New Classics Club list

At last I’ve got around to compiling my new list of 50 classic books to work my way through for the Classics Club. I completed my original list – and then some – a wee while ago, I think I got to 68 when I decided it was probably time I counted how many classics I had read, but the original list of 50 is here if you’re interested.

My new list is of mainly quite old books, I’m quite strict about what I regard as a classic and almost all of these books are ones that I’ve had in the house for donkey’s years awaiting their turn for a moment in the limelight by actually being read.

I’ve already read and reviewed a couple of them, I got Down and Out in Paris and London in spin number 16.

1. The American Senator by Anthony Trollope
2. Nana by Emile Zola
3. The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott
4. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
5. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
6. The Broken Road by Patrick Leigh Fermor
7. Montaigne
8. Summer Half by Angela Thirkell
9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
10. Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Laclos
11. Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter
12. High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
13. The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett
14. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
15. Orkneyinga Saga
16. The Children Who Lived in a Barn by Eleanor Graham
17. A Scream in Soho by John G. Brandon
18. The Town in Bloom by Dodie Smith
19. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
20. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
21. Expiation by Elizabeth von Arnim
22. The Benefactress by Elizabeth von Arnim
23. The Earth by Emile Zola
24. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
25. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
26. The House in Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively
27. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison
28. Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant
29. Salem Chapel by Margaret Oliphant
30. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Parrot by Hugh Lofting
31. If This Is a Man Primo Levi
32. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
33. The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
33. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
34. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
35. The Trial by Franz Kafka
36. Maurice by E.M. Forster
37. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
34. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
35. Long Summer Day by R.F. Delderfield
36. Post of Honour by R.F. Delderfield
37. The Green Gauntlet by R.F. Delderfield
38. The Oaken Heart by Margery Allingham
39. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
40. No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West
41. Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp
42. Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff
43. The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff
44. Sing For Your Supper by Pamela Frankau
45. The Tempest by Shakespeare
46. An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer
47. Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley
48. Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett
49. The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark
50. The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

I’ve managed to get a nice split of 25 books by female authors and 25 by male authors, if I’ve counted correctly, and 10 of them are Scottish authors. Towards the end I cheated a bit (to my mind anyway) and added authors that I wouldn’t normally think of as being classic authors as they’re a bit modern-ish in my eyes. A few of the books are children’s classics.

What do you think of my list? Have you read any of them?

Classics Club = 68 classics read since 2012

I joined the Classics Club way back in 2012 with the intention of reading 55 classics by the time my 55th birthday came around. Sadly I missed that deadline, shockingly I’m getting on for 58 now! I recently realised that I must have passed my target so I thought it was about time I counted up. Below is the result and if you click on the titles it’ll take you to my thoughts on the book. The list isn’t chronological – I’m not that well organised.

I’m just going to continue with the Classics Club though. Over the years my idea of what a classic book is has changed a lot. In the beginning I was just counting much older books, mainly Victorian, but recently I’ve been a lot less strict about that. I do feel that it’s a bit strange calling something a classic when it has been written well within my lifetime, but I think a lot of people regard 30 years in print as meaning that a book is a classic – fair enough I suppose. Going by that my list of classics read since 2012 would be much longer than the one below. I’ve really enjoyed reading them, some more than others of course but I’ll write about that in another post soon.

