A love letter to classic novels

Written by Georgia Hilton-Buckley

After being encouraged by a teacher, the first classic novel I ever read was Pride and Prejudice. Previously I had been a major fan of traditional teen fiction and considered myself to be, and still do, a massive Twilight fan, which meant Jane Austen was a step up. However, something about this simple novel captured me and I’ve been hooked on the classics ever since.

I wanted to write this ‘love letter’ for a few reasons. Firstly, to encourage more people to give the classics a go. Secondly to fulfil my own egotistical desire to talk about books and to help get others talking about novels.

So many people write off the classics because they’re old, or unrelatable or the language is too complex. To this I say, you simply haven’t found the right classic for you yet.

Personally, I’m not a fan of Charles Dickens – as blasphemous as that may be – and I’ve had many debates over the feminist tones of Austen–just because something is lauded as a great classic doesn’t mean you have to like it.

I want to explain why I think these books are so revolutionary. The first idea that comes to mind is the romanticism of them, even the ones that aren’t romances. Classics just have this air of history surrounding them which excites me, thousands upon thousands of people before me have read and loved a book for it to finally make its way into my hands. Morals and romances and passion have been built off these books, and they are the building blocks for modern culture. Without the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Emile Zola, we might have never had the modern books we treasure today.

Another reason that always sways me towards classic literature is the language, and this relates to the romanticism mentioned before. It sounds silly but I daily think about Bronte’s words in Wuthering heights “He is more myself than I am. Whatever souls are made of his and mine are the same.”

Words written years before we were born can stick with us and create a whole new perspective on life. With this sentence Emily Bronte made my heart ache for a love I’d never had, F Scott Fitzgerald’s prose makes me wistful for a life I never led, and Evelyn Waugh can make me miss people I’ve never met. The power of language in these books tears through the ages and frankly makes me love words, as odd as that may sound.

I dispute the premise that classics are unrelatable when the themes they discuss are still so present today. For example, take 1984 by George Orwell, the ideas of surveillance and an oppressive government can be seen in so many modern societies, it seems as though every newspaper is comparing new technology to this story. Opposing this, Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert plays with the themes of boredom, seeking a better life and gossip which is something I’m sure so many of us can relate to even though its set in 19th century France. While the setting of these novels may be different the discussion of what we face as humans stays the same.

I suppose it’s important to mention that classics have lasted so long for a reason—they are some of the greatest stories ever told. There are so many more reasons as to why I adore the classics that I cannot even put into sensible words. I hope perhaps I may have convinced you to pick up a D.H. Lawrence next time you pass a bookshop, and if not, I hope you’ve enjoyed my lockdown induced ramble.

If you like Romance try,

  • ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte
  • ‘Lady Chatterley’s lover’ by D.H. Lawrence
  • ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen

If you like drama try,

  • ‘Parades End’ by Ford Maddox Ford
  • ‘Brideshead revisited’ by Evelyn Waugh
  • ‘In Cold blood’ by Truman Capote

If you like shorter stories try,

  • ‘A Certain Smile’ by Francoise Sagan
  • ‘The Bell jar’ by Sylvia Plath 
  • ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde

If you like Comedy try,

  • ‘Lucky Jim’ by Kingsley Amis
  • ‘Bernice bobs her hair’ by F. Scott. Fitzgerald
  • ‘Much ado about nothing’ by William Shakespeare

Georgia is a Third-year Politics student at The University of Leicester with an infatuation for books, particularly the classics. She is interested in feminism, philosophy, and music.

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