Classically Surprising

July 19, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

kramskoi-neizvestnaia Okay, I started this whole horrible stream-of-consciousness review of Anna Karenina which start out vaguely humorous and quickly progressed into indubitably inane before ending abruptly and rather pointlessly. Why did I write that drivel? Because I really don’t know what to say about Anna Karenina. To say it was good seems too obvious, to comment on its excellently written and realistic characters is equally stupid, and to discuss the plot would probably give away the ending.

Rather than attempt a review of Anna (summary of said nonexistent review: It’s really, really good and you should read it immediately), I’ve decided to devote this post to intimidating classic novels (starting with Anna) that turned out to be strangely readable and really enjoyable. Hey, people have been reading them for centuries for a reason, right?

1. Anna Karenina I was prompted to read this book by, of all things, Real Simple Magazine who claimed that it was a great beach book filled with soapy intrigue and affairs. All the same, I can’t say I was really convinced that something as hefty and, well, Russian as Anna Karenina could possibly be as airy as to dub it “beach reading.” I was wrong! It could never been called “light reading,” but Anna was undeniably enjoyable and a fairly easy read. The story is fast-paced with about a million different characters and plot-lines running flawlessly through it. Its only downfalls were its sometimes random plot-lines (um, Kitty in Europe?) and the constant fretting of Levin. I realize that he was having internal, life-changing strife, but (and I think this is fairly classic Tolstoy) did he have to ramble on about finding his life’s meaning, doing so, and then giving it up again more than once? And for chapters on end? If I were looking for deeper meaning or intellectual reading, rather than something beachy, I think I would have probably enjoyed these long ponderings more.

2. The Count of Monte Cristo This being Dumas, I expected this to be a fairly exciting read, but I was slightly daunted by its sheer heft. Happily, Dumas did not disappoint. The book is long and convoluted, but it is also brilliant and an excellent read. For something so lengthy, much like Anna, Monte Cristo is surprisingly readable and it is downright exciting to keep up with all the plot-lines and characters.

3. Persuasion As one of Jane Austen’s later novels, I feel like Persuasion often gets ignored and is not really thought of as a “must read” of the Austen canon. This being the case, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t like it and that it might be tough to get through. After finishing it, I was completely delighted and quickly realized that it was definitely my favorite Austen by far. For me, anyway, it was definitely a “must read.”

4. Gilgamesh So. Awesome. I’ve seen friends cringe at my enthusiasm for this story/book, but it is such a good read. It’s exciting and adventurous and not as intimidating as you would think an incomplete ancient Mesopotamian tale or something rather pretentiously dubbed “the oldest written story on earth” would be!

So what classic literature were you pleasantly surprised at?

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Entry filed under: Classics, Musings and Essays. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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