Saturday, October 27, 2012

Favorite Fiction: Classics for Fall Reading

I don't know about you, but something about cool, overcast fall days makes me want to snuggle into a giant chair with a mug of hot chocolate and a nice piece of classic literature.  Maybe it's the introspective nature of the season, or the longer nights, but for me, autumn is a time for classic reading.  Here are a few of my favorite works of classic literature that are just perfect for this time of year:

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

 Mr. Dickens's timeless tale of Orphan Pip and his relationship with the quirky, eccentric Estella is great for this time of year.  With the dark, heavy nature of Victorian literature coupled with the infamous Miss Havisham, you have a perfect book to get you through the long, cold nights of late fall.  I remember reading this novel for the first time in late October and feeling like there could not be a more seasonally appropriate book.  Dickens's England is gloomy, wet, muddy, and dark.  Just thinking about it makes me want to put on something made of wool.  But I recommend reading it in an old, decrepit wedding dress, snuggled close to a roaring fire.  Well, not too close...

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This gothic tale of horror, romance, and suspense tells the story of Jane Eyre, an orphaned, abused young woman who acquires a job as a governess for a little girl named Adele, who is under the care of the broody, but devastatingly handsome Mr. Rochester.  The longer Jane stays on the Rochester estate, the more hopelessly in love she falls.  But something isn't quite right in the big, cold manor house.  Strange things begin to happen and Jane is completely unprepared for the surprises that await her.  Basically everything in this book is shadowy, grim, and morose, which is perfect for the gloomy, overcast days of this time of year.  Although sometimes this book feels so cold that I recommend settling into this classic with a thick blanket and a hot cup of tea.

A New-England Tale by Catharine Maria Sedgwick

A lesser-known classic author, Catharine Maria Sedgwick paved the way for female authors in the 1800s.  Published in 1822, A New-England Tale is a novel of domestic life in the early 1800s as well as a commentary on religious injustice - particularly in relation to Calvinism.  The subject matter sounds rather dull, but Sedgwick's use of language and her impeccable descriptive abilities make you want to immediately plan a trip to Massachusetts and churn some butter.  But at the same time, the book has the dark, ominous feel of an early gothic novel.  They say there's something about Boston in the fall, and Sedgwick's tale will transport you to the early American Massachusetts countryside.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

You may have noticed an overabundance of vampire fiction on the market in the past few years, but if you've never read Dracula, let me assure you that this book is a whole different animal.  With so many film/tv versions of Stoker's classic tale, you probably know the plot by heart, but seriously, this book is worth your time.  Stoker's timeless Victorian horror novel is full of bumps in the night and stormy skies, not to mention the old, creepy castle filled with cobwebs, winding staircases, and heaving bosoms.  Not only will Dracula make you want to plan a midnight picnic in Romania, but the story's diary-entry format may inspire you to to write out your own thoughts under a crooked, dead tree.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

I'll admit it.  I've never read 1984 or Animal Farm, but I do consider myself a big Orwell fan precisely because of this book.  Published in 1933, Orwell's memoir recounts his impoverished living experience as a kitchen worker in Paris and London in the late 1920s (although some critics claim that much of the book is fictionalized).  Let me warn is gross and incredibly depressing, but it is a raw, honest account of bohemian life in two of the world's most thriving, artistic cities at the convergence of the naturalist and modernist movements.  Poor Orwell....everywhere he went was enshrouded in fog, rain, detriment, and mud, but such is the life of a struggling artist, and not many writers struggled more than Orwell.  This was Orwell's first book, and despite the horrendous subject matter, it is one of the most compelling, beautifully-written books I've ever read.  It's one of my top 10 books of all time, and while I would recommend it for any time of year, it's just perfect between October and February.

Whenever I think of fall, I think of sweaters, scarves, cider, crunchy leaves and, of course, classic literature.  These are just a few works that come to my mind as I'm looking out my living room window at the most gorgeously gloomy fall day we've seen all year.  What are some of your favorite classic books for this season?