10 Books for People Who Don’t Normally Like Victorian Novels

articles, book lists, top 10 Tuesday / Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Of all the eras, Victorian Era gets a bad rap from the ungodly wordiness of Charles Dickens or the “please Miss don’t show your ankles” mentality we associate with them today. Yet, Victorian Literature is actually full of interesting authors, who are actually exciting. Who knew? By reading some of these delightful reads, people who don’t normally like to read Victorian Literature might find themselves swayed over to the other side. Don’t worry, you will be in good company, same thing happened to me. To get you really in the Victorian era mood, I highly recommend to listen to “British Things” or “Charles Dickens” from the Horrible Histories series.

Also, be warned there are spoilers a foot!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëThis was the first Victorian novel, I ever read. Back in high school when I had fluffy curly hair, I buckled down one summer and read it. Though, it was the last time, I read this book, it’s still one of my favorites. It is my personal opinion that everyone should read it at least once in their lives. If you’re not familiar, here is my spark notes edition of it:  orphan secret heiress (has a shitty childhood, and develops her own autonomy) becomes a governess for a child and ends up falling in love for her studly Gothic employer, who keeps his current wife in the attic. Lots of drama is involved, but in the end everything ends up swell! If I met Jane one day, I would like to say: “you really know how to pick them, gurl.” She would probably have some witty comeback about my choice of gentleman. Then, I’ll probably cry and have to give in to her roasting my dating life, or lack of it.

Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot-I’m not usually one to root for people to read large books, but please people it’s worth it! It is one of the few Victorian novels that is considered awesome, but underrated. The plot is really long and will take up most of this article if I thoroughly describe the plot lines of every character. So instead of boring everyone, I will focus on Dorothea Brooke. She initially marries a much older man, The Reverend Edward Casaubon, so she could be involved in his intellectual pursuits. However, he rejects this idea and resents her during their honeymoon. Then, Casaubon’s much younger cousin Will Ladislaw comes to live with them. Eventually, Casaubon dies, and Dorothea and Will develop a close friendship. There’s a slight problem though, Casaubon thinking there might be some romantic involvement between them and leaves a provision in his will that if she marries Will she will lose all of her inheritance. Try as Dorothea might she falls hard for Will like a passionate romantic heroine. The tension is so thick that when they finally start expressing romantic feelings for each other a.k.a making out a tree is split outside the window by lighting. Now, that is the type of passionate love with another individual that I can only aspire too!

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins-Fun fact, Wilkie was bff to Dickens. When I was an undergraduate, I took a class on Victorian Literature. Of all the books I read, this one is my second favorite. If you like a good mystery, suspense, or detective novel, then I highly recommend The Moonstone. Now onto the plot! Rachel Verinder, a young heiress, was a normal gal enjoying her birthday until her black sheep of the family uncle gifts her the Moonstone. Her uncle Colonel Herncastle acquired the Moonstone through theft and murder in India during the Siege of Seringapatam. After his family shuns him, he seeks revenge by gifting his niece the Moonstone (the guardians of it will stop at nothing to retrieve it according to legend). I’m so lucky this guy isn’t my uncle. At the party, the Moonstone mysteriously disappears, and it is up to Sergeant Cuff and Franklin Blake to solve the case. Once it’s retrieved, the characters make sure to return it back to its rightful place. Good idea, I wouldn’t want a cursed jewel just laying about my house either.

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Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome-Have you ever wondered what it would be like like to have a two-week boating trip with your two best buds? Well, don’t worry, because Jerome K. Jerome already beat you to with Three Men in a Boat. The novel is a humorous account of Jerome’s travels on the Thames with his two friends George Wingrave and Carl Hentschel, and his fictional dog Montmorency, who at times in the novel seems to be the only one with a brain. Though a lot of Victorian humor does not translate well now, it is one of the few humorous Victorian books that can still be enjoyed today. If you’re not interested in actually reading, there is a movie adaptation floating around with Tim Curry in it portraying Jerome’s character “J.”

