Mind the Gap!

The Classics Club Meme July 2020

Since this month’s question for the Classics Club Meme, was proposed by me, I feel I should really answer it! Here it is:

Which classic author have you read more than one, but not all, of their books and which of their other books would you want to read in the future?

The author I had in mind when I suggested the question was Thomas Hardy. I love his writing and yet I’ve read only a couple of his books. This is because when I think Hardy, I think Tess of the D’Urbervilles and a re-read is sure to follow! I’ve read it at least three or four times over the years while so many of his other books have never had their chance to make me love them.

As a school pupil, I read Far from the Madding Crowd but, although I enjoyed it, as so often I feel I was far too young to really appreciate it in any but the most superficial way. It’s a tricky question, introducing school-children to the classics. On the one hand, for lucky early-developers it can engender a life-enhancing life-long love. But on the other hand I’m sure it puts just as many later-developing children off reading heavyweight fiction for life. Maybe that’s a question for another day – what classics are suitable “starters” for kids in their early- to mid-teens?

I’m currently slowly listening to The Mayor of Casterbridge on audiobook and loving it. This is one I thought I had read before but now realise I hadn’t – this happens often when a book has been adapted for TV several times, or has simply become such a standard that everyone kinda knows the basic plot. Jude the Obscure is another one I haven’t read but feel almost as if I had.

Now that I am in the last year of my first Classics Club challenge, I’ve begun in idle moments to mull over what my next list might look like if I decide to do it again. Rather than going for lots of new-to-me authors as I did this time round, and restricting myself to only one book from each of them, this time I’m considering picking some authors I’ve enjoyed in the past and filling in some of the gaps in my reading of their work. Sir Walter Scott, Graham Greene, HP Lovecraft, the Brontës as a group, my beloved Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Conrad, Neil Munro, H Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson – all authors I’d like to read more of. Mrs Gaskell too, although she’s in a slightly different category in that I haven’t read any of her novels – just a few short stories.

So then comes the matter of choosing the books. With Hardy, because I’ve read so little of him there’s a wide choice and my list will be startlingly unoriginal, since it seems to make sense to start with the best-known, and therefore probably best, ones. Here’s my Hardy wishlist – restricted to five…

Far From the Madding Crowd

Definitely time for a re-read of this one, I feel! Once every fifty years or so seems about right. 😉

The Blurb says: Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community. 

Under the Greenwood Tree

The Blurb says: Under the Greenwood Tree is the story of the romantic entanglement between church musician, Dick Dewey, and the attractive new school mistress, Fancy Day. A pleasant romantic tale set in the Victorian era, Under the Greenwood Tree is one of Thomas Hardy’s most gentle and pastoral novels.

The Return of the Native

The Blurb says: Tempestuous Eustacia Vye passes her days dreaming of passionate love and the escape it may bring from the small community of Egdon Heath. Hearing that Clym Yeobright is to return from Paris, she sets her heart on marrying him, believing that through him she can leave rural life and find fulfilment elsewhere. But she is to be disappointed, for Clym has dreams of his own, and they have little in common with Eustacia’s.  

The Woodlanders

The Blurb says: In this classically simple tale of the disastrous impact of outside life on a secluded community in Dorset, Hardy narrates the rivalry for the hand of Grace Melbury between a simple and loyal woodlander and an exotic and sophisticated outsider. Betrayal, adultery, disillusion, and moral compromise are all worked out in a setting evoked as both beautiful and treacherous.

Jude the Obscure

The Blurb says: Jude Fawley’s hopes of a university education are lost when he is trapped into marrying the earthy Arabella, who later abandons him. Moving to the town of Christminster where he finds work as a stonemason, Jude meets and falls in love with his cousin Sue Bridehead, a sensitive, freethinking “New Woman.” Refusing to marry merely for the sake of religious convention, Jude and Sue decide instead to live together, but they are shunned by society and poverty soon threatens to ruin them.

(These stills from the various adaptations tell their own Hardy story, don’t they? The meeting, the spark of romance, the love, the passion…. the woman left in misery holding the baby… 😂)

Shocking that I haven’t read these ones! I’m duly ashamed and shall stand in the corner with a dunce’s cap on till I do. But in the meantime, are there any others you feel deserve one of these coveted spaces more, and if so, which of these would you bump off the list to make room for it? And in answer to the original question, who would be your chosen author and which books of his or hers would you put on your list?

