Classics are a ‘genre’, if one can call it that, which I enjoy reading very much. I remember when I first started consciously picking up classics (full versions) around when I was in college, I used to find them (or perhaps myself) moving a lot slower than when I was reading, say, mysteries or popular fiction. But once I read through a few, I found most moved almost as well as more ‘modern’ works. I started with Jane Austen, Dickens, and the Brontes, and have since read many more, ‘discovered’ authors like Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, and Wilkie Collins, whose books I’ve enjoyed as well as lesser known (to me at least) ones like Mrs Oliphant, whose works I’m also really enjoying.
I will at some point write about favourites and favourite authors, but this post is about ones (books, not authors) that I really didn’t enjoy when I read them. These are all books I’ve read only once. Some of these I read quite a long time ago (so all my impressions are from memory alone), and perhaps might give another shot to, but on first reading them, they certainly did not work for me. So here goes.
Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore is one of the classic works that I picked up when I first started really reading classics, so this could be one reason for not liking it so much. This is the story of John Ridd who has sworn to avenge his father’s death, but then meets and falls in love with Lorna Doone who is one of the ‘enemy’ and also to marry one. I don’t remember any of the details of the book now, but what I do remember is that I found this one very hard to get into, and while I did read all the way to the end, I didn’t find it particularly absorbing.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Before I say anything about this one, I’d like to say that I love Dickens’ books in general–I enjoy his storytelling and his characters, and have many many favourites among his works (I even like Barnaby Rudge, which many of my bookish friends don’t). But this one was a different story. This is the story of a young orphan Pip, whose life changes when he encounters a convict in his village. Pip is a very human character, with several flaws and failings that I could understand, even identify with, but I still couldn’t like him one bit, nor feel any sympathy for him or many of the others in the book, and so it wasn’t a book I ended up liking very much.
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling by Henry Fielding, is the story of the titular Tom, who is brought up by Squire Allworthy, and is in love with Sophia Western, a neighbouring squire’s daughter. This is a picaresque novel which is a parody, with much humour, but I somehow just couldn’t get into the book (though I did read it all the way through) nor did I find the humour very appealing.
Staying with humorous titles, next I have Augustus Carp, Esq by Sir Henry Bashford. This is also a satire of sorts, with Carp finding faults with everyone he encounters. I only came across this one since it was mentioned in the Guardian‘s list of a thousand books everyone should read. This wasn’t a bad read as such but quite a bit of the humour was crass and not to my taste at all.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain–I enjoyed Tm Sawyer and found it great fun. Huck Finn deals with perhaps more serious themes as Huck travels down the Mississippi river with a runaway ‘slave’. When I first read the book, I felt as though nothing much seemed to happen in it, which is why it seemed to me to simply drag on.
The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence, which tells the story of three generations of the Brangwen family, deals with many controversial themes and taboo (for their day) subjects but this one I couldn’t get into at all. I don’t think I read more than a few pages before putting it away.
And finally, a book that is classed as a classic, though much more modern compared to those I’ve mentioned earlier on this list, The Magus by John Fowles. This is the story of a young Englishman who takes up a teaching post on a remote Greek Island, and finds himself mixed up with a mysterious man who lives there. He is drawn into a psychological game of attraction and danger. While the plot was really intriguing and had plenty of twists and turns, this was a book I did not enjoy at all. It never seemed to pick up pace no matter what happened, and however much I read, I seemed to make no progress at all. I read it to the end, but mostly because it was a group read and I was leading the discussion. But otherwise, a really frustrating read, which I would never have finished.
So these were a few classics that I really didn’t like or which I couldn’t get interested enough in. Do you enjoy reading classics? Which ones have you read that you found you didn’t enjoy or could’t get into? Looking forward to hearing about them!