These are the compulsory readings for my second and last term this year. Summaries are taken from Book Depository and I’ll review the books as I get to see them with my wonderful and always inspiring teachers:
Small Island (Andrea Levy)
In this delicately wrought and profoundly moving, multi-award winning novel, Andrea Levy handles the weighty themes of empire, prejudice, war and love, with a lightness of touch and a generosity of spirit that challenges and uplifts the reader. It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street. London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh’s neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but with her husband, Bernard, not back from the war, what else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. Gilbert’s wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was.
Crick, Crack Monkey (Merle Hodge)
A revealing novel of childhood about Tee who is being made socially acceptable by her Aunt Beatrice so that she can cope with the caste system of Trinidad.
MONOGRAPHIC COURSE: GEOFFREY CHAUCER
The Canterbury Tales
In The Canterbury Tales Chaucer created one of the great touchstones of English literature, a masterly collection of chivalric romances, moral allegories and low farce. A story-telling competition between a group of pilgrims from all walks of life is the occasion for a series of tales that range from the Knight’s account of courtly love and the ebullient Wife of Bath’s Arthurian legend, to the ribald anecdotes of the Miller and the Cook.
Troilus and Criseyde
Set against the epic backdrop of the battle of Troy, Troilus and Criseyde is an evocative story of love and loss. When Troilus, the son of Priam, falls in love with the beautiful Criseyde, he is able to win her heart with the help of his cunning uncle Pandarus, and the lovers experience a brief period of bliss together. But the pair are soon forced apart by the inexorable tide of war and – despite their oath to remain faithful – Troilus is ultimately betrayed. Regarded by many as the greatest love poem of the Middle Ages, Troilus and Criseyde skilfully combines elements of comedy and tragedy to form an exquisite meditation on the fragility of romantic love, and the fallibility of humanity.
Spanning Chaucer’s working life, these four poems build on the medieval convention of love visions’ – poems inspired by dreams, woven into rich allegories about the rituals and emotions of courtly love. In “The Book of the Duchess”, the most traditional of the four, the dreamer meets a widower who has loved and lost the perfect lady, and “The House of Fame” describes a dream journey in which the poet meets with classical divinities. Witty, lively and playful, “The Parliament of Birds” details an encounter with the birds of the world in the Garden of Nature as they seek to meet their mates, while “The Legend of Good Women” sees Chaucer being censured by the God of Love, and seeking to make amends, for writing poems that depict unfaithful women. Together, the four create a marvellously witty, lively and humane self-portrait of the poet.
A Small Place (Jamaica Kinckaid)
The author of such books as At the Bottom of the River and My Brother returns to Antigua, the ten-by-twelve mile Caribbean island where she grew up, to explore the effects of colonialism.