19th Century Fiction I Recommend
If you’re interested in reading more classical fiction, then here are some 19th-century fiction novels I recommend. From recognisable classics that you’ll often read in school to a few authors’ lesser-known, or lesser appreciated novels.
You could read any of the Bronte sister’s works and be in for a treat, but personally, Jane Eyre remains my favourite. I’m still yet to read Charlotte’s other works but I would like to get to Villette next.
As with the Bronte sisters, it’s the same for Charles Dickens. He wrote many novels and all are worth reading, but my personal favourite is David Copperfield. This bildungsroman – from childhood to adulthood storyline – has so many characters and layers that it makes it so much fun. I highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by Richard Armitage.
A perennial favourite for many people is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This classic follows the four March sisters over the span of 10 years as they fall in love, break hearts, make mistakes and achieve their ambitions.
I’ve read all six of Jane Austen’s completed novels and personally, I like all of them, except Persuasion. I found Northanger Abbey to be my early favourite – although since then I’d say Emma and Pride and Prejudice have taken that top spot. This story follows Catherine Morland, an impressionable young woman obsessed with gothic romance novels. Out of all of Austen’s heroines, I think she’s the most relatable if you’re just starting out with reading class fiction.
I’ve read quite a few Elizabeth Gaskell novels now, and I’ve enjoyed every one. If you love romance then you definitely need to read North and South, but if you want a giggle and a more relaxing, pastoral story then I recommend Cranford. Set in a village near Manchester, the protagonists are a selection of unmarried elderly women who are kind, gossipy, and highly matriarchal. It will make you laugh, smile, and cry in equal measure. And the TV adaptation is one of my all-time favourites.
Next up is an adventure story, the ultimate treasure hunt classic. The story follows a young lad called Jim, who is handed the secret to finding the mythical Treasure Island. Full of pirates, betrayal, silliness, and morality, this is a fun classic to read one afternoon.
Mary Shelley wrote a few novels but none of them ever reached the heights of her debut novel Frankenstein. It was the first-ever sci-fi novel, and it came from the mind of an eighteen-year-old girl, ostracised from her family and struggling with marriage and motherhood. I’ll be honest and say that the book is nothing like any of the movies, so be prepared for a long scientific jargon and little plot. But it’s still a masterpiece.
And finally, another gothic novel. This time from the acerbic pen of Oscar Wilde. Wilde was mostly known for his poetry and his sexuality, which at the time of his living was highly illegal. But his story of Dorian Gray – part ghost story, part literary masterpiece – is all about vanity and morals. Well worth a read.
What 19th-century fiction novels would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below.