Friday, April 03, 2015

The Classics Salon: First impressions of current classic

Saari at Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms is hosting a monthly Classics Salon wherein participants chat about the classic works of literature we are currently reading.  She posts a discussion prompt, and this month (her inaugural month of the Salon) is:

What are your first impressions of the current classic you are reading?

I'm about a third of the way into David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, and three chapters into Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope.

This is my third or possibly fourth time reading DC, but it's been >30 years since I last read it, so while I remember the basic story arc and most of the characters, there are plenty of scenes and situations and descriptions that I certainly don't remember.  I have to say I am falling in love with the book all over again.  Since my last reading of DC, I've read quite a few other Victorian novels, including a fair number of Dickens' other novels, and it's really shining through as a masterpiece.  It is tighter than most, although still long, and it rambles less than the others, with nary an extraneous scene that doesn't relate to David's personal journey.  

I'm reading this on a strict  three chapters a week schedule, and I'm quite amazed at how many memorable scenes are packed into these three chapter segments.  Dickens really moved David along in his journey to manhood at a reasonable pace (okay it did take 300 pages, but still, that's only a third of the book!).  It's like each segment of his life is a novella with its own cast of characters and story arc, and then he moves on.  

On the other hand, I'm not sure what to think about Framley Parsonage yet.  I'm still meeting everyone and trying to remember who's who from the previous Barsetshire novels.  The Bishop and Mrs. Proudie have already made their appearance.  I'm actually not even sure that Mark Robarts, the vicar of Framley, is the protagonist as he marries within the first chapter, and my expectation was that this was a P&P-esque novel, so who are the characters who become couples?

My biggest problem with Trollope is that once I finish reading one of his novels I can never remember the names of his characters or their defining characteristics, with a few exceptions.  I'm really trying to pay attention early on but I've met so many characters in just the first three chapters that I feel I need to resort to a Wikipedia article to review who's who.

I like Trollope's novels when I'm reading them, but they (the characters and their fate) just don't seem to stick.  Not the way the Micawbers, Uriah Heep, Steerforth, Peggotty, Mr. Murdstone, Mr. Dick and Aunt Betsey (all from DC) do.  I'm rereading David Copperfield decades since I last visited them, and I remember all of them pretty clearly.

I think I'm going to enjoy this monthly Classics Salon.  Hey all you classics readers out there, care to join us?


  1. I've read David Copperfield before (it vies for my favourite Dickens so far) and guess what? I'm reading Framley Parsonage too and am not much further than you. I've stalled at the moment due to other reads but I'm planning to pick it up soon.

    That is a very interesting point about Trollope's characters vs. Dickens'. I'm really going to have to think about it. On one hand, I think you're absolutely right that Dickens characters are larger than life and stick with you, but I think they're larger than life because they're exaggerated and therefore, not as real as Trollope's. I actually wish that Trollope would sometimes introduce less characters; that way he could concentrate more on developing the ones that are there.

    In any case, I enjoyed your Classics Salon and happy reading!

  2. I am loving your David Copperfield love. It really stands out as such a masterpiece, especially when you've read other Dickens and Victorian novels. I think it's one of literature's greatest accounts of a writer becoming a writer. I'll have to revisit one of these days...

  3. First, thank you for introducing me to the Classics Salon. I'll mention it in my weekly update post to help spread the word.

    I 've yet to read David Copperfield, and recently finished Trollope's Barchester Towers. BT is my favorite book so far this year and my first 5 star read... absolutely loved Trollope's characters and can't wait to begin Doctor Thorne in May. We'll see if they stick with me.

  4. I cannot wait to read David Copperfield, but as w/ all Dickens, it is always a huge commitment. So I feel a little intimidated before I start. Nonetheless, I agree that his characters are quite memorable.

    Anyway, I also hear so much about Trollope. Have you read a lot from him? I may have to start adding him to my TBR list.

  5. We are on some parallel reading tracks Jane!

    I am about 20% through David Cooprfield. This is my first reading. It is an amazing work.

    I recently read Framley Parsonage. I too sometimes had trouble remembering everything about the characters from the previous novels.

    I do love Trollope and I must admit that I like him better then Dickens. I find that his realistic depiction of people to be extraordinary.

  6. My mom always says how David Copperfield is among her favourite books. But I have always been put off by its size and the fact that it is by Dickens. However, now that I think of it, I have never heard/read anything negative about David Copperfield. Perhaps, I should seriously consider giving this one a try...

    Trollope isn't a writer I know, but many seem to enjoy him. Does the fact that there are so many characters in his novels hinder your enjoyment of the plot? I suspect Trollope might have been the pop-writer of his day?...

    1. I think I meant "pulp-fiction writer of his day"...

  7. I stopped by the Pickwick Club discussion the other day too and saw your excellent comments about David Copperfield, specifically about Heep and Steerforth as different sides of evil that Dickens contrasts. Great to see that DC is the subject of this Classics Salon post for you as well!

    As for Trollope, in years past, the Barsetshire novels and then the Pallisers were my bedside table reading until I got through them all. Some of the Palliser characters are definitely more memorable than many of those in Barsetshire (with a few exceptions), and the romantic conflicts are more dramatic. I probably couldn't pass a quiz separating the characters in Doctor Thorne from those in Framley Parsonage. But the *experience* of reading about life in Barsetshire, especially in The Warden, Barchester Towers, and The Last Chronicle of Barset, left me feeling more uplifted and more deeply touched than the admittedly fascinating public life of the Pallisers. Some of Trollope's more notorious villains are in the big stand-alone novels, He Knew He Was Right and The Way We Live Now--I haven't gotten to those yet!

    1. P.S. I loved your including that wonderful image of Dickens with the swirling imagined world of the characters he created!