BRIDGET WHELAN writer

Muse, News and Views

One very surprising thing about a list of the 10 best British novels…

Union Jack

BBC Culture recently conducted a poll of 82 book critics to discover their favourite British novels.

None of the critics live in the UK; they come from USA, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Each one submitted a list of 10 of their all time favourite British fictional books and awarded points. The one they liked the best got 10 points and so on, going down their personal list.

Below you will find the top 10 titles that emerged once all the points were added up.

Rather safe I thought. Rather predictable, although it’s odd that there is no Austen. Is she number 11? I wondered…

Only two books on the list were written in the 20th century and none in the 21st. The youngest was written 88 years ago (To the Lighthouse) and the oldest was yanked out on an ancient printing press nearly 200 years ago (Frankenstein).

Then I noticed something else. Out of the 10 best-British-books-of-all-time  six were written by marginalised authors, denied political, economic and social rights, discriminated against in their own time and openly labelled as inferior. Throughout the period in question they were unable to vote on the same basis as the majority of the electorate and for much of the time had little or no rights over their own property or money, which is another way of saying powerless.

And yet despite all the disadvantages, they were able to make huge imaginative leaps, leaps so large that they are still able to speak to readers today and connect with strangers from foreign lands…

…in fact so important was their contribution to British literature only two men managed to get into the top 10.

 

01. Middlemarch by George Eliot
02. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
03. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
04. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
05. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
06. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
07. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
08. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
09. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
10. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

photo credit: Chelsea Garden via photopin (license)

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6 comments on “One very surprising thing about a list of the 10 best British novels…

  1. Claire 'Word by Word'
    December 9, 2015

    That reminds me I must dig out Middlemarch, perhaps I may get to it over Christmas. Have you read it?

    • bridget whelan
      December 9, 2015

      I haven’t – I’m a bit of a dunce as far as George Eliot is concerned, only read Silas Marner. Is iot something I should tackle?

      • Claire 'Word by Word'
        December 10, 2015

        I haven’t read it either, but planning to over a summer or winter break.

  2. philipparees
    December 9, 2015

    Middlemarch yet to be encountered? You don’t need anything else for Christmas!

  3. tric
    December 9, 2015

    I’ve only read 5,6 and 7 maybe I’ll look middlemarch up.
    It seems like a strange list when you think of all they had to choose from, but then what would I know when I’ve not even read them all?
    It struck me that they may have been selected as they are (as far as the three I’ve read) very much typically English/British. Could that have been an influencing factor, or maybe they really are brilliant?

  4. bridget whelan
    December 9, 2015

    But is it worth the time investment? Would I like it? To help you judge, of the books above, Bleak House is one of my all time favourites (so I’m not scared of big books…), but I found Wuthering Heights a tedious tale about people with mental health issues. Heathcliffe a romantic hero? Come off it! So, am I ready for Middlemarch…?

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This entry was posted on December 9, 2015 by in News, Uncategorized and tagged , , .
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