Sunday, September 13, 2020

10 Classics That Aren't Boring


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Poor girl tells off rich gentleman. rich gentleman is brooding and has a dark secret. Jane is fierce. Rochester is a moody playboy. It's a Gothic tale with lovely dialogue that sizzles with innuendo. Jane Eyre herself is a changeling creature, challenging Rochester's dominion.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

A gorgeous rendering of historical France. It's the swashbuckling tale of young d'Artagnan, who wishes to join the Musketeers, an elite group of guardsmen. The Three Musketeers are noble rogues. The villain is unforgettable--Milady de Winter. Though an aristocrat, Dumas's grandmother was an enslaved woman of African descent, and he served in the military, which lends this tale an interesting history.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Mary Yellan is sent to live with her aunt. When she arrives at her aunt's inn,she meets her aunt's brutal husband and his young rogue of a brother, Jem. She realizes her uncle is in charge of a gang of wreckers, who deliberately cause shipwrecks to drown and rob the crew. Things get grimly Gothic from there.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Perhaps one of the first horror tales written by a woman. the monster, a reanimated corpse, is described by his creator, Doctor Frankenstein, as beautiful--before the monster escapes into the world to wreak havoc because he's bitter about being rejected by his young creator. Some scenes from the monster's POV are terrifying.

A House in the Country by Jose Donoso

The Venturas are a wealthy South American family whose lives are touched with elements of magic realism. The adults are distant. The children are the main characters and exist in a realm of their own, one that disturbingly mirrors that of the adults. they are oppressed by the brutal, cruel servants. It's a political allegory, but also a beautifully written tale, where even dandelion fluff becomes sinister.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A Gothic romance set on the British moors, a ghost story as well. Heathcliff is fascinating at first, described as a changeling when he's brought to live with young Catherine Earnshaw's family. they grow up together, but Catherine becomes less fey, and more drawn to the real world, as Heathcliff twists into someone monstrous due to mistreatment and bitterness. It's a tale scattered with bits of the supernatural.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

A surreal fable about Macon Dead, a young man growing up amidst an eccentric cast of characters with fabulous names (First Corinthians, Guitar, Hagar). Macon 'Milkman' searches for identity and his longing to fly is symbolic of his life.

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima

A disturbing tale with gorgeous prose, the story follows the intelligent, but delinquent teen Noboru in the early 1960s and his obsession with his elegant mother's sailor boyfriend. The themes of honor and glory provoke a downward spiral for the teen protagonist and a grim fate for the sailor.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

With a young hero named Pip attempting to succeed in grim Victorian London, and Estella, a girl raised by a bitter woman left at the altar (a girl raised solely to destroy boys), this is a coming of age fairy tale with a cast of eccentric characters, told from the hero's POV.

One Thousand and One Nights (Various translations)

A lovely collection of Middle Eastern fairy tales (any edition illustrated by Maxfield Parrish is a must-have). The framing device concerns Scheherazade, the bride of a ruler who kills his wives. She's attempting to distract him to hold off her death by telling stories. This is the origin of Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad the sailor, among others. It's also a great example of foreshadowing and thematic patterning, a story within a story.