Friday, September 30, 2016

Classics Spin #14 -- and is it too late to change my Classics Club list?


Now that I'm back to blogging again, I definitely wanted to sign up for the latest Classics Club Spin! Basically, next Monday, someone from the Classics Club will post a random number between one and twenty; the corresponding book from the numbered list below is my next read.  (It's all explained in great detail here.) I'm down to the final seven books on my list -- my target finish date is March 24, 2017, just under six months away, so the next Spin pick should help me finish on time. 


These were the final seven books from my list:

  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
  • The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  • The Four Feathers by A. E. W. Mason
  • A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
  • Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson.
However, as I'm getting close to the end, there are several books I've been dreading, mostly because of their length. I have tried a couple of times to read  Lark Rise to Candleford and it seems excruciatingly slow, but I watched a couple of episodes of the TV adaptation and liked it, so I haven't given up yet.



The other books I'm really dreading are the two French novels -- I've tried a couple of times to read Hunchback, but I just couldn't get into it. I even downloaded an audio version this summer and tried to listen to it as I was out walking the dog, and it was just glacial. I'm going to give it one more shot in print, and if I still can't get through fifty pages, I'm going to drop it from the list and add something else. This is my list, and even though I'm close to the end, I'm just not going to torture myself reading something I hate, just for the sake of reading it. I might try Les Miserables instead, or a different French writer -- I really liked Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant, so I might try Pierre and Jean. Or I could substitute something by Emile Zola, I still have several of his books instead. 



Back view of Notre Dame cathedral from my visit to Paris in July.
I didn't go inside this time but did get some nice photos , especially of the garden in the back.
I've also decided to switch The Man in the Iron Mask for The Black Tulip -- when I made up the list almost five years ago, I didn't realize The Man in the Iron Mask is the fifth books of the D'Artagnan series. I'm kind of a stickler about reading series books in order, and though I've read The Three Musketeers but I don't think there's any way I could get through the other three books in time with all my other reading. Besides, I'm kind of interested in the history of Holland and the tulip mania of the 17th century (there's a movie coming out next year called Tulip Fever and I'm really looking forward to it. 



So, here's my spin list which I'm just choosing at random, including repeats so I have an even 20:
  1. A Dance to the Music of Time
  2. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  3. The Portrait of a Lady
  4. The Four Feathers
  5. The Black Tulip
  6. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  7. Lark Rise to Candleford
  8. The Four Feathers
  9. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  10. The Black Tulip
  11. Lark Rise to Candleford
  12. A Dance to the Music of Time
  13. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  14. The Portrait of a Lady
  15. The Four Feathers
  16. The Black Tulip
  17. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  18. A Dance to the Music of Time
  19. The Portrait of a Lady
  20. Lark Rise to Candleford
I think my top picks would be The Black Tulip, Edwin Drood, or A Dance to the Music of Time. The books I'm dreading most are Hunchback and Lark Rise, and I'm nervous about Portrait of a Lady. I'm fairly neutral about The Four Feathers because I don't know much about it, but if nothing else, it's pretty short.

Anyone read any of these books? Which ones should I be hoping for? And has anyone else abandoned books on their Classics Club list? Which books are you hoping to read? I'd love to hear your comments!

22 comments:

  1. I've actually read Portrait of a Lady. Shocker, right? It was a LONG time ago but I still have vivid memories of a scene on a patio that looked down an expansive lawn into beautiful fields. Every time I see such now, I think of ol' Henry James... so, in other words, if I can do it, you'll be fine!

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    1. I've only read one other Henry James, The Turn of the Screw which I truly disliked. I have read bits of Portrait and I think I can manage it. Fingers crossed!

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  2. I've read Lark Rise to Candleford - it is a bit long but I loved it, don't remember as being a slog at all. It was originally three books, so if you don't want to take on the whole thing, why not just the first book? (Lark Rise)

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    1. Good point about the trilogy -- even if I only finish the first volume, I'll still have given it a fair shake. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  3. I'm sad to hear that about The Hunchback because Les Miserables was sooo good that I just can't imagine Hugo would write a poor novel. The Black Tulip was really good --- a pleasant deviation in tone and content from Dumas' other novels.

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    1. I'm getting quite excited about The Black Tulip now! I hope it comes up on the Monday spin!

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  4. Hunchback is very good...you'll be surprised!
    Black Tulip is action + Dutch history....very quick read!
    I'm dreading Portrait of a Lady. Why? Henry James scares me.
    Good Luck!

