The Classic Gothic Novel: A Fall Read-Along Experience Introduction and Schedules

It’s about time to kick off the fall read-alongs here at The Simply Blog! I’m excited to be reading some classic gothic literature with you! Today I am sharing about the class on classic gothic literature, as well as the schedules for  the October and November reads.

The Classic Gothic Literature Class

I originally called this a class because I was considering doing it as a free live online class. But instead, it will take place in the form of a blog post. We will kick off our read-alongs with taking a look at the classic gothic novel and what are some of the genre’s common characteristics.  The post will be up on the blog on
September 22nd, the first official day of Fall. I hope you stop by and read the post and add your thoughts in the comments.

October’s Read-Along Schedule

Schedule

During October, we will be reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë with the following schedule:

Week 1

October 3rd – 9th
Ch. 1-9

Week 2

October 10th-16th
Ch. 10-18

Week 3

October 17th – 23rd
Ch. 19-26

Week 4

October 24th – 30th
Ch. 27-34

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November’s Read-Along Schedule

Schedule

During November, we will be reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens with the following schedule:

Week 1

November 1st – 7th
Ch. 1-16

Week 2

November 8th-14th
Ch. 17-30

Week 3

November 15th – 21st
Ch. 31-45

Week 4

November 22nd – 28th
Ch. 46-59

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As we read both of these books, we will not only discuss the books themselves, but also take a look at the gothic elements present in each book. At the beginning of each read-along, I will do an introduction post as well as offer some free goodies. These freebies will be some downloadable bookmarks you can print to use that will have the read-along schedule on them and there will also be a printable discussion guide. I will plan to put up a post each week of the read-along for each book for discussion. You can choose to follow the read-along schedules or you can read at your own pace and then visit each post when you are ready. After we finish the last book in November, it is my goal to have a wrap-up post where we will take a look at the two novels together to compare and contrast them. I’m looking forward to the Fall reading season! I hope you will join in!

This and That: Bookish Talk and A Survey for the Fall Read-Along

It’s back-to-school time around here; many students are going back into the classrooms and many are staying home and doing distance learning. Everything is so different and there is still no normalcy in view. It’s a new normal everyone says. One thing that I am thankful for that is always consistent is books. And not just books, but also the book community. We book lovers are still reading, whether it’s how we normally read or if it’s making our way through a reading slump. And we are talking about books and what we are reading. It gives me great comfort to read and to have bookish conversations. 🙂

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I am in the middle of reading Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery for an IRL virtual bookclub. That doesn’t sound right does it – IRL virtual bookclub? Ha! But it’s a bookclub in my area that under normal circumstances meets in person; but since the pandemic started it has all been virtual. Anyway….I know there are many who love this Emily series. But I have to admit, it feels like it’s pretty much just patterned after Anne of Green Gables. How I love Anne! And so it feels not quite right to read of a different character that’s pretty much like Anne that has been copied to a different character with a different name in a different series. I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh….. The Emily of New Moon book has it’s fun, it’s true. But it just feels like a carbon copy with various adjustments. Does anyone else feel that way? Please tell me I’m not the only one! Maybe I’m just sensitive on the matter because Anne is such a special character to me. Anyhow, I’m about halfway through the Emily book and I’m looking forward to the book club discussion to see what the other group members think about it.

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The Book

See the source image

The Second Movie in the Kevin Sullivan Production of the Anne of Green Gables series.

While we’re talking about L. M. Montgomery books, my family and I are almost done reading the second Anne book, Anne of Avonlea. We’re loving it just as much as the first book. But what I heard about the second movie and the books appears to be correct. So far, there is very little of anything from the second book in the Anne of Avonlea movie production by Kevin Sullivan. Maybe the second movie has more of the third book in it? I have to admit – I don’t understand why they didn’t make the movie just straight from the book! That would have been a fabulous movie! Little Davy Keith is a hoot! And I just love reading Anne’s thoughts as a teacher at the Avonlea school. And her interactions with little Paul Irving is often so endearing and sweet. But despite the second movie being so different from the book, I still absolutely love it. 🙂

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Aside from the book club book and family read-aloud, I’ve been immersing myself in classic gothic literature. And I will be reading more with our upcoming Fall read-alongs here at my blog. I first read The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, which I talk about HERE. Interesting read, that. Not as engaging as I had hoped, but I’m still glad to have read it. Right now, I am reading The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. I found out about Cleo’s read-along too late, but was intrigued by the description of the book and so dove right into it. I am loving this book! I am on the last volume and have only about 20% left of it to read. I will post a review when I finish it. I have to admit, I have chuckled a number of times though as I’ve been reading it because the main protagonist, Emily, sure does faint a lot. Every time I turn around, she’s collapsing on the bed or collapsing on the couch. LOL Swooning women is obviously a thing in classic gothic literature (and sometimes there are even swooning men!). 🙂 This is an engrossing read no doubt and the writing style is excellent!

