The Novel Conversations collection includes a number of books that have earned the title of “classics” and yet are still being read and discussed decades after they were written.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – Jane Austen’s most famous novel revolves around money, class, romance and the battle of the sexes. With five daughters and no sons, the Bennet family is in danger of losing their home and living unless the girls find rich husbands. Prospects seem daunting, but Mr. Bennet cautions Elizabeth, our heroine, not to settle for a relationship without mutual respect. First published in 1813, the book has retained its popularity for more than two centuries.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL – There have been so many screen versions of Charles Dickens’ short novel that everyone knows the story. As always with Dickens, the charm of the book owes more to the lively and humorous characters than to the moralistic plot. Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Mr. Fezziwig, and Ebenezer Scrooge all wait to be rediscovered in this seasonal favorite.
THE SCARLET LETTER – What makes The Scarlet Letter a contender for the Great American Novel? Themes like marriage and betrayal, sin and guilt, sex and secrets are there, but it is what the novel says about America that continues to fascinate readers. Nathaniel Hawthorne, writing in the 19th century, was himself looking back to a bygone Puritan era that still reverberated in the New England of his time and remains a strong influence in ours.
THE HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CANDLES – The “Golden Age of Indiana Literature” (1880-1920) centered on four authors: George Ade, James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington and Meredith Nicholson, the author of The House of a Thousand Candles. This romantic mystery, set in an isolated mansion in rural Indiana, became a bestseller and gave its name to the present-day headquarters of Indiana Humanities.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – Harper Lee wrote this Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece about the changing South of the 1950s, seeing the conflict and injustice through the eyes of a child. As Scout’s father battles the legal system to defend a wrongfully accused African American man, she learns that her family values are very different from the norm.
Here’s a challenge – see if you can match the first line of each classic novel to its title!
a) Pickering’s letter bringing news of my grandfather’s death found me at Naples early in October.
b) It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
c) When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
d) A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bare-headed, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak and studded with iron spikes.
e) Marley was dead: to begin with.
This post was written by Nancy Conner, director of grants and Novel Conversations.