HAVE A GREAT TUESDAY! 😀

70 thoughts on “Mind the Gap!

  1. Hardy is a good choice, I still have a few of his novels to read myself as it happens. From the ones I have read, I think his strangest novel is possibly the Well Beloved. I read it a couple of years ago, and found it bizarre and rather creepy to be honest. Not sure whether you should add it to your list or not.
    I didn’t really care for Far from the Madding Croud either as it happens. It was okay, but didn’t leave much of an impression, and I’ve never felt especially tempted to re-read it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ooh, I quite like creepy and it would be fun to see Hardy do something a bit different – the blurb makes it sound quite tempting. I loved the names in Far from the Madding Crowd – Bathsheba Everdene! In fact, I rather wanted to change my name to that for a while as I remember. Fortunately I didn’t… 😉 But I don’t remember an awful lot about it except that I felt sorry for Gabriel and didn’t feel she deserved him.

      Like

  2. I’ve not read any Thomas Hardy, although I do have a copy of Tess … somewhere. Come to think of it, my attempt at reading more classics this year has so far failed miserably. I may need to join that Classics challenge next year after all. 🤔

    Liked by 2 people

    • I must say that being in the Classics Club does make me put them on my reading list – otherwise it’s too easy to get caught up in only reading new releases, I find. Tess is wonderful, and so is the film with the gorgeous Nastassja Kinski… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought Jude the Obscure a great book, although terribly sad. I think a “filling in the gaps” approach to a new Classics Club list is a great idea. It will be some time though until I need to compile a second list at the rate I’m going 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha, there’s a good chance I may need to ask for an extension on my first list at the rate I’m going too! Jude and Tess seem to be the ones people most often mention, so I may read the other ones first and keep Jude as a reward at the end… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice choice, FictionFan. Hardy really was very talented. I’ll admit I’ve not read all of his work, but I’ve enjoyed what I have read, and I always meant to read more. You know how that goes, though… At any rate, thanks for the reminder. As soon as I finish up with the Ngaio Marsh longlisters, I may take a look at some of those classics…

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m always amazed at people who seem to have read all the classics – I’ve read them fairly consistently all my life and yet don’t seem to have even scratched the surface! Oh, I’m glad to hear you’re doing the Ngaio Marsh awards again – looking forward to hearing what ones make the shortlist!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love Thomas Hardy and this is such a great idea to go through the list of authors you have already read and see whether any other books of them look appetising! I read Hardy’s Tess, Far from the Madding Crowd and Jude the Obscure – and though I loved all three, I think the way I listed them reflect their merit – Tess is the best, Madding Crown the second best and I found Jude great, but too long and at times meandering. I wonder what you will think about Jude. This August, I earmarked to read Hardy’s The Woodlanders – I hope it will be great – but, no matter the plot, Hardy’s writing is always wonderful.

    And, to answer your question on authors, I think I want to read more work of Orhan Pamuk and Honore de Balzac.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Balzac is yet another of those authors I’ve always intended to try but never got around to. Too many books in the world! I do think it would be hard for any of the other books to match Tess in my estimation since it’s one of my favourite books of all time – maybe that’s subconsciously why I’ve read so few of the others, for fear of disappointment, But now that I’m loving The Mayor of Casterbridge, I’m in the mood for more. Hmm, Jude always does sound totally depressing – not that that’s too unusual for Hardy, of course – but I do like the sound of the blurb…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I went through a phase in my teens of reading a lot of Thomas Hardy novels. I think I read even the more obscure ones, like A Pair of Blue Eyes. Jude the Obscure is devastating, as is Tess. But then, there are very few Hardy novels which aren’t tragedies! I also studied his poems, which I’d recommend.

    Re: the original question — I haven’t read enough Hemingway or Orwell. I’m currently reading a long novel about a man investigating his great-grandmother’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War, so it might be time to read some Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls) and Orwell (Homage to Catalonia) next to keep up with the theme!

