A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Here’s a list of books by authors you first encountered in high school or college English courses, though, these particular titles probably escaped the syllabus. This is you’re chance to better know a classic author by checking out some of their lesser known works.
3. Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo: Ninety-Three is Hugo’s grand panoramic view of France during the Terror of 1793. The historical settings are wonderfully rendered, especially when we are following the brutal war in the Vendée (a clash between the republic and royalist insurgents in rural Western France). For purely historical interest the political machinations of Danton, Robespierre, and Marat in Paris receive a lot of attention. There’s plenty of action too, including one tremendous naval scene in which a loose cannon (yes, a literally loose cannon) wreaks havoc on a battleship. And, of course, the requisite number of rioting crowds and public executions for any novel about the French Revolution.
6. Kingsblood Royal by Sinclair Lewis: Social awareness novels tend to have a short shelf life. As the issues they explore become less relevant, or prevailing attitudes become more progressive, what was once a sensationalist exposé can suddenly seem prosaic. This is probably the sad case of Kingsblood Royal, Sinclair Lewis’ controversial bestseller from 1947 about the struggles of Neil Kingsblood, who grows up thinking he is white, only to find that he is partially of African descent. When Neil decides not to hide his discovery, and tries to connect with the black community, he’s subjected to the ire of his white suburban neighbors. Somehow, the plot doesn’t resonate with modern readers to the same degree as books like To Kill a Mockingbird or Native Son, yet it’s nearly their equal as a powerful condemnation of racism and intolerance, and it’s still a good read.
10. Felix Holt, The Radical by George Eliot: Much like George Eliot’s other long works, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda especially, this is a leisurely paced tale that tries to tell us as much about an entire community or a particular society as it does about it’s main characters. Holt is an earnest young man, morally upright and passionate about political reform. When he is taken under the wing of Harold Transome, a politician who is only “radical” to whatever extent is most likely to get him elected, we get an in depth exploration of progressive politics. There’s a lot more going on in this novel–riots, trials, love triangles, a disputed family inheritance–but that’s not the point, it’s all just there so Eliot can be her usual insightful self, giving us characters whose emotions and motivations seem very real, despite being conceived nearly 150 years ago.
List by Matthew