One of my favorite things about the summer is being able to sit out on the patio and enjoy a good book while the sun stays high into the sky, well into the evening. This particular summer, I've spent much of my time re-reading some of my favorite classics. The Beautiful and The Damned, anyone?
My thirst for the literature of yesteryear inspired this week's post - 5 Classic Literature Book to Read This Summer. However I didn't write it! This week I have an amazing treat - a guest post by Indie author A. M. Dunnewin. Read on to check out the five classics for you to check out before Fall!
1. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
This story is by far my favorite, all because of the shocking ending that even Alfred Hitchcock had to soften in his movie adaption. Published in 1938, this novel has never gone out of print, and still fascinates readers with its dark psychological ploys.
While the whole story is told by an unnamed narrator who is a young woman, the story starts off with her becoming acquainted with a wealthy Englishman, Maximilian "Maxim" de Winter, while the two are in Monte Carlo. After a fortnight of courting, she ends up marrying him. But the heart of the story is when they go back to his estate, known as Manderley, in which the slow psychological twists start to happen. Because at Manderley Maxim had a first wife, Rebecca, who had died in a boating accident the year before, and the person who still remains at Manderley is Rebecca's faithful yet obsessed housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. Ever since the new Mrs. de Winter steps foot onto Manderley's grounds, Mrs. Danvers goes to great means to make sure the new wife knows that she can't replace the old one. Although it's not a ghost story, this book almost plays out like one, with the naïve heroine being haunted by the perfect reputation of Rebecca to the point that she almost goes mad. Almost, until the haunting truth finally surfaces.
Tragic, romantic, and a little sinister, Rebecca is a perfect read for anyone craving a psychological thriller that's set against the backdrop of an English manor.
2. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Since we're talking about stories with twisted endings, we can't leave out the Queen of Mystery herself. Out of all the books she's written, even Christie admitted that this was her favorite. By the time you reach the startling end, you'll know exactly why.
Through the eyes of Dr. James Sheppard, we learn of the unexpected death of Mrs. Ferrars, a wealthy widow who had been rumored to have killed her husband. It's Roger Ackroyd, a widower who was planning to marry her, who is the most distraught over her death, and he invites Dr. Sheppard over for dinner in order to talk. While advancing to the study afterwards, Roger starts to divulge about his relationships with Mrs. Ferrars, and about how she had told him that she was being blackmailed for killing her husband. In the middle of the conversation the two men are interrupted by a letter that's received; a letter which ends up being a suicide note from Mrs. Ferrars. Leaving Roger alone to read it, Dr. Sheppard goes home, in which he receives a phone call from Roger's butler that Roger has been murdered. But the butler never made the call, and when Dr. Sheppard arrives he finds that Roger has indeed by murdered, stabbed to death by a weapon from his own collection. There's only one person clever enough to put the pieces together, and that person is Hercule Poirot himself who had moved into town in order to retire. Dr. Sheppard becomes Poirot's assistant in trying to find the murderer, which isn't easy since everyone close to Ackroyd benefited from his death.
Published in 1926, this book has all the charm of a Hercule Poirot tale until the end when you realize Christie has actually fooled us all.
3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Talk about a selfie gone wrong. This philosophical novel from notorious Oscar Wilde actually got him in trouble back in 1890 when it was first published in a monthly magazine. What shocked the Victorians still shocks readers today, and the moral behind the story has become a tale as old as time.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is the horrific tale of handsome and egotistical Dorian Gray who, while having his portrait done, begins to think that beauty is the only aspect of life worth pursuing after hearing the same opinion from a friend. Wishing the painted version of himself would age instead of him, Dorian ends up following his friends advice and fully explores his sensuality. After unjustly breaking the heart of a woman who loved him, Dorian realizes that his wish has come true when he finds that the portrait has somehow changed, the angelic face now showing a subtle yet cruel sneer. Over eighteen years, the internal ugliness and aging that should have scared Dorian ends up scaring the portrait, and before he knows it Dorian has to hide the painting away because it's no longer the beautiful picture of himself but of the monster he's become.
Haunting and a bit terrifying at times, this classic tale is a reminder that the sins you bear can't always be hidden.
4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The only reason this novel is so large is because Alexandre Dumas uses every moment to his advantage. Considered his most popular work along with The Three Musketeers, Dumas wrote this adventure novel back in 1844, which has been thrilling readers ever since.
On the day of his wedding, Edmond Dantes is accused of treason, arrested, and imprisoned without a trial after being wrongfully accused of being a Bonapartist traitor. Taken to the Chateau d'If, a grim island fortress off of Marseille, Edmond makes friends with a fellow prisoner who helps him realize that Edmond's jealous rival, an envious crewmate, and a double-dealing Magistrate have all betrayed him. After years of imprisonment, Edmond escapes, in which the fellow prisoner helps guide him to a hidden treasure. Finding the fortune, Edmond returns home not as Edmond Dantes but as the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo. Slowly but surely, the Count of Monte Cristo starts to unravel the lives of those who had betrayed him, which causes one of the greatest revenge stories to be born.
And let me just say that the revenge and destruction is real in this book. If there is one story that will make you satisfied when the bad guys get what they disserve, this is it.
5. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Last but not least, we can't leave out the hardboiled crime novel when it comes to reading classics. Written in 1939, this is Raymond's first book to feature detective Philip Marlowe, a legendary character all thanks to Raymond's complex and thrilling story lines, and of course Humphrey Bogart's portrayal of him in the 1946 film noir.
Based in Los Angeles, Philip Marlowe is called to the home of a wealthy and elderly general who believes that a bookseller is blackmailing the youngest of his two daughters. But as he leaves, Philip meets the oldest daughter who questions if he's actually being hired to find her missing husband. Playing cool, Philip continues on with the original investigation by tracking down the bookseller, until murder after murder begins to unravel with each turn of events. As the investigation starts to spiral out of control, Philip realizes that the missing husband and the blackmailing are intertwined, and that the daughters aren't as innocent as they seem.
With double-crossing characters and explosive secrets, there's no doubt that this gem of a novel has gone down in history as one of the best.
A. M. Dunnewin grew up with a taste for mysteries and thrillers, inherited ever so lovingly from her family. An affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association, A. M.’s own stories cover a wide range of genres that tend to take a dark turn when least expected. With a B.A. in Psychology, she’s a gambler of words, obsessed with chai tea, and addicted to books – everything from classical literature to graphic novels. Other hobbies include art, history, music, equestrianism, and a good classic film. She currently dwells in Northern California. Her Novellas, Rum Runner, and it's sequel Speakeasy, are available on Amazon. As is her novel, The Benighted, whose sequel she is currently working on. See more and purchase her books here.