The Orchid

The Orchid

Monday, 25 February 2013

From Darcy to Heathcliff

I have a confession to make—on my Kindle, amongst the bestsellers, new releases, popular romances and strange stories I downloaded simply because they were free, are a selection of books in plain covers. These books didn’t cost me any money either and they are, in the main, quite brilliant. They are also bestsellers, but their authors won’t see a penny of income from them anymore.

Yes, I’m talking about the classics. That huge, diverse range of books that we’re still reading hundreds of years after the writer’s death.

Now, I have two views on these books:

1) They shouldn’t be called classics.
2) They aren’t all good.

Why shouldn’t they be called classics? Personally I believe this title makes people think the books will be difficult to read. It also puts novels of completely different genre’s into one big pool. On a modern bookshop, horror, romance, detective and fantasy books would never be piled on the same shelf, yet in my local shop, Sherlock Holmes sits quite happily next to Elizabeth Bennet, even though he never would have admired her fine eyes.

Not all classics are equal; some have dated more than others, or are dry and hard to read. The dull set books at school have put many people off reading the classics, when in fact there is a huge range of amusing, fantastical, emotional and thought-provoking novels, which have been best sellers for centuries.

Jane Austen’s books are witty, with brilliant characters and light to read. Mansfield Park has dated, but the rest, especially Pride and Prejudice, are wonderful. If you like Chick-Lit, try some with Regency style. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is a powerful masterpiece, but it’s not an easy read; a dark tale of obsessive love, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

If you fancy a warming read on a cold day, I recommend Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith, which is a wonderful tale of the fictional Mr. Pooter, set in late Victorian London.

For detective fans, the Sherlock Holmes originals by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, are a personal favourite. Mainly short stories, the longer novels such as the Hound of the Baskervilles and A Study in Scarlet stay in the imagination long after the last page has been turned. 

And finally for fans of fear, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, still sends a shiver down the spine. The description of the Count climbing down the outside wall of the castle is terrifying. A Victorian gothic horror, it has wonderful characters and settings, although I will admit that the ending does slightly disappoint.

And finally, for sci-fi and fantasy readers, there is Jules Verne. My favourites are Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The latter in particular has fantastic descriptions of life under the ocean waves.

Everyone will have their own opinions of the classics, and their own favourites. The one I love best is Villette by Charlotte Bonte, but this is a post on relaxing books and Villette needs to be read with a French dictionary beside you.

And now it’s time to put my feet up, make a cup of tea, and settle down with Mr. Darcy, or Pooter, or Sherlock....but not Heathcliff, I need courage to face Heathcliff. 


  1. My favourite 'classic' is Wuthering Heights. I read it for the first time at university and I couldn't sleep for thinking about it! I love the idea of Sherlock Holmes up on the shelf admiring Elizabeth Bennet's fine eyes - great post! :-)

  2. You make some excellent points Lucy. I think you're absolutely right about not lumping all these wonderfully diverse books under one arbitrary heading, it can be really off-putting.

    I haven't' read Diary of a Nobody, but it's on my tbr list now.

    Great post!

  3. Wuthering heights is very good, strangely I first read it when I was ten, but didn't understand it at all. (I must have been very bored to have read it in the 1st place!) When I returned to it as an adult, I could appreciate its qualities.

    Glad you liked the post Christy, Diary of a Nobody is a light-hearted fun read, and a brilliant depiction of life in Victorian London.

  4. Hi Lucy, I haven't downloaded any classics to my kindle yet, although I have one friend who's set himself the aim of reading only free classics on his. Hmn!
    I have read a lot of the classics, also the American ones like Faulkner as I studied Am Lit at uni, but your post has made me think I will download a few before the next trip away. There's a sort of anticipation of pleasure just in reading a few of the titles you mention. Anne

  5. To my shame I haven't read many of the classics but am attempting to put that right via my Kindle. I've done Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind (is that a classic?). Both took me a while to 'get into' but when I did they were worth it.

    1. Gone with the Wind is certainly a classic, and so large it probably counts as two! If you liked Gone with the Wind, a modern version is Philippa Gregory's Wideacre series, you might have already read it, but Beatrice Lacey would scare the petticoats even off Scarlett O'Hara.