Victorians! discussion

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General Chat > So what Victorian novel is everyone reading at the moment?

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message 1: by Darcy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:10PM) (new)

Darcy | 235 comments Nope, I haven't read either of them. I keep meaning to get around to Edith Wharton . . . I read Ethan Frome a long time ago, in high school, and I didn't take to it, so I've never tried any of her novels. Any Wharton favorites among the group? I'm willing to give her another try!


message 2: by Inder (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Inder | 27 comments I've only read The Age of Innocence, but I loved it. The movie is good too, but doesn't do her narration justice - she is so witty, funny, and biting! Ethan Frome always sounded like a downer, but I'm open-minded.


message 3: by Inder (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Inder | 27 comments Right now, I'm rereading George Eliot's "Adam Bede," very slowly and between other books. Next on my list: either "North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell, or "The Eustace Diamonds" by Anthony Trollope. Any thoughts on these?

I find it comforting that no matter what happens in my life, there will always be more Victorian novels to read.


message 4: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Laura That's the best part of Victorian literature - it's so reliable! I'm ashamed to admit, though, that I haven't read any of those - Adam Bede, North and South, or The Eustace Diamonds - but they're on my to-read list, and I'll be curious to know what you think!

I've had to take a break from my pleasure reading due to school, but once finals are over, I'll be finishing Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White and H.G. Wells's The First Men in the Moon. . . . Any other H.G. Wells fans out there?


message 5: by Darcy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Darcy | 235 comments "North and South" is a great novel--I think Gaskell is kind of underrated as a Victorian novelist. "Mary Barton" is also quite good, but for a really fun, enchanting read try "Cranford." The opening chapter alone is worth it--the very dry and yet sympathetic narrator is wonderful.

Actually, I think "The Eustace Diamonds" is my favorite Trollope novel, but I really struggled through "Barchester Towers" and I never finished "The Warden." "Diamonds" is supposedly a detective novel, but really it is more about Lady Eustace and social ambition.

I haven't read any Wells--I hear the one to start with is "The Time Machine." Or do you have another favorite, Laura?


message 6: by Inder (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Inder | 27 comments I agree 100% with Darcy - Gaskell is the best kept secret of Victorian literature. Apparently she was almost as popular as Dickens back in the day, but somehow she has been lost in posterity. Which is too bad, in my mind.

I loved The Woman in White, although I loved The Moonstone even more. Supposedly the latter is one of the first detective novels? That's what the intro says, but maybe Eustace Diamonds was earlier?

For fun Trollope, I really recommend The Way We Live Now (and the BBC version is awesome - that goes on a different post). It's funny, engaging, and bitter and has both the most despicable bad guys and most sympathetic bad guys I've ever enountered in fiction. I'm also really enjoying the Palliser Series, but I admit to skimming some of the more detailed politics talk.


message 7: by Inder (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Inder | 27 comments Also, I've started reading "David Copperfield" outloud to my husband before bed. I think he's mightily trying to resist falling asleep, but I'm hooked.

After I finish for the evening, I always want to say "Goodnight, you princes of Maine, you Kings of New England," from Cider House Rules (the only book by John Irving I like). In my case, this would be addressed at my husband and dogs? Rescued pooches are kind of like orphans, I guess.


message 8: by Gail (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Gail Oh, I love that...it would be great to call my husband "a prince of Maine", since he was born and raised there and it had a formative effect on his life.
Right now I'm reading "Jane Eyre", because I'd like to start the Thursday Next series as a light breather and thought maybe the background knowledge would be useful. I just finished "Oliver Twist", which was pretty disappointing. I remember really, really liking it at...ohhh...age 10, maybe. Now I thought it was a bit boring; the characters didn't develop, the plot was silly and predictable, the humor slim. Kind of a shame. I've lots of Vic. Lit. to choose from, though, as I've a vast collection here at home. Let me know how you like "Summer", as I've got it in a double edition with some other work of hers that temporarily escapes me. I loved both "The Age of Innocence" and "The House of Mirth", although maybe loved isn't the right word. They're awfully sad but awfully well-written. I guess I did love them after all.


message 9: by Darcy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Darcy | 235 comments I think you can love with sad books ;) I'm in love with Anna Karenina, which is a really depressing novel in a lot of ways.

Reading Jane Eyre is definitely a good idea, before starting the Thursday Next series. The Eyre Affair is really clever in how it rewrites Jane Eyre.


