The last couple of weeks I have been very much into reading classics. Again. For me, reading them is like a re-occurring obsession: ever since I first started reading them, I get the urge to read a lot of them and getting to know every little detail there is to know every one or two years. So now, I’m in that phase again (I’m referring to it as my ‘Rory Gilmore-phase’), and I wanted to write something about it.
My favorite classic is the Little Women series by Louisa May Alcott. I still have my old beaten up version of the first book, that was already old and beaten up when I got it when I was around nine or ten. It’s very easy to read and it never fails to make me long for staying in with a blanket and a cup of tea and a book (and unfortunately, a squeaking guinea pig in the background) on a cold winter’s day.*
I love the way Alcott writes her characters, because they are so different. Although all of them have their flaws, I really wanted them as sisters. The concept of brushing each others hair and dressing up for a dance** really spoke to me and made growing up with three brothers seem all the more exhausting. I loved the book so much, that I wrote stories about a girl, growing up in the same time and place, having a fling with her very attractive neighbor. There are other classics I like to reread, like Madame Bovary by Flaubert, but nothing beats Little Women.
I think that the key to really like reading classics is that you start off by picking the right one for your first attempt. Also, you shouldn’t start too young with reading the wrong book. For me, Little Women was a very good first attempt, but I followed up with trying to read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina next when I was thirteen. Couldn’t have gone more wrong there: it was a complete failure. Not only did I try to read it in English, so I didn’t understand half of the words, but I also felt like I was being introduced to the whole population of Russia in the first fifty pages. I tried again a few years later, but I don’t think I will ever be fully prepared for this monster of a book. I did like Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, though.
So yes, this is it for me and classics. Currently I’m trying to find a good list that I can use to build my Classics-to-read-list, one that is the perfect combination between tough classics and children’s books to fluff it up a little bit. I would love to get some recommendations. I promise I will give them a try, if only they are not: “Try Anna Karenina again, it really gets better after page 200…” No, just no.
*Writing this now, with a very, very cold glass of lemonade and two sighing guinea pigs in the background, I can’t wait for it to be winter.
**The scene in which Jo burns off a few strands of hair at the front of Meg’s with a curling iron still makes me a bit anxious to use one myself.