The Classics Club have announced an exciting new reading event: The Women’s Classic Literature Event! Between now and December 2016 we will be reading and writing about classic works by female authors. There are no other rules and there’s no upper or lower limit to the number of books we need to read – as long as a book is written by a woman and (preferably) published before 1960, it counts towards this event. By ‘book’ I don’t just mean novels, because letters, poetry, plays, essays, journals, short stories and biographies all count too.
I will definitely be participating, but I’m not sure how I want to approach this event. I still have a lot of classics by women left to read on my Classics Club list, which I’m listing below:
Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (re-read)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (re-read)
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (re-read)
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge
I’ll take this list as a starting point and read some of these books for the event, but I would like to do more than that. I would like to also read books by women who are not on my list, by women who are new to me, by women I’ve never thought about reading before – and maybe some children’s classics by women too.
The Classics Club have also posted an introductory survey. Here are my answers to the questions:
1. Introduce yourself. Tell us what you are most looking forward to in this event.
I’m Helen and I joined the Classics Club in 2012. I’m looking forward to discovering some new female authors through this event and I’m also hoping it will encourage me to pick up some of the books on my existing list that I’ve been putting off reading.
2. Have you read many classics by women? Why or why not?
Yes, I’ve read quite a lot of classics by women (including some of my absolute favourite classics) – but probably not as many as I’ve read by men.
3. Pick a classic female writer you can’t wait to read for the event, & list her date of birth, her place of birth, and the title of one of her most famous works.
I’m looking forward to finally reading Charlotte M. Yonge. I’ve been meaning to read The Heir of Redclyffe for such a long time, but for some reason have never got round to doing it. Yonge was born in Otterbourne, Hampshire, England on August 11, 1823. As well as the title I’ve already mentioned, her other works include The Daisy Chain and The Clever Woman of the Family.
4. Think of a female character who was represented in classic literature by a male writer. Does she seem to be a whole or complete woman? Why or why not? Tell us about her. (Without spoilers, please!)
I’ve chosen a character from a classic I read earlier this year and who I certainly didn’t consider to be a whole or complete woman: Dora Spenlow from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I often find Dickens’ female characters irritating (although there are a few exceptions) and Dora is probably the worst – a woman who is happy to describe herself as ‘a silly little thing’.
5. Favorite classic heroine? (Why? Who wrote her?)
I can think of lots of great heroines in classic literature, but one of my favourites is the wonderful Marian Halcombe from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I know Collins has been criticised for making Marian unattractive and unfeminine while the beautiful but much less interesting Laura Fairlie is the romantic interest of the novel, but I still think it’s great to see a male Victorian author create such a strong, intelligent, courageous heroine.
6. We’d love to help clubbers find great titles by classic female authors. Can you recommend any sources for building a list? (Just skip this question if you don’t have any at this point.)
This list of Virago Modern Classics should be a good place to start (be careful as there are a few male authors on there too).
7. Recommend three books by classic female writers to get people started in this event. (Again, skip over this if you prefer not to answer.)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
8. Will you be joining us for this event immediately, or will you wait until the new year starts?
I’ll be joining immediately. I’m sure I’ll be reading some classics by women during the remainder of this year and I would like those to count.
9. Do you plan to read as inspiration pulls, or will you make out a preset list?
Apart from reading some of the remaining books on my current Classics Club list, I’m not planning to make any other preset lists. I never stick to them anyway, so I’m just going to read whatever I feel like reading.
10. Are you pulling to any particular genres? (Letters, journals, biographies, short stories, novels, poems, essays, etc?)
I expect that I’ll be reading mostly novels (there’s a reason why I didn’t call my blog She Reads Letters or She Reads Journals) but I would like to be adventurous and read some other formats as well, particularly short stories and poetry.
11. Are you pulling to a particular era or location in literature by women?
No, not really. I’ve already read a lot of classics from the Victorian era, though, so I’m going to try to read more books from the twentieth century for this event.
12. Do you hope to host an event or readalong for the group? No worries if you don’t have details. We’re just curious!
I don’t think so, but I haven’t ruled it out.
13. Is there an author or title you’d love to read with a group or a buddy for this event? Sharing may inspire someone to offer.
Nothing in particular, but I’ll look out for any group reads that interest me.
14. Share a quote you love by a classic female author — even if you haven’t read the book yet.
“And certainly, the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.” – George Eliot, Middlemarch
Will you be taking part in the Women’s Classic Literature Event?