The Classics Club Challenge Complete!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Exactly five year years ago I decided to take part in The Classics Club. At the time it was a small group that wanted to make an effort to read more classics. That was right up my alley and so I made a list of 100 books I wanted to read over the course of the next five years.

Today is my deadline and just last week I posted my final review. It has been such fun completing this challenge. Somewhere along the way the club grew to a huge community. I became one of the co-moderators that helped manage and run the website.

I have absolutely loved seeing all the new members and new reviews that are constantly pouring in. We’ve had Classic Club spins, where a random number choses your next book for you. We’ve had meme questions that spark wonderful conversation.  All-in-all it has been a delight. I plan to continue to stay involved with the website, and obviously I’ll still be reading classics. I’m proud that I managed to complete my list by my deadline.

Any other Classics Club members out there getting close to finishing your lists?

Here's my complete list with links to all my reviews. At the bottom of the page there's also a list of classics I read and reviewed before beginning the challenge. 

Adam Bede

Monday, March 6, 2017

Adam Bede 
By George Eliot 

Our title character is a good man and a simple one. He sees the world in black and white. Work hard, take care of your family, and you will lead a good life. He falls in love with an impetuous young woman named Hetty. Unfortunately, Hetty has fallen for the wealthy Captain Arthur Donnithorne, a man above her station, but one who is still susceptible to the young woman’s charms. 

I loved the character of Dinah. She could be perceived as a killjoy or prude, but she never cane across to me like that. She is Hetty’s cousin and is a Methodist preacher who travels the countryside serving in local communities. Keep in mind, this was at a time when it was unusual for a woman to travel about on her own, much less to serve as a leader in the church. She has a fierce strength and independence and doesn’t give into the pleas from her family to give up her calling. 

When she is asked about being a woman preacher, this is what she says… 
“When God makes His presence felt through us, we are like the burning bush: Moses never took any heed what sort of bush it was—he only saw the brightness of the Lord.” 

Dinah: When she does finally fall for Adam, she still doesn’t agree to marry until he declares that he will never stand in the way of her duties as a preacher and he fully supports her. I was a bit heartbroken from Adam’s brother Seth, since he’s the one who originally pursued Dinah. 

Hetty’s story is so heartbreaking. I can’t imagine feeling so hopeless and abandoned. In the midst of her panic about her pregnancy she didn’t trust anyone with her secret and so she was unwilling to look for other options. Even though her life was spared, her future was still going to be full of grief and guilt no matter what. 

BOTTOM LINE: I loved it. It reminded me so much of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and The Return of the Native (both of which were published decades after this one). It’s an intense look at the desperation of one woman and the man who loved her. I appreciated the rich depth of characters like Dinah and Adam. I also liked that Arthur wasn't a one-note cad. He easily could have been, but instead we see the situation from his point of view as well. 

“What destroys us most effectively is not a malign fate but our own capacity for self-deception and for degrading our own best self.” 

“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” 

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”

On the Beach

Thursday, March 2, 2017

On the Beach 
By Nevil Shute 

In Australia, residents await a wave of radiation that’s slowly been making its way south after the rest of the world participated in a nuclear World War III. Although the basis for the story is bleak, the humanity of the details makes this an incredibly personal read. It’s not about the bombs and the battles; it’s about the quiet personal moments between spouses and friends as they decide what to do with their remaining months of life.  

There’s poignancy in the futility of the little things, planting a garden, sewing a button and a jacket. Though there is technically no point in talking about the future, people can’t seem to help themselves. They worry about their children’s teething issues even though there’s a much worse fate in store for them. 

Most people continue to do the things that they love. I think what struck me the most about this book was the civility of people even though they knew what was coming. There was no murder and looting, instead the majority of the people continue their lives as normal, focusing a little more on family and leisure than they would have in everyday life. They knew it was coming, but that didn't change who they were as people. There were a few people who did things a bit more extreme, like racing at top speeds, because they had nothing to lose, but even those people did it in a structured way. The funny thing is, even though they know it’s the end of the world, they can’t help succumbing to normal things like falling in love. 

BOTTOM LINE: Beautiful and heartbreaking, this classic provides a look at society on the brink of extension. It took me a minute to embrace the style of storytelling, which felt a bit stilted, but after that I was sucked in. 

“If what they say is right we're none of us going to have time to do all that we planned to do. But we can keep on doing it as long as we can.”