For the last few nights I have stayed up much too late. Thankfully I have just now finished Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope, first published in London in 1865. (This is a great book for you if you would like a mix of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Charles Dickens’ wryly humorous style of social satire.) It was better than sleep! Which is funny for a book that my husband would say “is about nothing,” but it wasn’t about nothing. It was a riveting story of a good woman who inherits an unexpected fortune and then what becomes of her (and the money) as she goes into the “fashionable” world alone.
When it comes to fiction, I exclusively read the bestsellers of the past. In the old days, books were whole and good: the good characters often suffered much, but then were always rewarded with a very happy ending that exactly suited their patience, goodwill, and generous natures. Now, in the stories our culture tells, watches, and reads, bad characters are made sympathetic, and very often get rewarded for their wickedness. Some books (on high school reading lists, no less) even try to make the most depraved actions seem acceptable through the likeability of a main character who does these unspeakable deeds. Staunchly defending my mind and heart, I will not let poisons like these envenom my mind and heart.
And so I love love love love LOVE Victorian fiction. Dozens and dozens of authors have given us so many styles and flavors to choose from: there’s the “gothic” sturm und drang of the Brontë sisters (even from the pen of mild Anne, the youngest), the wry and biting social satire of Thackeray and Trollope, the sensitivity to character of Dickens and Eliot, and the passionate middle-class dramas of Thomas Hardy’s novels (one of his works is my second favorite book in the world, but some of his works you should completely skip!). These books are classics, and therefore their rereadability is infinite, should you ever make it all the way to the end of the long list of must-reads. You and I can be very happy finding great books out of this era for a long time.
If you would like some of my personal recommendations as to great Victorian literature, feel free to post below. Of course I would love to hear from you, too, on what I should read soon. (The next book I have on my personal “To-Read” list is The Heart of Mid-Lothian by Sir Walter Scott. Has anyone read that?) It’s time again to escape into the real world, where good is good and evil is evil, called so and so rewarded. For that is how the story of our lives and the world itself will ultimately end, the dark and demented fantasies of the modern world notwithstanding. Make some tea and grab an old book with me today!