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    1. It could be just that particular audio which wasn't grabbing me. I do find some books improve and they're worth sticking with. I found the first 100 pages of Middlemarch to be dry, but there were so many good reviews I stuck with it and it was amazing. I haven't given up on Hunchback yet.

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  5. Are you utterly committed to these books or can you delete some and add others? I think of the ones you have listed, "Portrait of a Lady" might provide you with the most oomph for your reading time. And what wonderful characters!

    I am a new member of the Classics List and I have tacitly given myself permission to change if I need to: I hope that you do not approach a book with dread. You can always give yourself permission to swap the titles, in my opinion. You can also give yourself 25 or 50 pages to "test" a book. Some authors I might add (and I know full well that you might have already read them) include Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor, Iris Murdoch, or some of the classic mystery authors such as Christie, Marsh, etc. I love Madame Bovary more than any other 19th century French novel. You might also want to add a briefer Henry James such as "Daisy Miller", "Turn of the Screw," or "The Aspern Papers."

    Sorry for giving so much advice. I just feel for you: the sense of needing to read a book and push on even if I am not engaged with it.

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    1. I did change out a few books earlier when I first signed up for the classics club, mostly to round out with a larger variety of authors. I'm so close to the end I feel rather committed to finishing this list, but I've already started a second list! And thanks for the recommendations!

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  6. I've made a lot of changes to my Classics Club list - I don't see the point in forcing myself to read books I'm no longer interested in reading. I actually enjoyed The Hunchback, but it did take a while to get into. The Black Tulip or The Mystery of Edwin Drood would be my choices from your spin list - I loved both!

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    1. A lot of books on the list are some that I've really wanted to read for a long time. I wonder if I just want to read Hunchback because I've never read Hugo and I'm rather daunted by Les Miserables! Also I bought a copy of Hunchback at the Notre Dame Cathedral giftshop after climbing up all those steps, so I feel like I should give it a try. I think it might not have been the right time for it. I do want to read The Black Tulip and Drood, especially because it's October and Drood sounds appropriate for the season.

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  7. If you put A Dance to theMusic of Time into the #12 slot, there's a chance we might read it together ;-) A word of encouragement on The Portrait of a Lady... I was apprehensive about picking it up, but ended up truly loving that book! I'm even planning to reread it one of these days. I've been pretty loose with my original list of 50... it has been constantly growing and evolving. Good luck on Monday!

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    1. I think I could switch it up a little -- it would be fun to do a readalong! I love that so many people are recommending Portrait, I really want to give James another try.

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  8. You have some great choices, but I can see why you've left them to last - they're chunksters!

    I was only looking at The Black Tulip & Dance to the Music of Time this w/e for Top Ten Tues, but they're on my cc list take 2. And I really must finish the first list first :-/

    I also plan to reread Portrait of a Lady one day. It was sinister & compelling & evocative & crushing.

    Good luck

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    1. I've finished some real challenges on the original list, including a lot of Dickens, Moby-Dick, and The Jungle. Also The Good Soldier Svejk, which was quite long and a bit of a challenge, so I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished so far. I'm hearing good things about all seven books so I think I'll be a winner no matter what the spin gives me.

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  9. I think it is fine to make changes to your list. Sometimes as times goes on you realize that a book is just never going to be right for you. That being said, I enjoyed Lark Rise to Candleford. It is a quiet book but I found it to be lovely.

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    1. I keep hearing good things about it, so I won't give up on Lark Rise. And I agree about making changes. Really, there are no rules for the Classics Club, are there?

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  10. I enjoyed Four Feathers & Edwin Drood (which is short as it was only half written when Dickens died). I've read Portrait but remember very little about it. I'm not a James fan but I do think I enjoyed it. I have Black Tulip on the tbr shelves so I'll be interested to see what you think if it's the chosen book. Haven't read the other French novels but have them in my Audible list so I'll listen to them one day.

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    1. I really liked Bel Ami by Maupassant, so I'm intrigued by Pierre & Jean. And I've only read one book by Zola that I didn't like, so I'm hopeful about the rest of his novels.

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  11. I read and enjoyed The Hunchback many years ago but I seemed to have more patience for huge books back then - don't know how I'd feel about it now. I'd like to read The Black Tulip sometime, so I'll wish for that one for you! Hope you get a good pick!

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    1. Thanks! I'm really interested in The Black Tulip now and I will probably read it soon even if it isn't the Spin pick.

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