Winter often sees a revival of the classics, from romance to religion. This collection offers the classic in a variety of forms, be it an antiquated tale that remains timeless or a piece of modern fiction that revisits the past, all provide an emotive and empathetic escape from the winter blues.
5. Marilynne Robinson – Gilead
In a time when there is rising extremism in religion and widespread loss of faith, Marilynne Robinson offers a gentle and heart-warming novel that explores belief in a manner that is not doctrinal or preachy. This tone happens to strikingly juxtapose the story’s own contextual setting of small town America during the Civil War.
Gilead takes the form of a letter, which stands between a dying father and his son, whom he will never see grow up. The touching narrative revolves around theology and memory; an old man’s reflections upon his life that he hopes can provide a sense of being for his son.
Ideas of belief are threaded through the novel, but Robinson also highlights the universal of human kindness, which is sometimes lost when belief is corrupted or obscured. Ironically, religion, which is heavily bound to the divide in war-torn America, offers a uniting global sentiment of understanding and enables something beautiful to grow amidst such devastation. A deserving winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.
…the novel cannot be put down and will not be forgotten.
4. Edith Wharton – The House of Mirth
As we stand on the brink of a double-dip recession, Wharton has never felt so relevant. The journey of a high status woman from the pinnacle of wealth to the pits of poverty is one we are really able to connect with on an emotional level.
Wharton writes with eloquence. Despite perhaps appearing antiquarian, the early modernist author provides an elegantly narrated tale which feels contemporary in sentiment. Wharton explores a materialistic society, the value it attaches to money and its influence upon friendship, love and pride.
The House of Mirth may be a somewhat bleak read, yet it is filled with the warmth of rich characters and relationships, which enables us to simultaneously escape and reflect upon our own lives.
3. Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre
A timeless classic that has been revisited over and over, and most recently revived in filmic form.
This melancholic coming-of-age novel by Charlotte Brontë follows the sorrowful life of the orphan Jane Eyre as she encounters death, love, fear and hardship. The severe coldness that consumes Jane’s world intensifies the wild emotions that rage on under her stoic and plain exterior. Just as a seismic wave peaks and troughs, so does the luck in Jane’s life.
Packed full of twists and turns, Jane Eyre cannot be put down and will not be forgotten. Both Jane and the infamous Mr Rochester are real characters that you will slowly come to know and comprehend, as they do each other.
Just as Jane is marked by her past, you too will be branded by Bronte’s biggest accomplishment and will revisit the story time and again, just as the film industry has.
…you become so closely tied to each and every sentence…
2. Alice Munro – The Beggar Maid
Mid-winter lethargy often poses strong opposition to the success of reading a whole novel. Luckily, Alice Munro’s The Beggar Maid is a collection of short stories, allowing for quick dips in and out of the book. But taken collectively the stories can also be seen to form a novel and so Munro’s book can satisfy the hunger for a story, but also ultimately form a bigger picture in its completion.
The Beggar Maid follows the lives of Flo and Rose. These stories are so still and subtle in style that the ordinary lives of ordinary characters become almost real, as you become so closely tied to each and every sentence that Munro skilfully crafts. You don’t notice the delicate and discreet psychological and emotional shifts that gradually occur in the characters, yet when something more extraordinary disrupts the routine of their lives you will be pleasantly surprised at the alteration you personally feel within, as well as toward, the characters.
1. Benjamin Markovits – Imposture
In the short and dark winter evenings we all need time to escape into a world of fantasy. Imagine if one’s own fantasy could become a reality. For Polidori, this is exactly what happens, but not in the way he expected it.
Markovits intermingles with seductive skill the historical fact into his historical fiction, Imposture. The factual is based around Polidori who was the 19-year old personal physician to Lord Byron on his European travels. Aside from medical studies, Polidori’s ambition was to become, like Byron, a successful and celebrated writer; and he does just that.
Polidori’s desire to be like his employer extends to heights that he could not even have imagined. Having been influenced by Byron’s poetry, Polidori’s own work The Vampyre is wrongly attributed to Byron, despite it being anonymously submitted to a magazine. Then, unfortunately for Polidori, he falls for Eliza, a young woman who happens to also hold great adoration and passion for his idol. So when she discovers the apparent ‘new’ work by Byron, it is not only the written word that is misidentified, but Polidori himself is mistaken to be the celebrated poet.
We see a transformation of romance into love of celebrity, in both Polidori and Eliza. Both must eventually decide whether fantasy or truth is more valuable to them, and at what cost.