Evelina by Frances Burney
I’m not normally one for the unimaginative author theory—you know, the idea that results in movies like Shakespeare in Love, which posits that Shakepeare only came up with Twelfth Night because it happened to him—but my class has been particularly taken with the parallels between Frances Burney’s life and the narrative presented in Evelina. Burney had a very close relationship with her father, struggled against ideas of female writing as improper (as evidenced by the alternating shame and confidence she presents in the introduction to the novel), and, hearteningly, ultimately married a Frenchman and supported him and their children by her own pen. (Why, yes, I’m definitely going to read a biography of Burney.) But enough about the author—what about the novel?
Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson
Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded was the first novel assigned to us in Sex, Texts, and Countertexts, my English Literature class focused on gender in Restoration comedies and writings. We began the semester focusing on two plays, The Country Wife and The Rover, both of which were written prior to Pamela and exhibit the kind of culture that Pamela is a backlash against. I’d never read it or really heard of it until I went and downloaded the Kindle Store version of the text and set to reading. That’s really it, people, sometimes I only read things because people make me.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
So… I had a lot of feelings about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. (I just weep about the latest season of Sherlock.) But it did inspire me to take The Return of Sherlock Holmes along with me to Ireland, so I could start on it when I had a chance. And so I did, but it took me into the first proper week of February to finish it, although that wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying it. …You know, I often feel like the introductions to my reviews of the Holmes canon can’t really be anything but “so, yeah, I’m still reading this and I’m still loving it”, so let’s just dive in.
Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde
I only brought one piece of Irish literature with me to Ireland. (For shame, McBride, for shame.) The rest were either French (Alexandre Dumas) or Scottish (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, although he has some Irish roots, so that… counts? I don’t know). But I couldn’t resist bringing some Oscar Wilde while I visited Ireland, and a short story collection seemed just the thing to read between visits on the bus on my phone.
Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories collections “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”, “The Canterville Ghost”, “The Sphinx Without a Secret”, “The Model Millionaire”, and “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.”—the last not included in the original 1891 edition, but appearing nine years later in the 1900 edition.
Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth
I was looking forward to Castle Rackrent as soon as I saw it on my syllabus for my Irish literature class. Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda has been on my list per Eva’s recommendation for quite some time, and it looked like an interesting novel to write a paper on. I was warned, however, that Castle Rackrent and Belinda are very different. When I opened up my copy on computer, I was taken aback, until I realized there was a lengthy introduction that was not by Maria Edgeworth. I was expecting a very long novel, rather than the short novel that fell into my hands. (Well, metaphorically speaking; it was a digital book.) The experience was… interesting.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I was recently stunned when I stumbled across someone, in the midst of apologizing for being a new Sherlock Holmes fan (and you thought Star Trek had a hostile generation gap…), saying that the original stories made for slow reading. In fact, I wondered if we were reading the same stories at all. As I’ve been plugging on and off through the Holmes canon recently, I’ve found the writing swift and efficient. (I also don’t get these claims when they’re aimed at my beloved Tolkien. He’s remarkably clear.) In fact, I’ve found them to be fun, in a way modern procedurals rarely are—and that definitely keeps me on track to polish off the entire canon.
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
I think I first discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom novels when the first few discussions about the upcoming Disney adaptation (HA!) were circulating around io9. Before that, I only knew Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, but A Princess of Mars interested me for much the same reason the more traditionally fantasy elements in Star Wars interested me—it’s sci-fi that hits a little closer to home for fantasy-addicted me. Plus, it was in the public domain, so there was really no reason not to pick it up and give it a shot before the film comes out. And guys, I think I have a new series to follow.
Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas
I loved The Three Musketeers. While the pace of a serialized novel is very different than a traditional novel—think of it more like a television series than anything else—I love the swashbuckling, friendship, and bitter sweetness that characterizes that novel. Luckily, it has sequels. The most famous is The Man in the Iron Mask, which is actually just part of the third installment in The D’Artagnan Romances, but the true sequel is Twenty Years After. And I have to read series in order, which brings us to this novel.