The Sunday Salon: A “Surprising” Classic

This month The Classics Club posed a question to its members:

“What classic has most surprised you so far, and why?”

I had to think about this one for a while.  “Surprises” come in many forms: plot, characters, writing style, enjoyment, etc.  On my Classics Club list are books I enjoyed, disappointing books, and others that weren’t what I expected.  But as I scrolled through the list, one stood out as the biggest surprise so far:  The Warden, by Anthony Trollope.  My review opens with this:

This review could be subtitled, “In which I develop a fondness for Anthony Trollope.”  A couple of years ago I gave up on Barchester Towers, and while I had my reasons I never felt good about it.  This time I decided to start at the beginning of Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire, and I’m glad I did.

Bookish friends told me  The Warden was a quiet novel, and an important introduction to Trollope’s fictional county of Barsetshire.   I was helped along by a tutored read on LibraryThing, which explained the intricacies of the 19th century English church and other important context.  But mostly I fell in love with Septimus Harding, the title character.  He was such a dear man, and nearly done in by unjust accusations.  While my love for Septimus came as a surprise, perhaps more surprising was how much I loved the entire book, and how it set me on a course to read the complete Chronicles of Barsetshire.  I read Barchester Towers in December (read my review), and I’ll be reading the third novel, Doctor Thorne, next month.

I love discovering new authors, and when they are classics, so much the better!

What’s your most surprising classic read?

Subscribe to The Sunday Salon here, and on Facebook.

12 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: A “Surprising” Classic

  1. : ) oh dear old Warden Harding – how I love him still. My re-read of The Warden in January was such a joy. Glad you have highlighted the brilliance of it.

  2. I loved Septimus too and look forward to reading Barchester Towers eventually. My biggest surprise classic recently is Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth. I struggled to get through part of it, but was so taken by her writing skill that all other books that I read last month either came up short or were abandoned. Now I want to read more American classics (including more Wharton). I have read a few, but classics of any kind were not popular when I was in high school (mid-70’s) and I have read very few. Probably just as well, of those few that I read the only ones I cared for was The Grapes of Wrath, my favorite book for a long time, and The Great Gatsby. I bet that I enjoy them more now at my age.

    • Laura, isn’t House of Mirth wonderful? I can understand how your other reads came up short by comparison. I went to high school about the same time you did, and also missed a lot of the classics. I’m making up for that now with The Classics Club! Wharton is one of my favorite authors — may I recommend The Custom of the Country? Thanks for visiting!

  3. Now that’s an interesting question. Nearly every classic I’ve read has been a surprise to me; I always thought classics would be tiresome and none of them ever have been. So nice.

  4. The Warden was definitely surprisingly wonderful, since a few people had told me it was boring.

    I don’t know quite whether it counts as a classic, but I was really surprised by how much I loved A Confederacy of Dunces, because I’d assumed I would hate it.

  5. I love Septimus Harding too, and I hope you love Barchester Towers! Dr. Thorne was also wonderful.

    I think the classic that’s suprised me most was Madame Bovary. I expected to hate it and I could hardly put it down. Emma Bovary is a real train wreck but the story was riveting!

    • Karen K., I read Barchester Towers a couple months ago and really liked it, too. Bring on Dr. Thorne! I will have to re-read Madame Bovary someday. I read it in school and I’m sure I’d get more out of it now.

Comments are closed.