The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- Second fun fact, Dickens helped George Eliot get her start. Since this wouldn’t be a proper list without at least one piece of work written by Charles Dickens. Since I took a class in Dickens back in the day, I’ve become the unofficial Dickens expert. Here is some advice: don’t read his books, well actually Great Expectations was not so bad. Other than his novels, I find Dickens shorter works like his short stories, articles, and essays much better and underappreciated. Though The Christmas Carol has become a Christmas classic, most of the story told today is only part of the story. There are a lot of sexual innuendos and strange moments of allegory. If you read the original uncensored version, you might scratch your head and wonder why certain parts were left out of The Muppet Christmas Carol.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle-I’m not normally a Sherlock Holmes fan, but I do like The Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s my favorite Holmes case, because of Doyle’s use of Gothic elements. I’m a sucker for a good family curse and mysterious deaths because of it. It’s easy to see which one of Holmes stories is full of it! The case begins with the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville. Since his ancestor (Hugo Baskerville) supposedly sold his soul to the devil to be able to abduct a woman. In my opinion, that is some dedication to sex if you need to sell your soul to the devil. Anyway, after this transaction, a specter hound kills Hugo. Now, the family has a curse upon it. Holmes and Watson teams up once more to solve the case so the new heir Sir Henry Baskerville does not end up like his uncle. After many strange circumstances the case is solved, and a cousin to Sir Henry (Rodger Baskerville) is the real culprit. I would like someone to do a remake of this story where the curse is actually real and Holmes and Watson have to try to figure out how to stop the spectral hounds.

Frankenstein, or the Modern Promethus by Mary Shelley-Unfortunately, Frankenstein’s monster has a bad rap in horror films as a being a mindless walking corpse. In Shelley’s original work, it’s simply not true. Sure, the monster is made of undead parts, but he is probably one of the most intellectual characters I’ve come across in my reading adventures. Frankenstein, the scientist, is a deadbeat dad. After being rejected by “his father,” Frankenstein’s monster runs away reads some good books, ponders his existence, has some serious daddy issues, and causes some havoc. You know regular teenage angst except on a much deadlier level. What most movie goers don’t realize is the psychological game Frankenstein’s monster plays with Frankenstein till everyone Frankenstein loves is dead. In the end Frankenstein, is a good cautionary tale about 1. why you should be a good parent and 2. about how you should not play God with some fancy science.

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Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson-
Like Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde has been slightly ruined by the horror movie genre. Stevenson may have lived a brief life, but he sure created a lot of literary classics before dying and paved the way for a lot of authors including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Similar to almost everything written in this time period, the perspective is told from a second hand account. In this particular case, it is by a London lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson. Utterson, a good friend of Dr. Jekyll, is central for the reader to understand the struggle between Jekyll and his cruel indulgent alter ego Mr. Hyde. While in the movies Mr. Hyde is typically portrayed as taller, older, and more robust, in the original text, Dr. Jekyll is actually taller, older, and more so robust while Mr. Hyde is shorter and younger. In the end, most of us have a vague understanding what happens. Here is some clarity, Dr. Jekyll’s transforms into Mr. Hyde permanently, and this tale ends in his death.

Now since all of the other Victorian novels, I’ve read are kind of terrible and don’t deserve to be on this list, I’m including two Victorian novels from my To Read list.

Wuthering Heights by Emily BrontëEmily is like the edgy sister of the Brontës. Nothing says edgy like a guy wasting all of his life pining over the girl that got away. Sheesh, that sounds like Goethe’s Sufferings of Young Werther all over again. While Charlotte’s work has elements of Gothic elements and lots of controversy, from what I hear Wuthering Heights has even more of that which has been enticing me to read it. Since, I have yet to read it, I’m simply going to describe it from my understanding as a love story between Heathcliff and Kathy. 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll-I feel like this is one of the books I missed out as reading as a child and as an adult. A lot of what I have experienced in pop culture revolves around Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (including my handy dandy coloring book), and it just irks me that I haven’t even read it yet! To give a brief synopsis of the novel, basically a little girl falls down a rabbit hole, meets strange characters, and almost finds herself executed by the Queen of Hearts. Right before she literally meets the chopping block, she wakes up and figures everything she just experienced was just a dream. Sorry this one isn’t as a descriptive as the others, but my brain is done thinking of clever and witty lines for the night.

Good night, everyone! What Victorian Novels do you recommend?

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