Classics Club: November Meme

This month's discussion question at the Classics Club is:

What classic piece of literature most intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?)

I'm getting less intimidated all the time, and I'd say that's partly because of the Classics Club.  A lot of my reading this year (overall, not just CC reading) has made me get more selective and purposeful about what I read.   I've gotten to read some wonderful classic-type books that I once would have made less of a priority and then failed to actually read.

However, there are still plenty of classics to be scared of.  All of mine are long.  I like the instant gratification of books that are shorter than 500 pages long, and tend to get distracted over the long haul, and the next thing I know I've forgotten what's going on and I quit.  So:

Anna Karenina, which I really really want to read.  And then War and Peace
A Suitable Boy.
Anything by Henry James or Thomas Hardy.
Nearly anything by Solzhenitsyn.
Less intimidating but still a bit: The Good Soldier Svejk and Quo Vadis.

So scary I haven't even put them on my list:
The Count of Monte Cristo
Les Miserables
Remembrance of Things Past

Wait a minute, those are all French works.  Does that mean I'm more scared of French literature than of Russian literature??  That seems a little odd, but it's true that Madame Bovary is practically all the French literature I've read...that was written after 1500 anyway.  Surely if I can read The Romance of the Rose I can read The Count of Monte Cristo?

I may have to give myself a chunkster challenge next year specifically for these books!  I'm collecting quite a pile.  I do want to read them quite a bit, but the amount of reading time I have is far less than the amount I want to read.


  1. hi Jean! 2 books on your scary list are my top favorites - The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables. i hope you get to read them soon.

  2. Have you read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms yet? That's basically the only classic I've read since High School, but I really liked it. I did cheat and read the abridged version, but it was still a heafty thousand pages or so.

  3. My sister also loves both those books, Ao. I'll get there...

    Jim, I haven't even seen a copy. And yes, I think the abridged version will be in order!

  4. I find all Russian authors to be scary. Even the translation seems to have different diction compared with French or Italian writers. I've read Ivan and it's good, but I have to think twice before reading Anna. It's just so huge.

    Monte Cristo and Les Mis are must-reads. I didn't realise Monte Cristo would be that long when I first read it, but it turned out to be exciting and fun. Certainly one of my favourites. Les Miserables is full of deep contemplation about our actions towards others. I'm at the 4th volume and I've been enjoying it.

    Good luck on those.

  5. I'm a fan of The Good Soldier Svejk, I first read it in my teens because the old yellow cover edition caught my eye while I was browsing in a library one day. It's funny, quirky and dark round the edges but there's nothing hard about it at all. It's satire but it's not satire you need huge amounts of background reading to 'get'. :)

  6. I think ILL'd the 3 kingdoms from a UC.

  7. The Count of Monte Cristo is fabulous! I've read it twice and it is swashbuckling and fast paced. Don't be intimidated!

  8. Hi, Jean,
    Funny you should mention Thomas Hardy b/c he's next on my TWEM list - The Return of the Native. I've never heard of him or this title before, so now you make me wonder what I'm in for. I look forward to starting it very soon.

    An Experiment With the Well-Educated Mind

  9. Russian classic lit is scary to me. I've long given up on War and Peace but I hope to take it up again in the future perhaps when I will be less intimidated by it. Les Miserables and Count of Monte Cristo are great reads.

  10. Being French Literature, Dumas' language is not intimidating at all. You should get on Monte Cristo, the story is too engaging that you will keep reading till the end and forget that it was intimidating at first! :)

    War and Peace is intimidating for me too (most of Russian works are), especially because you will get confused by the names of the characters. I have read Doctor Zhivago early this year, and I did not get all of it.

    Quo Vadis is a great book, you must try it, it's really touching and emotional.

  11. Hi Jean, I totally understand why Proust can be intimidating. But if you get past the first volume, you'll get the hang of it and the rest will be comprehensible enough. It's just too beautiful to be left unread.

    A Suitable Boy is wonderful, too. Funny and so brilliant.

  12. I predict you will love The Count of Monte Cristo so much you won't even notice the length!

  13. Les Mis is so worth it. I promise.

  14. Gah! Now I want to read all of them at once!! :) Thanks everybody!

  15. Definitely the lengthy tomes that are daunting because of the time commitment. Not Thomas Hardy though - I really like his work.

  16. I am actually looking forward to reading Anna Karenina and The Count of Motne Cristo the latter becasue I have read the abridged version in the past and the former because I have read so much about it.

  17. Les Miserables is one of my all-time favorite books. You shouldn't let it intimidate you! Just take it a little at a time! The Count of Monte Cristo is also fantastic. :)

    My November Meme is here

  18. Hm, I guess I ought to read the Count sometime! I actually know about as little as it is possible to know about Les Miserables. I've never seen the musical, never read the book...I know it's about the French Revolution, it has lots of digressions, and there's a knitting lady. Sometime!

  19. If only I could read everything at once...


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