There are times when we recommend books to read, this book or those books. There are times when we recommend classics to read. However, this is the first time, perhaps, we are suggesting that there are some books (in the classics series) that you might not finish in one go… or, perhaps, never finish wilfully and would rather read them only reluctantly or by compulsion of your academic needs. Don’t believe it? Read the names that appear below and share your experience with these titles in the comments section. Let’s get it started!
War and Peace: Touted as one of the best novels ever written by any novelist, War and Peace runs over 1200 pages and it has many-many characters. Prescribed in many syllabuses worldwide, the novel is popular in the academic circles or among the literary scholars who are studying or teaching literature. However, among general readers of the day, the novel mostly remains as an antique ‘peace’ that’s making no noise on the side-stand of a library. I tried reading it several times and could not go beyond 50-60 pages in several lots. And the novel still remains an enigma to me. Have you read it? Will you read it? Have you abandoned it without finishing? Do share your response.
Tristram Shandy: Also known as The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, this novel by Laurence Sterne is full of miseries of novelist’s first-hand or raw experiences, opinions, ideas and thoughts. However, the novel has come up the same – it lacks the juice that might make a reader glue to the oozing sweetness or sour taste of the fiction. I challenge any modern reader to finish it wilfully and I will change my opinion about it. Do you dare confronting pages with perplexing emptiness or symbols you cannot decipher? Go for this one and let me know your experience.
David Copperfield: Written by Charles Dickens, the famous British novelist, David Copperfield is a novel that has been very popular among students and teachers of literature. However, beyond this strictly defined circle, the novel’s title makes its presence felt on the pages of general knowledge books only… it is because the novel does not have appeal that could contain the aspirations of modern readers of fiction. It might be controversial to say this in a gathering of scholars of literature but this is what seems to be true. Try reading this voluminous novel in one go or even in 5-6 sittings. You will lose your interest, eventually. The age-old tale of a twisted fate… does it appeal to you?
The Portrait of a Lady: A novel by Henry James, a famous American novelist, is generally regarded as a literary masterpiece. However, like all others on this list, this novel does not appear to be famous among the readers of the day (might be because of their changed taste or otherwise). The novel is feministic as scrutinised by many critics and also supports a transition from traditional themes to modern themes in literature of the US. However, in spite of its massive literary fame, the novel cannot lure the readers of the day because it is too traditional in terms of approach, language and style – not to talk of events. Over 500 pages in length, are you up for this American challenge?
Middlemarch: A novel written by George Eliot, whose real name by Mary Anne Evans, a British lady, like many other classic novels, is something that appeals to a section of readers who are into studying literature in its historical context. The main reason that this long novel cannot hold the attention of modern readers for long is its disoriented plot. There are many central characters and all are disconnected but somehow packed in one box… and the readers who love reading modern novels might find themselves perplexed and disillusioned soon enough. So, are you ready to get yourself in the early 19th century? Take this Victorian Challenge…
This was the list for the day and I am sure you will love turning a few pages just to test your taste. All the best!
List by a contributor for Indian Book Critics
I absolutely loved Middlemarch, but I listened to the audiobook, performed by one of the most magnificent voices/actresses in England: Juliet Stevenson. She performed a certain scene with six different male characters and you could easily keep track of who was who by her very credible and consistent vocalizations.
I thought the writing was superb–beyond words (my words anyway). The story was realistic, funny, engrossing, and caused me considerable personal reflection. It is totally worth the time and it did a fair amount to improve my vocabulary!
Middlemarch has been described as the only English novel purely written for adults. (But that may explain why so many dislike it . . . they force poor students to read it before they can relate and appreciate it :))