Goodbye, Classics Challenge

I began the Classics Challenge back in January 2012, when I read Lord of the Flies. As much as I wanted to, I didn’t love this famous allegorical tale about the conflict between “civilisation” and “savagery”. It was all right, I suppose. I was pleased I’d finished it. And it didn’t put me off reading more classics. In February, I spent a cold evening curled up with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and it was then that I got excited about all the wonderful classics ahead of me. The endless possibilities, spanning all genres, from children’s classics to classic science fiction. I fell in love with Jane Eyre, Anne Shirley, Matilda, and many more classic characters. And now we’re coming to the end of 2016, to the end of the fifth Classics Challenge. And the last one.

2016 has been a good year for the challenge. Nearly 500 people joined, hundreds of people entered the Vintage Classics giveaway, signed up to receive the monthly newsletter and shared photos of which classic they were reading on Instagram, and I’ve had a lot of fun hosting #ChatClassics on Twitter. But in the past 6 months, I’ve not picked up a classic. And so after a lot of thought, I think now’s the time to say goodbye.


Behold the Pretty Books! / February & March Book Haul (Part 1)
It’s not that I no longer want to read classics, or no longer want to blog, but I’d love to see what else I can tackle next year. 2016 has been a tricky year for all of us and I’ve neglected Pretty Books a little recently – and it’s time to get it back. Sadly, you won’t be rushing to join the 2017 Classics Challenge when January hits, or see any more challenge posts from me, but I’m still immensely proud of what I’ve achieved over the past five years. I’m also incredibly thankful to everyone who’s ever joined in – and would love to see everyone else still pick up a classic a month. (Don’t forget to tweet me with recommendations!).

Maybe we’re just on a break but, for now, I wonder what 2017 will bring?


Behold the Pretty Books! / February & March Book Haul (Part 2)


The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Classic #4)

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Classic #4)

Shelved: Adult fiction (mystery/crime, classic)
Series: Hercule Poirot (#4)
Published: 1926 by William Collins and Sons
Rating: ★★★
Challenge: Classics – #4
Buy: Foyles
More: Goodreads

This is my fourth post for the 2016 Classics Challenge – sign up and join 450+ other people in reading one classic each month.

Roger Ackroyd was a man who knew too much. He knew the woman he loved had poisoned her first husband. He knew someone was blackmailing her – and now he knew she had taken her own life with a drug overdose.

Soon the evening post would let him know who the mystery blackmailer was. But Ackroyd was dead before he’d finished reading it – stabbed through the neck where he sat in his study…

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I received it in 2012 for Christmas. I’m not sure why I asked for this one in particular, but it’s likely that I scrolled through Goodreads to see which ones were her most popular (it’s currently her fifth most read book).

“It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting.”

WHY I Chose to Read It
It was time for my annual dose of Agatha Christie! I’ve (mostly) read one a year for the classics challenge: Murder on the Orient Express (2014), Death on the Nile (2013) and And Then There Were None (2012).

WHAT Makes It A Classic
Agatha Christie is one of the most well-known and beloved crime writers. If she’s not a classic of the genre, who is? The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of her most popular mysteries, known to have a shocking twist, and apparently had a significant impact on the mystery/crime genre. It was voted by the British Crime Writers’ Association as the best crime novel ever.

“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.”

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is narrated by Dr James Sheppard, who lives in the fictional village of King’s Abbot. He’s a great narrator: full of wit, light mockery and surprising vivaciousness. He’s shocked when he receives a phone call saying that his friend Roger has been found dead. Dr Sheppard knows it must have occurred shortly after Roger received a letter from someone who blackmailed the woman he adored into committing suicide – but does anyone else? He calls on as many people as he can (even his gossipy sister!) to help solve the murder. As with previous Christie novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is full of clever detail, interviews with fishy suspects, and a lot of surprises.

It was my third Hercule Poirot and I enjoyed his character a lot more than I have previously. I’ve not found him to be memorable but, this time, the Belgian detective had more of a Sherlock/Watson dynamic with Dr Sheppard – and they worked well together on solving the mystery. Even so, I can’t say I’m a Poirot fan. I’ve not yet come across a Christie that has gripped me as much as And There Were None. I’ll continue to hope I didn’t read the best one first, and try a Miss Marple next…

I’ll have to agree with Robert Barnard: “Apart — and it is an enormous “apart” — from the sensational solution, this is a fairly conventional Christie. … A classic, but there are some better Christies”. I was enjoying the first half until it all got a bit puzzling, with a lot of red herrings thrown in. Even though the ending was a little bit of a surprise (I did wonder at some point, though!), it’s still not my favourite Christie so far. Sorry, Agatha.

WILL It Stay A Classic
I’m sure Agatha Christie will continue to be loved many for years to come! Even if Poirot isn’t my favourite, I’m looking forward to seeing why Miss Marple is a much-adored detective.

“It is odd how, when you have a secret belief of your own which you do not wish to acknowledge, the voicing of it by someone else will rouse you to a fury of denial.”

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love crime/mystery stories. People who love twists. People who are new to classics.

“The things young women read nowadays and profess to enjoy positively frighten me.”

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Classic #2)

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Classic #2)

Shelved: Classic (Humour)
Published: 1889
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics – #2
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

This is my second post for the 2016 Classics Challenge – sign up and join 400+ other people in reading one classic each month.

“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.”

Suffering from every malady in the book except housemaid’s knee, three men and a dog decide to head for a restful vacation on the Thames. Anticipating peace and leisure, they encounter, in fact, the joys of roughing it, of getting their boat stuck in locks, of being towed by amateurs, of having to eat their own cooking and, of course, of coping with the glorious English weather.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I can’t quite remember but it might have been when I first got my Kindle back in 2011. I downloaded a whole bunch of out-of-copyright classics for free and this was one of them. But it wasn’t until I started the classics challenges that I actually decided to read it.

“We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can’t do without.” 

WHY I Chose to Read It
I wanted a short, light read and this seemed like the perfect classic! I came across the audiobook on Spotify and started listening to it on the way to work.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It’s one of the oldest books I’ve read –  127 years old! (That’s 100 years older than myself).

“I don’t know why it should be, I am sure; but the sight of another man asleep in bed when I am up, maddens me.” 

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
Three Men in a Boat was a thoroughly enjoyable classic – and I don’t say this lightly. It helped that I was listening to the audiobook narrated by Hugh Laurie, who was perfect for the story. It’s told with the sort of British humour that I forget how much I enjoy until I hear it – witty, hyperbolic one-liners told in a serious tone. I rarely laugh at any book, but this one had me trying not to giggle on the way to work.

Three Men in a Boat is exactly what it says on the tin (or should I say, cover). George, Harris, narrator Jerome, and a fox terrier called Montmorency (a fantastic name!) take a two-week boating holiday from Kingston upon Thames to Oxford and back again. Even though much of the story is about the everyday experiences of the river journey – from washing one’s clothes to making a pot of tea – it’s made much more enjoyable by Jerome K. Jerome’s expert understanding of the things that tie us all together; it’s like a 100-year-old version of Very British Problems.

WILL It Stay A Classic
Yes – even though it’s an older classic, it still feels funny and fresh. I could quite believe that it was only published this year.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who enjoy British humour. People who want to read older classics. People who want to give classics audiobooks a try.

“But who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand.”