Victorian Based Books…

One of my favourite things to read, which Essie Fox’s ‘The Somnambulist’ reminded me of especially after talking with her about it, is a good Victorian novel and yet weirdly I have seemed to have strayed from them in the last few years. I don’t just mean the originals like the wonderful Wilkie Collins who I have binged on in the past (though I have been considering some of his novels I haven’t yet read and as you will see I have been debating trying Charles Dickens again what with his birthday having come and gone) but also the contemporary novels by authors like Sarah Waters and many more. I did have a brief binge on one after reading Essie’s, which I will be discussing tomorrow, but I think once I have finished of the wonderful letters between Nancy Mitford and a bookshop I think it is time to gorge myself on all things Victoriana. I love the dark atmosphere and sense of mystery that the period brings and it seems perfect at the moment as Britain seems to be having a big freeze. I already have three books lined up for the weekend…

‘The Sealed Letter’ is the only Victorian fiction, though contemporary, I have at the top of the TBR so far. I had to get this from the library as I forgot I had lent it to someone and suddenly fancied it. It will be my second and a half read of any Emma Donoghue, I got half way through her short story collection ‘The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits’ when someone selfishly (joking) ordered it for themselves and so back to the library it went. ‘Room’ is obviously her most famous novel but with ‘Slammerkin’ and others it seems Emma likes this period so I am hoping it is good.

The other two books are non-fiction. ‘The Maul and the Pear Tree; The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811’ by P.D James and T.A. Critchley was been inspired read by the fascinating experience that listening to the audio book of Judith Flanders ‘The Invention of Murder’ is proving to be. In the first several chapters I have listened to the case of the Ratcliffe Highway murders and not only how they were the case of the first real serial killer, but also how they changed the way the police worked. I couldn’t get enough and so pulled out this book dedicated just to that and seeing the wonderful P.D James playing a cold case detective for real, fabulous.

‘The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper’ either the official memoirs of Jack or simply the mad ramblings of James Carnac arrived by surprise the other week. I am one of those many people fascinated by this case because of course no one ever found out who Jack the Ripper was – in the case of James Carnac’s writing it could be that he really was him or that he was a bit mad and wrote a very grisly and almost too knowing novel about Jack. I am going to play detective and try to decide the truth, I have ordered a few Jack the Ripper books to read alongside this one. Does that make me a bit morbid having a grim fascination with it all?

Oh and if you are wondering what I will be reading all these on, check out this reading chair (which the books were photographed on) below, doesn’t it look like a wonderfully modern contemporary version of a Victorian chaise longue? It’s very comfy I have many wonderful hours ahead.

I am now mulling over which classic Victorian novel to dip into at some point too. I have some of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s lesser known works, some more Wilkie Collins (and I believe his biography by Peter Ackroyd is on the way) or do I take the plunge into Dickens? After all Susan Hill makes a compelling case on Dovergreyreader today, do visit. What would you recommend? Are you a fan of books set or written in the Victorian era and which are your favourites? You may inspire me.


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21 responses to “Victorian Based Books…

  1. As I said on Twitter… and will reiterate here, you must check out Tom-All-Alone’s by Lynn Shepherd. The basis for the story is Dickens’ Bleak House. I haven’t read Bleak House but I’m enjoying this. While on your Victorian kick, it’s worth checking out. It’s a brutally dark crime novel and the detective is a fantastic character.

    That all comes from someone who doesn’t really like crime novels either!

    • I am glad you mentioned that you hadn’t read any of Bleak House as I worried with this book, and it put me of a teeny bit, that I would be missing something and the book wouldn’t work. It sounds like a very me book from what you have said here and on Twitter.

  2. Louise

    I couldn’t finish The Sealed Letter, it was sooooo tiresome, I read it after reading The Somnabulist, maybe that was the problem… I LOVED The Somnabulist, perhaps I’d put it on a pedestal.

    If you like The maul and the Pear Tree, then check out The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath, by Jane Robins.

    If you’re in the mood for some Dickens, the maybe The Old Curiosity Shop, it’s the only one of his I’ve completed.

    • Ooh thats interesting Louise. I meant to start it this weekend amd I haven’t. I also have the Jane Robins book somewhere in mount TBR so that might be another one I try. I have heard a rumour that the new Kate Summerscale is in the post which is all about a Victorian scandal. Very excited. I also want to try Mr Briggs Hat, I have heard thats very good.

  3. I love Anne Perry’s series with Inspector Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte and the Oscar Wilde mysteries written by Gyles Brandreth. There are so many more but I can’t think of them right now!
    And you really need to read one Dickens novel in 2012 🙂

    • I will try to read one Dickens this year Tracy, but I am basing reading on whim. Mind you I havent actually picked a book up for quite a few days, uh oh!

      I liked the first Brandeth book, haven’t picked any more up though as yet.

  4. Apologies if you’ve mentioned this before but Victorian Secrets published some wonderful less well known works all with new intros etc. Including some great Victorian ghost stories. Nice short, sharp shock of victoriana.

    I also love Andrew Pepper’s rather dark Pyke mysteries – historical detective fiction.

    And go on, read some Dickens! My favourite is David Copperfield.

  5. I love a book set (or written in) the Victorian Era, especially when they are about things like mesermism and the like.

    The Seance by John Harwood is one of my best books I’ve ever read.

  6. I love neo-Victorian novels! You should peruse Jane’s reviews at Fleur Fisher – she’s been posting about a lot of really great-sounding neo-Victorian stuff lately.

  7. Pingback: Victorian Based Books… | Savidge Reads | Books Palace

  8. Jo

    Anne Perry is good, and her background story is very interesting!

  9. I love Sarah Waters, I’ve read all of her books. I also keep meaning to read that PD James book.
    I’ve never read any Dickens either, except for A Christmas Carol, and I really feel like I should. I love Wilkie Collins.
    Love the reading chair, by the way. I would like a chaise longue one day (is that how you spell it?) to read on.

    • Sarah Waters is indeed a good call. I would like to read Fingersmith soon, I can’t actually believe I haven’t. I only have that and Tipping The Velvet left of hers.

      Wilkie Collins is amazing!

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