Guess I'll start with The House of Mirth. Sounds like a cheerful holiday read . . . ;)


message 10: by Darcy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Darcy | 235 comments The Moonstone is a bit before The Eustace Diamonds, I think--maybe five years earlier? Lady Audley's Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, is even earlier, but all three are definitely very early detective fiction. Kind of funny--in contemporary detective novels, the detective is a hero figure, but in Victorian detective novels the detective is usually seen as intrusive, invasive, and ungentelmanly (since he spies on people's secretes). I wonder when that began to change. Or when the first female detective showed up?

I agree, Inder, The Way We Live Now is a great novel. I'd forgotten about that one. Has anyone read Can You Forgive Her? I'm thinking about giving it a try, but I'm hesitant with Trollope because I have a hard time getting interested in some of his novels.


message 11: by Inder (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Inder | 27 comments Well, I loved "Can You Forgive Her?"! Enjoyed every Trollope-filled-20 minute-BART-ride, seriously. It's the first of the Palliser series - Trollope's political novels - but he breaks you in gently, slowly familiarizing you with parliamentary procedure, etc. I haven't read the slower Trollope that you had trouble with, so I can only speak for what I know. From what you've written so far, I think you'll like this one.

For some reason, it never occurred to me that the "Moonstone" came before "Eustace Diamonds" but that explains a lot. Oooh, I can't decide which to read first, "North and South," or "The Eustace Diamonds." They both sound absolutely wonderful.


message 12: by Inder (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Inder | 27 comments After you've read "Can You Forgive Her," you have to tell me: Would you have a beer (or other tasty beverage) with Lady Glencora? Cuz I would. Too bad she is fictional (and long-dead).


message 13: by Inder (new)

Inder | 27 comments Becky - Hey, I think we've all been there. Maybe our next post should be "Hottest Characters in Costume Dramas based on Victorian Novels," or maybe just "Hottest Characters in Victorian Fiction," because for me, imaginary people are often even hotter than real life people! For example, I thought Roger Hamley's character in Wives and Daughters was positively smoking - I have a soft spot for the naturalist, rugged type!


message 14: by Darcy (new)

Darcy | 235 comments Do you think some authors are better than others at creating attractive male characters? Wilkie Collins doesn't do it to me, and neither does Dickens, I think. Maybe Gaskell is just good at it, cause I agree with you, Becky--John Thornton's a great protagonist.


message 15: by Inder (new)

Inder | 27 comments Though I'm not sure I'll ever forgive Roger for going for sex goddess Cynthia first, rather than sweet, devoted, homely Molly. Idiot!

Perhaps Women writers have better male characters - Jane Austen, obviously (Darcy is practically a cult phenomenon these days). George Eliot (I'm in love with Adam Bede, but even more in love with the women in her books).

But I really, really liked Paul Montague in The Way We Live Now - he's passionate about his work and has a mysterious past, always appealing in a man. But Trollope had an amazing eye for character, both male and female. Phineas Finn is such a cutie! Sure, he's a bit of a woman's man, but I could forgive him for that.

And I'll never get over my crush on Gabriel Oak in Far From the Madding Crowd. Bathsheba didn't deserve him!


message 16: by Darcy (new)

Darcy | 235 comments awww, you didn't love Diggory Venn? A dyed-red man who haunts the heath and gambles by the light of glowworms? I love "Native"--it is one of my favorite novels. The description of the heath in the first chapter is so devastating.


message 17: by Darcy (new)

Darcy | 235 comments Hardy originally had a different ending (I think some editions of the books don't mention this?). Thomasin never rewed and Diggory eventually disappeared. Hardy changed it because of public pressure--the novel was originally issued in illustrated monthly parts and so he was receiving fan mail, reviews, etc., while it was being written and published.

I agree with you--Diggory is much more interesting when he's red, and it seems fitting (given his profession) that he should simply melt off in the same way that reddlemen eventually did.


message 18: by Anna (new)

Anna I've recently come off a Trollope kick, in which I read all of the Palliser novels and The Way We Live Now. Now I'm on to Henry James for a while: just read Roderick Hudson, and now I'm moving on to The American. Anyone else reading Henry James these days?


message 19: by Bettie☯ (new)

Bettie☯ My open book is The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule where there are swathes of text about the Victorians quest to find Ultima Thule but I would not recommend this book to anyone as it is a drag. Burton's own writing on his journey to Iceland would probably be a good read if I can pin it down.




