Back to the Classics Challenge 2015 · Books

Reading Goals 2015: Ninth Book Review

The ninth category of books from the Back to the Classics Challenge that I read was the Forgotten Classic. This one was challenging. If any category was going to discourage me or slow me down or tempt me to forego the rest of the challenge it would be this one.

As with the Classic Play category this one also became a false start for me. But waaaaay more of a false start than the play. I ditched my first classic play for a different choice fairly quickly. But the first book I chose in the Forgotten Classic category took me several weeks before I decided to lay it aside. It was several weeks of hemming and hawing and arguing with myself and complaining and  bad attitudes all around before I finally made the decision to call it quits. In fact, I read close to two-thirds of the book before returning it to the library.

It seems that trying to read selections from all twelve categories of the Back to the Classics Challenge can be, well, challenging. At least for me.

But hey, do I get any credit for “began to read, but didn’t finish” selections? … I thought not.

So what exactly is a forgotten classic? Maybe it’s been forgotten for a good reason, but then again maybe it’s a book that hasn’t been fully appreciated. My initial choice was a title by an author I knew, Dahpne du Maurier. Years ago I read Rebecca, a wonderful mystery/romance that once I began reading it I didn’t want to put it down. So, I reasoned, anything by Daphne du Maurier would have the same effect on me.

Wrong!

I had chosen The King’s General, a story that centers around the English Civil War in the 1600’s. It sounded promising. It really did. But I should have realized the moment I had the book in my hands that it may not live up to my expectations. You know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Well, I wish I had done exactly that. It would have saved me a lot of angst, not to mention time.

I reserved the book at the library and my husband graciously picked it up for me. But when he handed it to me he remarked with a smile,

“When did you start reading Harlequin Romances?”

The cover shows a smiling young woman with some cleavage showing, and in the background a handsome soldier on his horse.

No offense to anyone who has read this book and couldn’t put it down. While there were moments when the story pulled me in, mostly when it gave particular details as to how the war affected the people living through it, I was very distracted by the romance that carried on throughout the story. I would find myself rolling my eyes and questioning if young women in the 1600’s would really act like the heroine of the story did. At times it read like the script of a 21st century chick flick … in my not so humble opinion.

And so I argued with myself. Should I lay the book aside and find another “forgotten” classic? Or should I just push through to the end? What if I made another mistake and wasted even more time? Well, finally I had had enough and realized this book was best left forgotten, at least by me. I only wish I’d made that decision many pages sooner. Nobody can say I didn’t give it a try!

And now on to the actual ninth book review. Thank you, to those of you who made it through all the background information!

My good friend, Silvia, suggested another “forgotten” title written by Benito Perez Galdos in 1885. It is a little known (to English speakers) Spanish classic translated into English.  Doña Perfecta.  (I figured out how to type the little squiggle over the n in Doña. It just isn’t right not to!)

 

Doña Perfecta is the story of old and new, of the traditional and the modern (1885 modern), and of the power of the Catholic Church. The book tells the story of an arranged marriage between 2 cousins who fall head over heels in love with each other and it is also the story of all that eventually comes against them. And this story is definitely NOT a Harlequin Romance even though there is a romance in the story!

The story centers primarily around Pepe Rey and his aunt Doña Perfecta. There is also the priest, Don Inocencio who has a real knack for interfering. The small town of Orbajosa plays a huge part in the story. Pepe Rey comes to Orbajosa to marry his cousin Rosario but unfortunately the resistance thrown up against the couple gets worse and worse as the story unfolds.

At times it was difficult to put the book down. I would get irritated and frustrated by the actions and behavior of some of the characters. I even tried to give advice to Pepe and Rosario but try as I might neither one of them ever listened to me.

This is one forgotten classic that should not be forgotten. It was my introduction to Galdos and at the moment I have another one of his books on order, Fortunata and Jacinta. Silvia assures me I will love it!

Benito Perez Galdos is said to be the most famous Spanish author after Cervantes. He was a prolific writer and wrote 31 novels, 23 plays, and 20 volumes of shorter fiction. He is considered by some to be the Spanish equivalent of Dickens, Tolstoy, and Balzac. Now that says a lot!

Portrait of Benito Perez Galdos painted by Joaquin Sorolla, 1894.

I am looking forward to getting to know him better. Thankfully, a fair number of his works have been translated into English.

I have three more books to read to complete the challenge! I wonder, will I make it or will I get lost along the way enjoying other books written by the authors I’ve come to know and love this year? At the moment I’m thoroughly enjoying another Anthony Trollope title, which doesn’t fit anywhere in the last three categories of the Challenge. Oh well. I guess in one sense it really doesn’t matter as long as I’m continuing to read!

However, my goal is to finish the challenge by the end of the year!

Hopefully I’ll get there.

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4 thoughts on “Reading Goals 2015: Ninth Book Review

  1. I loved your review, and your new found love for Trollope, and your trust on me to lead you to Galdós, and how both authors share much too.
    You can do it, you will complete the challenge.
    xxx

    Like

  2. I have barely started another of his novels, Fortunata and Jacinta, and I am already hooked! He has a way with words. Unfortunately not all of his works are translated, or at least easily available for English speakers.

    And I need to clarify… I am not nearly well read enough to compare his works (in a literary sense) to Dickens and Tolstoy but the “professional” critics do. As far as I'm concerned his writing draws me in every bit as much as Dickens and Tolstoy do!

    Enjoy!

    Like

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