It's here! It's here! Graciously hosted by Allie, A Victorian Celebration is a two-month reading event focusing on the era that I love best. As I've slowly been recovering from the horrid reading rut, the arrival of the Victorian Celebration couldn't have had better timing. Bring on the Dickens, the Eliot, the Wilde!
There are loads of tidbits I'm hoping to share with you during the next two months: why I adore the Victorians, some fantastic authors that have been largely forgotten by the reading public in recent years, fantastic film adaptations set during Victoria's reign, the cultural legacy of Victorians outside of literacy and more.
I love the passion of Jane Eyre, Charles Dickens's gift for caricature and the brilliant witticisms of the incomparable Oscar Wilde. I can't read too much about repressed sexuality and the griminess of nineteenth-century London. But there's so much more to the Victorians than this small handful of authors and hackneyed stereotypes. The Victorians provide a veritable goldmine of intriguing knowledge: the deeper one digs for treasure, the more gems one finds. I'm excited to share parts of my Victorian journey here -- a journey that I think will last a lifetime.
Meanwhile, I wanted to document some of the texts I'm hoping to dig into for the event. I may not get to all of these, or I may simply change my mind about what I want to read. Nor will I be exclusively reading from this time period for the next two months either. Still, a list will hopefully help me to stay focused when every Victorian book on my shelf calls to me -- they dominate my humble little library and it's easy to become a bit confused when trying to decide on just one.
Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant
Margaret Oliphant is a prime example of a Victorian author who has fallen by the wayside. A prolific writer, she was reportedly a favorite of Queen Victoria. This novel about a young girl who sweeps into her father's house to rule the roost (and, by extension, the community itself) after he mother passes away is a book I've been wanting to read for a while.
Plays by Oscar Wilde
Hail to the master of the epigram!
Oscar Wilde plays just glow, in my opinion. He somehow convinces me that all of life's difficulties can be resolved in two hours if one would just make the effort. The parties, romance and humor don't hurt either. Having read his two most popular plays, I want to read Lady Windermere's Fan and/or A Woman of No Importance.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
People tend to characterize Victorian fiction by its lengthy tangents (read, 800-plus pages) on poverty, suffering and death. But the truth is the Victorians fully embraced stories of fantastic adventure, particularly in the later years of the century. I've read (and loved!) such texts by H. Rider Haggard, but I haven't yet experienced the more popular tale of life on the high seas by Haggard's contemporary Robert Louis Stevenson.
Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
In sensation fiction, deliberately provocative subjects such as adultery, madness, bigamy, murder, etc. receive a melodramatic treatment -- as if the subject matter itself wasn't dramatic enough! Although books in the genre were bestsellers during the Victorian period (especially in the 60s and 70s), critics condemned many of these texts as literary tripe. Only recently have Lady Audley's Secret, novels by Wilkie Collins and others been introduced to the canon.
Short Fiction by Elizabeth Gaskell
Elizabeth Gaskell rocks. She just does. Though they are drastically different, both North and South and Cranford are included among my exclusive list of favorites. But I'm dying to explore the mass of short fiction she left behind. From novellas and short stories to her Gothic Tales, Gaskell produced a vast array of literature beyond her novels.
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool
I'll be perusing these insights on nineteenth-century life as I read my selected works of fiction. Contextualizing the literature by gaining a better understanding of the times always enhances the reading experience for me.
I think that's more than enough to get me started on this long-awaited event. Now where to start? That's the tricky part. Which Victorians will you be reading during June and July? How's it going so far?
If you'd like to join the fun, go here for details. Happy Reading!