Classic Summer Authors
By Megan Powell, Magali Prel and Natasha Smith
It’s summertime! To welcome the new season, the Classics team have gathered works written by authors who were born in the summer months (namely Aldous Huxley, George Sand and William Makepeace Thackeray) to celebrate their arrival on Earth and the novels that ensued. With themes of love and relationships, superficiality and materialism or society and civilisation, these novels are perfect to read while basking under the heat and sunshine of the summer months. Plunge yourself into these enigmatic and tragic stories whilst relaxing either by the pool, on holiday or in the comfort of your own garden.
Indiana by George Sand
George Sand is the penname for French author Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, born on 1 July 1804 in Paris, France. First published in 1832, Indiana is Sand’s most popular work. It explores the unhappy marriage of a young girl named Indiana, who marries a much older man named Colonel Delmare. As time passes, she realises how apathetic and undevoted to the marriage her husband is, as he treats her more like a mere possession than an equal partner. Feeling trapped and unappreciated in her marriage, Indiana becomes drawn to, and infatuated with, charming nobleman Raymon de Ramiere who offers her the love and attention she so deeply craves. However, Indiana’s entourage express their concern and discontent with her affair, leading to major conflicts in her social circle.
In this novel, Sand explores themes of love, passion, societal expectations and the role of women in 19thcentury France. Women had to endure many pressures during the 19th century in France, especially marital and social pressures. This mirrors Sand’s personal marital life: in 1822, she married Baron Casimir Dudevant but left the disastrous marriage after 13 years in search of freedom and a new life in Paris.
The novel forces its main character to deal with internal conflicts, societal norms and the consequences of her actions. The novel portrays Indiana’s journey of self-discovery and the complexities of navigating personal desires.
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
Vanity Fair explores the trials and tribulations of upper-class society in 19th century London, inviting insights into gossip and scandal which swarm their lives, leaving the anti-heroine Becky Sharp a notable but controversial character. The novel follows Miss Sharp and Amelia Sedley, two friends from school not only from opposing classes but with differing morals, where we watch the intelligent yet conniving and self-interested acts of Becky unfold in distinction to Amelia’s humble fate. One might view Becky’s journey as a triumph for influencing class mobility, given her orphan origins, where we depart from her at the end as she gains an income from the wealthy Jos Sedley after his suspicious death. Becky’s journey is one tinted with deceit and highlights the lengths individuals will go to in order to change their path; yet Thackeray offers no shortage of satire to keep us somewhat rooting for her ambitions.
Despite Amelia’s passive nature, her inherent sweetness remains throughout her dark times of financial struggles and widowed life. Thackeray explores the naivety of both young women in their journeys, and their influence in possessing men’s hearts, regardless of their dishonesty or dimwit. Ultimately, Thackeray shows how virtue cannot be ample without intelligence, as well as how improving class and wealth will not secure happiness if one has no true friends. Whilst Becky defied her penniless origins, she showed disregard to the importance of trust and family virtue.
Island by Aldous Huxley
Born 26 July 1894, Aldous Huxley’s prolific repertoire makes for some essential summer reading and the novel that is taking the top spot for this feature by Huxley is Island. Written in 1962, this novel was an essential read during the British counterculture movement. Island was the final novel written by Huxley and remains one of the most influential as does The Doors of Perception. Island is a unique novel; although it does follow a plot, it serves more as a critical commentary and manifesto to a utopian society. Through the general conventions of a story, Huxley is able to cross the boundaries to explore his utopian ideas and express many themes that concerned the counterculture movement. On a fictional island called Pala, journalist Faranby arrives on a conspiratorial mission to get the queen to sell their oil assets. While on this mission, Faranby embarks on an educational journey of seeing a flourishing society, one that challenges his preconceived morals and values. Island’s society encourages drugs, sex and a celebration of diverse family structures that present a stable utopia unlike anything Englishman Faranby has ever seen. This critical story is essential in producing utopian ideas that were very relevant during the 1960s. It is a fantastic account of critical reception of the time and represents Huxley’s concepts for society.