The Classics

The Classics

If you’ve read Dear Mr. Knightley or Lizzy & Jane, you know I keep returning to these beloved favorites and, from the title alone, photo IMG_4286you can tell The Bronte Plot will be no different. The Classics have me hooked.

When asked about this, it’s usually assumed that I studied literature in school and come to this adoration with a very firm scholarly backing. Let me be very clear – I don’t. I approach the Classics (note that reverent capital “C”) with a writer’s interest and a reader’s adoration. And, I think, one of the reasons that I love them is because, not only are they beautifully written, but 100, 200, 300 years later, they still speak to us. We use them in our daily conversations (at least I do); they form our world views and feel as real to us often as our own friends and family. These books, that have stood the test of time and touch upon emotions, motivations, issues and eternal concerns that are still alive and relevant.

For example:

I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit.

Austen penned that for Darcy, but doesn’t she also capture the universality of men, gentleman, parenting and discipline? Goodness, I’m now looking at my own son and hope against hope I’m getting it right.

And, while we may think of these stories within the historical fiction genre, they were often cutting-edge contemporary novels at publication, breaking new literary ground and digging into issues previously untouched – pushing the boundaries of storytelling, setting and character. In fact, Jane Eyre is credited for single-handedly ushering in the more emotional, character-focused novel. Today we call it “literary fiction.”

I firmly believe these novels still have much in them to delight us and tell us… Here are three that I’ve been enjoying lately:

IMG_1743Bram Stoker’s Dracula. How did this one ever pass by my radar? I finally dug into it a few months ago and loved it! It’s incredibly creepy and I love that a book written in 1897 can still make my skin crawl. Death and decay seeped into every page and my dreams. Wow!

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. This is an absolute favorite of mine and it plays a large role in my next novel. Bronte fashioned a fascinating character in Jane – so much change, passion and vulnerability. And the scope of the novel reaches farther than that – you see social movement, British imperialism, changing thoughts on religion and justice all within the pages. And, for me, a great attraction is Bronte’s strong and symbolic secondary characters, such as Rochester and St. John.

Jane Austen’s Persuasion. It has to be mentioned – not only because this is “Austen Authors,” but because this book is never far from me. It is my all-time favorite novel (and Lizzy’s favorite in Lizzy & Jane –not a coincidence.) And in this quiet story, Austen is brilliant at laying out huge character struggles in her own understated way and often within a single line.IMG_1742

“I cannot possibly do without Anne,” was Mary’s reasoning; and Elizabeth’s reply was, “Then I am sure Anne had better say, for nobody will want her in Bath.”

Anne, the main character and the middle sister, is caught between the whims of the married younger sister and the domineering older. She has no say, no means and no ability to carry out her own will and you can feel her simultaneously yanked and pushed all way to whiny Mary’s side. Throughout the whole novel, there is such pressure on her that I keep revisiting her journey to discern how Austen made me feel all Anne’s constraints, desires and tensions without spoon-feeding it to me. Brilliant.

So what are some of your favorites? I’d love to know what you think and what’s on your bedside table these days…

Thanks for stopping by!


9 Responses to The Classics

  1. Great post! The Classics definitely still speak to me. Pride and Prejudice is never far and I reread parts of it dozens of times with each draft I write. I’m reading an original unpublished sci-fi by a friend. It’s not at all the thing that I would even look at, simply because of it’s label, but this story doesn’t feel sci-fi at all. It feels like literary fiction, is still set on planet earth and only about 100 years in the future. She has plans to send it to agents soon and I hope she gets good news on it! I’ve also started The Falmouth Connection by Joana Starnes. I need my real life to calm down for me to read more. It’s not like me to go this long between reading (or at least completing a book) and I’ve been trying to fit both of these in for a few weeks now!

  2. I had to read Jane Eyre for required summer reading in Junior HS and then re-read it 8 times. I “discovered” JA upon viewing the 1995 P&P movie and then had to read the book. I have not read Dracula but have it on my kindle. You can download classics for free at http[colon][backslash][backslash]www[dot]ourfavouritebooks[dot]com[backslash] I have Kara Louise’s Assumed Obligations on my nightstand.

  3. Absolutely agree, they remain classics because they still speak to us. Sometimes the writing is so fresh you’d think it was written today. And sometimes something written that seems dated you realize is still valid today. Discovering Austen changed my writing for the better, I know.

  4. I love the classics though I hardly have time to read them anymore. Still, all in all, Jane Austen’s are my ‘go to’ inspirations. Thanks for sharing yours with us.

  5. I read Jane Eyre in high school and DH just happened upon it and is reading it now. I have a few facorites besides Jane Austen in Alexander Dumas and Baroness Orczy. Right now I am reading P O Dixon’s Everything Will Change, Sarah Johnson’s Whispered Kisses, The Darcy Brothers, & Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer’s So Odd a Mixture.

  6. I agree with your 3 favorites here! Persuasion is my all time favorite Austen. I wish more JAFF were written about Anne and all the characters! I’d love a story of how her parents came together! Dracula is also a favorite, for the unending love he carried even through the bloody battlefield and beyond her grave. I find it fascinating!
    Jane Ayre is a great story and I love the way it is written as well. I also appreciate a good Stephen King now and again! Or David Baldacci! I truly enjoy legal thrillers as well. I’m just so happy I am alive now and don’t have to run to the lending library every time I finish a book. My poor legs would be so tired! 😀
    Thank you for a great article!

  7. I too love the Classics. Just for a lark I bought the manga classic version of P&P. Well, it really wasn’t my cup of tea after all, and my son resold it on Amazon. What’s on the side of the bed right now? Well I got hooked back into Karen Cox’s 1932 and there also two newbies by Joy Dawn King and P.O. Dixon. Why is it I NEVER get tired of JAFF, my modern Classic. ~Jen Red~

  8. I haven’t read Bram Stoker yet but Bronte is one of my favorite classics and of course Dear Jane is precious. Thank you for a lovely post Katherine.

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