Over two months into lockdown, and we’ve likely made a dent into those list of films and television shows that we just put aside or watchlisted for months on end. But if you’re looking for something to do, nothing beats the good old novel. Hours lost to the intricate fictional worlds or factual notes written down and presented by a plethora of writers and great minds. And everyone has something that interests them more: are you a fantasy novel person, or prefer those classics from Jane Austen? How about something inspired by fairytales?
Writers from The Edge talk about their recommendation reads for lockdown, and why you should take a literary journey of your own:
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Largely unknown but indisputably phenomenal, John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things is the perfect book to read while locked up in self-isolation. A Gothic fantasy novel following the life of 12-year-old David, the book begins during WWII before whisking its main character to a fantastical world of beasts, magic and science all accumulating into a journey of self-discovery and love. Dealing with themes on family, regret, mental health and sexuality; Connolly’s tale is a journey pumped full of dark humour, streamlining itself as a piece of literature, unlike anything most would have read before. With comical re-imaginings of characters like Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs and literary allusions to Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin, the novel becomes as much as an exploration of childhood for its the audience as it does for its protagonist. It’s a book which aspires to much more than entertaining its audience, but sparking interesting reflections that give it a surprising depth that most have failed recognise in it. When you pick it, you won’t want to put it down as event after event flutter through the pages while providing a complete escape for reality. Easily finished within a day or two, it means its one less day worrying about what you’ll spend your time doing. Plus, the newly illustrated edition adds an extra dimension to an already great novel that makes its aesthetics match beautifully with the tale that it tells.
– Sam Pegg
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
I’ve chosen Sense and Sensibility because it’s what I currently can’t get enough of, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of Jane Austen’s novels. This novel tells the story of sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they deal with love and heartbreak in very different ways in this 19th century English novel. It’s not a fancy metaphor for what we’re all going through right now, just good old escapism and characters that you can really engage with. Elinor’s quiet resolution and Marianne’s bold reaction in the face of heartbreak are worlds apart, but there’s no doubt that both of these women will capture your heart. Jane Austen never fails to create the most lovable characters is classic literature and Sense and Sensibility showcases this talent perfectly. And after you’re done, you can even find the 1995 adaptation on Netflix!
– Vicky Greer
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
On the Road is a 1957 novel written by Jack Kerouac, this novel is viewed as the pinnacle for beatnik literature and culture. Its exemplified beatnik lifestyle, the life of travelling, the importance of music, art and poetry and dives into drug use, which was popular in this era. On the Road is almost a memoir for Kerouac, the protagonist – Sal Paradise, is based on himself and the whole story follows his own journey across the United States with his own friends. Music plays a defining role in the story, every time period is first established through reference to the musical world, for example, “1947, bop was going like mad all over America”. The constant reference to music gives us insight into the culture that was flourishing at the time, the music plays as a backdrop in each character’s lives, this makes the story feel even more real. The novel is also about a search for meaning, the search for something that is greater than one’s self, we see Sal go on a journey across America and with each state he visits he meets a new aspect of himself. As Sal travels, we travel with him. The way the book is written it allows us to open our own minds to realise the sides of ourselves we often hide; this makes for the perfect reading as it opens us up to a world we have not been able to see.
– Morgan McMillan
Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
What else can I say about Lord of the Rings that I haven’t already mentioned? This novel, released in three parts between 1954 and 1955 by Oxford Professor Tolkien essentially redefined the fantasy genre. Over a thousand pages merely here, and dozens of other novels exploring the rest of the history and peoples of Middle-Earth with themes of love and friendship, fellowship and the beauty of the natural world; music is key in Tolkien’s world, so numerous chapters hold the lyrics to laments or tales not adapted for the Peter Jackson trilogy of films, with my personal favourite the Lament for Boromir in the early pages of The Two Towers.
And yes, I am counting this as one novel, despite being published in three sections. A Post-Second World War paper shortage lead to this decision, ironically starting the trend for fantasy series to be released this way. With elements of the novels drawing from both Tolkien’s fascination with creating languages and the mythologies and ancient epics he taught at Oxford, this a fantasy novel with weight and impact beyond words. One that everyone has to read!
– Louise Chase