Friday Frippery! Classics Club 10th Anniversary…

…and a questionnaire

The Classics Club is celebrating its 10th anniversary and has posed us all ten questions about our experiences with the club and with classics in general…

1.  When did you join the Classics Club?

I signed up in June 2016, and took five and a half years to finish my first list of ninety books, having made several changes to the original list along the way. I started on my second list at the beginning of this year – just eighty books this time – and am racing through them in the first flush of enthusiasm that only a shiny new booklist can bring!

2.  What is the best classic book you’ve read for the club so far? Why?

All of these questions are nearly impossible to answer, and my responses would probably be different on a different day! Excluding re-reads (which therefore excludes Dickens who would otherwise always win) I think I’d have to say The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Not only was it considerably more enjoyable than I expected with a lot of humour, but it’s Scottish, and it really helped put a lot of later Scottish fiction into context for me. It has the duality and the national obsession with our love/hate (mainly hate) relationship with our Knoxian brand of Calvinism, both themes that run through much of our literature. I think of it often, which has to be a sign of a great book.

3.  What is the first classic you ever read?

The thing is, I’m relatively ancient, which means that many children’s books I read when young which are now considered classics weren’t old enough to be thought of as classics when I read them! The Narnia books, even The Hobbit, weren’t classics when I read them. Possibly The Wind in the Willows was one of the first that would have counted by my own definition of being more than fifty years old, although I’m pretty sure I read the Holmes stories when I couldn’t have been much older (though shockingly even some of the later Holmes stories wouldn’t have counted as classics when I first read them!), and also some Rider Haggard, especially King Solomon’s Mines. Little Women and its sequels. And Anne of Green Gables, of course! But which was the first? Your guess is as good as mine!

4.  Which classic book inspired you the most?

I don’t know that any have really inspired me, but I did look on Anne of Green Gables as my role model when I was a kid. You could say Dickens’ books inspired me never to become a writer – I decided very early on that I’d never write a book if I couldn’t write one as good as his. The rest is history… 😉

5.  What is the most challenging one you’ve ever read, or tried to read?

Hmm, I’m never quite sure what “challenging” means in the context of books. I’ve disliked many that I’ve read – Lolita, Moby Dick, East of Eden – and abandoned many because I hated them – Earth Abides, Cannery Row, Last Exit to Brooklyn – but I wouldn’t say any of them challenged me. Maybe Heart of Darkness – it took me three reads to really appreciate it and I certainly found the notes essential, so yes, perhaps that counts as challenging.

6.  Favourite movie adaptation of a classic? Least favourite?

That really is an impossible question! Most favourite – any Hitchcock adaptation, especially Strangers on a Train, Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility, In the Heat of the Night, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, etc., etc. So I’m going to pick Moby-Dick – I thought the book was pretty bad but the film cut out all the stuff I disliked about the book and did what the book should have done but didn’t – turned Captain Ahab’s hunt for the whale into a thrilling adventure! I loved the film! And in the same vein, I’ll pick Slaughterhouse-Five as my least favourite – it seemed to miss out most of the complexity which made the book so thought-provoking and the changes the director made to the story weakened its impact and depth. I didn’t hate the film but I wouldn’t really recommend it either.

7.  Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?

The Queen in Snow White.

8.  Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving? Respecting? Appreciating?

Hmm, it would be rare for me to put a book I actually expected to dislike on my reading list – so rare I can’t think of one, in fact. I read purely for pleasure so whenever I open a book I hope it will thrill me, and am disappointed if it doesn’t – as happens frequently! However sometimes my expectations are lower than others – like with Silas Marner recently which, based on my lukewarm reaction to Middlemarch, I thought might be a middling read but ended up enjoying far more than I expected to.

9.  Classic/s you are DEFINITELY GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?

Goodness, I don’t know! That’s far too far in the future! OK, I’ll pick one randomly from my new list and then we’ll see if I actually stick to it – Crime and Punishment!

