Three Novels for your Autumn Blues
September crept in way sooner than any of us wanted and suddenly you need a jacket to get out of the house in the morning. It feels like you barely used your sandals and those flip flops still have their price tag on. Your morning commute to work feels more dreadful than ever now that kids are back to school, your social media feed is full of Green Day puns and, once again, you really want to sleep through September. I hate to break it to you, but unless you´re a bear, you can´t really do that. So for the ones of you reading this blog who are not 500 kg heavy, fluffy, salmon hunting mammals, here are some suggestions of books you can cozy up with this September.
September being perhaps the most nostalgic month of all, it makes me bring out the big guns. Having read beach novels for the past few months, I´m not quite ready for the Russians but I´m not in a romance mood anymore either. So I´ve chose three classic novels (although, at the age of 29, I am still not quite sure what classic is supposed to mean when it comes to my reading material), all of them soul-wrenching.
1. Charles Dickens - Great Expectations
Captivating from its very first scene where young Pip gets accosted by an ex convict in a cemetery , Great Expectations is one of Dickens´ last completed novels, a Bildungsroman written in the first person, full of intense scenes of fights, poverty and heartbreak. You´ll fall in fascination with Miss Havisham, you´ll root for and hate Pip at one point or another and you´ll try to decipher Estella, to no avail. If David Copperfield was one of the novels you didn´t completely hate whilst in highschool, you will definitely love Great Expectations as an adult. To be savoured with lots of cups of tea and a pencil behind your ear to highlight all of the heart wrenching thoughts Dickens sprinkled in his best homecoming novel.
“Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces – and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper – love her, love her, love her!”
2. Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar
My short list gets even more heart-breaking as we explore Sylvia Plath and her only published novel, The Bell Jar. Robert Scholes from the New York Times Book Review called it as bitter and remorseless as her last poems. In the world of the Cold War, Esther Greenwood also goes through a sexual war and narrates about it in a humorous yet disturbing way. Understanding Sylvia, the human, one is even more disturbed by Esther´s descent into mental illness. The Bell Jar is a dark novel, tragic and distressing. It is raw in its approach on mental illness and unforgiving in its realism. It is best to be read with hot cocoa, an open mind and a heart full of compassion for a brilliant woman whose 234 pages cry for help remained unanswered until her untimely death.
“When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know. "Oh, sure you know," the photographer said. "She wants," said Jay Cee wittily, "to be everything.”
3. Maya Angelou - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing is the first volume of Maya Angelou´s seven volumes of autobiography. Depicting the American South in the 1930s, Angelou´s first volume is poignant because it is one of the realest wake up calls about white privilege I have ever read. Maya´s incredible strength (she really was a phenomenal woman), her love for literature and her ever hoping soul are the ingredients that shaped her and helped her overcome trauma and racism. A Bildungsroman just like Great Expectations in many ways, this book sees Maya Angelou becoming a magnificent young mother at the age of 16. And let me tell you that just like wine, Maya only becomes better with time, evolving into an eminent woman over the course of the seven volumes. To be read whilst sipping a strong scotch.
“Of all the needs (there are none imaginary) a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be hope and a hope of wholeness, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God. My pretty Black brother was my Kingdom Come.”
Three great books, the three of them deeply pensive, heavyhearted and magical, all of them teaching us some valuable lessons about overcoming adversity. Ideal for the autumn blues because sometimes you just want to embrace the blues. Because as Dickens said and as Sylvia couldn´t bring herself to accept, we need not be ashamed of our tears.