Vicariously Through The Victorians…

As I mentioned a few weeks ago I really do love the autumn, especially for reading. I have been going through my TBR pile on and off over the last week and with certain worrying matters going on off the blog I have been looking for thrilling yet comforting books which will keep me reading. I tend to get readers block when lots of things are going on, I am sure this happens to all of us, and so these reads should combat this. However my version of thrilling yet comforting might not be the same as yours, as mine tend to involve the foggy, mysterious and dark streets of Victorian London, as the hoard I pulled down shows.

Now because I was being all arty-farty by having them on my ever-so suitable Victorian reading chair in the lounge you might not be able to make them all out. Well, it is quite a mixture. First up we have the fiction from the time in the form of ‘The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which I think sums up Victorian London at that time wonderfully, along with ‘The Odd Women’ by George Gissing which I have to admit I really bought (ages ago) because of the title, it just sounds quite me. I am also planning, through my new venture ‘Classically Challenged’, on finally reading two of the authors that many say are the literary greats, Anthony Trollope and the Charles Dickens.

I have thrown in some non-fiction into the mix too. I really struggle with non-fiction, it has to have a narrative and drive or I just get bored. In the case of ‘Beautiful Forever’ by Helen Rappaport (which I think my mother bought me two maybe three Christmas’ ago, oops) there should be no worry at all as it is the tale of Madame Rachel of Bond Street who ‘peddled products which claimed almost magical powers’ ripped people off and blackmailed them. I cannot wait for this, why have I left it so long. The same goes for Mary S. Hartman’s ‘Victorian Murderesses’ which I found in a book swap cafe last year. I don’t tend to mention that I like true crime writing, well I do, and this one looks great. Finally, non-fiction wise, I have ‘Wilkie Collins’ by Peter Ackroyd (I should have read this in the spring) which I am hoping if isn’t a narrative based non-fiction book will hook me in because I am such a big fan of Wilkie, full stop.

Finally I have thrown in three neo-Victorian novels, interestingly all by female authors about fictional women who stood up to Victorian ethics by all accounts, ‘The Journal of Dora Damage’ by Belinda Starling, ‘Little Bones’ by Janette Jenkins and ‘Beautiful Lies’ by Clare Clark. So there is some really exciting reading to look forward to. Yet before I start all these I am going to be meeting some very special ladies who I will be asking for more recommendations from as I will be discussing Victorian books, why they are so tempting to read and to write with them on Tuesday at Manchester Literature Festival


Yes, Jane Harris of one-of-my-all-time-favourite-ever-novels ‘Gillespie and I’ fame, who has also rather luckily become a lovely friend and the lovely Essie Fox, who did a special Victorian episode of The Readers and has written ‘The Somnambulist’ and has ‘Elijah’s Mermaid’ coming out soon (which I have read in advance and cannot wait to tell you all about at the start of November. I will be asking them for recommendations from the period, about the period and set in the period – and reporting back of course.

Now… do you have any recommendations of books about/set in the times of/written by Victorians and if so what? Oh and if you have any questions for Jane and Essie let me know and I will ask them especially.


Filed under Book Thoughts

23 responses to “Vicariously Through The Victorians…

  1. I love Sherlock Holmes, although The Adventures of… is my favourite as it has two of my favourite stories in it. I look forward to the Essie Fox book as I read and enjoyed The Somnambulist on your recommendation.
    I’m assuming as you’re reading a Wilkie Collins bio you’ve read his novels, I also like Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, but you’ve probably read that too!

    • I have read lots and lots of Wilkie novels, I looooooove his books. I am taking on my biggest Victorian challenge for myself in the next few weeks when I start Dickens ‘Great Expectations’.

      Do you know what… I haven’t read ‘Fingersmith’ and I really, really must as everyone raves about it.

  2. I hope these books help you with the non blog related worries. Nice you have a pile of books that will make you feel better. cheers, Pam

    • I think the best escapism can come from these books as it is a totally different world. That said I haven’t read as many as I was expecting. I will pack some when I next go to Grans.