And now for an update on the upcoming read-alongs I’m hosting here at The Simply Blog. I have a graphic you can grab to post on your blog and share on social media. This is the main graphic for the whole read-along series this Fall. Please link the graphic to THIS post on my blog. Thank you!

I’d like to get your feedback on the class for this read-along series this Fall which is being planned for the week of September 22nd. Would you take just a quick minute to take this survey? I would appreciate it so much!

I will leave the poll active for several days. And then look for a post with all the details of the upcoming Fall Read-Along! 🙂

What are you reading right now?

Kicking Off the Fall Season with Some Classic Gothic Literature

 

September 22nd is the official first day of Fall. I don’t know about you, but I’m so ready for the Fall season! The leaves on the tree in our front yard have already started changing color and some have even begun falling to the ground.

Fall is a great time to dive into some classic gothic literature. Here at The Simply Blog, I’m going to be hosting two read-alongs this Fall. We’ll kick things off with learning about the classic gothic literature genre then dive into two novels in that genre.

The Details

To kick off the Fall reading season, I’m planning a mini-class on classic gothic literature sometime during the week of September 22nd, since September 22nd is the first official day of Autumn. I’m still figuring out the logistics – whether it will be a mini-class via a blog post/blog post series or if I’ll do some sort of video based class. As soon as I figure the details out, I’ll post the information. Then there will be read-alongs in October and November, along with some free goodies for each of those read-alongs. And the two books?

October Read-Along: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

 

November Read-Along: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

If you’re new to the read-along format, let me explain how it works. Before the read-along starts, I will put up an introduction post for the book that will include an introduction to the book and a schedule of what chapters/pages to read each week of that month for the book. I will likely put this post up on the blog the week before the read-along is scheduled to start. Then each week of the read-along, I will post about that week’s reading and everyone can join in and discuss the week’s reading in the comments. You can follow the schedule or you can read at your own pace and then come join the discussion at any point. Usually, the last week’s post is the final post for the book; but sometimes a wrap-up might be posted after the last scheduled reading post discussion.

I love the read-along format because you are able to discuss the book *as* you are reading the book. It’s a great way to read together! I hope you will join me this Fall in diving into some classic gothic literature!

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montomery
Length: 309 pgs.
Genre: Classics
Rating: 5 stars

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert are brother and sister who live in Prince Edward Island, Canada. When the Cuthbert’s decide to adopt a boy from the orphanage, miscommunication occurs and it’s a girl that is sent. Anne, a talkative, imaginative, cheerful, dramatic orphan girl, is found waiting for Matthew at the train station. Marilla clearly thinks the girl must be sent back; but Matthew doesn’t agree. Marilla finally agrees to let Anne stay and thus begins the adventures of Anne of Green Gables.

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This reading of Anne of Green Gables was a re-read for me. I think that Anne must be one of the most charming, delightful characters in literature! From her chattiness to her dramatic ways, she captures the heart of the reader from the get-go. We read this as a family read-aloud over the last few weeks and I can’t tell you how many times we laughed. And I couldn’t help but picture Prince Edward Island in the different seasons and found myself longing for autumn to arrive soon. I have loved the Kevin Sullivan movie productions of this series for a long time (which stars Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, and Jonathan Crombie)  and have watched it many, many times. Of course, once we finished reading the book, we promptly watched the first movie in the series. The first movie followed the book fairly well; but I’ve heard the other movies in this series veer from the books quite a bit.

My family and I were blessed to be able to travel to Prince Edward Island years ago. We got to walk through the forest where the scenes in the movie of the “Haunted Woods” were filmed. We also got to tour Green Gables Heritage Place, which is said to be the site that inspired the setting for Montgomery in creating the beloved Anne of Green Gables.

