Reading the Victorians in 2011

Around this time last year, I signed up for a lot of challenges for 2010. After a few months though, I discovered that challenges don’t really work for me. I prefer to just read whatever I feel like reading without being under any pressure – so I’ve been trying not to be tempted by any of the 2011 challenges. However, I couldn’t resist the Victorian Literature Challenge as I was planning to read a lot of Victorian classics next year anyway.

* The challenge is hosted by Bethany at Words, Words, Words and runs from 1 Jan 2011 to 31 Dec 2011.

* There are four levels to choose from:
Sense and Sensibility: 1-4 books.
Great Expectations: 5-9 books.
Hard Times: 10-14 books.
Desperate Remedies: 15+ books

I’m signing up for the Hard Times level, but hopefully will read enough for the Desperate Remedies level. I prefer not to make lists because I have trouble sticking to them, but here are some of the authors and books I’d like to read in 2011.

Charles Dickens
I’ve only read two of Dickens’ books so far: A Christmas Carol and Bleak House. I have a copy of Our Mutual Friend on my shelf so I might read that one next, but I’d also like to read Great Expectations. Hopefully I’ll have time for them both next year.

Thomas Hardy
The only two Thomas Hardy books I’ve read so far are Tess of the d’Urbervilles and A Pair of Blue Eyes, both of which I read this year and loved. I would welcome any suggestions as to which one I should read next. I’d like to read them all eventually!

Charlotte Bronte
I love the Brontes – all three of them. I’ve read Emily’s Wuthering Heights and both of Anne’s books, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey, but only Jane Eyre by Charlotte. I’ll definitely read Villette in 2011 (I was hoping to get to it this year, but I’m not going to have time now) and would like to read Shirley and The Professor too.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Aurora Floyd is definitely on my list for 2011 as I’ve really enjoyed both Lady Audley’s Secret and The Doctor’s Wife

Anthony Trollope
I enjoyed The Warden, and Barchester Towers was even better (I’ll be posting my review of that one soon) so I can’t wait to read more Trollope. I just need to decide whether to continue with the remaining four books in the Barsetshire series or to try one of his other books.

George Eliot
I read Middlemarch this summer and loved it, so I want to read another George Eliot book in 2011. Not Silas Marner though, because I read that at school and although I can’t remember much about it, I know I didn’t like it.

Oscar Wilde
I’m not sure about including Oscar Wilde on my list. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray a few years ago and The Canterville Ghost in October, and most of his other works are plays. I don’t usually read plays and the few that I have read I haven’t really enjoyed, but I’d be prepared to give one of his a try, probably The Importance of Being Earnest.

Elizabeth Gaskell
I feel guilty about not having read any of Elizabeth Gaskell’s books yet, despite reading so many glowing reviews of her work. I did read one of her short stories and liked her writing style, so I’m looking forward to reading some of her novels next year.

What do you think? Any Victorian classics I definitely need to read in 2011? Will you be reading some Victorian literature next year too?

21 thoughts on “Reading the Victorians in 2011

  1. Amanda says:

    Ooh glad to hear A Pair of Blue Eyes is good as I just got that one recently. I highly recommend Return of the Native by Hardy! I really loved that one and it made me want to read all of his books.

    I need to read something by Gaskell too. I’ll probably try to read North and South next year!

  2. Bethany says:

    Yay! I’ve got A Pair of Blue Eyes on my list πŸ™‚ I recommend some Far From the Madding Crowd – and Jude the Obscure if you’re feeling adventurous! Of course, I’d recommend any and all Hardy books!

    • Helen says:

      I think I’ll probably make Jude the Obscure my next Hardy book, but will try to read Far From the Madding Crowd and Return of the Native in 2011 too, since you and Amanda have recommended them!

  3. Eva says:

    I don’t see my boy Wilkie on your list! Have you read all of his stuff already? If not, I’d highly recommend him. πŸ˜‰

    I read Tess of the d’Ubervilles for fun in middle school, and it didn’t go well. But I really ought to give Hardy a second chance one of these days…I’m thinking I’ll try Judge the Obscure next year.

    I’ve read three of Gaskell’s novels: Cranford, North and South, and Ruth. I loved Cranford, and didn’t love either of the other ones. I think I ruined North and South for myself by watching the BBC miniseries first, though: otherwise I think I would have enjoyed it much more! So if you haven’t watched the adaptation, avoid it. πŸ˜‰

    Trollope’s a pretty recent discovery of mine, and after Eustace Diamonds I’ve been happily reading through the Barsetshire books. I’ve down to the last two, so I imagine I’ll read both of them in the coming year (he’s become a total comfort author for me).

    As for George Eliot, I really want to read Adam Bede next year (didn’t quite get to it when I wanted to this summer); if you haven’t read Daniel Deronda, I quite enjoyed that one!

    And I loved Lady Audley’s Secret! I haven’t been able to get ahold of any of Braddon’s other books, but I’m getting an ereader for Christmas, so hopefully I can find her online.