1. In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
2. Linda Tressel by Anthony Trollope
3. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
4. The Lady of the Camelias by Alexandre Dumas
5. Swan Song by John Galsworthy
6. An Academic Question by Barbara Pym
7. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
8. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
9. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
10. The Talisman by Walter Scott
11. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
12. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
13. The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope
14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
15. The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
16. The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett
17. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
18. The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett
19. Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett
20. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
21. O Pioneer! by Willa Cather
22. Moby Dick by Hermann Melville
23. The Land of Green Ginger by Winifred Holtby
24. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
25. An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym
26. The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
27. England, Their England by A.G. Macdonell
28. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
29. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
30. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
31. Witch Wood by John Buchan
32. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
33. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
34. Love by Elizabeth von Arnim
35. Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitgerald
36. Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys
37. Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope
38. One of Ours by Willa Cather
39. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
40. Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
41. Civil to Strangers by Barbara Pym
42. The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy
43. An Eye for an Eye by Anthony Trollope
44. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
45. The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola
46. The Ladies Paradise by Emile Zola
47. The Castle by Franz Kafka
48. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
49. Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope
50. He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
51. Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope
52. The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope
53. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
54. Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope
55. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
56. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
57. My Antonia by Willa Cather
58. Alexander’s Bridge by Willa Cather
59. The Professor’s House by Willa Cather
60. Therese Raquin by Emile Zola
61. Germinal by Emile Zola
62. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
63. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
64. Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh
65. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
66. In the Mountains by Elizabeth von Arnim
67. The Pastor’s Wife by Elizabeth von Arnim
68. Introduction to Sally by Elizabeth von Arnim

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

 Alone in Berlin cover

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada was a completely random choice by me at the library. The book was first published in 1947 and although it’s a Penguin Modern Classic, I had never heard of it.

What a read it is! Given the subject matter it is obviously not a comfy read in fact it’s really quite horrific in parts, especially when you realise that a lot of it was based on actual happenings.

The setting is Berlin in 1940. It’s a city full of fear, run by thugs and gangsters in various uniforms, with spies everywhere. Many of the people are Nazi Party members, often just so they can get a decent job, but then they are expected to contribute so much money to various Nazi funds. It’s quite similar to the austerity that the British government likes to control those of us in the UK with – only worse.

But some of the people are tired of living in fear and when Otto Quangel’s soldier son is killed it’s the last straw for him. He has to do something to fight against the Nazis and decides that the best thing he can do is write postcards criticising the Nazis and the war and leaving them around Berlin, thinking that they will be passed around by whoever finds them. His wife Anna thinks that they should be doing more than that but as he would be executed if he was caught she agrees that it is enough and ends up helping him.

Sadly almost all of the postcards are handed in to the Gestapo as soon as they are found. Everyone is too terrified to have something like that in their possession. Gestapo Inspector Escherich has the job of tracking down the perpetrator, and his superiors aren’t impressed that it is taking him so long to do it, he’s living in fear of being sent to a concentration camp if he can’t find the culprit.

Meanwhile the other inhabitants in their tenement block are brought into the story. Mrs Rosenthal is an old Jewish woman, on her own now since her husband was taken away by the Gestapo. The Persickes are red hot Nazi thugs, drunken and violent and keen to get their hands on Mrs Rosenthal’s possessions.

Alone in Berlin tells how the Nazis got a grip on the German people in 1933 and by the time they started taking over other countries their own people were also well under control. Of course lots of them were very enthusiastic Nazis but those who weren’t had to keep their heads down, otherwise they would lose them!

It had never occurred to me before that while people in the UK were having to live with harsh rationing, a lot of Germans were enjoying the good life as so much stuff had been looted from the countries that they were over-running.

This is a great read but Hans Fallada got the idea for it from an actual couple who did exactly what Otto and Anna had done, and came to a similar end – a horrible thought.

The author had quite a wild life himself, with alcoholism and drug addiction. I’ll definitely be seeking out his other books.

This book is a Penguin Modern Classic so I read this one for the Classics Club.

Introduction to Sally by Elizabeth von Arnim

Introduction to Sally cover

Introduction to Sally by Elizabeth von Arnim was published in 1926, but of course von Arnim was being coy about it as it only has that

To begin with I thought this was going to be a sort of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady rewrite but it turned out to be quite different.

Mr Pinner is a shopkeeper and is married to a very pretty woman and they live in London. After ten years of marriage they still have no children which is a huge sadness to Mr Pinner in particular, that coupled with the fact that Mrs Pinner is argumentative leads him to think that given his time again he wouldn’t have married her. Eventually Mrs Pinner does get pregnant and has a little girl who turns out to be even prettier than her mother. Mr Pinner wants to call her Salvation as he feels she has saved their marriage as Mrs Pinner is now too taken up with her baby to quarrel about anything. They compromise and call her Salvatia, but of course that is shortened to Sally, much to her parents’ annoyance.

