Name your favourite ‘classic’ book

The newly-formed Classics Club blog, has thrown down its first challenge to all members – name your favourite classic. The definition of ‘classic’ is wide open which makes the choice even more difficult. I feel a bit like a kid looking at the window of a sweet shop ….

But in true Olympic style here are my three medal winners. All chosen on the basis they are novels I feel I can read over and over and still enjoy either because of their powerful sense  of place or because of the brilliance of narrative style

Bronze Medal

A dead heat between Bronte’s Jane Eyre (what a feisty heroine she is)  and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird.  What they have in common is a protagonist who believes in the truth, and is passionate in their defence of those who cannot speak for themselves.

Silver Medal

Goes to Emile Zola’s Germinal, a novel I was introduced to thanks to an Open University course on the nineteenth century novel. It is not an easy read because the subject matter makes for an uncomfortable experience. At times the microscopic detail with which Zola describes the harsh conditions of the miners brings tears to my eyes. The book has a particular resonance for me since I come from a mining family and can imagine my own ancestors and the horrendous conditions they faced daily.

Gold Medal awarded to George Eliot for her masterful novel of provincial life Middlemarch. I’ve read this novel at least six times and every time I find some new dimension or insight. Eliot may have set the novel in a parochial community but her themes range far and wide – from science to idealism and ambition; political reform and education.  Through the interlocking stories of several families she pursues her own humanist beliefs in the interconnectedness of human lives and her interest in Darwinian science. All of which makes it sound as if its a challenge to read and yet it’s possible to read it as a story of different forms of love and there relationship between men and women.

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