I’ve only read Anne of Green Gables, the first book in the series (and now I’ve read it twice); even though I’ve watched all the films in the Kevin Sullivan productions. I’m excited to start the next book, Anne of Avonlea.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately ~ The Highlights

If you follow my blog, then you already know some of what I’ve been reading over the last few months because I have been posting reviews. 🙂 I still wanted to write up a post that highlights some of my favorite reads from different categories.

As I said in THIS post, I sunk into a reading rut when stay-at-home orders were first issued with the pandemic. But after a bit of time, my reading life got back on track and I ended up reading quite a bit the last few months. I enjoyed many books I read; but today, I just want to share the highlights.

In March, when I kept starting books but couldn’t finish them, I finally picked up one of my all-time favorite historical fictions books – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It was comforting to re-read it once again. And for fans of this book, the Netflix movie was just as good even though it definitely didn’t follow the book in some instances. I love it as a movie in its own right; but I couldn’t help but get frustrated a time or two with things they left out or things they changed completely.

April was the month that I really fell into a reading rut. I only finished three books in April. And of those three, my favorite was once again historical fiction. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is a World War II historical fiction novel that centers on and around a Polish Jewish family. It is a story of family love and devotion, survival, and how the human spirit endures in these characters. You can read my full review HERE.

By May, my reading started picking back up. I read a mixture of children’s books, classics, contemporary fiction, and historical fiction. From May through July, here are the highlights in different categories.

Historical Fiction

                  

These were both 5 star reads for me. You can read my review of Lovely War HERE and my review of The Last Train to Key West HERE.

Classics

                  

 

Of all the classics I read from May through July, The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien was hands-down my favorite. You can read my review of it HERE. I hope to do a review of the complete series as a whole soon. 
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, which I posted a review about HERE, is right on its heels though as my second favorite. So I had to include it here too!

Children’s Literature

Of all the children’s books I read from May through July, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry was my favorite. It is historical fiction set in Denmark in World War II times. The reader learns about Danish culture of that time and the role Denmark played in the war. From the back cover of the book:  “In this tale of an entire nation’s heroism, the story of the Danish Resistance and their plan to smuggle the entire Jewish population of Denmark – nearly seven thousand people – across the sea to Sweden is told with pride and hope through one young girl’s eyes.” The story is well-written and hard to put down.

Contemporary Fiction

                  

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is contemporary fiction but it is classified as YA. It was a 5 star read for me and you can read my review of it HERE. The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins is a completely different style, contemporary fiction with a bit of magical realism. I really enjoyed this book and had to include it here as a favorite! You can read my review of it HERE.

What are some books you’ve read recently that you loved?

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
Length: 125 pgs.
Genre: Classics, Gothic Literature
Rating: 3 stars


A man crushed by a giant statue head; a cursed, haunted castle; a villainous prince; an innocent young maiden fleeing through a dark, underground passageway. We can see the classic elements of what would become gothic literature in this short novel.

Title Page from the Third Edition
Image Credit: Wikipedia

It is said that this book is considered the first gothic novel and that it would end up influencing other writers such as Bram Stoker, Daphne du Maurier, and Ann Radcliffe. The Castle of Otranto contains some of what is now considered classic gothic elements such as mystery, fear, atmosphere, and the supernatural or unexplained. The two most memorable scenes are Isabella fleeing the castle through a dark, underground passageway and another scene with a visitation from a spectre.

I didn’t find this book as creepy as I was expecting, nor as engaging as I thought it might be. However, we have to keep in mind that in its day, this novel would have probably been a thrilling read. Still, it was an okay read and it was fun to read the novel that is contributed to having sparked the gothic literature genre.

Interest in a September Read-Along?

Would there be any interest in a read-along of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for September? I will host it if there’s any interest. Please let me know in the comments in the next day or two if you can. If we have any interest, I’ll get an introduction post ready and a tentative schedule for reading. 🙂

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Length: 720 pgs.
Genre: Classics

Where do I start? I guess at the beginning. At the beginning of 2018, I decided to read this classic. I had never read any Russian literature and thought this might be a good one to start with. It is on many lists of books people should read, I never read it in high school, and it came highly recommended. So I plunged in and after a bit, I started floundering. I was struggling with the reading of it, trying to keep up with the different names. And so I put it on the back burner….decided maybe another time. Sometime later, I thought I’d try to pick up where I left off. I didn’t make it too far before setting it aside again. Since then, I read a short story by Chekov and was surprised to find that I thought it was pretty good. I learned some tricks with reading all the names (I shortened them so that it was easier to pronounce) and found that helped me a lot. Then I went on to read War and Peace by Tolstoy. I found the names easier to pronounce and didn’t struggle with the actual reading of it. While I didn’t love War and Peace, I found it was much easier to read than The Brothers Karamazov was. And as I thought about that, I realized that I wish I had read some Chekov as my first introduction to Russian literature. I think that had I done so, I would have enjoyed the reading of The Brothers Karamazov much better.

