Hosted by: The Broke and the Bookish
Today’s Topic : Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Ended Up Loving or Ten Books That Were A Chore To Get Through or Ten Books I’ve Most Recently Put DownSo, as usual I have interpreted today’s prompt to suit myself. There are very few books that I don’t end up finishing. I hate giving up on a story even when it doesn’t resonate with me. Plus, I always want to promote good stories and authors. I have no desire to draw negative attention to books I don’t enjoy, because one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?
In pondering this week’s topic, I finally decided to highlight a genre which I don’t particularly love. I totally understand the need and value of the classics, but for the most part, I find them dull, overly wordy, depressing and just boring. In my opinion, real life gives enough hard knock lessons without needing them preached to me by my entertainment choices. I can and do appreciate stories of tragedy, but overall I prefer those which promote encouraging messages and hope. And I love a happy ending, so sue me.
One thing that surprised me when making this list, is that most of the classics I have problems with were written by men. I enjoy those written by female writers like the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskill etc. So perhaps it’s not the classics I take issue with, but the authors themselves and their masculine view of the world? It’s certainly made me reconsider my view of the classics in general.
Of Mice and Men -I can’t stand cruelty in any form and this book had plenty of it. It made me feel terrible things. I remember reading this in my high school English class and hating it. It is a sad and hopeless tale and made me despair for the world and the people in it.
Lord of the Flies -This was another book with too much cruelty in it. So much so that it made me physically sick to my stomach. Even though it was assigned reading, I was able to convince my teacher to allow me to choose another book in its’ place. I ended up reading Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and loving it. I much prefer the glorified ideals of knighthood to those of chaos and rebellion. Is that realistic? Maybe not, but let me live in my dream world please.
Romeo and Juliet -I struggled with Shakespeare in school. The language is better understood performed than read. Why Romeo and Juliet is the preferred introduction to Shakepeare, I have no idea, because there are so many better options. I love a good romantic tragedy, but this is a STUPID romantic tragedy. All those deaths could have been avoided with the passage of a little time. I mean it is clear that Romeo falls in love at the drop of a hat. His attention would have inevitably been diverted to another daughter of Verona. Honestly, the level of passionate immaturity between these lovers kind of makes me want to kill them myself. As if a double suicide is the truest expression of love in literature.
The Scarlet Letter -Okay, I didn’t actually hate The Scarlet Letter. Let’s just say I was appalled by the hypocrisy and injustice of it. Poor Hester Prynne. Of course, I wish she had just had a little more backbone and exposed the father of her child instead of suffering in silence. I am of the opinion that suffering in silence is a form of personal martyrdom and one which I find repellant. Plus, I’m not a fan of cowardly men, especially when they hide behind clerical collars.
The Old Man and the Sea -Boring with a capital B! I mean honestly, who really wants to read an entire novel about a man’s fishing trip? I don’t even have the patience for real life fishing. Listen, if you have nothing better to do than wrestle with a marlin (or a whale, why Herman Melville, why?) than please don’t make the rest of us suffer by drawing out the drama of your little fish tale. There was not a single person in my English class who could make it through the book, or the movie for that matter.
A Farewell To Arms -Another Ernest Hemingway novel on this list. Clearly, I have no love for Hemingway, but then his outlook on life was always bleak. Why do we always make celebrities out of artists who struggle with depression and addictions? Anyway, war is always a violent and brutal topic to cover. But only Hemingway would take a wartime romance and give it the saddest ending possible, just when it looks like there might be hope. I think Hemingway just hated the idea of love. If he can’t be happy than his characters can’t be happy either.
Little Women -I don’t hate this story at all. In fact, I actually really love it. It is rather inspiring and I love that it features a female lead with big dreams. The family relationship is warm and loving. BUT. Laurie and Jo. I will never forgive Louisa May Alcott for Laurie and Jo. Clearly they are well matched and belong together, but they both end up with other people. The Professor is nice, but let’s be honest, he’s not the best match for our spunky Jo. And Amy and Laurie?? Seriously, Amy? Just….no! I am convinced (with absolutely no supporting evidence, it’s all in my mind), that Anne of Green Gables, was LM Montgomery’s attempt to correct the worst romantic disaster in literature. Anne is very much like Jo, but thankfully she does finally end up with the boy who has always loved her. As she should. Jo and Laurie forever!!!
Great Expectations -Oh yay, another depressing AND stupid love story. Let’s be clear, I do like the parts of the book which don’t pertain to Pip and Estella. Miss Havisham is a tragic and intriguing character. And I love the uniqueness of including Magwitch, the escaped convict, as Pip’s mysterious benefactor. It has an air of redemption in it. But Pip’s love for Estella makes me want to slap him. She is so utterly self-absorbed and he really has no reason to love her. Honestly, his pining over her is pathetic and using her as a motivation for improving his life is a terrible idea. She doesn’t deserves his love and it is a total waste for him to give it. Even though they ultimately end up together I kind of wish they didn’t . But apparently this type of romance is popular in classic fiction, because it shows up again in The Great Gatsby. A side note to Dickens and Fitzgerald -putting great in your title, doesn’t mean it is true. You know what IS great? Mature, selfless people who mutually commit to love each other. Love is wasted on the selfish.
Wuthering Heights -Ugh, don’t even get me started. Yes, I know this is authored by one of the great Bronte sisters. I would like to state for the record, Heathcliff is NOT a hero. Not even a tragic one. There is nothing romantic about his brooding, revengeful nature. Look, I know he had a hard, terrible life, but that is no excuse to take it out on innocent bystanders. Do you know what grown adults do when they don’t get their way? They move on! They don’t pout for decades and punish everyone around them with a perpetual bad mood. Why are so many of the romances in classic literature a one sided love fest where the object of affection is utterly selfish??
Doctor Zhivago -And here’s another one. I have a special love for Russian history and culture. But don’t get me started on their literature. Why is it always so dark and hopeless? And why does it take them 700 pages to tell a story which could be told in half that amount? It’s kind of the same argument I have for Nascar. Why 500 laps? Make it 150 and let’s call it a day. Anyway, this is another looooong, bleak tale from a Russian master about characters I couldn’t make myself really care about. Russian history is filled with fascinating events and people and this is the kind of story we get? I kind of just wish Pasternak would have put everyone out if their misery by killing his characters off in the war and ending the book. That at least I could have respected.
So, what’s your opinion on the classics? Are you a lover or a hater? Do you have a favorite that might change my opinion?