As Sally grows up she attracts too much attention from men, they come into the shop just to catch a glimpse of her, it’s good for business but Mr Pinner can’t stand all these men lusting after his daughter and they end up trying to hide her from them. When Sally is sixteen her mother dies and so Sally has to help in the shop, the business turnover doubles overnight but Mr Pinner can’t take the strain of looking after Sally on his own. The Pinners are a God fearing family and it grieves Mr Pinner that even the local doctor and vicar are lusting after his daughter. – These married gentlemen – what could it be but sin they had in their minds? They wished to sin with Sally, to sin the sin of sins, with his Sally, his spotless lamb, a child of God, an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

Mr Pinner decides to move out of London for Sally’s sake. He finds a shop in a teeny village which is owned by a man who wants to move to London and they exchange premises. The village of Woodle seems ideal to Mr Pinner, but he doesn’t realise that it is close to Cambridge and when term time begins it has students going through it. When one particular ogling student Jocelyn Luke sets eyes on Sally he’s so overcome by her beauty that he mentions to her father that he wants to marry her. Mr Pinner can hardly believe his luck and in no time he has married Sally off to him. He’s keen to pass the responsibility of looking after Sally on to a husband.

Too late Mr Luke realises that although Sally looks like a dream, she sounds absolutely dreadful. He tries to improve her speech but Sally is unable to pronounce an ‘h’. In fact she seems not to realise that there is such a letter in the alphabet and she has no interest in improving herself. Usband – as she calls Mr Luke seems always to be angry with her, except at night time when he is too busy – Oh Sally-ing! as Sally calls it.

I began by thinking that this book was just a bit too daft but in the end I really enjoyed it. It’s all a bit of a hoot as the very innocent Sally continues to wow all the males she comes into contact with, without even trying, and despite her obvious ‘common’ background.

It is of course all very wrapped up in snobbery and the differences between working class people and the various other types, up to ‘the pick of the basket’ as Sally’s parents had described the aristocracy.

There’s an article from The Independent here in which they seem to think that Elizabeth von Arnim has been unknown to readers for years, but we know differently don’t we?!

One other thing I want to mention – this book has a rubber stamp inside it saying: Josiah Parkes & Sons Ltd

The book was published in 1926 and I couldn’t help wondering what the company actually did, so I Googled them and came up with this.

They made keys and locks amongst other things and I love the old photos of the workforce and their surroundings. Real social history going back to the time when to work for a company was like being part of a big family with a library for the workers and no doubt lots of clubs for them all to socialise in. Mind you standing on those cobbles all day must have been hard on the feet!

I read this one for Reading My Own Damn Books and the Classics Club and also The Women’s Classic Literature Event.

Her Son’s Wife by Dorothy Canfield

Her Son's Wife cover

Her Son’s Wife by Dorothy Canfield was first published in 1926 but my copy is a Virago from 1986.

Mrs Bascomb is a schoolteacher, she’s a widow with one son who is at college. She has a very high opinion of herself as a mother and a teacher and her overbearing attitude has resulted in her son Ralph growing up without her really knowing what he is like as he has had to hide his real self from his mother, she wouldn’t approve of him. She has plans for her son to become a high flying lawyer like all the men in her family have been. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to her that he might have different plans.

Her plans go awry when it turns out that Ralph has got married, and to what she regards as a very unsuitable and common young woman called Lottie. The young couple move into Mrs Bascomb’s home which she has scrimped over the years to pay off the mortgage. But it isn’t long before she feels like a stranger in her own home. Mrs Bascomb despises the sort of woman who can’t get along with a daughter-in-law, but it’s hard for her to admire Lottie as she turns out to be a dirty, selfish and lazy flibberty-gibbet.