10. Favourite memory with a classic and/or your favourite memory with The Classics Club?

Hmm, another difficult one! I remember how breathlessly I raced through The Great Gatsby the first time I read it long, long ago. I remember how much fun and laughter I had buddy-reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom books with a blogging friend.

I remember how I sobbed over that bit in Little Women/Good Wives that I can’t specify since it would be a spoiler, but you all know the bit I mean! I remember how I swooned over my Darcy – and still do! And with the Classics Club? My favourite memory of it would be seeing some of my blog buddies join in with lists of their own, so that now we can all compare spin lists and exchange opinions! And seeing some of you reading some relatively unknown Scottish classics on my recommendation, and enjoying them! And the chit-chat that reviewing classics always seems to inspire.

Thanks again to all the moderators past and present who have given generously of their time to make the Classics Club the huge success it is!

Have a Classic Day! 😀

52 thoughts on “Friday Frippery! Classics Club 10th Anniversary…

  1. I don’t remember which classic I first read either, but it was likely a kiddie version of one; The Wind in the Willows is a great favourite with me, even now. I’m glad you were able to enjoy Silas Marner, which I loved a lot too.

    Hope you do manage to get to C&P. I’ll be looking out for your thoughts!

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    • Christine’s comment reminded me of Heidi, which I’d completely forgotten about but now think may have been the first classic I read. But it might have been The Wind in the Willows – too long ago to remember! Yes, I was pleased to enjoy Silas Marner so much, and to be able to count myself as an Eliot fan at last! It’s long past time that I read Crime and Punishment…

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        • I read it over and over too, as I did with most childhood favourites. I often wish I could set aside more time for re-reading now – it’s such a pleasure to be able to read a book without the tension of wondering what will happen.

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    • Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, I think the options were more limited back then so we did all tend to start out with the same books. Which I like since it gives us all a kind of communal book history! Ha, I’ve been putting Crime and Punishment off for years, along with most of the Russian classics. Maybe they’ll surprise me! 😉

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  2. I used to raid the leftover children’s books in my grandfather’s bookcase and remember reading Little Women, What Katy Did, Black Beauty, Heidi and others. I think these must have come from aunties rather than my uncles. I read my mother’s childhood copy of Seven Little Australians and later really enjoyed the Swallows and Amazons series from the library. An old fashioned story world was a very comfortable one for me in childhood.
    I checked and Justified Sinner didn’t make it on to my list first time round, for some reason, but it has now. I love your reviews of unknown Scottish classics and I’m happy to continue to be influenced by them, thank you!

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    • Heidi and Katy! I’d forgotten all about them. Now you’ve reminded me, I’m pretty sure Heidi must have been my first classic. I remember an uncle gave me a lovely illustrated copy when I was extremely young (wonder what happened to it? I probably filled in all the ‘o’s as I used to do, little vandal that I was!). I was very fond of Heidi as a fictional friend for a while but I fear I dumped her cruelly when Anne of Green Gables came into my life, and have barely given her a thought since!. I was never so keen on the Katy books though after all this time I can’t remember why not now. I think I was a few years older before I came across Swallows and Amazons – maybe too old since they never became as great favourites for me as I know they were for many people.
      I think you’ll enjoy Justified Sinner, having read enough Scottish fiction to understand the context. It’s one of those books I wouldn’t necessarily foist on unsuspecting people, since without some understanding of Scottish culture I think it might be quite “challenging”. Ha, you’re definitely my best market for Scottish classics, and I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed many of them! 😀

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    • Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, I’d forgotten Heidi till Christine mentioned it, but I now think it might well have been my first classic. I fear my friendship with Heidi came to an abrupt end when I dumped her unceremoniously in favour of my new best friend, Anne of Green Gables. 😉

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  3. I love your answers here, FictionFan! Now you’re making me think back to the first classic I read, and the one that influenced me…hmm….perhaps it was Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Then, when I was a bit older, it was Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. I always rather liked Becky Sharp as a character – lots of personality. Anyway, before I go on twittering about my own reading, I really do hope you get to Crime and Punishment; I’ll be very interested in what you think of that one.

