Today on my ‘things I read and loved before blogging’ series, I look back at another selection of ‘classics’.
Looking back, most of the classics I enjoyed are either Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie, so there may well not be many more of these posts in the classics genre unless it focuses on one of those two authors. Well, that is until I do my ‘Over-hyped classics’ post (things being over-hyped or universally adored tend to make me set too high a bar for them and, inevitably, they fall short).
My other posts in the series can be found here:
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne:
At the Reform Club in London, England, club member Phileas Fogg finds himself backed into a heated argument over the plausibility of circumnavigating the world in 80 days or under. An argument he is so passionate about that he wagers 20,000 pounds that he, Phileas Fogg, and his valet, Jean Passepartout, could indeed traverse the entire world in under 80 days. With a handshake and the wager official, Fogg sets out on his journey around the world in 80 days!
My Format: Physical Copy
Jules Verne was best known for his travel series of fiction. He was the master of letting the people of the time, who would not have had the chance to globe trot quite so easily as we can today (in non-Covid times, obviously), to do so via literature in exciting ways that no other could replicate. Although this may not be the most famous of his works (20,000 Leagues probably pips this to the post on that one) it sums up his travel series best. There really is no other book that can lay claim to travel fiction in a way quite like this one can.
This was, quite possibly, my first Jules Verne novel and, for excitement at least, it is probably his best. Although my favourite novel of his will always be the lesser known ‘Mysterious Island’.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck:
Drifters in search of work, George and his childlike friend Lennie, have nothing in the world except the clothes on their back – and a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are dashed as Lennie – struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy – becomes a victim of his own strength. Tackling universal themes of friendship and shared vision, and giving a voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men remains Steinbeck’s most popular work, achieving success as a novel, Broadway play and three acclaimed films.
My format: Physical Copy
Of all the books we were forced to read at school, this is the only one I ever truly enjoyed and look back fondly on (I always felt it was cruel and unusual punishment to give the higher class in literature Pride and Prejudice when other folk got Lord of the Rings …). I’m guilty of not really having read much in the way of classic American literature (never touched Twain etc …) so I am well aware that I am probably missing out on some greats and, one day, I’d love to rectify that. I am, however, eternally thankful for not having missed out on this gem.
Of Mice and Men has so much going for it. It has everything from great characters, to a well-driven story and some seriously hard-hitting scenes and emotions thrown at the reader. It was one of the first non-fantasy novels where I was shown that you don’t always get a happy ending. No matter how many years pass, I doubt the feeling of reading and finishing this will ever fade from memory.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson:
First published in 1886, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” is Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of man’s inner struggle between good and evil. The story revolves around the investigation by John Utterson, a lawyer, concerning the association between Dr. Henry Jekyll and the morally corrupt Edward Hyde, to whom Jekyll has recently willed his estate. Through the use of a magic serum Jekyll is transformed into Hyde which he does so in order to indulge in the darker side of his character. After a time Jekyll finds that he is involuntarily turning into Hyde and must use the serum, which is running low, to turn back.
My Format: Physical Copy
No classics list could be considered remotely complete without Robert Louis Stevenson featuring at some point. Jekyll and Hyde was, undoubtedly, his most famous work, but with the author dying at just 44, it makes you wonder what gems we missed out on due to fate’s cruel intervention.
Jekyll and Hyde are the bywords for split-personality. Growing up, I heard the term used for people who would act radically different than usual and just accepted that was the accepted term without ever realising it was a book. It’s one of those social memory type things that you just grow up with, not even realising why it’s there until you stumble across a copy of the book. I loved this one and, can safely say, it was one of the few books that I enjoyed despite the hype going into it (I always find I enjoy things less if they are universally loved. Take the band ‘Queen’ for example. Everyone loves them and I can’t stand them. Or the Final Fantasy 7 video game. Everyone’s favourite in the franchise and I wish it’d never been made).
Wow, never thought I’d see a Final Fantasy or a Queen reference in a write up of Jekyll and Hyde … madness.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson:
Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of “buccaneers and buried gold.” Its influence is enormous on popular perceptions of pirates, including such elements as treasure maps marked with an “X”, schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen bearing parrots on their shoulders.
Treasure Island was originally considered a coming-of-age story and is noted for its atmosphere, characters, and action. It is one of the most frequently dramatised of all novels. It was originally serialised in the children’s magazine Young Folks from 1881 through 1882 under the title Treasure Island or the mutiny of the Hispaniola, credited to the pseudonym “Captain George North”. It was first published as a book on 14 November 1883, by Cassell & Co.
My Format: Physical Copy
Treasure Island was a book I loved when growing up, although I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to try it again in case it hasn’t held up well to my adult scrutiny.
I loved this one because it gave so much to the modern perception of pirates and because he was writing pirate fiction before pirates were cool …or I suppose he was technically writing about them after they were cool, considering the Golden Age of Piracy was from the 1650s to the 1730s and this was published in the 1880s … but I digress.
If you haven’t tried this one before, but you’ve seen a pirate movie or read pirate fiction, chances are you were able to enjoy those things because Robert Louis Stevenson planted his black flag and paved the (water)way.