    Wow: I didn’t realise I’d have so much to say! lol But I do love the Victorians. πŸ™‚

    • Helen says:

      I love Wilkie Collins – in fact, he’s probably my favourite Victorian author, but I’ve now read so many of his books that I’m starting to have trouble finding ones that I haven’t read!

      Trollope is a recent discovery for me too and is quickly becoming another favourite Victorian. I’m probably going to continue working through the Barsetshire series before I move on to his other books.

      And I haven’t seen the North and South adaptation, but I’d like to give the book a try, so thanks for the advice!

      • Eva says:

        I can’t wait to get my Nook for Christmas so I can get those more obscure Collins for free from Project Gutenberg! πŸ™‚ I’ve been saving my last of his ‘big’ ones, Armadale, for when I really need it…I started it a few months ago, got 100 pages in, and decided I wanted to wait awhile longer knowing it’s there for me. Kind of weird, but there you go!

        I love both Collins and Trollope so much more than Dickens; I wish I’d been exposed to them in high school instead!

        • Helen says:

          I agree that schools should teach Collins and Trollope instead of Dickens! Dickens is actually one of my least favourite Victorian authors – though to be fair, I haven’t read much of his work. I’m going to give him at least one more chance before I make my mind up about him. πŸ™‚

  4. trish says:

    I’m interested in Vilette and Wurthering Heights and Middlemarch for this challenge, but after reading Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge this year I probably won’t read him again. I’ll be curious to compare books and read all the reviews throughout the year!

  5. Karenlibrarian says:

    Oh, Gaskell is wonderful! So far I’ve read Cranford and Wives & Daughters. They’re quite different, since Cranford is really sort of little interrelated stories about characters in a small town. Wives & Daughters is much longer but I found it to be a really fast read. It’s one of my favorites, and I’m hoping to read North & South with an IRL group this year.

    I’ve read quite a bit of Dickens and I really liked Great Expectations. Oliver Twist is also quite good.

  6. Karenlibrarian says:

    I forgot about Trollope! I’ve just started Barchester Towers but I have to tell you that The Way We Live Now is one of the best books EVER! It’s long but I could not put it down — I kept sneaking off squeeze in just one more chapter! And very timely since it’s about finance. I’ll say no more for fear of spoiling.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I’ve heard a lot of good things about The Way We Live Now. Maybe I should add that one to my list for 2011. And I loved Barchester Towers! I’m reviewing it on December 13th for the Classics Circuit. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. πŸ™‚

  7. Lyn says:

    Great Expectations is wonderful but so is Our Mutual Friend so I think you’ll enjoy either or both next year. The Mayor of Casterbridge & Far From the Madding Crowd are my favourite Hardys. I second the nomination of Wilkie Collins, I’ve enjoyed all the novels & stories of his I’ve read. Have you read East Lynne by Mrs Henry Wood? A great sensation novel. Trollope wrote some wonderful stand-alone novels like The Way We Live Now & Orley Farm if you decide not to continue with the Barsetshires. There are just so many great Victorian novels. I’ve just reread The tenant of Wildfell Hall & I think I need to reread Villette as well. Goerge Gissing’s The Odd Women is another great novel about the options open to unmarried women. One of the few Viragos written by a man. I often read the Victorians & I’m sure I’ll read & reread more of them in 2011.

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad to hear the two Dickens books are good. I’m looking forward to reading them. I have read East Lynne and I loved it! It’s a book that really deserves to be better known. And thanks for the George Gissing recommendation – I haven’t tried any of his books yet.

  8. everybookandcranny says:

    My favorite of Hardy’s books that I’ve read so far is Far From the Madding Crowd – I’ve read four of his novels but I hope to complete all of them by the end of next year.

    So far I have not read Trollope but after all of the positive comments, I think I’ll have to add him to my Victorian list as well.

    Our Mutual Friend is on my bookshelf as well. I bought it last Dec. for a group read but then ended up not participating. I think perhaps I was a little intimidated by it. The only Dickens that I have read is A Christmas Carol.

    • Helen says:

      I can’t wait to read more Hardy – I really loved the two books of his that I’ve read so far. If you haven’t read any Trollope yet, I would highly recommend him! The Warden and Barchester Towers are both great books.

  9. Enbrethiliel says:


    The Importance of Being Earnest is great! When I studied it in uni, the lecturer pointed out that there are so many directions to the actors in the text that it’s practically a novel.

    I’m reading Oscar Wilde for this challenge, too, but I’ll be taking on The Portrait of Dorian Gray. =)

    You remind me that I have both Great Expectations and Silas Marner waiting to be finished. I started both in the past but just wasn’t able to finish either.

    • Helen says:

      I enjoyed Dorian Gray, though I can’t remember much about it now. I hope you like it too. I’m probably going to give The Importance of Being Earnest a try in 2011, so it’s good to hear that it’s great!

  10. Old English Rose says:

    What an interesting reading list you’ve lined up for yourself. I read Cranford after watching the BBC miniseries which was just wonderful, and it’s a delightful book so I recommend that one. It looks as though we have some quite similar choices planned so I’ll look forward to seeing what you think of all of these. Best of luck!

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