Having spent the past term at university studying Victorian literature, I feel that I am now reasonably well-versed in the subject, so I’ve put together this list of 7 books which I personally enjoyed and which I feel encompass the Victorian period fairly well. Of course, I have by no means read everything (on my TBR list are Dracula, Vanity Fair and The Mill on the Floss amongst others) and I haven’t included more than one book by the same author, so please feel free to comment with your suggestions!
- Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë) – classic love story featuring dark brooding hero, sassy orphaned heroine, wicked stepfamily, dismal boarding school and mysterious house with dark secret in the attic. Read my review here.
- Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë) – the bizarre tale of a messed-up family living in a ramshackle house on the Yorkshire moors. May not be the passionate romance you expect but gets more interesting with every re-read. Read my review here.
- Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) – probably the most accessible Dickens novel. Memorable characters including the escaped convict Magwitch, simple blacksmith Joe and eerily fascinating jilted bride Miss Havisham. Read my review here.
- The Woodlanders (Thomas Hardy) – probably a controversial choice for the only Hardy book on this list, but it was the novel that really got me interested in his work. Bittersweet story following the lives and loves of the inhabitants of the fictional village of Little Hintock, Wessex.
- Mary Barton (Elizabeth Gaskell) – an extremely underrated book. Part condition-of-England-novel, part-romance, part-murder mystery, part-legal drama. Compelling characters and a wholesome moral message.
- Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll) – perfect for fans of dodos, Mad Hatters, March Hares, White Rabbits, Cheshire Cats and Queens of Hearts amongst other things. Complete escapism, loonily lovable.
- Middlemarch (George Eliot) – can’t really leave this one out as it always seems to top the charts for ‘greatest English novel ever’. Searing psychological insight, witty observations, very quotable and you can use it as a doorstop afterwards. Read my review here.