By Megan Powell and Hannah Spruce
There are many things that define a novel as a classic. One of the main features is the timeless quality that these books possess. There have been some remarkable classics throughout time, and with new waves of literature, there are many contenders published in the 21st century which will undoubtedly earn the classic label in centuries to come. Here are some of our predictions of novels that have the potential to become classics.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This Greek mythology retelling of Achilles certainly has the potential to be considered a classic. Miller masterfully depicts a stunning story of love, war and devotion. The succinct and sophisticated narrative echoes those qualities which are familiar in classic novels.
The story is narrated by Patroclus, who was exiled by his father to King Peleus’ court. Here, he forms a friendship with the king’s son, Achilles, who took a shine to Patroclus and from that moment they become inseparable. While Achilles trains to fulfil his demigod destiny, Patroclus develops his interest in healing and medicine. When the siege on Troy requests Achilles’ help to retrieve Helen, more prophecy is revealed by Thetis – sea nymph and Achilles’ mother. This looming outcome means the war has another meaning for Patroclus, one to save Achilles from his destiny.
This heartbreaking and emotional read will certainly leave readers with the addictive appetite to read more Greek retellings, asserting The Song of Achilles’ popularity and memorable qualities. The poetic language will captivate all readers for many ages to come.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Hamnet rose to popularity after its publication in 2020. Here, O’Farrell has brought to us an unfamiliar story about one of England’s most renowned poets, William Shakespeare. However, this novel focuses on his son Hamnet, with the main narrative laced in providing Agnes (Anne Hathaway) a platform to tell her story. The dual timeline follows the past of Agnes meeting Shakespeare, and the story’s present following their son Hamnet as the plague meets society. Both narratives are incredible in depicting the life of the Shakespeare family, which is written in a classic style.
O’Farrell has clearly researched the facts to create such a captivating and engaging read. This story is certainly a great contender for a future classic label, with the narrative reading similar to those beloved classics. Many readers might think they know the story of Shakespeare, but not like this. Hamnet provides a different take on the life of the famous bard whilst interestingly putting other figures in the Shakespeare family at the forefront of the story.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Gillian Flynn’s captivating thriller, Gone Girl, centres around the marriage of Amy and Nick Dunne, and the mystery surrounding Amy’s disappearance. Flynn’s use of unreliable narration and analepsis engages the reader and encourages them to hypothesize and question the sequence of events. The plot twists within the novel will continue to keep readers interested and compelled as both Amy and Nick are fundamentally flawed characters with their own motivations.
Beyond the central plot of Amy’s disappearance, Flynn explores much wider themes such as feminism, the corruption of the media and restrictive societal conventions. It is these discussions which elevate the novel and introduce a discourse surrounding the addiction to sensationalism and the separation between perception and reality. Flynn’s ability to weave these issues within the narrative solidifies Gone Girl as a future classic as it traverses the expectations of the genre.
Almost a decade after its release, the novel is still relevant and continues to shock and interrogate the reader’s ingrained ideas surrounding relationships and the sacrifices made to sustain them.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s Normal People has gained a cult following, exacerbated by the hugely successful TV adaption of the same name. The novel centres around the tumultuous relationship between Marianne and Connell as they navigate the challenges of young adulthood.
Part of the novel’s wide appeal is its honest discussions of complex issues such as mental health, sex and social class. Rooney tackles these topics, as the title suggests, in a normal and ordinary way so that many readers see elements of themselves within the characters of Marianne and Connell. Rooney captures the lasting effects of trauma and insecurity and the complexity of mental illness in a manner which feels organic and raw.
Normal People is a modern love story; with flawed characters and imperfect relationships. Despite this, the love story between the two protagonists feels timeless because it is rooted in the heartbreaking reality of first love. Ultimately, what secures Normal People’s fate as a future classic in spite of its escapist qualities is its honest and nostalgic representation of life in the 2010’s.
In the media, conversations surrounding sex are either too taboo or too overly romanticised, but as the title suggests, Rooney discusses sex in an honest and ordinary manner, reflective of life.