So I decided to pick The Brothers Karamazov back up last week and try to finally finish it. This time around, I did indeed find that it was much easier to read, that I actually remembered the general story-line better than I thought I would (I did read a synopsis of several of the chapters preceding the place where I left off to refresh my memory), and I actually was enjoying it much more this time. And now, I can finally say – I FINISHED IT!

I can see why this is considered a must-read classic. Just in the last bit I had to finish this time around, plus remembering the general story-line, I could see how much depth is in this classic, the layers that are probably present in it, and how well-written it is. I don’t feel like I can give this book a rating given my reading experience of it over the past two years. But it is one that I want to try to read again at some point. In the meantime, I have another Russian classic I want to tackle next: Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. 🙂

Emma by Jane Austen

Emma by Jane Austen
Length:  459 pages
Genre:  Classics
My Rating:  3.5 Stars


It has taken me a long time to finally read this classic by Jane Austen. It’s been on my TBR and I did try to give it a go several years ago….only to set it aside because it just felt so wordy. I’ve seen various movie adaptations of the novel numerous times, with my favorite being the BBC series starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller.

I love this particular movie adaptation and so wanted to love the book just as much. Finally, I decided to give this novel another go; but this time, I chose to listened to it on audiobook. This made a big difference for me! The audiobook version I checked out from the library was excellent! It was the version narrated by Wanda McCaddon. And as I listened to it, I could picture scenes from the BBC series in my mind. Sometimes, maybe the format can make all the difference? It certainly did for me in this case anyway. So much so, that I walked away from listening to the audiobook thinking that some day, maybe I will read it again in print. Maybe Jane is growing on me…….

Emma is an interesting character. She’s pretty much clueless at times, somewhat conceited, at times inconsiderate, and definitely spoiled. She also has a penchant for meddling in the love lives of others. But she’s also kindhearted and very attentive to her father. She’s intelligent and confident and I do think she often has good intentions. For all her faults, Emma is a charming character, who I think does learn from mistakes and does try to make amends when she realizes she messed up. She grows throughout the course of the novel and comes out a bit wiser than when the novel started.

I gave it 3.5 stars because I did really like the novel but I didn’t love it quite like I did Pride and Prejudice. I plan to put another Jane Austen title on my list of books to read next year. Hmmm…..which one……..

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton
Length:  296 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
My Rating:  5 Stars


This novel is set in the 1930s during the historical event of the largest hurricane in the United States that hit the Florida Keys. It wreaked massive destruction and many lives were lost. Among the destruction was Flagler’s railroad, a rail system that linked the mainland of Florida to Key West.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

After the hurricane destroyed part of the train, the railway company was not able to rebuild. Flagler’s railroad never ran again.

“Florida East Coast Railway Overseas Railroad relief train
derailed near Islamorada, Florida, during the 1935 Labor
Day hurricane.” Source and Image Credit: Wikipedia

A major issue also addressed in this novel was the veterans work camps that existed in the Florida Keys at that time. The author explores the purpose of the camps, what the living conditions were like, and what happened to them in the wake of this massive hurricane. I did not know about these veteran camps until reading this book. I did a bit of research to learn more about that. From what I read, there was great controversy surrounding these camps before the hurricane hit; and more controversy arose surrounding how the camps were handled in relation to helping evacuate these men during the hurricane.

This novel had a fast moving plot and kept me turning the pages. I read it in a day it was that good. The author structured the novel with multiple narratives based in the three main characters. And these multiple narratives get interwoven by the end of the novel. The author also writes about the hurricane in such a vivid way. And from what I understand from talking to others who read this book that have experienced hurricanes first hand, the author was on point in her descriptions of what it was like.

The novel also deals with a host of other issues in the lives of the three protaganists. They each have complicated lives and relationships. And the author does an excellent job of giving readers characters they can root for. All around, this is an excellent novel which I couldn’t put down.

Quote from the Book

“After all, what more do we want than for someone to see us as we are, to acknowledge our pain, and to offer a moment of relief?” (p. 122)