I love reading books set in the Victorian era. Not only is there an amazing breadth of storytelling from poverty stricken Londoners to the scandalous aristocrats driven by greed, from life in grand country estates to dalliances across dark and dangerous landscapes. There is a book perfect for everyone in the Victorian era and here are 5 of my favourites.
The first Victorian novel I read and which sparked my love of reading classic literature. Becky Sharpe is a fun and feisty heroine who navigates her way through the circus of Victorian society. Her cunning (and at times desperate) attempts to raise above her poor beginnings into high society makes for one incredible tale. Poignant but extremely funny this is one book which will stay with you long after you’ve read it.
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
From one incredible leading lady to another, Bathsheba Everdene gives her three suitors a run for their money as well as managing her late Uncle’s farm. A story of twists and turns full of intense drama that keeps you glued to the book. Hardy is a great Victorian novelist who writes evocative and beautiful descriptions of rural England and shines a spotlight on the injustices rural communities, especially women suffered. This book is one of his less tragic so a great one to start with.
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Litte Dorrit isn’t talked about as much as Dickens’ more famous works but it is a brilliant story and easy to follow for those unsure about reading his books. Ami Dorrit lives in a debtors prison with her father but is free to leave to work as a seamstress for the kind Mrs Clennam. When Mrs Clennnam’s son Arthur returns to England and takes an interest in Ami and her family, secrets begin to unravel and fortunes for the Dorrit’s are about to change for ever. A great tale and an interesting account of life in debtors prison based on Dickens’ personal experiences.
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
After the doom and gloom of many Victorian novels Wives and Daughters brings comic relief. Molly is seventeen when her father remarries bringing into her world a frustrating step-mother and an enchanting step-sister Cynthia. As she struggles to adjust to her new family, a web of secrets ignites gossip amongst the villages risking both Molly’s reputation and the man she is secretly in love with.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Originating from Yorkshire myself, I couldn’t leave Wuthering Heights out of this list. Its still saddens me that this was Emily Bronte’s only novel but what a novel it is. The story is about two families driven by love, hate and jealousy. Cathy and Heathcliff’s obsession with each other (and poor decision making) sets ripples that bring tragedy to those around them and the following generations. It’s a book you’ll discover something new every time you read it. A wintery read and utterly engrossing.
I would love to hear about your favourite books set in the Victorian era. Let me know yours in the comments below.