I remember first seeing this craze last year and initially ruling it out. However, due to the longevity of my reading slump (caused by the aforementioned disappointing novels) I believe this will help me regain my motivation to read. As I am dedicating this year to mainly Classic Literature I have appropriately chosen five Classic novels. I will provide only a brief summary of my personal thoughts and findings in each Chapter One in order to prevent any (perhaps even accidental) spoilers.
To begin this challenge I read Chapter One of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novel The Shadow of The Wind. I chose this novel due to my desire to read more of my owned Penguin Drop Caps edition. Here is how it went…
The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Chapter One
I was immediately intrigued by the title of Zafón’s opening Chapter: ‘The Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ which at this time of my life could be in reference to my bookshelf that looms over me as I read. While it becomes immediately apparent that the author is using very conventional plot tropes and some clichés within their language use can be found, such as the ‘deafening silence’ described on page 3, there are already a few (impressively subtle) touching moments. It already seems harsh to judge a book or an author based off of one chapter as there is a theatrical template of mystery and tragedy (etc) in order to draw readers in and therefore one expects to find conventional plot tropes, at least to a certain extent, within a novel’s opening pages. However, if I am blunt about my experience reading The Shadow of The Wind’s opening chapter, I am personally unsure whether I will enjoy this novel.
My primary concern is that the plot is already an interesting premise, yet the book has a total of 511 pages and has very small text. From the first chapter alone it appears as though the novel could not possibly be this long. What I mean by this is that I personally find the basis of the plot more of a discussion topic or literary essay than a fictional novel. I am unsure if the premise is worth 511 pages. In my opinion, again bear in mind this is from one chapter, I see this story being more appropriate for the big screen. This is because the plot is centered around reading and a love of books which first of all seems to me like an unsettlingly easy premise for a novel but also comes across as a little boring. The main audience of Classic Literature are, of course, bibliophiles and are therefore people who have already discovered the magical world of literature Zafón depicts in ‘The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.’ Furthermore the descriptions of settings and characters are lost due to the story building, this would translate better on screen which I would like to see as this was without a doubt one of the redeeming qualities of Chapter One.
I then selected classic Irish novel Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. I selected this novel as I believed, before reading the opening chapter, that this was a Children’s novel. I am hoping to incorporate children’s classics to this year’s reading list. I have previously seen the Rob Letterman movie starring Jack Black based on Swift’s novel which was the extent of my knowledge of this particular classic. I am hoping this novel is as witty as I expect it to be. My copy of this novel is a Roads Classic Edition gifted to me by The Ginger Blogster.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift: Chapter One
Ok so this was an unexpected surprise. I am unsure how I could have spent my life without the knowledge that this is not a children’s novel but a Satire! My edition of Swift’s magnum opus begins with a letter from Captain Gulliver to his cousin Sympson relating to the published account of, unsurprisingly, Gulliver’s travels. Immediately the language was vastly different from what I expected and I instantly knew this novel was more than I had believed it to be. I am thoroughly excited to continue reading this novel despite the fact its opening chapter does not give too much away. It is already witty, or perhaps snarky, despite being political therefore it is easy and quick to read. In all honesty my main interest in this novel is that it is obviously not at all what I was expecting. However there is an apparent quirkiness from the narrator and author that is apparent from the very first page and I cannot help but find that impressive. From the first chapter I believe that this should indeed be a novel and if that isn’t something of wonder I’m not sure what is. I have high hopes and would like to read more of Swift’s work once I finish this novel.
My third choice is one of Penguin’s Modern Classics therefore I look forward to seeing a difference in writing from my last choice. My third selection is also political, described as being “a stunning fictionalization of a political drama that tore the United States apart.” That novel is of course…
The Book of Daniel by E.L Doctorow: Chapter One
Fun (yet ultimately useless as almost all fun facts are) Fact: I have oddly chosen two out of three books so far that have a main character named Daniel. Praise number one is the quote selection that prefaces this novel including a bible verse as well as Whitman and Ginsberg extracts. The novel is split into four books, Book One is titled ‘Memorial Day.’ From the opening page I believe Doctorow’s writing style to be unique. Unlike Zafón’s novel I do not find the opening chapter expected or clichéd, I find it simultaneously charming and gritty. Chapter One I have assumed due to the layout of the novel is a mere five pages and yet it has peaked my interest. In those five pages it touches on relationships, family life, sex, politics and national identity. The opening chapter has left me eager to read more, from the first five pages I believe it will be a book of substance and character.
And now onto my fourth choice, another Penguin Drop Caps edition, another never before read author and a novel I have been meaning to read for a long time…
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Chapter One
Chapter One is titled ‘The Sound of the Shell’ and is 30 pages long! In the opening chapter, in the midst of a World War, a group of boys are stranded on a deserted island.They immediately begin to play adult and start their own society. Everything about the opening chapter is unsettling, the bonding over bullying, the feeling of alienation and there is almost a stabbing towards the end. Therefore violence is very much foreshadowed in the opening chapter. The writing style is very simplistic perhaps due to the fact all of the characters are young boys. Overall I thought the opening chapter was just ok. For some reason I feel as though I know the full story, just through what I have read so far and what I believe will happen. I have surprisingly had no spoilers and would still like to read it to the end despite being underwhelmed by its opening chapter.
The last book I have chosen for this challenge is the novel I know least about but was strangely finding myself most attracted to, yet again the author is new to me and the book is…
The Dear Green Place by Archie Hind: Chapter One
I love the opening line of Hind’s novel which is “In every city you find these neighbourhoods.” The opening chapter is 13 pages long and centres around who I assume to be the main character, Mat Craig, a writer who considers his upbringing and the change Glasgow has gone through from small town to big city and is soaked in history. The first chapter briefly touches upon community, poverty and survival. What draws me to this novel is the knowledge that its author knew it would not make enough money to support him but decided to write it anyway. Despite this fact it received several prizes almost instantaneously on its publication. I have not read enough novels based in my home country and this novel seems to me to hold its own integrity. I also have a habit of loving literature from the 1960’s. I am eager to read more about Hind’s aspiring writer Mat Craig and his views on his land and culture.
In conclusion I actually really enjoyed this challenge, and would recommend it,