The Classics Club – December Meme Question #17

What is your favourite classic book?

A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Being a lover of the classics it is impossible for me to pick just one book. There are a few dozen that come to mind, all with special memories.  It is like trying to choose a favourite from among your children.  So instead, I am going to choose my favourite classic book from this year: 2013.

And the winner is:

Dante Alighieri’s epic work, The Divine Comedy, was just amazing in its scope. This was my first read, so I spent much of my time attempting to familiarize myself with the various historical figures and allusions.  I plan a re-read in another couple of years.  This time I read the translation by John Ciardi that, while not the best one for sticking to original content, apparently conveys the “flavour” of Dante the best of all the translations.  Next time I will probably try the Mandelbaum translation which is more balanced in content.  Dorothy Sayers’ translation intrigues me as well but she sacrificed content for form, so it is not one of the higher recommendations.

Honorable mentions go to:

The House of Mirth was a surprise star for me this year.  Wharton’s masterful handling of the character of Lily Bart captured my respect and admiration.  She paints on the surface, a scheming, artful coquette who is, in spite of her humble origins, at ease in fashionable society, yet underneath we get glimpses of a purity and innocence that seem impossible given her experiences.  The story unfolds into a poignant and tragic ending which left me speechless yet anticipating my next Wharton read.

What can one say about Pride and Prejudice?  I usually read it at least once every two years and enjoy it just as much each time.  Lizzy’s spunky character and her ability to mold Darcy’s prideful reserve into to a more mellow and empathetic character is an entertaining read, and the cast of supporting characters is outstanding!  A true classic!


13 thoughts on “The Classics Club – December Meme Question #17

  1. Great picks! I read part of the Divine Comedy for a class this semester and I thought it was fascinating–not dry like I expected. There are a lot of historical allusions to wade through, though. I want to read the whole thing, maybe in a couple years.

    I have The House of Mirth on my bookshelves and I'm excited to read it. The only Wharton I've read was a short story–I can't remember which one, but I remember being really impressed by it and wanting to read more from her. I'm glad to hear you liked it.

  2. The Divine Comedy is definitely worth a complete reading. I can understand why academics suggest reading it at least 3 times.

    Emily, The House of Mirth is just fantastic! I'm so interested in what you think about it after you read it. Rarely have I come across such excellent character development as Wharton showed in creating Lily Bart. The subtleties are just exquisite! Enjoy your read!

  3. Do you know how rare it is to find someone who has read the complete Comedy? Brava, Amanda! I think we should get some sort of medal, but somehow I think I'll be waiting a long time for that …… 😉

  4. Given that I agree with you whole-heartedly about House of Mirth and P & P, perhaps I should also trust your judgement and try The Divine Comedy sooner rather than later!

    Thanks for adding another book to my TBR pile!!

  5. Ooops! And it's a large one.

    Don't expect to understand everything the first time. Like an excellent classic, there is so much information and so many ideas conveyed that it needs to be read over and over again. It is fun, however, to see who Dante puts in hell and the various punishments they get. Gustave Dore's illustrations are wonderful references too. If you don't get an edition which has them, here is a site that shows them all:

    Best of luck, Brona!

  6. Another Dante lover! Excellent!

    I'm so glad that you dropped in, O. I checked out your blog and am so excited about it. We seem to like very similar books (who else has read The Fortune of the Rougons?). I'm looking forward to your posts!

  7. Dante is on my TWEM list. Pinsky is the recommended translator, although Mandlebaum is also suggested. I believe that is the one I have. Anyway, I am anxious and a little nervous about reading Dante, but it is not until the poem section of TWEM, and that may be years from now before I ever get to it.

    BTW, I enjoyed HoM, too, and Wharton so much that I bought Age of Innocence – although I have not read it, yet.

  8. Ruth, there is a very interesting post on The Well-Trained Mind forums about the Divine Comedy translations. It was by an Italian professor whose favourite book in the whole world is The Divine Comedy. She gives very detailed information about most of the translations and it was really helpful to me when I had to decide. It sounds like she preferred Mandlebaum but she said Ciardi captured the flavour of Dante like no one else. I'll try to find the post ……..

    I read The Age of Innocence years ago but it's always in the back of my mind for a re-read.

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear from you and have you join in the discussion!