    Liked by 2 people

    • A few people have mentioned A Pair of Blue Eyes, so I may have to see if I can squeeze it onto my list somehow. Haha, yes, he’s not exactly cheery, is he? But then tragedies are always the stories that live with us longest… which must say something about humanity, I feel! 😉

      Ah, coincidentally I’m doing a Spanish Civil War challenge at the moment, to learn about the period in a mix of history and fiction. For Whom the Bell Tolls was my first book for it, and it’s absolutely wonderful! Homage to Catalonia is on my list but it’ll be a while before I get to it. What’s the one you’re currently reading? If it gets your recommendation, I’m still looking for books to add to my challenge list.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That sounds like a fun challenge! I really must add those to my list. There’s so much to learn about that period of history. If you enjoy films I’d recommend watching La Lengua de la Mariposa (The Butterfly’s Tongue), which is set around the time of the Civil War.

        The book I’m reading is Dime Quién Soy (Tell Me Who I Am) by Julia Navarro. I’m not sure if it’s been translated into English yet, but I think some of her books are available in English. I’m reading it in Spanish as a challenge!

        Liked by 2 people

    • They definitely seem to be the ones most people mention as favourites, so since I’ve read Tess already, I might keep Jude till the end as a reward… 😀

      Like

  7. Great idea! Since I am new to Hardy, I am open to advice. I’ve been determined to start with Jude the Obscure, but many people have suggested Far from the Madding Crowd since it’s one of his less depressing novels. Gilana even posted this list (https://www.quora.com/Where-should-I-start-with-the-works-of-Thomas-Hardy) with suggestions which order to use.

    Of course there is an alternative (superficial) way: Choose based on the photos. Using that approach, it would have to be Under the Greenwood Tree – beautiful colours!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the link! Far from the Madding Crowd is the one we’re always given at school, which suggests to me it might be the least scandalous though my memories of it are too vague to be sure. Tess is marvellous, and although it is depressing, it’s so beautifully written that I still find it enjoyable. I’m only halfway through The Mayor of Casterbridge but I’m kinda betting it’s not going to end with “and they all lived happily ever after” either… 😉 The pictures have made me want to seek out all these box sets and have a splurge. The only one I’ve seen is Tess and I loved the film nearly as much as the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve not read any Hardy, so I can’t make any suggestions.

    In answer to your question, (and I think you’ll be pleased)…. Dickens! I’ve only read some of the basics and there are so many more I know I should read!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, hurrah! Dickens would have been on my list too except that tragically I think there’s only one left I haven’t already read – The Old Curiosity Shop. And I might read it this Christmas… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Um, is there room in that corner for one more?? I haven’t read any of these either! You make some valid points about teachers assigning classics to students in school. In my day, the teacher did the assigning, and we all read the same book. When Domer was in high school, the teacher presented the students a list of “appropriate” works and let them all choose. Which way is better? Who knows? I suppose the end-goal is to hook kids on reading — both ways succeeded for us, ha!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I think the way Domer was given a choice is much better! I do think there’s something to be said for everyone reading the same book, but if it’s a book you hate then it becomes a total penance. One year our set texts were two books about war and I hated them – I bet I might quite like them now, but I was put off them for life. On the other hand, some of the authors I met through school have been lifelong favourites – like Graham Greene.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great prompt!
    I’d pick Graham Greene, because I’ve loved The End of the Affair and The Heart of the Matter. Ones I’d pick to read because I haven’t yet are Our Man in Havana, The Quiet American, The Power and the Glory, and any other one my younger and smarter brother recommends or has in first edition.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I went through a big Graham Greene phase when I was young, after being given The Comedians as a set text at school, so sometimes schools do get it right! The Heart of the Matter is one of my favourite books of all time, but very recently was topped by Brighton Rock, although I’d like to re-read The Heart of the Matter again just to check. I haven’t re-read The Power and the Glory for decades but still remember lots of it, which shows it made an impression. But since he was so prolific there are still plenty more for me to read, so he’d be on my list of gap-filling too.

      Like

  11. I love Thomas Hardy and only have a few of his books left to read. Of the books you’ve listed, I think my favourite is probably The Woodlanders. In fact, the only one of those I didn’t love is Under the Greenwood Tree – I seem to prefer the more tragic ones! A Pair of Blue Eyes is a good lesser-known one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A few people have mentioned A Pair of Blue Eyes – one I hadn’t really heard of before – so I may have to find a way to squeeze it onto my list. Haha, yes, somehow Hardy and tragedy seem to go together – I can’t really imagine him in happy mode!

