Saturday, December 08, 2012

Classics Challenge Completed

I finished Romola by George Eliot this afternoon, which means I completed my Classics Challenge for 2012.

To recap, here are the books that constituted my challenge and my links to their reviews:

Silas Marner - George Eliot

This was my second time reading this book, and I loved it and appreciated it so much more the second time through.  A truly lovely tale of how love can redeem a lost soul.

Tortilla Flat - John Steinbeck
Overall disappointing, but it was an early work of Steinbeck's and prefigured my favorite, Cannery Row, in several significant ways.

Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes - Robert Louis Stevenson
An interesting travel memoir, and another early work by a classic writer.  Walking memoirs evolved into one of my reading themes this year, and so this book fit into both classics and walking.

Barchester Towers - Anthony Trollope
I did end up liking Barchester Towers more than The Warden, the first in the series, which I didn't dislike but I found the discussion of church politics in mid-19th century England to be a bit mind-numbing.  I thought the narrative voice to be calmer and less intrusive than in The Warden also.  Also, I became acquainted with two marvelously drawn characters, Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope.

Romola - George Eliot
Wow, this book has been a roller-coaster.  I thought I would loathe it based on the first few chapters, but then it got interesting and readable.  Halfway through, I was wondering why it was titled Romola as it really seemed more about Romola's husband, Tito, but then the focus shifted and I came to understand why it was titled as it was.  Romola is definitely cut from the same cloth as Dorothea Brooke, from Eliot's Middlemarch, one of my all-time favorite heroines, but in the end I found her a bit too saintly to be a really interesting character. Tito, on the other hand, was fascinating.  I'm now listening to a Great Courses lecture series on the Italian Renaissance to help me understand what was going on in the novel!

Little Dorrit - Charles Dickens
After a long hiatus from Dickens, an estrangement really, I decided to make up with the great egotist and read a book whose mini-series I have long wanted to watch. I enjoyed the book and mini-series very much, and was thrilled to discover the Little Dorrit and her family visited Venice, which happened to be another of my reading threads for 2012.

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
In my opinion, one of the greatest American novels ever written.  I came to it prejudiced against it, expecting it to be cloying, pedantic, and self-righteous. It was none of those, and really helped me understand the forces that led to the American Civil War, which happens to be another reading thread for 2012.  If you haven't read this wonderful book, I urge you to do so.  Should be on every high school reading list along with To Kill a Mockingbird.

My thanks to Katherine Cox for hosting this Classics Challenge and providing such wonderful monthly prompts.  I really enjoyed reading everyone else's classics reviews, and I look forward to another year of great classics reading and rereading.  Working on my 2013 list now!


  1. Jane, I really enjoyed "meeting" you through this challenge, and following your posts. I need to do my wrap-up, so I can post the cool award logo!

  2. Erin Blakemore - The Heroine's BookshelfDecember 08, 2012

    Thanks so much for including all of us on your journey!

  3. congratulations Jane for completing the challenge.
    thank you too for taking time to stop by my blog and for all those wonderful comments.

  4. Congratulations Jane!

    I am really curious to see your 2013 list.

  5. Congratulations, Jane! It was a most enjoyable challenge and I've added several books to my list of books I want to read as a result of your posts.

    I've just started Barchester Towers, after really liking The Warden. And I'm aiming to read Stevenson's Travels. I did start Silas Marner, but my copy has such a small font I gave it - will read it on Kindle though.

    I read Uncle Tom's Cabin many years ago and think I'll re-read it next year. I expect that it will be like reading it for the first time as it was so long ago and I remember very little of the book.

    Thinking about the American Civil War have you read Gone with the Wind? I saw the film (so long) years ago (but later than I read Uncle Tom's Cabin) and am thinking of reading it next year.

  6. Margaret - I first read GWTW after seeing the movie when it was rereleased when I was about 14--back in the days before VCRs, Netflix, etc. I read it in 3 days, and reread it probably 3 more times before I was 21. It sparked my interest in the Civil War, and was one of those formative books for me. Over the years, I've grown to like it less. However, Margaret Mitchell was a terrific writer, and the book Gone With the Wind: A Best Seller's Odyssey is a fantastic bio of GWTW. Here's a link to my review of it:

  7. Oh my goodness, Jane! I've just re-read your post on Gone With the Wind: A Best Seller's Odyssey and see that I commented on it - oh dear, I'd completely forgotten that I'd read it.

    I think I'll just have to read GWTW very soon - it won't be tomorrow though! I'll add it to my Christmas wish list and hope Santa is kind.

  8. Cheers and applause for your challenge completion! I love this post with your pithy recap of each one, the "results show", so to speak. I will keep going with Romola, with your encouraging thoughts about it. And I heartily agree about Uncle Tom's Cabin. Its importance to American literature persists and it has been undersold when it comes to its level of craft.