In 2009, I bought the Rough Guide to Classic Novels by Simon Mason (no relation that I know of). I was a woman on a mission. I would go through and read anything on the list I hadn't already read. I am still on that mission. Well, Rome wasn't built in a day. And I'm not a quick reader. On top of which, this guide underlined quite dramatically that I was not particularly well read. I mean, I hadn't heard of half of the authors, never mind read them. What had I been doing over the years when I thought I'd been reading extensively?
But then I stopped and launched forth. The experience is on-going. And joyous! I've discovered authors, broadened my reading horizons and extended my library. I am very proud.
I am, however, not doing this alone. Oh no. This pain I was going to share. Consequently, I bought a second copy of Mr Mason's book, and sent it to a very dear friend of mine along with one of the books he cited (one I'd already read, of course), encouraging her to join me on my journey. And she did. Bless. We don't read the same books at the same time - which possibly could have been more fun, like a cyber book society - but all the same, we exchange experiences and check up on one another's progress. The spirit of competition remains as effective as ever.
My favourite part of all this so far has been discovering Edith Wharton and Ivan Turgenev. I'd heard of EW previously, but from a great distance. I read The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth, followed by Ethan Frome. Stunning. I was hooked. It was like Jane Austen, but dark and then darker still. As a realist, happy endings can leave me cold. Unless I'm hormonal. But even EW's reality was brutal. Still, there was an amazing dignity maintained by the brutalised.
IT - or indeed, IST (Ivan Sergeevich) - writes beautiful prose. I have only read A First Love and Fathers and Sons, so I can't claim any expertise. It's just a delight to read him. And don't we read to be delighted? He depicts love, the romance of youth and the pursuit of relationships masterfully. And not just love and lust between the sexes either. Fathers and Sons examines - yes, that's right - fathers and sons: family dynamics, the idealistic almost arrogant youths, the adoring parents, the frowning uncle gazing on from another generation. Even the "minor" characters enjoy a moment of glory each time they appear. I've decided to stray from the list and investigate IST further. My Amazon basket is already full of his works. All IST gifts are, of course, welcome... :0)
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