      Like

  12. I remember I loved Hardy’s Two on a Tower and A pair of Blue Eyes – years ago. I want to read more by Trollope, maybe The American Senator next.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I hadn’t heard of Two on a Tower before but looking at the blurb it does sound interesting. A few people have mentioned A Pair of Blue Eyes, so I can see I’ll have to expand my list a bit! I’ve read several of the Barchester books and a couple of other Trollopes, but there are still zillions I haven’t read – and yes, now you mention him, he’s definitely another I’d like to explore further… aarghh! I hope they’re working on those immortality pills… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. So I’m trying to think of the intersection between “the canon” and how many I’ve read by each “classic” author….More than one book: Dickens, Poe, Joyce, Faulkner, Hemingway (not a fan), Munro, Morrison….The only books that gave me strange dreams at night were Faulkner’s—specifically Absalom!Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury. The stream-of-consciousness dreamlike aspects seeped into my subconscious, I think. Perhaps because it was a university class and I read so many of his stories in such a short period of time and analyzed them endlessly. His was a pretty damning portrayal of racism and the South, where marrying your sister was acceptable, but marrying someone who was 1/8th Black was a horror. I have several of Hardy’s on my bookshelves, but must say I haven’t cracked one yet. Perhaps I should?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, no, no, you’ll never talk me into trying Faulkner again – once was enough! I’ve also read some from each of the authors you mention except Munro – another I’d like to try some time. Dickens sadly is no longer on my “fill the gaps” list because I’ve only got one book of his left to read *sobs brokenly* But I’d definitely want to read more Hemingway – I do find his style compelling – and I have two or three Morrisons on the TBR just waiting for me to get to them. Hardy is a very English author, but he’s also quite political – he was known as a feminist back when it was rare even for women to be feminists! And he’s fab at showing the devastating effects on rural life of industrialisation – not a barrel of laughs, but well worth reading… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I like your idea of filling the gaps during your second Classics Club challenge so well that I am going to copy you. My gaps will be Hardy and Charles Dickens, which won’t leave much space for other authors.The photos you’ve included make me want to watch the television adaptations/movies, too 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Ichose George Eliot but Hardy was a close 2nd, I can’t believe I haven’t read more. Last year I read Far From the Madding Crowd and just loved it and the new film with Michael Sheen. Your film stills are terrific, that is a plot all told!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wasn’t so thrilled with Middlemarch when I read it recently, so Eliot didn’t make it onto my list this time around. However if they invent immortality I’d definitely like to read more of her! I didn’t know there was a new Far from the Madding Crowd with Michael Sheen – I’m so out of touch with film world these days! I must look out for it. I love watching adaptations of classics, so long as they don’t mess too much with the story…

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Great author choice, FF 😃 I have only read one of his novels: Far From the Madding Crowd and it took me years to summon the guts to read after being put off Hardy after reading a super-depressing short story of his in school! Looking at your possibles list, I really like the sound of Under the Greenwood Tree – I think I might have consider swapping that onto my Classics Club list. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do think schools put us off authors at least as often as they ever make us love them. It’s a never-ending task trying to read all these classics, isn’t it? But a fun one! Under the Greenwood Tree does sound good, and considerably less depressing than most of his books!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I was forced to read a couple of Hardy novels at school — isn’t that the way for many of us? — The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Trumpet Major, but simply didn’t get him, and apart from the odd film have avoided him. But I think I may be nearly ready now to try a couple of the early novels, especially as your précis pieces make them sound rather tasty.

