642 to 1649, it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and will not reveal her lover’s identity. The scarlet letter A (for adultery) she has to wear on her clothes, along with her public shaming, is her punishment for her sin and her secrecy. She struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. Throughout the book, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism, sin, and guilt.– Goodreads Book Blurb
She’s baaaaaccckkkkk – and this is another one I still haven’t read … oops
Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen’s most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.– Goodreads Book Blurb
Aha! The third one on this list that I have read because it was originally part of my high school reading requirements. This I can actually see myself going back to re-read the originals of and then rewatching the black and white films. Come to think of it, this was probably my first introduction to science fiction.
Obsessed with natural philosophy, young Victor Frankenstein succeeds in creating life from its basic elements – and abandons the newborn monstrosity in terror when he cannot bear to look at it. The rejected creature vanishes, and Victor attempts to forget what he has done…– Goodreads Book Blurb
But the monster survives. It learns. Deprived of everything, fated to forever be alone, it has nothing left but revenge.
The only reason I know about this book is because “it’s that other Brontë sister book” … I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the original or not, but I need an adaptation version – please leave me any suggestions you may have in the comments?
Wuthering Heights is Emily Brontë’s only novel. Written between October 1845 and June 1846, Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 under the pseudonym “Ellis Bell”; Brontë died the following year, aged 30. Wuthering Heights and Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey were accepted by publisher Thomas Newby before the success of their sister Charlotte’snovel, Jane Eyre. After Emily’s death, Charlotte edited the manuscript of Wuthering Heights, and arranged for the edited version to be published as a posthumous second edition in 1850.– Goodreads Book Blurb
Although Wuthering Heights is now widely regarded as a classic of English literature, contemporary reviews for the novel were deeply polarised; it was considered controversial because its depiction of mental and physical cruelty was unusually stark, and it challenged strict Victorian ideals of the day regarding religious hypocrisy, morality, social classes and gender inequality.The English poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, although an admirer of the book, referred to it as “A fiend of a book – an incredible monster […] The action is laid in hell, – only it seems places and people have English names there.”
I don’t know about you, but the “classics” list I grew up on didn’t include anything that wasn’t English/American – aka white people stories. There are a lot of other books coming up in my BIPOC and Non Fiction recommendations which would also fit in on this list – I just wanted to space the content out a bit. Anyways, this book was written during the Heian period in Japan. If there are other multicultural classics that have been translated into English, please do let me know about them – they’re not exactly easy to find yet.
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon is a fascinating, detailed account of Japanese court life in the eleventh century. Written by a lady of the court at the height of Heian culture, this book enthralls with its lively gossip, witty observations, and subtle impressions.
Lady Shonagon was an erstwhile rival of Lady Murasaki, whose novel, The Tale of Genji fictionalized the elite world Lady Shonagon so eloquently relates. Featuring reflections on royal and religious ceremonies, nature, conversation, poetry, and many other subjects, The Pillow Book is an intimate look at the experiences and outlook of the Heian upper class, further enriched by Ivan Morris’s extensive notes and critical contextualization.– Goodreads Book Blurb
Weirdly, I’ve studied a lot of American and European history from the late 1700’s, and yet for some reason I’ve never managed to read this yet. All I know is that the song Sister Suffragette from Mary Poppins is stuck in my head for some reason after reading the synopsis for this one.
Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity, and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice, and for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner. Mary Wollstonecraft’s work was received with a mixture of admiration and outrage – Walpole called her ‘a hyena in petticoats’ – yet it established her as the mother of modern feminism.– Goodreads Book Blurb
I don’t know how I haven’t heard of this book until I started making this list, but the synopsis sounds like something I may actually want to willingly read regardless of it being part of a classics list.
Set in a Roman Catholic Europe of violent passions and extreme oppression, the novel follows the fate of its heroine Adeline, who is mysteriously placed under the protection of a family fleeing Paris for debt. They take refuge in a ruined abbey in south-eastern France, where sinister relics of the past – a skeleton, a manuscript, and a rusty dagger – are discovered in concealed rooms. Adeline finds herself at the mercy of the abbey’s proprietor, a libidinous Marquis whose attentions finally force her to contemplate escape to distant regions. Rich in allusions to aesthetic theory and to travel literature, The Romance of the Forest is also concerned with current philosophical debate and examines systems of thought central to the intellectual life of late eighteenth-century Europe.– Goodreads Book Blurb
Aren’t all of the Brontë books basically required to show up on a feminist classics list? This is another one I still haven’t read…
“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” is the second and final novel by the English author Anne Brontë. It was first published in 1848 under the pseudonym Acton Bell. Probably the most shocking of the Brontës’ novels, it had an instant and phenomenal success, but after Anne’s death her sister Charlotte prevented its re-publication. The novel is framed as a series of letters from Gilbert Markham to his friend and brother-in-law about the events leading to his meeting his wife. A mysterious young widow arrives at Wildfell Hall, an Elizabethan mansion which has been empty for many years, with her young son and servant. She lives there in strict seclusion under the assumed name Helen Graham and very soon finds herself the victim of local slander. Refusing to believe anything scandalous about her, Gilbert Markham, a young farmer, discovers her dark secrets. In her diary, Helen writes about her husband’s physical and moral decline through alcohol, and the world of debauchery and cruelty from which she has fled. This novel of marital betrayal is set within a moral framework tempered by Anne’s optimistic belief in universal salvation. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is mainly considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels. May Sinclair, in 1913, said that the slamming of Helen’s bedroom door against her husband reverberated throughout Victorian England. In escaping her husband, Helen violates not only social conventions, but also English law.– Goodreads Book Blurb
Have I read all of Dickinson’s poems? No. But I definitely remember liking the ones I have read from time to time, so why not add the collected works to this list?
Dickinson’s poetry is remarkable for its tightly controlled emotional and intellectual energy. The longest poem covers less than two pages. Yet in theme and tone her writing reaches for the sublime as it charts the landscape of the human soul. A true innovator, Dickinson experimented freely with conventional rhythm and meter, and often used dashes, off rhymes, and unusual metaphors—techniques that strongly influenced modern poetry. Dickinson’s idiosyncratic style, along with her deep resonance of thought and her observations about life and death, love and nature, and solitude and society, have firmly established her as one of America’s true poetic geniuses.– Goodreads Book Blurb
Hopefully those are some solid classics recommendations to get you started! Have you read any of the books on this list? What are your thoughts?