The end is in sight – only a few more months of restrictions… but what can you do until then?
The answer is, of course, pick up a book! More than a quarter of children and young people say that they’re enjoying reading more during lockdown, and book sales rocketed during 2020. As well as reading for pleasure, people have also taken this time to become more culturally aware, by reading literary classics – from Shakespeare to Atwood, there’s plenty to get your teeth into to learn more about the world.
Here are my top 5 classic lockdown recommendations:
Doctor Faustus (1604) is a Renaissance tragedy play by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). Now, I know what you’re thinking: Old English is boring and hard to read. I’m not disputing that, but after the initial prologue, Faustus’ story is easy to follow. Basically, Faustus sells his soul for knowledge, so that he can overpower the devil Mephistopheles. With cameos from the seven deadly sins, Beelzebub and even Lucifer himself, this is not only a weird supernatural play but the hilarious story of an Everyman figure who is just so painfully naive. Plus, it’s really short – 5 Acts are contained in less than 100 pages!
The Invisible Man (1897) was written by the father of science fiction, H.G. Wells. Like Doctor Faustus, it’s the story of a man (Griffin) who reaches too far, and he becomes irreversibly invisible. The opening scene introduces this mysterious character, who arrives at an inn, very strangely dressed in the middle of a snowstorm. His intriguing personality and outright peculiar appearance attracts the reader, and you soon become swept up in this classically Gothic mystery. At only around 150 pages, this novella is an easy read, perfect for an overcast evening by the fire.
Rebecca (1938) is widely renowned to be one of the best classics out there. Du Maurier is able to craft eloquent sentences and paint stunning scenes in the reader’s mind, and there is certainly no shortage of natural descriptions in Rebecca. The unnamed narrator, a young, naive woman working in Monte Carlo, falls in love with the charming Maxim De Winter. They get married immediately, but all is not what it seems: when Maxim takes his new wife to his home, Manderley, she is haunted by the old Mrs De Winter, aka Rebecca. The trauma experienced by the narrator is profound, and the author constantly leaves us wanting to know what happens next. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for all 500 pages.
I read The Colour Purple (1982) as part of my ‘Black Lives Matter’ reading list, in order to educate myself on the history of black people in America. This wonderfully crafted coming-of-age novel tells the story of Celie, a poor, uneducated girl living in the deprived South in the early 1900s. Through letters addressed to ‘God’, Alice Walker guides the reader through many horrifying experiences that were the norm for people like Celie, her sister Nettie, and her family, including physical and sexual abuse. The Colour Purple has been banned in schools across America for its mature and challenging content, but in my opinion, this is what makes it an important read. It’s only around 300 pages long, but the dialect does take a bit of getting used to.
Circe (2018) is somewhat of a modern classic: written by Madeline Miller, the author of the heartbreaking The Song of Achilles, this mythical novel is about the misunderstood Goddess Circe who is banished to the island of Aiaia. Featuring famous figures such as Odysseus and Penelope, Prometheus and Athena, this is a must-read for those who want to learn more about Greek Myths and ancient history. This feminist retelling is just over 400 pages long.
Hopefully you found this short article helpful, and decide to read one of these amazing classics in the next few months. Stay safe, and let us know what you think!