Instead of writing individual reviews for all of the books I read this year, I thought I’d do some reading wrap-ups throughout the year. I’m loving reading the classics lately and have brought 10 of my most recently read classics here to share with you. Read my thoughts and let me know what you think about these books in the comments!
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
For years I’ve been wanting to read the Daphne du Maurier classic, Rebecca. When I was buying some new classics last year I finally picked up a copy and around Christmas felt like the perfect time to start reading. Pretty much instantly I loved du Maurier’s writing. It’s so funny that when I thought of classics, I thought of books that would be hard to read, full of the language and writing you’d find in something like Pride & Prejudice (a book I love, but it definitely takes me a while to get into the writing style), but with Rebecca, it was so easy to get into. I loved the story immediately and knew I’d want to savour it – and read everything that du Maurier had written.
The thing I loved about this story was that it was definitely romantic suspense, but it was like a love triangle with a married couple and a ghost, but without the ghost. This isn’t a ghost story, but the essence of Rebecca, the first wife of Maxim de Winter, pretty much lives on in Manderley and it was so interesting to read and see what was going to happen. It was suspenseful and addicting and I just had to know what was going to happen! None of the characters were easy to love but this really wasn’t a story where you’re supposed to love anyone. I just loved the writing, the suspense, the mystery – everything about it!
The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
Right after finishing Rebecca, I knew I wanted to read more by this fantastic author, so I put in an interlibrary loan request for The Birds. I actually had no idea that the Alfred Hitchcock classic movie was based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, so I was very excited to read it. I haven’t actually seen the movie, but I remember my mom telling me how much it freaked her out when she saw it for the first time that she was terrified. Coincidentally, her neighbour had birds and this movie did not make her feel warm and cuddly towards them.
There were quite a few short stories in this collection and I didn’t love them all, but I still loved the writing. I love how du Maurier can write about something that doesn’t seem to have a plot, but still it hooks the reader and then there’s still that one little twist of the story that has your jaw dropping or shaking your head. She’s just such a great writer whether it’s a long novel or a short story and this collection shows that she’s one of the greats.
I definitely need to see The Birds now and compare it to the story!
Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple, #1) by Agatha Christie
Last year I got into Agatha Christie – finally! I owe it all to the movie for Murder on the Orient Express coming out. I had been meaning to read Christie’s works for some time and a movie being released based on one of her books was the perfect time to finally dive in! After reading my first Poirot mystery, I read another around Christmas, and decided I wanted to try her Miss Marple series to see how it differed.
Murder at the Vicarage is the first book in the Miss Marple series and I loved it! I loved the setting, in a quaint little town, and the characters. Everyone was a suspect and throughout the story I got to know each and every one. Just like the Poirot series, Christie weaves such a great mystery that I couldn’t figure out. I just love how she keeps me guessing until the very end and when the answers are revealed, I was definitely surprised! I’m glad that I started at the first book in this series because, unlike the Poirot series, this one feels like something to read from the beginning. It was a great introduction to Miss Jane Marple’s character, as well as the vicar and his wife. I’m excited to read the next book in this series!
Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
I don’t feel like this one was as powerful as I expected it to be but I read it mostly in one sitting and, being someone who also has anxiety, I could feel the loneliness and anxiety of Sasha and felt like the writing was wonderful. I read this with a glossary of the French parts in front of me, but I felt like it wasn’t totally necessary since that feeling of despair and loneliness are easily put forth and understood, but the glossary does help for certain parts.
I think I’d need to reread this one, though, and will maybe try to find a used copy next year. I’d also love to read more of Jean Rhys’s works to see what they’re like.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I am really enjoying my trip through Agatha Christie’s books! This was one that I had ordered MONTHS ago through the Book Depository (which, for some reason, is taking upwards of two months to deliver books to Canada) and I was super excited to read it because I’ve heard that it’s the most Agatha Christie, Agatha Christie book and I was just so intrigued by the story. I had read a few adaptations of this one, from Ten by Gretchen McNeil or The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, but I have to say that none of these lived up to the original.
As with every Agatha Christie book, I read this one so quickly and loved every second of it. I loved referring back to the original poem at the beginning of the story, and the ending! I am really enjoying Christie’s endings because they’re really not something that I’m expecting and this ending was definitely not something that I could have guessed! I can see why this is one of her best books because the characters are mapped out so well throughout the story – I was almost worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep track of everyone when I started the story, but again Christie writes her stories so well that you’re constantly reminded of previous characters and events without it feeling like you’re being reminded.
I think the fun thing would be to reread some of Christie’s books after a while to see if I can pick up on certain clues within the stories. I think her books would be great rereads over the fall or winter because they’re just so cozy, but so macabre – a wonderful blend.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I picked up this book one day at Walmart (you’ll notice, most of my book purchases never seem to happen at actual bookstores) when I had just started to get into the classics. It was an anniversary edition and had an introduction by Neil Gaiman, which is what sold me on getting this book (as opposed to Catch-22, which was also available) since I love Neil’s writing.
I’m actually quite surprised I’d never read this in the past because it really was a great book AND it has to do with books and is very much a dystopian kind of read, but not like any other dystopian I’d read before. I was immediately sucked into the beginning of the story and the idea that the firefighters start the fires – and that books are the things that set your house on fire.
