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Classics for Springtime

By Megan Powell, Magali Prel, Natasha Smith and Mia Walby

 

As the days get longer and the sun shines brighter, the emergence of spring is synonymous with new life, fresh blooms and all-round inspiration. Gone are the dark, cold evenings and here comes the start of something new. It is no surprise that the season was a source of so much literary inspiration. Spring contains some beautiful features and this is equally matched within the content of classic literature that is devoted to the season. Whether the novels are set in spring, or have a keen focus on the season itself, here are some classic literature recommendations that feature some spring themes to complement your reading list as we enter the longer and brighter nights. 

 

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim


The Enchanted April is a novel written by Elizabeth von Arnim and published in 1922. The novel is set in post-World War I England and follows the journey of four women who spend a month in a castle in Italy in an attempt to escape their mundane lives. The Enchanted April is often recognised for its evocative and vivid descriptions of Italian life and landscape, as well as its exploration of female friendships and self-discovery. 

 

The four women, initially strangers, embark on their journey to the Italian Riviera where they are witness to the beautiful surroundings and warmth of the local people. This time away from the banality of daily life encourages the women to open up to one another and rediscover certain joys and desires they had forgotten. As the month progresses, each woman undergoes a personal transformation. Whether it’s finding renewed joy and purpose in life, rediscovering what love truly means or simply appreciating the simple pleasures in life, the women return to England with a newfound sense of empowerment and happiness. 

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of Lewis Carroll’s greatest works and was published in 1865. The children’s classic follows Alice, a young girl, whose adventure begins when she encounters a peculiar looking rabbit wearing a waistcoat and pocket watch and follows him down a rabbit hole. Entering a fantasy world, Alice meets a curious array of characters such as the Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter.

 

Despite being bizarre, nonsensical and humorous, the novel centres on important themes that speak to older audiences too. Wonderland places importance on the escape from reality and change is always to be expected. Alice is keen to break away from her domestic structures and expectations, gaining more self-confidence as the novel progresses. The whimsical tale depicts the inevitable loss of childhood innocence, as she faces many tough decisions and puzzles throughout with no clear solution, which mirrors the realities of life. The looming transition to adulthood is emphasised through the Rabbit’s pocket watch, where time is running out regarding childhood and, with it, Wonderland.

 

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton


“They stood together in the gloom of the spruces, an empty world glimmering about them wide and grey under the stars,” Edith Wharton writes in her short, sad novel, Ethan Frome. With spring comes hope and the beginnings of sun, but it also means saying goodbye to the cold and dark of winter. Ethan Frome is a melancholic masterpiece – Wharton’s piercing prose chills its reader with the unrelenting, unending New England winter, making it a fitting read for saying farewell to such grey and frost.

 

Beautifully though sparsely written, Wharton’s absorbing novel details the tragic tale of its titular character who falls in love with his wife’s cousin. Finely attuned to the claustrophobia of trapping circumstances, winter in Wharton’s novel leaves its despairing reader feeling both the cold of the snow and the impossibly difficult circumstances the characters endure. Its reader finishes it undesiring of being frozen by winter or circumstance, nor of being constrained, as Frome is, by tradition and obligation.

 

Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf


If, on these spring days you find yourself in the company of a beloved pet, especially a dog, then Virginia Woolf’s Flush: A Biography would provide the perfect escapism. Published in 1933, Woolf’s fictitious biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel is full of endearing imagination to comprise the life of Flush. In this clever blend of fact and fiction, Woolf is able to use the character and upbringing of the dog to critically explore conditions in society. Through the restraints of the Kennel Club, Woolf is able to expose the theme of social class; relationships between the dog and humans explores themes of feminism and social anxieties. Although light-hearted in nature, Woolf is able to implicitly weave the imagery of Flush and his ownership to reflect societal concerns. The novella is a great read and is unusual compared to many other beloved classics written by Woolf. This is a must-read for Woolf fans and dog lovers alike – a connection that one might not have expected.

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