Not long after the wedding Lottie gives birth to a daughter and of course Granny Bascomb falls in love with the baby, but Lottie complains that her mother-in-law is trying to take the baby away from her and the result is that Mrs Bascomb moves out for a few years, taking up a teaching post in another town. Years later there is a reconciliation and Mrs Bascomb moves back into what is really her home. Ralph is somewhat relieved as Lottie is too busy flirting with any man that she sees to even feed their daughter and money is tight as always.

Mrs Bascomb realises that Ralph is deeply unhappy with his situation and at last it dawns on her that he behaves as he does because of her, her strong personality was the reason that he was so weak-willed. She decides that she has to do something to change his life and arranges for him to get a job that he will enjoy. But Lottie still has to be dealt with and Mrs Bascomb decides to encourage Lottie’s tendency towards hypochondria, employing a quack doctor to order her to bed to help her bad back.

Mrs Bascomb knows exactly what is going to happen and at least she does feel guilty about her actions. She’s going around constantly washing her hands. Ralph even discovers her up during the night – washing her hands. She’s doing a ‘Lady Macbeth’ of course – which is apt because she has just condemned Lottie to a slow death, and sure enough ten years later Lottie is still in that bed, still getting constant visits from the quack doctor and now really bed-ridden from lack of use of her muscles.

I’ve read a few of Dorothy Canfield’s books now and I think this is the one which I’ve least liked. There really aren’t any likeable characters in it. Lottie is ghastly but her mother-in-law is much worse, she’s a manipulative control freak and just gets worse when she wakes up to her own nastiness.

I read this one for the Classics Club Challenge.

The Bent Twig by Dorothy Canfield (Fisher)

The Bent Twig

The Bent Twig by Dorothy Canfield (Fisher) was first published in 1915. I had only read one book by her before this one and that was Home Fires in France about her experiences in France in World War 1, and The Bent Twig is very different from that. The setting is mainly La Chance, Vermont.

The Marshall family is an unusual one. The father is a college professor and the mother works the land in her large productive garden, they’re an unconventional lot, having no servants, being determined to do their own dirty work. But their home is a popular meeting place for all the more interesting teachers and professors, which is an advantage for the children although they don’t know it.

Sylvia Marshall is the eldest daughter, she has a younger sister Judith and a much younger brother Lawrence. The beginning of the book reminded me so much of Louisa M. Alcott’s books, maybe it was just because it’s about a US family and it’s now historical, but when this book was written it must have been quite revolutionary as Canfield makes it plain that she is dead against separate schools for black and white children. She’s not at all happy about the way that her friends are treated when it gets to be known that they have a teeny amount of black blood in them.

The Bent Twig is about the importance of education for young girls and also the redistribution of wealth, with one very wealthy character feeling seriously uncomfortable about all the money which is earned for him by coalminers.

I really enjoyed this book although I felt it palled a bit towards the end, it wasn’t quite as interesting after the girls had grown up. Canfield was obviously keen to point out what she saw as unhealthy aspects of Edwardian society as far as women were concerned. A time when for a certain section of society money was all and some people, men as well as women were marrying for money and status. What changes?!

Sylvia has always been drawn to clothes and high society but in her heart she knows there’s more to life, but can she pass up the chance to marry for money rather than for love? With that and the subjects of equality for women and people of a different ancestry/colour, The Bent Twig must have been quite a shock for some people when it was first published.

For me it was interesting to see that colleges in the US were way ahead when it came to female education as they were giving degrees to women at a time when women students in the UK were not awarded degrees, although they were allowed to sit the exams.

I read this one for the Classics Club Women’s Classic Literature Event 2016.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was first published in 1925.

I think this is just the second book by Woolf that I’ve read. I read To the Lighthouse and it wasn’t my cup of tea although I know some bloggers loved it. I wasn’t any more impressed with Mrs Dalloway so I think it’s fair to say that Virginia Woolf and I just don’t get on at all. I just don’t like her writing style.

