Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme created by The Broke and the Bookish blog.
I’ve created my own topic this week in celebration of #Victober: Top Ten Victorian Novels*
*I’m defining Victorian novel as one written in Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901)
Note: these are in no particular order
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
If I had to choose a single favorite book, it would be Jane Eyre. I first read this classic around the age of twelve and have since returned to it again and again. What’s more, I have discovered something new in Charlotte’s masterpiece each and every time. I always feel a spiritual kinship with Jane and become entranced by Charlotte’s prose. I’m pretty overdue on a reread and will have to pick up one of my many copies soon.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
Anne Brontë deserves as much attention and acclaim as her sisters. This phenomenal Victorian novel was so far ahead of its time. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall explores issues of abuse, alcoholism, and infidelity. It is even more feminist than Jane Eyre. Not only is it an important read, it is also simply a captivating story told in an interesting way. It’s suspenseful, romantic, and complex. I hope The Tenant of Wildfell Hall will eventually be as well-known and as beloved as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
Far From the Maddening Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Hardy is my favorite male Victorian novelist. I love getting swept away by his dramatic, descriptive, pastoral novels. At the moment at least, I consider Far From the Madding Crowd to be my favorite of his. The fiercely independent and flawed Bathsheba Everdene is one of my favorite heroines, and who doesn’t love kind and loyal Gabriel Oak. There’s enough of Hardy’s renowned tragedy here, but there’s also a hopeful ending and plenty of beauty throughout as well.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Even though I was familiar with the premise of the story, there were still plenty of surprises to be had in reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. I loved Oscar Wilde’s wit, humor, and observations on art, society, and beauty. Dorian is a deplorable character, but his descent into depravity is so much fun to read about. This is a delightfully dark read that certainly deserves its status as a classic horror novel.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
This was the first Dickens’ novel I read, and I remember being thoroughly engrossed in Pip’s story. I admittedly haven’t read much else by the famous Victorian author, so I’ll be interested to see if another of his works will replace Great Expectations as my favorite in the future.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
This is such a fun read and one I completely devoured. Wilkie Collins has crafted an entertaining, page-turning mystery that is just as enjoyable today as it was when it was first written. Plus, Marian Halcombe is one of my favorite feminist characters-she is seriously badass-and Count Fosco is one of my favorite villains to hate. Writing this is making me want to reread this sensational novel asap. I absolutely cannot wait for the upcoming BBC miniseries!!
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
I can’t recommend North and South enough. In fact, if you haven’t read it, you should really just stop scrolling through this post and go track down a copy. You have a beautifully written novel featuring fully-fleshed characters, social justice, and a slow-burning love story waiting for you. Full confession: I watched the stunning BBC miniseries before I was even aware of the book. Once I picked up North and South however, it quickly earned its status as one of my favorite books. It has also become one of the Victorian novels I reread the most, second only to Jane Eyre.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
This tragic novel simultaneously infuriates me and breaks my heart. Tess of the d’Urbervilles was my introduction to Hardy, and I fell for his beautifully descriptive writing, pastoral settings, and complex characters. I think his sympathetic treatment of Tess was ahead of its time as well.
Villette by Charlotte Brontë
I have vivid memories of reading Villette curled up in bed one winter, when I was sick with a nasty chest cold. As Charlotte Brontë’s last novel-written after the deaths of all three of her siblings-there is an almost palpable atmosphere of melancholy and loneliness imbued in every page. Unlike Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe is a challenge to get to know. She is incredibly secretive, solitary, and often an unreliable narrator. Even so, there’s something about her that really speaks to me. This is a hauntingly beautiful novel that I plan to return to again and again. And I still haven’t recovered from that ending…
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
I first became aware of Elizabeth Gaskell as a preteen when I watched the excellent BBC miniseries of Wives and Daughters on Masterpiece Theatre with my mom. Fast-forward several years later: I read the novel and fell even more in love with the characters and story. It’s full of such warmth, humor, and overall loveliness. There’s also enough angst, heartache, and drama to keep things interesting. I’ll always regret that Gaskell didn’t live long enough to complete the book on her own.
What are some of your favorite Victorian novels?