This probably would’ve been a 5 star read for me if it hadn’t been for the ending. The story is broken up into three parts and I felt like it wrapped up a little too neatly and had too much of a religious slant to it. It’s a really short story, so I think it could’ve been expanded a lot more. BUT I do appreciate what Bradbury did in showing that authors can write about seemingly normal things in a completely abnormal and disturbing way.
A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin
This was my first introduction to Kate Chopin’s writing and I only pulled this short book out – it’s one of my Penguin Little Black Classics editions – because I had been trying to find The Awakening as an ebook through my library and was having no luck.
I’m not entirely sure that this was a good introduction to Chopin’s writing because some of the stories are just so-so. I really enjoyed three of them, but I think The Story of An Hour, Desiree’s Baby, and A Pair of Silk Stockings were my favourites. The Story of An Hour is just so short but so well-written, a story of grief and loss. I saw what was coming in Desiree’s Baby, probably the most powerful story in the collection. A Pair of Silk Stockings is one of those stories about escape, one that I could relate to, being a mom – when you have a day where something happens that introduces you to this whole other life and you just decide to play it out, hoping it will never end.
One thing that I will say about Chopin’s writing is that she can write a seemingly simple story that then turns into something disturbing and unexpected. I look forward to picking up more of her works.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
This is one of the classic books that I’ve owned for the longest time. Surprisingly, it’s survived three book culls now because it was just so short that I felt like I could get to it sometime and shouldn’t be so quick to get rid of it. I’m glad that I didn’t purge it because it really was a very well-written story. I had read Orwell’s 1984 years ago and really enjoyed that one and this one was quite different from that one. Honestly, I was mostly curious to see how he could write a whole book with only animals – would it be silly?
Well, silly this book was not. Not only was it completely different but parts of it were heartbreaking. I felt like I had to read other accounts of the story or read a study guide during a reread to really understand everything since it had been so long since I learned about totalitarianism and capitalism. With the way of the world these days, especially the U.S., some of it felt like it could happen. I really felt for the lower class animals who were being taken advantage of – it really was a case of things changing so quietly and in such a way that they felt like it must have been that way all along. And Boxer! I felt for Boxer in this story – he was such a hardworking character and his story nearly brought me to tears.
I definitely think I’m going to have to read some more Orwell in the future since I’ve really enjoyed the two I’ve read by him – and I can see myself revisiting this one in the future, as well!
Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell
I had first heard of Angela Thirkell through Ange’s BookTube channel, Beyond the Pages, and since she enjoyed Thirkell’s writing so much, I thought I would give her a try. I got Pomfret Towers through my library via interlibrary loan and dug in one afternoon when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to read and I’m happy to say that it was a delightful story! I identified with Alice SO MUCH since she’s very much a character who doesn’t like social situations and literally has an anxiety attack when thrown into a situation she doesn’t think she can handle.
I loved the weekend at Pomfret Towers and all of the people we meet. I also really enjoyed that the story ultimately wasn’t about Alice, but about some of the secondary characters. This book reminded me of something that Sophie Kinsella might write these days and is definitely kind of a chick-lit novel written back in the 1930s. It was a lot of fun and I adored most characters, despised Mrs. Rivers, and by the time I finished I knew I’d have to visit more books in this series since it was quite an enjoyment to read.
This book had everything – love, humour, fascinating characters, loathsome villains (see: Mrs. Rivers), and addicting writing.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
And speaking of humourous classics, I finally got a chance to dive into The Princess Bride! I’ve been watching this movie, probably since the late ’80s and I love it every time I get to see it. I was so worried that I wouldn’t like the story, but I was pleasantly surprised as I started to read. Now, normally I forego reading introductions to classics because in the past I had been spoiled for other books by authors in the introductions, what with me being quite a newbie with classics, but as I got through the first chapter I realized that the introduction was part of the story.
This whole book was silly, romantic, satirical, hilarious, and just a fun book to curl up with. The movie, in my opinion, does a better job of showing the characters – I kind of hated Westley and Buttercup’s characters in the book but I really enjoyed them in the movie. Same thing with Fezzik’s character – I think Goldman made him out to be some blazing idiot in the story, but I really liked his character in the movie. I did enjoy how Goldman inserted himself throughout the story since some of it reminded me of the grandfather and boy in the movie, and I also thought it was hilarious and so meta that this was a story abridged from an original fairytale, with only the good parts written – and that when the author inserts his life into the story that it’s not his life at all, but that of him as a fictional author. Get it? You might have to read it to understand.
The only thing I didn’t like was the weird part added on after the story. My copy was published in the late ’90s so there’s this whole other part by the author about the movie and about another story by Morgenstern, a follow-up to The Princess Bride, called Buttercup’s Baby. I think the story was just perfect to end where it ends in the movie, with the characters riding off on their horses into the sunset, but this added on part dragged and wasn’t nearly as good as the first story. I’ll admit, I skimmed a bit at this point because it shouldn’t have been added on in the first place. However, I did love reading this story and I’m glad I finally did! I can’t wait to watch the movie again now to compare.
What classics have you read recently? Have you read any of these ones? What did you think of them? What’s on your classics reading list for 2018?