I have friends who have read some of the classics (Cyrano de Bergerac, Dickens, Alexandre Dumas and the like) and they've assured me that the books are considered classics for a reason. I am told that the books are very, very good.
My problem is that I have a habit of reading the plot summaries on Wikipedia.
"Oh, hey, I think I've heard of this novel. Didn't they do a movie version of it?"
Synopsis: The protagonist, or one of the thirty protagonists brought into the story, are born into prosperity or poverty. Find their perfect match, or perhaps a mismatched person in a caste above or below theirs. Lead a life that is virtually a train wreck of bad decisions. Everyone around them are bigoted assholes, except for the one who they betray, or by whom they are betrayed. Finally the two who should have been together all along finally manage to get together and then promptly screw it up. Then there is a miscarriage, and one or more of them die from consumption. Finally, the story draws to a conclusion that's about as uplifting as a graph on infant mortality rates in the developing world, and somebody ends up living out the end of their days as a nun working with lepers.
I admit that most of the summaries I have ended up looking up are probably the darker members of the genre, but it has generally coloured my view of the classics as a whole. It strikes me as a genre that I consider, "Reading for people who feel like they don't cut themselves enough."