There are endless lists of ‘the classics’, the books you ought to read, the authors you should discuss at dinner parties so that you can passively convey your intelligence – but having acquired the title of ‘classic’ by no means ensures that the content is enjoyable. A book can be ‘classic’ for many reasons; it might be that at the time of publication it was new, innovative, perhaps even revolutionary, but in this modern era, where nothing can shock us, but we long to be shocked, will these same ideas seem so fresh?
Today, I will introduce two of my top ten reads:
1) Wuthering Heights – okay, so after all that drivel about the almost inevitable disappointment of the so-called ‘classics’, I then proceed to start my list with one of the most obvious classics of all time. I apologise. Wuthering Heights was revolutionary, it depicted women in a way that women rarely even portrayed themselves. Whilst nurses and nannies spent hours priming young girls to become polite young women, Cathy gives a refreshing portrayal of a real woman. She is firey, she is spoilt, she is loveable, yet detestable. She has character, she has thoughts and feelings, and sees no reason why such sentiments should be hidden because of her gender.
That’s not why I love it. The love story between Cathy and Heathcliff is not your usual love story. Often we find authors and film writers even now trying to be innovative by showing us unconventional love stories, trying to shock us with un-happy endings, as if that’s something new. Wuthering Heights is as unconventional as they come. The pair are so in love, yet the passion shows that age-old thin line between love, and hate. The passion sometimes seems misplaced, with no separation between obsession and desire. I can’t pretend that the introduction to the book, (although very intelligent, necessary, and a brilliant narrative device), is not a little slow. But I urge each and every one of you that has this book on their shelf, and of a cold winters eve attempted the first chapter before giving up – give this book another go. Once you’re a few chapters deep you will struggle to climb back out. You will be in the grips of the moors, you will find yourself thinking in that over-formal 1800s english, even rain will begin to look more romantic.
2) A Spot Of Bother – Reading is often said to be escapism, and I don’t disagree. But the idea that we are drawn to read happy, or exciting lives, vastly different from our own, is not so true. Often it is enough to delve into someone else’s world that is, on the surface, equally mundane, yet just living their lives, and their problems is enough to escape from your own. Soap operas are a perfect example. Yes, there are an uncommon amount of deaths, fires, and murder, but between these incidents, episodes are filled with people, just like you and me, arguing with family and friends, popping down the local pub, going to work, and gossiping.
A Spot of Bother is written by Mark Haddon, the author of the extremely popular ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night”. Where Haddon’s best-seller focuses on the mind of a young boy with Asperges, A Spot of Bother focuses on a very normal middle-aged man, and his very normal problems, in his very normal life. The presentation is hilarious, and the way each small issue is blow out of all proportion is comforting to those of us who question the normality of our own lives, and the strangness of our own thoughts.