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    • Glad you enjoyed the post! For some reason I missed out on Frances Hodgson Burnett completely as a child, and still haven’t read her books. Oh yes, Vanity Fair is a great book, one of the best, although I think I was properly adult before I came across it – probably well into my twenties, I think. I’m looking forward to Crime and Punishment. My track record with Russian novels isn’t great, but that one seems to have a more interesting story than a lot of them. Hopefully I will get to it next year!

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  4. Delightful responses! 😄 A good friend of mine loves Crime and Punishment. I keep telling myself to read it, especially since I have a copy of it on my shelf for some reason. I must have bought it years ago.
    And yes, Colin Firth is my Darcy also. 😄 Though I respect Matthew Macfadyen, especially since he ws in Little Dorrit.

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    • Crime and Punishment does look interesting but my track record with Russian novelists isn’t very good so it may work for me or it may not! I’ve still not seen the Matthew Macfadyen version – for me, Colin Firth IS Darcy, and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role now… 💖

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  5. I love your answers! I enjoyed Earth Abides, so it made me laugh to see it included here in your “hates”. Crime and Punishment is NOT on my list and won’t ever be…. unless you make a really good case for it once you’ve read it. (which is how a few made it to my current list)

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  6. I liked your comment on being “relatively ancient” … because I am also ancient. My problem is I can’t remember many specific books that I read when I was young. Nothing from high school (in Alabama) or college, except The Stranger in French. I remember Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout mysteries from my young teen years, and that is about it.

    I enjoyed your very thoughtful answer on the best classic you have read for the club so far. I hope to do this, but it may take me a while.

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    • Being ancient has advantages though – retirement, wisdom, and all those other things I can’t remember just at this moment… 😉 I read all the time as a kid and yet can only really remember the books that became favourites and got re-read many times. Like you I only remember a couple of the books I read for school.
      I’ll look forward to reading your answers – I found it quite a fun questionnaire to do!

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  7. I struggled through Crime and Punishment in high school, but if you can keep up with all those Russian names, I think you might enjoy it. It’s actually pretty good (though not so good that I intend to read it again, ha!)

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    • Oh, well done! I don’t think we were given any Russian novels in school – probably just as well given how much I’ve always struggled to enjoy them. The names are always a killer – I’ll bear your comment in mind and make sure I have a character list to hand. Thank goodness for Google!

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  8. Great answers! I can’t remember the first classic I read. Does Winnie-the-Pooh count as a classic? It’s one of the first books I can remember reading independently! I also read The Chronicles of Narnia when I was very young, but they wouldn’t have been fifty years old at that point so using your rule they wouldn’t have been classics. Maybe if neither of these counts it would have been The Secret Garden, which was definitely more than fifty years old when I was reading it.

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    • Glad you enjoyed them! Ha, even Winnie wouldn’t have been a classic for me if I’d read it as a young child. As it happens, for some reason I was a good bit older before I read it for the first time – probably late teens. Don’t know why! And The Secret Garden was another one I missed as a child, and still haven’t read! I think I must have spent far too much time reading Enid Blyton… 😀 It always makes me laugh when people talk about books as classics that I read as fairly new releases – like To Kill a Mockingbird! Makes me feel truly ancient… 👵 😉

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      • I reread The Secret Garden during the first lockdown when I was in need of comfort and escape from the confines of my flat, and I thought it held up much better than a lot of children’s books do! Not just nostalgia but a genuinely good book, or so I think.

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        • I’m often tempted to read it and fill the gap, but I don’t have a good track record of getting on with children’s books unless I loved them as a child – I think I need that residual affection to be able to see them as a child would, or something!

