By Megan Powell, Magali Prel, Natasha Smith and Mia Walby
As the darker evenings and colder nights draw closer, that can only mean one thing. It is officially time to snuggle up close with a book and hot drink, surrounded by festive lights and cosy blankets: the perfect setting for this feature, where we recommend some of our favourite cosy classics that are full of winter vibes. Although some recommendations may not be cosy in terms of plot, the sense of nostalgia and length of some of these classics make them the perfect companions to entertain you during long nights. Our recommendations range from some staple winter reads to our interpretations of what constitutes a go-to book this season.
John Donne was a 17th-century poet known for his metaphysical, and often satirical, poetry centring around themes such as love, romance and lust – perfect for a cosy night of reading.
Donne’s love poems often involve elaborate conceits, a literary device used in metaphysical poetry that makes a far-stretched comparison between a spiritual being and a physical thing in the world. In the poem A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, he compares the parting of two lovers to the movement of celestial bodies, suggesting that their spiritual connection transcends that of their physical separation. Moreover, in The Good Morrow, Donne uses the conceit of awakening to depict the depth and maturity of true love, depicting love as an intense experience beyond reality's normal realms.
Furthermore, Donne’s poems often explore the themes of physical and sexual love. In The Flea, Donne uses a flea as an unusual comparison to sexual love. The flea and its bite are symbolic of lust and making love: “mark but this flea [...] it suck’d me first, and now sucks thee.”
The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
The Old Curiosity Shop, published in 1841, follows Nell, an orphaned girl living with her feeble grandfather in their shop in London. Their bond of love and devotion is prominent throughout the novel and is juxtaposed with the manipulative and selfish acts of certain characters, such as Daniel Quilp, a wealthy moneylender who delights in the misery of others. When Nell and her grandfather cannot pay their debts, their shop is seized, and they must flee to the countryside in an attempt to escape Quilp's evil doings.
Dickens’ novel touches readers' hearts through its depiction of Nell’s relationship with her grandfather, as they hope that the two of them find safety together despite Nell’s grandfather’s weakness and lack of money. Arguably, this is one of Dickens’ best works, with strong plots and quirky characters combined to produce a powerful novel centred on vagrancy, familial love and death. If you are looking for a novel that focuses on familial loyalty, notwithstanding the usual sorrowful events of Dickens’ stories, then this one is for you.
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
In Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell fondly evokes the small, provincial town of Knutsford in Cheshire, where she grew up in early Victorian England. She warmly depicts the ladies who populated her girlhood, from their trivial pretensions and their proclivity for gossip to their loyal support for each other. While the story is mainly concerned with romance, marriage and history, it is ultimately neither a courtship novel nor a historical study but rather an episodic novel probing questions of gender, memory and social change. It is charming and compelling, for as much as it is a tale of comic nostalgia, it is also layered with depth of both intelligence and feeling. In Cranford, Gaskell stresses the necessity of kindness, mutual support and the need to care for one another in times of change.
An affectionate remembrance is what threads together the different sketches of Gaskell’s youth. She preserves snippets of lives the march of time would perhaps have otherwise left behind. Gaskell’s warm recollections are perfect to enjoy during the winter months as you reflect on the year which has passed by.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
When Murder on the Orient Express was published in 1934, Agatha Christie’s beloved tales of the detective Hercule Poirot were so firmly established that this tenth instalment immediately became a firm favourite among fans and has remained a beloved classic ever since.
The novel follows Poirot’s journey back to London on the titular Orient Express. As his journey commences, it is just as quickly stopped when a snowfall halts the course of the train, leaving the passengers trapped within their carriages. Soon, Poirot is made aware of a murder that has taken place on the train and seeks to solve the case.
Although not strictly a ‘cosy’ plot, this classic provides a sense of nostalgia for all Christie fans. It follows all the well-established conventions of the detective novel that stir anticipation and intrigue. It is, therefore, the perfect captivating novel to get you hooked and will make it impossible to move from a cosy spot and hot drink this winter.