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Classics are books that are as relevant and popular now as in their own era. Have a glance through history when you scroll through our selection of time-tested Classics. You might re-discover a forgotten gem!
If you adore Pride and Prejudice then stop right here. A particular favourite of mine, North and South is so much more than a love story. Delving into the differences between different social classes, the industrial heartlands and pleasant peaceful countryside, it has real heart and soul.
September 2009 Good Housekeeping selection. On My Bookshelf by Penny Smith... This wasn’t a set text for us at school, but I read it anyway and it got me into the classics big time. I had such vivid pictures of all the characters and places. Sadly, every adaptation, including the fantastic one with Colin Firth, was never a patch on my image of what they all looked like and were like. Plus I just love a love story… GMTV presenter Penny Smith is passionate about books and is now a novelist herself; her latest fiction, After The Break, is published by Harper Perennial.
Not recognised as a masterpiece until years after Anthony Trollope's death (perhaps it made people flinch a little too much), The Way We Live Now is just as current and relevant as it was when it was written. Corruption, social climbing, and scandal is as prevalent today as it has always been and the main character Melmotte is truly wonderful, because he is so very dreadful. A book to make you smirk, wince, and nod. There are surely some well known people alive today that would easily step between the pages and feel right at home.
Deep in the forests of Moran, far from civilization, live families of woodcutters and shepherds. A remote and beautiful world, it is a place where madness still reigns, murder occurs, and bloody punishments are delivered. What has happened to the body of the sensual and beautiful Catherine Corvol, wife of a rich landowner, killed not out of hatred but an excess of love? Around this central enigma, Germain has created a gothic enchantment, a dazzling rural fantasy rich in angels, obsession, and revenge where the reader is carried forward as much by the lyricism and strangeness of the language as by the macabre and fantastic turns of the plot.
January 2014 Guest Editor Jodi Picoult on Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I memorized huge passages when I was twelve and pretended to be both Rhett and Scarlett (hence I had no boyfriend till I was 15…). I loved that Margaret Mitchell had created a world out of words, and I wanted to do the same thing. The Lovereading view... First published in 1936, this book is a historical novel set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War. It tells the love story of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. February 2011 Guest Editor Carmen Reid on Margaret Mitchell... Gone With The Wind must be the grandmammie of romantic novels. Yes it’s over 1000 pages long and you know the story already because you’ve watched the epic film over many a bank holiday. But February strikes me as the perfect month to turn the telly off, go to bed early and wade through this Southern Civil war blockbuster. Tighten your crinoline, practise saying: ‘Oh Ashley!’ And ‘No, no, Rhett!’ And vow to the skies that you will never, ever be poor again! Realise why it’s so terrifically good that Margaret snagged herself a Pulitzer Prize in 1937.
I first saw the musical, then read the book, and let me just put this out there, Les Miserables is long, and even with a relatively simple plot, not a particularly easy read. Having said that, I am glad that I read it, but am going to whisper this... I prefer the musical (and now I’m ducking).
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first serialised in an anti-slavery periodocial. By popular demand Harriet Beacher Stowe released it as a novel and it almost immediately sold out. The book describes the journey Uncle Tom takes from being a slave on a Kentucky farm takes to his death on the orders of the vicious plantation owner Simon Legree. His humanity, dignity and Christian faith shines through even in the worst adversity. The novel had a profound effect on attitudes to slavery and was cited by Abraham Lincoln as a strong motivation for the Amercian Civil War.
May 2014 Guest Editor Daisy Goodwin on The Palliser Series... Dickens is the prose stylist, but Trollope is the psychologist. His characterisation is subtle and surprising and he is particularly good at creating convincing female characters. I love Lady Glencora in the Palliser series, she is the embodiment of what today we would call ‘soft power’. I have written two novels set in the nineteenth century and I read Trollope continually as a language barometer.
From Aristotle to Aphra Benn to Jane Austen, and Socrates to Stendhal to Upton Sinclair our classics genre will point you in the direction of all the great classics from the beginnings of literature right up to the essential 20th-century classics such as Animal Farm.
The privileged classes (Henry James) and life on the poverty line (Zola)... History (Robert Graves) and prophesy (George Orwell)... Romance (Emily Bronte) and ribaldry (Henry Fielding)... Generations lost (Ernest Hemingway) and encapsulated (F. Scott Fitzgerald)... Writers ahead of their time (James Joyce) and right on the pulse of it (Jack Kerouac)...
There’s so much out there to discover, but it can be daunting without guidance.