I completed 10 of the 12 categories for this year’s Back-to-the-Classics Challenge, hosted by Books and Chocolate.
3. READ. REVIEW, Classic by a Woman Author. The Prime of Miss Jean Broodie, Muriel Sparks, 1961.
4.READ. REVIEW. Classic in Translation. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie.
5. READ. REVIEW. Classic Comic Novel. The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino.
6. READ. REVIEW. Classic Tragic Novel. Ethan Frome, Edith Warthon.
7. READ. REVIEW. Very Long Classic. Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers, 564 PAGES, 1935.
9. READ. REVIEW. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean). The Ambassadors, Henry James.
I can’t pick a favorite. It’s odd, but I loved all these books for different reasons. Not one of them I wish I hadn’t read, and I will easily recommend each and everyone.
The House of Ulloa is a great book in the best naturalism and XIX century Spanish novel tradition. If you like XIX century but have never read any book in the Spanish tradition, you are surely missing. The XIX century is probably the best century for many countries, Spain among them.
The Illustrated Man was amazing. Bradbury has a special place in my heart. He can write short stories. Futuristic, philosophical, vintage nostalgia. He transcends genres for sure.
The Prime of Miss Jean Broodie. My first and I hope not last of Muriel’s titles. Unsettling. A book that keeps your head spinning. It feels like you’re trapped in a spider web, but you want to be there, you want to meet the spider. It’s a peculiar style. Not stream of conscience. Not traditional. Not fully unreliable. Not fully reliable.
And Then There Were None. Comforting. It was the right book at the time. I needed a break. This didn’t disappoint.
The Baron in the Trees. Brilliant concept. There was more humor in the first half of the book. It’s so Italian, pleasantly old school. It has an old book feel. Very different to his other title, If on a Winter Night… It doesn’t read as a modern book, but a legend. It’s part of a trilogy but the three books are also stand alone books. It’s more like he grouped three of his titles that explore three different archetypes. If you see this title, Our Ancestors, that book has these three: The Cloven Viscount, The Baron in the Trees, The Non-Existent Knight. They are published independently and in one book.
Ethan Frome. We all know it’s deeply tragic. If you think Greek tragedy, this is our American tragedy. Those who read it young probably failed to appreciate its beauty. Wharton can write. It’s so short, that it truly merits your time. Wharton reigns supreme. She loves hard. Her characters, the land. There’s something so compelling in this book. It’ll also keep you thinking. It’s a good title to read with company, to comment.
Gaudy Night. Oh, what fun this was! Many love mining her quotes, the references, all the hidden meaning. I just enjoyed it at a first entry level. I know I can come back to this title and keep finding more in it. Definitely, one of her most accomplished titles. If you want to visit Oxford, stay in the women’s dorm, and meet Harriet and Lord Peter, and many more interesting people, in the midst of a mystery, this is your title.
The Death of Ivan Illych. Russian to the bone. A title to contemplate death, God, our existence, and all with that Russian flair that Russian writers possess. Nothing light, only the length. Deep themes contemplated in this book, but rooted in the old values tradition.
The Ambassadors. I’m not sure my opinion is transferable. Reading it in Spanish may have helped me lots. I believe the translator had to make an effort to retain meaning, or even to inject it. I mean that I may have stepped on the translator’s shoulders, which helped. And even if he left the sentences as long and heavy as Henry James wrote them, the Spanish grammar may have helped me draw meaning, and my skill in my mother tongue probably resulted in a difficult but satisfying reading. It didn’t drive me to frustration, but always kept me challenged. It left me with a profound admiration and the desire to read this again, or go for another of his last period titles.
Maybe all this, or the fact that I didn’t expect to understand what I read at all times. His paragraphs are meant to confuse us if we try to extract too much. However, the whole will come to have a meaning, and maybe each reader will construct a different meaning, or possibly we will come to different impressions or conclusions each time we read the book.
Cry, The Beloved Country. Although a book of its time, of course, and at places too sensationalist, it rang true and it educated while not moralizing. Paton’s love for Africa and humankind is timeless. The book is very compelling.