Recommended Reading

By popular demand–or, at any rate, at the request of ‘Robby Virus,’ of Blogging the Canon, one of my favorite sources for lively commentary and good drinks recipes–here is the list of ‘recommended further reading’ I offered to the students in my 19th-century fiction class at the end of term.

If you liked Persuasion:

  • other Austen novels, but especially Pride and Prejudice (you never know, some of them might not have already read it)
  • for a similar combination of delicate social satire and affectionate domestic comedy, try some Trollope; I have a fondness for The Warden, but Barchester Towers is also manageable in length and delightful
  • for a novel that combines an Austen-like sensitivity to social and moral nuances with an intellectual range closer to George Eliot’s, Elizabeth Gaskell’s last novel Wives and Daughters
  • for fun, Bridget Jones’s Diary (smarter and wittier than the adaptation)

If you liked Vanity Fair:

  • Tom Jones, if you have the patience for it
  • Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds (Lizzie Eustace, Becky Sharp, and Scarlett O’Hara should be in some kind of “Literary Diva Survivor” show)

If you liked Jane Eyre:

  • Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (in some ways, I think this is a better-crafted and more subtle novel than Jane Eyre, with all its melodrama)
  • Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, another one of those novels that ought to put paid to the idea that nineteenth-century fiction is all about naive realism
  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret, if melodrama is what you like best
  • Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith, because I never miss an opportunity to recommend it

If you liked Bleak House:

  • other Dickens, of course, especially Great Expectations, David Copperfield, and Little Dorrit
  • or, if what you liked about it was its social conscience, then Gaskell’s Mary Barton
  • or, if what you liked about it was its capaciousness, then Trollope’s The Way We Live Now or He Knew He Was Right, for more multiplot madness

If you liked The Mill on the Floss:

  • Middlemarch. Actually, no matter what else you like, my recommendation is that you read Middlemarch.
  • Daniel Deronda, because once you’re done reading Middlemarch you’ll be temporarily dissatisfied with every other author, so you’ll go looking for more George Eliot to read.
  • Felix Holt (see previous comment)
  • Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles

And some recommended neo-Victorian novels, if you’re interested in what smart contemporary novelists have done with this legacy:

  • Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  • Byatt, Posession and Angels and Insects (the latter might be of particular interest to the scientifically inclined)
  • Waters, Fingersmith (just go read it!)
  • Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White, a novel that may actually deserve the adjective “Dickensian”

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