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  9. Yes, The Private Memoirs and Confessions is a great book – so unusual and thought-provoking! It was one of my books of the year a few years ago. I’ll have to read it again one day!

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    • It really is a great book, though I think it could easily fit into the “challenging” category for people who don’t have some familiarity with the historical context. I saw that there’s an audiobook version of it which looks good, and think I may “re-read” it via that at some point.

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  10. YES! A CF/Darcy GIF! 😍

    Loved reading this. I think you might have been the inspiration for me joining the Classics Club, so thank you. (I won’t finish my first list on time, but who’s keeping score?) I agree, Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility is sublime. As for my first classic, it was probably Little Women. I wasn’t much for reading classics as a child – but grew to love them over time!

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    • I’m glad you’re enjoying the Classics Club too – it’s fun chatting about books that so many people have read, or want to read! Haha, well, they didn’t punish me for finishing late, so you should be safe! 😉 I didn’t read a lot of classics as a kid either – I was really a huge Enid Blyton fan and probably spent far too much time reading and re-reading them. But Christine reminded me of Heidi, and I now realise that was probably my first classic. I loved Little Women when I read it a few years later, and all the sequels!

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  11. I remember struggling through some of William Faulkner’s books when I was in high school, because we had to write a term paper on classics. A friend of mine chose Dostoevsky. She actually absorbed his books. I muddled through Faulkner’s. I didn’t have the maturity to make sense of any of it, except for how everyone all seemed to be related to each other in a tangle of lives, like my relatives. So I wrote a paper on the family trees. Must have bored my English teacher to tears. My friend, so much more intellectually mature, analyzed class and morality. It wasn’t until I approached Faulkner again in my 40s in a grad school class that I figured out what his work was all about. I may be ready for Dostoevsky now, if I were only a faster reader.

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    • I hated analysing books at school, though I loved reading them, and I still feel they do kids a disservice by expecting them to be able to write interestingly about classics written about societies and cultures they’ve no experience of. I appreciate classics much more as an adult than I ever did as a kid, and I wonder how many kids are so put off in school they never try to read another classic again! So I’m quite glad I was never made to read Dostoevsky – I’m quite sure I’d have hated him back then, but now I’m hopeful I might be able to appreciate him… maybe!

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    • I can’t remember what books we were given in primary school, but I don’t think many of them were classics. It was really in secondary (high) school that classics appeared on the reading lists and I still feel we were too young for them on the whole. I did love Jane Eyre though – can’t remember exactly when I read it first, but maybe around twelve or thirteen.

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  12. This was lovely to read! I had to google the publication dates of Sherlock Holmes, suddenly wondering if you were secretly 100 years old, and learned some were much later than I had imagined.

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  13. Really enjoyable post FF! You’ve reminded me of the classics I loved as a child, the most enduring is definitely The Secret Garden, so nice to see that added in the comments too 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful time with C&P!

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    • Glad you enjoyed it! I wish I’d read The Secret Garden as a child – so many people seem to have such fond memories of it. Anne of Green Gables is the most enduring of mine – she played a huge part in my young life! I’m looking forward to C&P, although with a healthy dollop of apprehension… 😉

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  14. I love that you identify with the Queen from Snow White! So many of these answers made me chuckle, especially reading Dickens books, making you realize you never want to be a writer. I feel the same way, I could never do it! Maybe part of the problem some writers are so bad is because they just aren’t aware of all the better books out there!

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    • Haha, yes, but is it her great beauty or her evil that I identify with?? Bwahahaa!! I do often think that before people decide to become a writer it might be worth their time reading some good books and asking themselves if they really have the talent! But maybe I’m just bitter after the last few years of abandoning new releases… 😉

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    • Oh, yes, Moby Dick is the poster child for the benefits of good editing! The basic story, which is quite good, is buried under masses of utterly tedious digressions. I suspect the whale probably died of boredom before they managed to find him… 😉

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