I did a reading project. Or, let’s be real: I attempted it.
Victorian October, or #victober for you snazzy Snapchat-kids, was hosted by a whole bunch of booktubers and challenged you to read some Victorian literature (that being british stuff from in between 1837 and 1901).
Although that basically wraps up the general aim of the project, there was some specific challenges to tick off. Or fail *cough*.
- Read a piece of Victorian literature that isn’t a novel.
- Read a Victorian novel where some kind of plot is afoot.
- Read a Victorian book by a female author.
- Read a Victorian gothic novel.
- Read a Victorian novel in less than a week.
So now that we talked about what I should have done, let’s see what I actually did.
Well yes. I read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and it was gloriously wonderful. This was my novel by a female writer and also my absolutely dying to read it because it sounds fecking marvellous, and it very much lived up to either.
One of my favourite things about hella long books is the nuanced character building they allow, and I felt like Gaskell really did pay attention to Margaret being a rounded character. I just loved her so much!
While in my edition (sidenote: would not recommend, blurb contains huge spoiler, WHY?) North and South was just declared a great love story, what I love about it so much is actually it not primarily being about marriage proposals and dinner parties, but the social tension in an industrialised town of workers and factory owners.
While it is a very much “Pride and Prejudice” and spends just a bit too much thought on propriety and relligion (which I understand are important in Victorian society!), it’s full of social criticism, of unions and strikes and ignorant factory owners and desperate workers and passionate discussions about their places in society, without being preachy.
The novel stuck to Margaret’s very subjective, but compassionate and intelligent voice (little excursions into Mr Thornton’s head being very much appreciated, but for the sake of textflow in this post lovingly ignored), which really made the female author task for me.
I just generally feel that, Victorian society being as it was, female authors tended to write more differentiated female characters (I am, however, someone who has read very little male Victorian authors), so having my book for this point include such a very well-written female character made me very happy indeed.
Also while I did expect the ending very early on in the book (and got spoiled massively. Just what is wrong with you Penguin?), it continually surprised and engaged me, and I don’t think I will ever get over the greatness that is it’s last sentence.
So then: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. A very much Victorian novel with very much a plot afoot, in case you were wondering. Basic story: really big diamond gets stolen from India, just to end up birthday present and get stolen again. Was it the sinister Indians with their clairvoyant british footboy? Or the quiet maidservant who’s weirdly obsessed with an ugly piece of beach? Maybe the self-righteous evangelist cousin with her charitable organisations?
If you’re not hooked and willing to read this early crime novel already, I don’t know what more you can want. I really liked (again. I’m sorry) the characters in this book. Collins really got to play around with their voices and views because this book is told from changing perspectives, and I feel like he did that exceptionally well. Even (good going contradicting my own thesis just a few lines down) the female narrators.
It was loads of fun, it was gripping and it was really different from every other Victorian novel I’ve read so far. And while the ending feels slightly farfetched, it is (apparently) possible, and certainly very satisfying and surprising. So all in all, a very fun read.
So… that’s literally it. That’s all the books I’ve finished this month. Bit sad, really, isn’t it?Well, I can only give you that old excuse all over again: school. It literally wrecks your brain. (Yes, I know. Appreciate education. I do- but stuff’s just insane right now…)
I did, however, finish one audiobook and start another book, both of them in the swing of #victober. So let’s wrap those up too.
While walking in Ireland, I listened to an audiobook version of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, which is a great choice for some rough Irish mountains, let me tell you. Also, I decided to count it as my Victorian gothic novel. And the one I “read” in less than a week. Don’t judge please.
This was a “reread” (excuse quotation marks, I can’t get myself to view audiobook-listening-doing as actual reading) for me, and let’s be real, I’ve just indulged in the comfort of a book you know and love. They shortened it so much for the audiobook narration, and every abbreviation annoyed me so much because it took a bit of listening pleasure away from me. Still a great idea. Get all your favourite books on audiobook and listen to them on endless-repeat-mode. Believe me, you’ll improve your life significantly. (If you’re actually interested in the book, I reviewed it briefly here.)
Moving on to the book I didn’t finish (and didn’t take a photo of, ’cause, lazy.). It is *drumroll* *keeping up the dramatic silence* my first Dickens. I know.
Pickwick Papers, people (she said with some satisfying alliteration), is so far a great read. I’m literally laughing out loud regularly, which in combination with the Penguin black classic in my hands, tends to confuse people slightly. Well, real people, who needs them once he’s got a taste of the Dickensian ones?
Have to say though that it is one of those that makes you doubt Victorian male writer’s ability to write women. Which I’ve heard gets better in Dickens’ later work. But still bothers me a bit, can’t lie.
Still, having heard people (not just people, but Katie) call it one of the worse makes me SO excited for Dickens’ other work. Because I’m already in love with his humour…
One more thing. Pickwick Papers isn’t really, really a novel. It’s more of a episodic novel. A collection of episodes. Of stories. Like, you know short stories. And I’ve read some chapters. Which, we’ve established, are kind of almost short stories.
So, if you’re all very nice and follow me on that 1984-bit of logic, I’ve read a piece of Victorian literature that isn’t a novel. Which would make me the absolute total super-winner of Victorian October.
Having written this post mainly to give me that closure and make you forget really quick what a terrible reading month this was, and having succeeded at either, all that’s left for me to do is wish you the loveliest of Wednesday’s (there’s an oxymoron for you…) and bid you Goodbye.