  3. There is something enchanting about the Victorian era isn’t there, and for me nobody does it better than Arthur Conan Doyle – ‘The Memoirs of…’ is excellent but they are all just perfect. I hope to be in attendance at the event on Tuesday! Loved The Somnambulist but have never read any Jane Harris, which is something I feel I should rectify soon.

  4. kirstenhwhyte

    There is something extremely comforting and scintillating about Victorian novels. I think it’s the thought of men in top hats with canes and frock coats walking down foggy gas lamp-lit cobbled streets with ominous shadows that could be harbouring all sorts of ‘danger’ . . . I haven’t read some of the books you have recommended, so I’m off to investigate further.

    • I swear that I spent my last life in the Victorian era and that is what it is. I just feel really comfortable when I am lost in that dark and slightly dangerous world. Maybe I am just a little bit loony?

      • kirstenhwhyte

        Not loony at all! Sometimes I think it would be nice to live a little bit more like the Victorians (but with indoor plumbing and central heating), however it could just be because I love the dresses!!

      • Hahaha yes there are those benefits I would miss… Oh and blogging! How could I forget that!

  5. Pingback: Steampunk : a discovery | kirstenhwhyte

  6. Sue N

    Woman in White and the Moonstone from the era. Just thoroughly enjoyed the 3 McLevy novels by David Ashton set in Victorian Edinburgh.

  7. Would recommend ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ by Mary Elizabeth Braddon and ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. Had to read both for my university course in ‘Madness and Sexuality in Victorian Literature’

    • Oh I love both of those books, in fact I could do with re-reading Lady Audleys Secret at some point as its been a while and I would love to get lost in that world again.

      I wish I had been on that University course, it sounds brilliant.

  8. Loads of good titles to choose from here so I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. WRT Sherlock Holmes, I am working my way through Doyle’s SH books and short stories, and thought you may be interested in a chronological list. (See below.) Doyle himself is a fascinating bit of a nutcase as well if you’d like to see his bio. SH turned into a bit of an albatross in the end, but nevertheless, it was big money-making albatross. 🙂
    Sorry to hear about your health troubles. Take care of yourself.

    • I am going to start going back through the Sherlock short stories in order very soon. I started this a couple of years ago and stopped after the first two novels, I need to pick them up again. I think they are my favourite stories ever.

  9. Whoops. Forgot this bit for you:

    Sherlock Holmes Novels:
    • A Study in Scarlet (1997)
    • The Sign of Four (1890)
    • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-1902)
    • The Valley of Fear (1914-1915)
    Collections of Sherlock Holmes short stories:
    • Adventures of SH (1981-1892)
    • Memoirs of SH (1892-1893) – SH killed off here
    • Return of SH (1903-1904) – SH resurrected here
    • Reminiscences of SH (including His Last Bow) (1908-1913 and 1917)
    • Case Book of SH (1921-1927)

  10. You will love Beautiful for Ever – please push it to the top of your pile SImon! May I also recommend the India Black books by Carol Carr – set in Victorian times, a madame turns spy and are a hoot!

    • I am about to start reading it Elaine, and very excited I am about it too. I haven’t heard of the Carol Carr books but I will look them up in a moment, thanks for the recommendation I love the idea of a madame turned spy!

  11. Kim

    I love Wilkie Collins AND Charles Dickens. I suggest you start with “David Copperfield.” Some GREAT characters. Anthony Trollope’s “The Barchester Chronicles” are an absolute joy to read. Fun and sweet, romantic, thoughtful, warm. “The Warden” is the first one. Have fun! Love the podcast.

    • Alas I am afraid that The Warden didn’t work for me, though it hasn’t put me off Trollope forever. I think, and this probably sounds odd, that I need to be a bit older with more time to really enjoy them.

      I will be starting ‘Great Expectations’ next week, I am quite looking forward to it I have to say.

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