    As for your other wishlist authors, I fancy a couple, like Lovecraft and Gaskell — when I have cut down my waiting pile a bit more!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know it’s hard for schools but I do think they’re just as likely to put kids off an author as get them to love him/her. I’m really enjoying The Mayor of Casterbridge and love Tess, so I’m looking forward to trying some of the others. Lovecraft was a surprise love for me – it took several attempts before I got into his style but now I’m a dedicated (but not uncritical!) fan. And Mrs Gaskell is a real omission from my list – for some reason I always thought she was kinda grim and humourless, but reviews around the blogosphere have convinced me I was wrong, and now I’m keen to fill that gap!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do hope you’ll do a review of the Casterbridge novel — that’s the one with the wife being sold, is it not, and if so that’s all I remember from it! Mind you, I was only three years or so away from a decade of living in Hong Kong, so I was still adjusting to culture shock…

        All I’ve read of Gaskell is a ghost story or two, so I shall be seeking out her shorter novels before the blockbusters. I had a thing about Lovecraft around the age of 20 but found him hard going in a recent foray, but maybe I just need to reacclimatise… 😁

        Liked by 1 person

        • It is indeed, though the wife-selling is a bit more nuanced than I was expecting! I’m over the halfway mark now, so a review should be along at some point.

          Yes, a couple of her ghost stories are all I’ve read too and I enjoyed them, so hopefully her novels will work for me too. Ha, I still mock and scoff at Lovecraft, but I have to accept that I’ve developed a bit of an addiction… 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  18. Wanting to answer your question, at first I couldn’t settle on one author, but then the book I have just finished reading reminded me that I am really enjoying my adult rereading and filling-in-the gaps reading of Dickens’ books. My next ‘gap’ reads may be: Nicholas Nickleby, Martin Chuzzlewit and Pickwick Papers. (The book I’ve just read is an enjoyable fantasy where literary characters escape their pages into current day Wellington (NZ), with Dickens’ characters at the heart of the story: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, by H G Parry.)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ooh, always delighted when anyone reads Dickens, and I love all three of those, especially Nicholas Nickleby. Pickwick is very different and I know a lot of people don’t get on with it, but I rather like his satire on politics, even though it still feels only too contemporary! And I love Mr Jingle. Not sure about the Uriah Heep book – you know fantasy and I don’t get on too well – but I’m glad you enjoyed it. Uriah Heep is one of my favourite Dickensian villains… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  19. That’s a great idea about doing deep dives into authors you’ve previously read for your next CC list.

    I’ve not read ANY Hardy yet, can you believe it?

    To answer your question, I’d have to say both Dickens (I’ve read only Tale of Two Cities, Christmas Carol, and Hard Times) and Toni Morrison (I’ve read Sula, Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved, but I’d like to read all of her novels.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are just too many great classics for us to be able to read them all – though it’s fun trying!

      Oh, hurrah! Always glad to see Dickens on someone’s list and you have so many great ones to look forward to! I’ve only read three of Morrison’s – Beloved, Song of Solomon and A Mercy – and would really like to work through most of her other stuff too. I have Sula and The Bluest Eye, so they’ll be my next ones…

      Like

  20. So I had never heard of Far From the Madding Crowd, so I watched the 2015 trailer of it. Ooohhhh a romance!!! Seems steamy, 3 men fighting over me? Now that’s a fantasy novel I’d like to read haha

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hahaha, yes! And the odd thing was I didn’t think she was good enough for any of them if memory serves me right! Maybe I’ll be more sympathetic now than teenage FF was back then… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I’m in the corner too, I’ve just not got around to Hardy. Possibly because I think Tess was foisted on us at school and … you can guess the rest. But I do want to read him so I shall be very keen to see how you get on, assuming you go for a second list. (I bet you will!) I’d like to say that my in-depth author would be Dickens like a number of others here, but I’m doing ok with my intention to read his novels in order. Ground to a halt with Dombey courtesy of the pandemic. My daily reading of Dickens simply stopped – but it got going again two days ago, hurrah! 😄 Pondering on who I would choose then … it has to be Steinbeck! 😂 I know you’ll be rolling your eyes but I need to get him out of my system somehow!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ugh! Not Steinbeck! Read East of Eden – if that doesn’t get him out of your system, nothing will! 😉 I’m getting a severe Dickens craving at the moment – don’t know if I’ll be able to hold out till Christmas, as I usually do. Maybe I need to read some of his ghost stories again to keep me going. I just finished The Mayor of Casterbridge and loved it, so Hardy remains definitely on my list of authors to explore further. 😀 I bet you’d love Tess now if you could bring yourself to re-read it…

      Liked by 1 person

Please leave a comment - I'd love to know who's visiting and what you think...of the post, of the book, of the blog, of life, of chocolate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.