Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Back to the Classics Challenge 2019 - Wrap Up

The Classics Challenge is done and dusted once again. I'm happy and quite surprised to have finished before the end of October, since it's been quite a busy year and some of these books are super long and challenging. As I've done in previous years, I'll give a quick wrap-up, and then award my personal bronze, silver and gold medals from the list. Thanks goes to Books and Chocolate for hosting the challenge. Here goes.   

A Nineteenth Century Classic - Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

A Twentieth Century Classic - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

A Classic by a Woman - Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

A Classic in Translation - The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Classic Comedy - Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Classic Tragedy - Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Very Long Classic - War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Classic Novella - Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson

Classic from the Americas (includes the Caribbean) - Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Classic from Africa, Asia or Oceania (includes Australia) - The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay

Classic from a place you've lived - Sun on the Stubble by Colin Thiele

Classic Play - The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Now for the drum roll 

Bronze Medal - The Little Prince
I never expected to be choosing this honor for a quirky little fable, but Antoine de Saint-Exupery plays on our heartstrings with perfect notes. Through the modest personas of a gorgeous desert fox and a bemused, faired-haired alien boy, he cuts straight to the chase and suggests what's amiss with our world. The gentle attitude tweaks we're encouraged to take on board have brought me a lot of satisfaction. It's basically to value the people closest to us, but what a unique and imaginative way he has of getting it through to us. He deserves our thanks, if any author does.

Silver Medal - Mary Barton
Before it ever became a literary no-no, Elizabeth Gaskell brought a mish-mash of different genres into one story that must have made its original audience wonder what just hit them. There's social commentary, romance, adventure, mystery, high courtroom drama, and so many near miss moments, you can just about hear them whizzing past your head. I've got to give her credit because it was her debut novel, and she clearly already knew that a pen can be used a wake-up tool to great effect.

Gold Medal - Our Mutual Friend
Charles Dickens gets the top honor in this year's list because it was his last completed novel, he had all his best literary techniques going for him, and skillfully weaved the River Thames through the lives of such a varied social class. And in real life, he was a survivor during a scary and horrific train smash, but managed to sneak back on board to rescue the latest installment of 'Our Mutual Friend' he'd been working on. That's dedication for us.

I've participated in this challenge often enough to predict there'll always be a few new favourites on every list. This was no exception.    


  1. Yay, you completed them all. For three, maybe four???, I have tried unsuccessfully to read all 12 categories, but something always goes terribly wrong, and I fall short. Good for you! I like how you gave awards to your top favorites, none of which I have read, yet. You do have two of my favorites on your list: Walden and Uncle Tom's Cabin, which you know already. : )

    1. Thanks Ruth, there are surely some beauties up there, including your two favourites. I'm going to have to delve into Walden again some day. Still think in the rushed frame of mind O had, I possibly didn't give Thoreau the contemplation he deserved 😄 Not sure I'll take on the challenge next year. Enough deadlines as it is. But it's been a great way of nudging us out of our comfort zones.

  2. Congratulations on finishing the challenge for the year. You read some impressive books. Our Mutual Friend is a good choice for gold. In some ways I think that it is an underrated Dickens book.

    1. Hi Brian, I think it does tend to slip under the radar, yet several people who read it consequently put it up among their favourite Dickens 😊 I haven't read A Tale of Two Cities yet, and may try that one next year.

  3. I've loved reading your reviews of all of these Paula, and quietly pleased to see that our mate Dickens got the gong ;) Well done!

    1. Thanks Sheree, yes, after all he went through to keep those installments coming, I thought he deserved the gold this year 🎖

  4. Wow, I am totally impressed that you are done with this challenge so early! I still have several books to read, one of them pretty lengthy.

    I totally agree about Our Mutual Friend--it might be my favorite Dickens novel and the bit about rescuing the manuscript is a scene he would've invented if he hadn't lived it.

    I tried to read The LIttle Prince last year but found it so annoying I had to put it down, which goes to show you how wildly tastes can vary.

    Mary Barton was a revolutionary book--so glad that Elizabeth Gaskell is finally getting the credit due her.

    1. Thanks Jane, I managed to get quite a few of them read before June, gladly, because the second half of the year was far busier.

      I'm planning to hopefully read A Tale of Two Cities or Bleak House next year, but don't expect they'll knock Our Mutual Friend off its perch :)

      I agree, it's so great to see Elizabeth Gaskell getting the recognition she deserves. I read Cranford way back, but don't remember much, so I'm due for a re-read. And I've still to read North and South, which seems to be her most widely loved.

      Good luck with squeezing your long read into November and December :)