We’re all well aware that life can very often be a roller coaster ride of stress, to-do lists and time limits, leaving us with very little time to relax, or do something for ourselves. But there’s no better way to escape that than to get completely lost in a good book, especially one that is guaranteed to take your heart to all kinds of places it’s never been before…
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
When I think about the fact that I actually read all 1,000+ pages of this book, I have to re-consider my sanity. But, despite its heftiness, this 19th century novel rapidly developed into one of my all-time favourites. It’s not just the gripping plot – it’s the
characters, the emotions, the relationships, the psychology, the pain and so much more. I now have emotions I wasn’t previously aware of all because of this book. I also have a much better understanding of how Russian names are structured – interesting! It just goes to show that if you persevere, it’s most definitely worth it.
2. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Not the stereotypical novel many people confess to falling in love with, I admit. The sexual themes and violent tendencies within these pages can seem a little overpowering at first, but what lies behind each word and between each line throughout all of the ten stories is undeniably captivating. What I adore about Carter is her ferocious honesty. She’s not afraid. She doesn’t hold back. There’s nothing worse than feeling detached and distant from the author of whom you are studying. With The Bloody Chamber, that’s certainly not the case.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
For those of you who have seen the 2013 Baz Luhrmann movie – great! For those who’ve read the book – even better old sport! Although only short, especially when
compared to Anna Karenina, the intense description employed by writer F. Scott Fitzgerald in such a short space is second to none. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”. Who just thinks that up one day?! With each paged turned I was almost convinced that I too had been present at one of Gatsby’s big do’s. I wish!
4. Atonement by Ian McEwan
The secret to truly enjoying a novel, or anything in fact, is first understanding it. I think the problem with this book is some people don’t comprehend it, therefore it remains forever under-appreciated. Although admittedly confusing upon first read, I think it’s that construction of misunderstanding that creates a level of empathy with the characters that is very rarely seen. This book explores themes that are present in the real world – things you can relate too and things you too have experienced yourself. Heartbreak, loss, love, jealousy, friendship, guilt, just to name a few. Having that sense of the plot not just being fictional adds another dimension completely.
5. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
So this is the one that made me fall in love, broke my heart to pieces and then mended me again all at once. From the beginning, I was on Tess’ side and I remained there through thick and thin right up until the tragic ending, and that’s all down to Hardy’s phenomenal way with words. If he hadn’t won me over with his poetry, then this was definitely the prize winner for me. Hardy did, however, make me feel very lucky that I’m a 21st century girl – I don’t think I’d have been physically or emotionally tough enough to survive those times! Side note: the 2008 BBC adaptation written by David Nicholls is incredible – it really did do the book justice, and all four hours were worth the watch.
6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Usually, I’m not into the whole ‘typical romance’ in novels; I much prefer the struggle
and the disasters (hence the mad obsession with Tess of the D’urbervilles and Anna Karenina). But in true Austen style, Pride and Prejudice delivers more than just a love story. I see the character of Elizabeth as a true role model; she doesn’t just accept what she’s told without questioning it. She doesn’t allow society to suppress her. And she certainly does not go weak at the knees at the first hint of a compliment. Austen, you’ve done it again!