The book has a short foreword by Jeanette Winterson who is obviously a fan and there is also an introduction by Carol Ann Duffy and as if that isn’t enough there’s another by Valentine Cunningham.

The setting is London a few years after World War 1 and Mrs Dalloway is giving a party later in the day. She’s in her 50s, a perfect hostess well used to throwing regular, fashionable parties.

During the preparations for the party she sees Peter Walsh who has been in India for years, he had proposed marriage to her when she was a youngster but she had turned him down. Her mind wanders off over the years and over everything that has happened since then.

Very early on in the book Woolf has a character who is suffering from depression and is preoccupied with suicide. Given what Woolf did to herself, I find it sad and unnerving to read about it in a book which was written years before she took her own life.

Oh well, each to their own! I still have The Waves to read – sometime, maybe.

An Eye for an Eye by Anthony Trollope

An Eye for an Eye by Anthony Trollope was published in 1879. That was a bit of a surprise to me as it read more like something which he would have written in his earlier years. It seems that it was actually written in 1870 but was held back from publication then. So far this is the Trollope which I’ve found to be the least enjoyable, but at least it is a slim volume.

The setting is Ireland and an English country estate called Scroope. Fred Neville is the heir to the estate and earldom after his uncle’s only son died prematurely, the son had been a bit of a waster who married a prostitute and broke his aristocratic parents’ hearts.

It’s expected that Fred will do the right thing and marry into the aristocracy, someone from his own class and religion, but Fred has a different idea. Whilst his regiment is in Ireland he starts up a liason with completely the wrong sort of girl. Kate O’Hara lives in a teeny cottage above a cliff, she lives there with her mother and their only friend is a Roman Catholic priest. Fred promises to marry her and on the strength of that promise Kate ends up in big trouble.

Trollope always has something to say in his novels, other than just the story, he was very much for women having equality with men and often wrote about prejudices and unfairness in society. Here are a few excerpts:

There are women, who in regard to such troubles as now existed at Ardkill Cottage, always think that the woman should be punished and that the man should be assisted to escape. The hardness of heart of such women, – who in all other views of life are perhaps tender and soft natured, – is one of the marvels of our social system.

and … in her heart of hearts she approved of a different code of morals for men and women. That which merited instant, and as regarded this world, perpetual condemnation in a woman, might in a man be easily forgiven.

Trollope was obviously aware of the prejudice against Irish people as his uncle and aunt are appalled at the thought of him being mixed up with a poor Irish Catholic. Mind you Trollope’s Irish blood doesn’t seem to have held him back in his very successful Post Office/Civil Service career.

I read this one for the Classics Club.

Linda Tressel by Anthony Trollope

Linda Tressel by Anthony Trollope was first published in 1868. The setting is Nurenberg in Bavaria, I think this is the first book by Trollope that I’ve read which wasn’t set in Britain or Ireland. I really enjoyed this one despite the fact that it was the third book on the trot I’d read which had extreme Presbyterianism/Calvinism as the theme. I’ve been to Bavaria a few times and it’s known for being mainly Roman Catholic (or it was in the past) but I had no idea that Nurenberg was a staunchly Calvinist city.

Linda Tressel is a young woman who sadly was orphaned at a very young age. Her father had had a very prominent position in Nurenberg and they lived in a much admired house in the city – the Red House. Linda inherited the house and her widowed childless aunt came to stay in it, to be Linda’s guardian. Aunt Staubach is a fanatic when it comes to Calvinism and like all such people she only reads the dictatorial and miserable bits of the Bible.

Money wasn’t plentiful so they had a lodger to help finance their life. The lodger Peter Stenimarc happened to have been Linda’s father’s deputy and he had fallen heir to the promoted position that Linda’s father had held. Peter was 52 and so was over 30 years older than Linda. He had an ambition to be the master of the Red House and so proposed marriage to the aunt. She had only been married for two years when her husband had died and she had no intention of remarrying but she thought it would be a good idea if Peter married Linda, and she decided that that was God’s will. Nothing could be better than Linda marrying the man who had been her father’s junior as far as Aunt Staubach was concerned.

