By Megan Powell, Hannah Spruce and Michael Calder
In an effort to continue the summer theme and make this glorious weather last even longer, the classics team have decided to highlight some classic summer titles. These could be summer themed, set in the season, or a relevant title. Here are our top three that fit the mould and which we hope will continue to inspire the sun. A common theme that the team encountered when analysing which summer text to use was that of setting. It appears that a lot of British summer classics are typically set in the countryside, most notably Yorkshire. This county consistently proves to be of great importance and inspiration amongst many English classic writers and it is easy to understand why with the idyllic descriptions of landscape. Another common depiction in classic literature is often the beautiful landscapes of Italy. Again, it is understandable where the writers gain such apt inspiration. These novels are perfect escapism and will have you enjoying the summer for longer.
The Beautiful Summer by Cesare Pavese
Originally written and published by Cesare Pavese during 1949, and then translated into English during 1955, The Beautiful Summer (1949) was amongst an array of literary works created by the renowned Italian author. Comprising three novellas when first written, titled La tenda, written in 1940, Il diavolo sulle colline (1948) and Tra donne sole (1949), the collection earned the author his first and only award, the Strega Prize, shortly before his death.
Born in the City of Santo Stefano Belbo, within the Province of Cuneo, Cesare Pavese often returned to his roots within artistic endeavours, incorporating the areas that communicated the greatest beauty during his childhood. This outing does not digress from that notion, as The Beautiful Summer depicts the corruptive nature and influence of selecting the wrong peerage.
The young protagonist, Ginia, seeks excitement, diversity and change, as her existence within rural Italy becomes mundane; however, she questions the alignment of her character with another lifestyle. Yet, when she comes across artistic model Amelia and discovers the great promiscuity that can accompany a chosen lifestyle, Ginia finds herself rapidly descending into turmoil, moral uncertainty, and, in some essence, freedom.
Pavese poses an excellent, realistic balancing act which mirrors the hitches associated with personal development and great change – layered anxiety, excitement, innocence and doubt.
A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
First published in 1980, J.L. Carr’s A Month in the Country is a poetical novel set during the beautiful Yorkshire summertime. This novel is perfectly set in an idyllic countryside that follows two First World War veterans. Tom Birkin is hired to restore a mural over the summertime in a rural church, where he is able to reflect on the emotional turmoil of the war. Escaping to Yorkshire for solace, Birkin uses his therapeutic work and discovers there is more meaning to the mural than what the church first conceived. He uncovers an amazing history and also meets Charles Moon, who was employed by the church to find a grave. He too is a war veteran and allows for some of Carr’s own experiences to be depicted in this deeply moving novel. The novel beautifully depicts the Yorkshire landscape, while following the emotional journey of the veterans. Through their summer jobs, Carr is able to present the post war challenges and healing summer. A Month in the Country was nominated for the Booker Prize and was successfully adapted for the screen in 1987, starring Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh.
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View is the perfect classic as we approach the end of summer as it is a transitory novel which explores the changing society of the early 1900s. The protagonist Lucy Honeychurch emerges as a young upper-class woman who we first meet in Italy, where she is touring with her chaperone in pursuit of a form of independence and expanded education. It is a novel of halves in terms of the locations of Italy and England but also of new and old expectations. For Lucy, the summer in Italy offers unfamiliar experiences and feelings whereas England promises a respectable engagement to the pompous Cecil Vyse. However, a connection with the unassuming George Emerson whilst in Italy threatens the stability of the life expected for her in England. Written in 1908, Forster critiques and mocks the rigidity of English society and its ingrained class systems which continued to be challenged and dismantled through the first half of the 20th century. This novel is a quick and accessible classic which explores romance, class and murder in under 300 pages. The 1985 film adaptation with Helena Bonham Carter in the lead role is a faithful accompaniment to your reading as it also expands on and utilises features from Forster’s drafting of the novel.