I'm embarassingly under-read in the 19th century novel department and for someone who wants to write novels, I realize this oversight needs to be rectified.
I asked my good friend, Brother Joseph, a learned man who marries the best in literature and religion in his cerebral carriage, to advise me on his own favorites. Normally we talk about the Jesuits or I pretend to like baseball, but sometimes we talk about books.
I think his list is a good one and may he forgive me for quoting it verbatim:
Balzac: Lost Illusions, Old Man Goriot
Stendahl: Red and Black
Zola: Germinal, The Masterpiece
George Elliot: Middlemarch
Dostoevskii: Brothers Karamazov, Devils (a Christian's understanding of the horrors lurking within each soul...the most important literature ever)
Melville: Moby Dick
Turgenev: Fathers and Sons
Flaubert: Sentimental Education
Austin: Pride and Prejudice
Burnett: the Secret Garden
Carroll: Alice in Wonderland
Gogol: Dead Souls
Twain: anything would be fine.
Collins, Wilkie: Moonstone
Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
Wilde: Picture of Dorian Gray
Conrad: Heart of Darkness
Other recommendations? Advice? Scorn? Amusement?