I’m a sucker for a really long Victorian era novel. I’d much rather read one of these than 10 modern books, but when you are on a 52 book a year reading plan, as I am, you can only read so many. So, as I yearn to read more Victorian literature, I’m going to share with you the books that I’d like to be reading right now, instead of the ones I need to be reading, if I ever have the hopes of making it to my resolution goal (don’t worry, I’m not going cold turkey, but I’m just a little more limited than I’d like to be).
You’ll notice there are two fairly glaring omissions: Dickens and Austen. I happen to dislike Dickens’ writing style because he’s too long winded (probably had something to do with getting paid by the word and publishing serially), but I do like his characters and plots. He’s a key Victorian author who doesn’t make my list because I’d rather chose another writer who is more economical with his or her words. Jane Austen isn’t on the list because she isn’t a Victorian author. This surprises many people. In fact, she’s a Regency era writer, pre-dating the Victorians.
1. Middlemarch by George Eliot
Eliot is easily my favorite Victorian writer. What a mind. I don’t know why she thought she could fool people into thinking that she was a man, though. Her style is clearly feminine. She has an uncanny ability to create many interweaving storylines. But sometimes, it can be a challenge to keep all her characters straight.
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Bronte sisters are essential contributors to Victorian literature, and this is my favorite book among their treasures. They bring Gothic romance to the mix. (I have to keep myself from listing only George Eliot and Bronte books as my favorites for the sake of some variety here.)
3. Dracula by Braham Stoker
Now here’s a departure from the other books, even though it’s strongly in the Gothic tradition. I like that it’s an epistolary novel (told in letter form), which was a common technique in that era. Jane Austen first wrote Sense and Sensibility that way, before she revised it to its current format. There’s also something exciting about reading the most famous and first of all the vampire stories.
4. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
I don’t know why people don’t read Trollope anymore. He’s really got a lot of insight into human nature. Witty yet approachable, Trollope’s books are rewarding on many levels. The Warden is the first book in his famous Chronicles of Barsetshire series, for those who like series. But he’s one of the most prolific writers in this period, so there’s plenty to read once you get started.
5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
This is a haunting story, but a powerful one for a discussions about sin and its consequences. Many people read it in high school and forget about it after that. I encourage you to revisit it as an adult and see what treasures it has to reveal about the human heart.
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