In January 2021, my cohosts of this linkup and I decided to read Wuthering Heights together. Nineteen books later, we continue to explore the classics.
Here are the books we’ve read so far, with my personal ratings beside them. What I love about book discussions is that someone’s beloved five-star read is someone else’s low-star. It also amazes me how our book ratings can change dramatically when rereading at different points in time. Regardless of the rating, I learned heaps from each discussion. Although there were several five-star reads for me on this list, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Great Expectations’ were my absolute favourites.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility
Alice in Wonderland
Out of Africa
To Kill a Mockingbird
On The Struggle Bus With Little Women
Our current classic read is ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott. This is my original “guilt book” — one that has been on my bookshelf the longest (over 60 years), but I don’t remember actually reading. Although Chapter 14 did seem very familiar….so maybe?
When I entered ‘Little Women’ on my Goodreads shelf, I noticed that most readers, regardless of age, seemed to adore this book – including several friends whose taste in books I greatly admire.
I enthusiastically dug right in. Immediately, my struggles began. Yes, I know this was written 155 years ago, and the target audience was young girls. Still, I found it to be an incredibly LONG and SLOW read (my copy had 643 pages…but it felt in excess of 1000). Its moralistic, overly idealized, saccharine tone did my head in. And please don’t get me started on the “I’ll try to be good so that when Pappa comes home from war he will be proud of me!” The limited, subservient role of women (amongst other things) made me glad to be born at a much later time.
Our discussion group usually breaks large classics down into chunks to read and discuss over two or more sessions, which we did with this book. At our first meetup, I was afraid that I would be the only one who struggled with (and did not love) this book. To my huge relief, all four of us had similar views on what we had read that far. Our mutual summary was that, unlike other classics that some of us had read as children and then again as adults, this one was best left to our childhoods. Oh, and we all took an online quiz to reveal which March sister we were most like. Three of us were cast as Jos, and one was a Meg. You can find your inner Little Woman here (or here, or here).
As always, the sidebar rabbit holes aided my reading. The life of Louisa May Alcott is absolutely fascinating on numerous levels. I would gladly read much more about her. See below.
Louisa May Alcott – A Few Rabbit Hole Finds
- Louisa came from a family of prominent Transcendentalists who were friends with such notable as figures Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Her family were vegetarians (eating only vegetables that grew upwards, not downwards). They did not wear wool (because it belonged to the sheep) or cotton (because of slavery) and took only cold water baths.
2. Her family faced financial difficulties throughout her life, and she wrote to support them. She originally turned down her publisher’s request to write a book for girls (Little Women) but finally agreed so that her publisher would also accept her father’s book on philosophy.
3. She initially wrote under the penname Flora Fairfield. She also wrote Gothic thrillers under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard, which included such titles as “Pauline’s Passion and Punishment” and “A Long Fatal Love Chase.”
4. Louisa wrote ‘Little Women’ in under 10 weeks. It was published four months after she began writing it and became a rapid success.
5. There are many theories on who Laurie was based upon, ranging from Henry David Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son, Julien. Biographer Harriet Reisen believes Laurie was modelled after Ladislas Wisniewski (Laddie), a Polish musician Louisa met and hung out with in Europe.
6. Despite the traditional gender expectations for women often portrayed in Little Women, Louisa was a known feminist and the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1880.
And these are only a few Louisa May highlights!
It’s In The Stars!
I’m fortunate that our classics discussion group includes author Joanne Tracey. Not only is she incredibly insightful on the classics that we read (as are our other cohosts), but I am usually able to get an early copy of what she is currently publishing. This past month, she published ‘It’s In the Stars’ and ‘Philly Barker is on the Case’ (reviewed here.) ‘It’s In the Stars’ is the final installment in her Melbourne Contemporary Romance books. I loved catching up with previous characters from this series. It was like meeting up with old friends, and it offered a deeply satisfying conclusion.
This fast-paced, enjoyable read explores breaking the rules to follow your heart. Joanne’s storytelling abilities shine through as she weaves together a compelling narrative of love, second chances, friendship, travel, good food, and how the stars can teach us more about ourselves. If that sounds like your kind of read, I highly recommend picking up not only this book but all five titles in this series. You won’t be disappointed.
What’s Been On Your Bookshelf Lately?
Have you read any of the books that I’ve mentioned above? If so, what stood out for you?
Do you have an all-time favourite classic to recommend? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Have you read any other good books lately that you’d like to share? You can do so in the comments or via the link below.