August was a mont for the fabulous Victorian Sensation Book Club. This is always a highlight of the buddy reads as we enjoy some of the classics together. This month, the ‘unfinished’ novel of choice came from the pen of Charles Dickens – ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’.
This is quite a strange novel to read, as at the back of your mind all the time is the fact that Dickens never finished it. However, this story has all the elements of a Dickens tale – creatively named characters, excellent atmospheric setting and beautiful writing. However, for me, this was an interesting but slightly difficult novel to read. For quite a long time, and possibly until the end, it is not entirely clear where the story is going. It was obviously supposed to be a longer book. Yet, there was a great sense of mystery surronding many of the characters. Mr Jasper, choir master, was brilliantly complex and, even with what Dickens left us, we still do not really know if he is good, bad or completely misunderstood.
You can really feel that this is a sensation novel. You can recognise that there was a mentor and student relationship between Wilkie Collins and Dickens. However, I really wish that this had been completed because, for me, it is a confused book that doesn’t quite find its way.
Although, I am now going to read and research all the ideas that different scholars and literary critics have about how this may have endedm and see if it connects with any of my own ideas.
So, I have decided to start sharing my Thursday thoughts. It is a little random idea I had to share some of my other bookish thoughts.
My first set of thoughts are about the classics. There is, of course, a whole genre of classic literature, which covers so many other genres. Some you may have read and loved; some you may have read and hated (or DNF), and some you may have read because you had to. Or, maybe you have not read any of them, and that is fine too. I am not writing this because I want to preach about the classics or because I want to judge anyone’s reading preferences. I am writing this because I just want to share my own thoughts (and fears) of the classics.
I love classics adpated for TV. However, I have not always read them and, let’s be honest, that absolutely okay. Yet, the reason for this has occasionally been the fear of the classics. But, thanks to the great bookstagram community, I have started tackling all sorts of classics with the support of amazing buddy reads (which have also been a great lockdown highlight): non-judgemental spaces to read and discuss books with other brilliant bookworms.
This has led me to read books that I never thought I would have the nerve to tackle due to the classic fear. Vanity Fair, a book I always considered a brick, has been read and enjoyed. Great Expectations has become a favourite of mine. And, currently, Les Miserables (a real brick) is being read and I absolutely adore it. Hugo’s writing is just beautiful.
So, I guess, what my rambling is trying to say is that maybe you can pick up that classic, you may enjoy it. And, if you don’t it does not matter at all. After all, if we all liked the same thing, the world would be a dull place.
I would like to thank my lovely bookstagram friend Mrs D for encouraging me to have a ‘Great Expectations Buddy Read’. This is a book that I remember having a go at about 10 years ago, but I didn’t get very far. I think Dickens has always seemed daunting, so I needed a bit of a push to give it a go.
‘Great Expectations’ is a story that I am sure so many of us think we know. It is certainly a tale I thought I knew from various film and television adaptations. However, there is so much more to the book that I think you would ever be able to transfer to the screen. It also struck me that this always seems to follow set ideas when it is adapted. Pip always seems to be played as an innocent, Miss Havisham as so old and odd, and Estella as simply cold-hearted. That is, of course, part of their characters but not the be all and end all. Dickens has such a creative way of crafting his characters that they are never so simple.
The story of Pip and his coming of age is a great adventure but also highlights some real flaws in human nature. Especially some of the expectations we and society place place on ourselves and, sometime, there expectations are also our undoing. However, there is also the ease with which some people are manipulated or moulded into a certain way of being and thinking about themselves or others.
Dickens’ writing style brings every single moment of this story to life. You really feel you are on the marshes and in London – and especially when you are in the walls of ‘Satis House’, that famous home of Miss Havisham. The settings are as much part of the story as the characters and the action.
Reading this has certainly given me the bug to read more Dickens. Although, I cannot deny that I am still a little intimidated by some of his larger books.
Do you have a favourite Dickens novel?