Linda is appalled at the prospect of marriage to Peter who is not only 31 years older than her but is fat, bald, except for a few carefully arranged strands of hair and is very far from being love’s young dream.

Linda has a fancy for a young man she has seen from her window, Ludovic Valcarm happens to be a relative of Peter, but he is seen as being a bit of a rebel. He didn’t knuckle down and get on with work at the local council offices as his cousin Peter did, and preferred to work at a local brewery. Worse still he has got himself involved in liberal politics and has been arrested by the police in the past.

Linda’s aunt is horrified at the thought of her niece ending up losing the respect of the inhabitants of Nurenberg and she exerts incredible pressure on Linda to do as God (Aunt Staubach) wishes and marry the ghastly sleazebag that is Peter Stenimarc.

Linda ends up being imprisoned in her own house until she will accept Peter as her husband. Even when she runs away to Augsburg her aunt brings her back and will not relent.

I couldn’t help thinking – for goodness sake Linda tell your aunt where to go – it was Linda’s house after all. But of course Linda’s Calvinist upbringing (brainwashing) had been so strict that she really believed it was her duty to forego any joy in life and do as she was told by her elders.

Linda Tressel isn’t the first Trollope which I’ve read with the subject of young women being married off to much older men. It was obviously a procedure that he really disapproved of and as with all of his writing he was trying to point out social evils, no doubt in the hope that others would begin to see the problem in the same light. He always seemed to be on the side of decent women who got the bad end of a bargain in life. Who wouldn’t love his writing?

I read this one for the Classics Club Challenge.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol

Dead Souls by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was first published in 1842. In the author’s preface he says that he wrote the book to show commonplace types of Russian people and the vices, weaknesses and shortcomings within Russian society.

The main character Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov is a middle aged bachelor, he’s not at all wealthy but aspires to change that situation and has hit upon an idea to improve his finances. Chichikov arrives in a small town and goes on a charm offensive, buttering up all the government officials and landowners in the area. At the time the book is set in there are infrequent censuses and as landowners have to pay what amounts to a poll tax for every serf that they own it means that they end up paying tax for people who are dead. The dead serfs aren’t removed from the tax system until the next census comes around.

Chichikov plans to buy up the dead serfs or souls as they are known, at a cheap price and the landowners are only to eager to sell their tax burdens on to him, although they have no idea why he would want to do them this favour.

Chichikov realises that if he goes to a bank and tells them that he owns a large number of serfs they will advance a huge amount of money to him, basically using the serfs as collateral, which means he could buy an estate of his own, or just pocket the money.

The townspeople are naturally suspicious of a person who wants to buy up dead serfs and all sorts of rumours go around about Chichikov and eventually he has to leave the area and travels to a different part of Russia where he tries the same scam again.

In fact it seems to me that Chichikov is never going to learn anything from his mistakes, he’s just going to repeat them all again, with his lying and cheating getting worse each time. Gogol wanted to highlight the greed and corruption within middle class Russian society and government officials. He certainly managed to do that and there are parts of the book which are daftly amusing. The third part of the book was burnt by the author and so the book is unfinished, in fact it ends mid sentence, which I found very annoying. I didn’t love this book but as with many classics, I’m glad that I read it as now I feel that I’ve added to my knowledge of Russian literature.

What strikes me about the whole thing though is that at the time that Dead Souls was written Gogol was obviously happy to write this book which slags off government officials, for the enjoyment of the readers. So the Imperial Russia of 1842s was a very much easier place to write about the shortcomings of society, compared with Russia of 100 years later, as in 1942 if anyone had denigrated the Communist officials like that they would have been quickly marched off to a labour camp, if not shot.

I read Dead Souls as part of the Classics Club, another one ticked off my list. I was also reading it along with Judith, Reader in the Wilderness, and she should be blogging about her thoughts on it soon.