message 20: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia If you haven't read a lot of Trollope, you might want to start with something other than Eustace Diamonds. It seems like it's going to be a fun book, but it seems to turn off from Trollope everyone I know who's read it as their first novel by him. My first Trollope was Orley Farm, which I loved.


message 21: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Sorry, I popped that comment in without reading all the posts! Haven't quite got the hang of "groups" yet. : )
People do say Wilkie Collins wrote the first English detective novel, with the moonstone (I think Poe's Rue Morgue was the first European detective novel). I don't remember Eustace Diamond being a detective novel so much it's more like reading Vanity Fair, about a scheming social climber. The diamonds aren't really LOST or stolen, it's more a question really of how to rip them out of her hot little hands.
I always worry when people start with The Warden, just because it's the first in the series; if I'd started with the Warden, I don't think I would have read any other Trollope's.
Can you forgive her (and forgive me for commenting on old posts!) had nice characters and all but I did find her a little annoying; she was a bit TOO much of a repressed honor-bound Victorian.


message 22: by Seena (new)

Seena | 7 comments I'm reading "Portrait of a Lady". So far, I like it, although it's a little densely written.... but that's James- lots of words to work your way through!


message 23: by Anna (new)

Anna I didn't much like The Eustace Diamonds, either - none of the characters were very endearing. And I agree about Can You Forgive Her - it made me think that Trollope wasn't much of a progressive. Phineas Finn changed my mind.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) | 630 comments Well, I'm not reading a Victorian novel, but I am reading some 19th century history - David McCullough's The Great Bridge, which is about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Very good so far.


message 25: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia This isn't a novel but I'd like to recommend, to anyone who hasn't read it yet, Daniel Pool's WONDERFUl guide to Victorian literature: "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist—The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England." It's easy to use and he thoroughly and entertainingly explains subtle stuff like who goes in first to dinner, and why the oldest sister is Miss Bennet and the second oldest is Miss Elizabeth. And it's broken up by topic so you don't have to read the whole thing (although you can), you can just look stuff up as you need it.


message 26: by Bettie☯ (new)

Bettie☯ that's lovely. My husband reads to me when I take my evening bath - we try to make it Nathaniel Hawthorne short stories.


message 27: by Seena (new)

Seena | 7 comments Some of my Wharton recent favorites are: The Mother's Recompense, Summer, and The Custom of the Country. Summer is, as far as I know, her only other novel about "country folk" (along with Ethan Frome). Summer is a terrific book, full of controversy, great characters, the questioning of sexual mores, and of the rightful place of women in (Wharton's) modern society in general. The other two books I mentioned are about the wealthy. Both are beautifully written- I especially liked "The Mother's Recompense".


message 28: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (wwwtiggeriffic81hotmailcom) | 2 comments Im studying a course at univeristy just now called Victorian Literature and Culture. The book im reading right now is Adam Bed by George Eliot. Next week im reading Tess if the D'Urbervilles. Anyone read these??


message 29: by Laura (new)

Laura | 45 comments I read Tess some years ago and I love it, I hope you will enjoy it also.


message 30: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 19 comments I've read Tess several times and loved it. Less enthused about Adam Bede though I know I need to give it another shot


message 31: by Darcy (new)

Darcy | 235 comments Tess is wonderful, if pretty depressing. Hopefully you'll like it!




message 32: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (wwwtiggeriffic81hotmailcom) | 2 comments Yeah im finding Adam Bede a very hard read, its takin me ages to read. Apparently it gets better after the first 200 pages!! Im still waitin!!!


message 33: by Seena (new)

Seena | 7 comments I read Middlemarch about a year ago, which I think is a masterpiece, but very long and occasonally dense. Also, Eliot puts those little poems or quotes at the beginning of most chapters, some of which are good, but they tend to interrupt the flow of the book.

I recently listened to the audiobook of Middlemarch, which I found helped my understanding of the book greatly! I will probably do this more in the future with classic literature: first read the actual book, and then listen to it!

Check out librivox.org for free audiobooks that you can listen to on your ipod or on your computer.




message 34: by Bettie☯ (new)

Bettie☯ Barnaby Rudge and it is a brilliant read.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) | 630 comments My parents named one of our dogs "Barnaby Rudge." A very distinguished name for a basset hound!

