Read the original “5 Classic Christian Novels You Won’t Find at Your Christian Bookstore” post here.
Below are five more classic Christian novels you may not have heard of, this time from a variety of genres, including fantasy, journal writing and poetry. All books from both lists were written during the Victorian era and are sure to intrigue any Austen or Bronte lover seeking overt or subtle explorations of God and Christianity.
1. Cranford (1853) by Elizabeth Gaskell – It’s hard to go wrong with Elizabeth Gaskell. If you’ve seen the BBC miniseries, you’ll want to read Cranford the book by this minister’s wife. While the typical Victorian novel upholds romantic, marital love as the penultimate relationship, Cranford appreciates sisterly and neighbourly love as an expression of the body of Christ.
2. Phantastes (1858) by George MacDonald – C. S. Lewis credits Phantastes with first softening his heart to consider the possibility of the existence of God. What one might call a “fairy tale for grown ups,” Phantastes’ unearthly and yet strangely reminiscent atmosphere elicits a sense of nostalgia and longing in the reader.
3. Cricket (1886) by Silas K. Hocking – Industrial England, seen through the eyes not of middle class misses, but children living on the streets. Written by a minister, Cricket tells a simple but heart-warming tale of two impoverished youths, Caroline and Billy, on the streets of Liverpool whose shared trials draw them into a friendship with one another.
4. Roughing it in the Bush (1852) by Susanna Moodie – Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a middle class Victorian lady left her tea parties and English gardens for back-breaking farm labour in the wild Canadian backwoods? Susanna Moodie’s famous journal chronicles her personal experience of such an adventure as she forsakes her comfortable English life to live in a dilapidated shack in the middle of the forest and learn how to hoe potatoes, paddle a canoe, bake her own bread and milk a cow.
5. Aurora Leigh (1856) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning – A breathtaking magnum opus concerning art and theology with exquisitely crafted lines to mull over and savour. Protagonist and orphan Aurora Leigh rejects her cousin’s offer of marriage and a wealthy inheritance to blaze her own path as a female writer. Aurora ruminates on her faith in God, her function as an artist (especially a female one), the nature and purpose of art itself from a Christian perspective and her duty to her fellow suffering humans.
Phantastes! The book that C.S. Lewis said “baptized his imagination.” I can’t wait to read it. Cranford is also on my to-read list, although I never thought of it as a Christian novel.