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New Year’s Classic Recommendations

By Megan Powell, Michael Calder and Yagmur Dur

With the New Year, we traditionally create a list of resolutions, aspirations and expectations which will guide us through the year and see us progress. For many of you, finally reducing the size of your To Be Read (TBR) pile may be on that list. Maybe you’ve got some leftovers from last year, or some fresh tomes that you collected at Christmas.

Unfortunately, we won’t be helping you crack the code for crushing that book pile which sits next to your bed. Instead, we will be giving you the motivation and opportunity to exceed expectations; to see your pile grow. After all, that’s secretly what everyone wants. So, in this issue, we will be outlining several classics which everyone should pick up and read. We have three awesome recommendations which span various genres, giving you all the options and every chance of expanding your classical horizon.

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture The Castle, written by Dodie Smith and published in 1948, is a classic coming-of-age story of a seventeen-year-old Cassandra who lives with her poverty-stricken family in a castle in 1930s England. The story is revealed through Cassandra’s diary entries which she keeps to improve her writing skills. Cassandra’s diary covers a six-month period in which their living circumstances change from poverty to comfort due to the arrival of young and wealthy landowners of the rundown castle Cassandra’s family live in.

The novel explores various themes such as love, genteel poverty and propriety, especially in the way in which young women like Cassandra and Rose (Cassandra’s sister) behave in the presence of their counterparts. However, most interestingly, the novel dives deep into the theme of authorship and struggles of becoming a writer. Throughout the novel, Cassandra grapples with her disappointment towards her father’s failure to continue being a successful writer. Through her father’s failure, she learns important lessons about writing and becoming an author. Smith teaches her readers and her narrator (Cassandra) that writing is a very personal and raw experience which takes time and full dedication. Whilst it can give happiness, it can also be extremely isolating and lonely for a writer to open themselves up for self-reflection. So, if you are looking for an Austen-style novel with a modern twist, I Capture The Castle should be the first on your 2022 reading list!

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

When considering classical fantasy, very few can contend with the pedigree held by J. R. R. Tolkien. As his first published work, The Hobbit (1937), remains a staple of fantastical classics, whether you are a child or adult. Written during the aftermath of World War One and published while political tensions were building towards World War Two, Tolkien’s novel follows the treacherous adventures of Bilbo Baggins, embedding and exaggerating the dangers of the mid-20th century within a fantasy world.

As a fellow of good standing, Mr Baggins finds himself somewhat unsettled when Gandalf returns to the shire and drafts the young hobbit into the service of a vagabond group of dwarfs on a mission to reclaim their homeland. Baggins is incensed even further when he discovers that they require his services as a thief. However, most inconvenient and disturbing for the hobbit comes the discovery that reclaiming the dwarven lands will mean slaying a dragon.

Of course, he denies interest in the quest. Yet, as would be the case for any of us, there is something about adventure which eventually attracts Bilbo, and he cannot resist the allure of the unknown. Begrudgingly, he begins a classic, unexpected journey.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

With the latest film adaptation of Rebecca in 2020, this recommended read is the perfect start to be transported to Manderley again. This masterpiece is undoubtedly an underrated classic and is deserving of being at the top of your 2022 TBR pile!

Rebecca was published in 1938 and Du Maurier masterfully wrote all the best elements of a gothic novel to create such an iconic story and opening line. The novel follows a young woman who works as a companion to a wealthy American woman while in Monte Carlo. On this holiday, the unnamed narrator forms an unlikely acquaintance with Maxim de Winter - a rich, older Englishman. Their relationship blossoms, leading to an intense courtship and marriage after only two weeks. Once their honeymoon concludes, the couple return to de Winter’s estate, Manderley. Here, the now Mrs de Winter uncovers a troubling past for her husband and the household, with the mysterious haunting of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca.

This novel is full of mystery and suspense to captivate the reader from the very first page. It truly is an iconic classic and is a novel that everyone should read! Having sold 2.8 million copies between its publication and 1965, it was an instant hit. Since then, this novel has never been out of print, further evidencing the need to read this remarkable classic.


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