I wonder if we have it around the house...


message 36: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 19, 2009 06:09PM) (new)

Nickolas Nickleby for me. I'm coming off a Great Expectations high, so I'm hoping to recapture that feeling again.


message 37: by Gayla (new)

Gayla Bassham (Sophronisba) | 1 comments Oh, Nicholas Nickleby is so much fun. It starts a little slow, but there are some really hilarious scenes.

I'm still reading Dickens's Christmas books--I'm done with A Christmas Carol and about 2/3 of the way through The Chimes, and then it's on to The Cricket on the Hearth.


message 38: by Laura (new)

Laura | 45 comments I just finished And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, a kind of Victorian mystery. I enjoyed pretty much.


message 39: by Misfit (new)

Misfit I love Eliot, especially Middlemarch. Mill on the Floss isn't too shabby either. A lesser known author is Margaret Oliphant. I've read Hester and Miss Marjoriebanks and enjoyed them both.


message 40: by Libbeth (last edited Mar 25, 2009 04:15AM) (new)

Libbeth (franacropan) | 2 comments Cynthia wrote: "This isn't a novel but I'd like to recommend, to anyone who hasn't read it yet, Daniel Pool's WONDERFUl guide to Victorian literature: "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunti..."
Thanks for that, looking for it now....found it at the library...whoopee




message 41: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 100 comments Seena has made me want to read "Summer" by Wharton. I read "Custom of the Country last fall and really liked it although I wasn't sure I really understood what she was getting at with the heroine. I'd like to read Wharton's recent biography (by Hermione someone?) but just looking at the length put me off a a bit.



message 42: by The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) (last edited Mar 26, 2009 10:32AM) (new)

The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 869 comments I am reading Villette at the moment. It seems to be taking me forever but I am enjoying it so much and I don't think the classics are meant to be rushed, I find I want to savour them.

Jane Eyre is perhaps my all time favourite book so Villette has a lot to live up to but I'm engrossed in it now.


message 43: by Susan (new)

Susan (boswellbaxter) | 12 comments I actually prefer Villette to Jane Eyre, though I'm very fond of both books.


message 44: by Misfit (new)

Misfit I really liked Villette but its very different from Jane Eyre. Very much a book to be savored slowly. Like red wine and chocolate.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh yes... (big sigh and batting eyelashes...). I loved Villette but didn't know it until I was finished. Now it's like a lost love. And for some reason, (how do I say it without giving anything away?) I didn't think ahead or make predictions with the book. I was very much in the present, so I was dragged along with Lucy and was as much shocked as she was with the turn of events (although I bet I cried more).
Of the two, I love Jane Eyre the most, but I feel that I have 'lived' Villette and it still lives in me.


message 46: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 26, 2009 03:02PM) (new)

PS: I'm reading David Copperfield and The Victorian Governess right now, and I'm a Margaret Oliphant fan as well.


message 47: by Seena (new)

Seena | 7 comments Inder wrote: "After you've read "Can You Forgive Her," you have to tell me: Would you have a beer (or other tasty beverage) with Lady Glencora? Cuz I would. Too bad she is fictional (and long-dead)."

Lady Glencora is a pip! I am currently addicted to Trollope, and listening to most of his novels on Librivox. I loved "Can You Forgive Her?" and "the Eustace Diamonds". I'm currently listening to "The Warden", which started out slow, but is getting better and better. Trollope is truly fascinating, as he hits on all levels of society, from the cops to bad household help to the elite, Parliament and the clergy.




message 48: by Susan (new)

Susan (boswellbaxter) | 12 comments I wish I could like Trollope, because he wrote so many books! I last read him about 20 years ago and found that his books (mostly the Palliser ones) just didn't appeal to me--he struck me as a snob and I didn't have much sympathy for any of his characters. Maybe I'll try them again to see if I like them better now that I'm older.


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 869 comments Ah, red wine, chocolate and books! All my favourite things ;o)

Cher, you have hit the nail on the head with regard to how I feel about the book too. I am so much in the present with this - I feel like I am walking in Lucy's shoes with her and have become part of her life. I have no idea what will happen as I don't know the story but I am enjoying just being "there" right now. It's a wonderful book - I am at the part where Lucy has just gone to La Terasse and met up with Paulina again.


ღ Carol jinx~☆~ | 9 comments Misfit wrote: "I really liked Villette but its very different from Jane Eyre. Very much a book to be savored slowly. Like red wine and chocolate."

Gail wrote: "Oh, I love that...it would be great to call my husband "a prince of Maine", since he was born and raised there and it had a formative effect on his life.
Right now I'm reading "Jane Eyre", becaus..."





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