Excellent literature that isn't all doom and gloom

(43 Posts)
Jux Fri 08-Feb-13 17:24:18

DD and a select group from her year have special literacy classes with the Head. So far they have read

The Knife of Never Letting Go
Great Expectations
Things Fall Apart

Next, they are doing The Inheritors.

She is getting a bit depressed! These books seem to be sorely focussed on the dark side of life/society etc.

We are trying to think of books which are of the ilk, but a little more optimistic.

Any ideas?

HelpOneAnother Fri 08-Feb-13 17:30:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HelpOneAnother Fri 08-Feb-13 17:31:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Pride And Prejudice!

How old is she and what sort of things does she enjoy? What is the point of this group? Do you want things for her to learn from or just relax with, or both?

MechanicalTheatre Fri 08-Feb-13 17:39:47

Jude the Obscure


Thanks the gods you put the wink - I thought you'd gone mad! smile

MechanicalTheatre Fri 08-Feb-13 18:55:14

Well, everything turns out alright in the end!


Jux Fri 08-Feb-13 19:02:17


This is literacy for the exceptionally gifted <stealth boast grin >. The head invites pupils to do it. It is not linked to an exam, but is meant to enhance and increase their literacy skills.

DD finds most of the books depressing, but mainly it's the Head drawing parallels between, say 1984, and current society which she finds most depressing.

She has tried saying "oh, Mrs X, you really know how to focus on the good things in life" or somethings like that blush; I have asked her in what ways our society is not like 1984, and asked her if she can detach herself and just read as a piece of writing rather than a story she gets involved with.

Maybe she's still a bit young for that (but I wouldn't have thought so). Maybe it's that we are having a slightly stressful time at home which exacerbates it.

I thought if we could come up with some suggestions for alternatives, it might help. Though I'm sure the Head has all the books decided for use this year, but if dd could pipe up with alternative views from literature during their discussions? Oh I don't know.

Literature or literacy?

Aged Yr 9ish dd1 really enjoyed all of the Austens (and they are all v feelgood!)
Jane Eyre (happy-ish ending! Tell her to skip the boring crap about the boring old missionary geezer!)
Madame Bovary
A Handful Of Dust (bloomin' depressing though) and other Waughs but she didn't think much of Brideshead
Lord Of The Flies - VERY depressing though!

She could read some Wodehouse for fun maybe? Or some Georgette Heyer?
I Capture The Castle

Jux Fri 08-Feb-13 22:31:29

She's going through Austen atm, bit by bit, and she's read Jane Eyre (and I was hoping she'd then look at Jasper Fforde onmthe back of it, but she's not interested).

Hadn't thought of Mme Bovary.

Wodehouse she didn't enjoy, and she won't even consider Heyer as she's been put off it by her dad. I know her non-romantic escapist stuff is very different and lauded, but dd's been completely put off for the moment. When she's older she'll probably get over her prejudice against romantic novelists and give Heyer a proper go.

I just thought of I Claudius, Gormenghast, maybe C P Snow?

Jux Fri 08-Feb-13 22:33:40

I Capture the Castle is an excellent idea, too.
Also just remembered A Country Child by Alison Uttley, if I can find it. Too many of my books are still in boxes. Both of those are.

Jux Fri 08-Feb-13 22:42:41

Sorry, the lessons are called literacy, but they are literature really, (as I experienced it at school), though they talk about the books and don't write essays. I think they're meant to enjoy it; it's certainly presented as a privilege to be studying 'more advanced' literature.

In their 'normal' English lessons they read books like Windsinger, which are nothing like as bleak.

Are you a teacher? Do you know if this is what goes on in all schools, and really what it's purpose is? And whether it's usual for the pupils to find it so depressing? DD said today she wanted to drop out of the class, but as it's invite only by the Head, I think that's probably not such a good idea.

MsMarple Fri 08-Feb-13 22:46:32

I'm studying Wuthering Heights at the moment, and wishing it could be Cold Comfort Farm instead. Much more cheerful!

MsMarple Fri 08-Feb-13 22:59:49

Do you think she'd like plays? The Importance of Being Earnest? Or some Shakespeare comedy? Much Ado about Nothing perhaps?

'Windsinger' is excellent - does she known it's the 1st of a trilogy?

'The Knife Of Never Letting Go' is also the first of a series - they're not bunnies and flowers but they are v v good.

The head's list thus far seems a strange collection but I suppose she's just trying to get her brightest pupils to broaden their reading and not settle for 'The Hunger Games' and 'Twilight' maybe?

I am a teacher but I've not heard of this before. I wouldn't have thought that many pupils would necessarily see this as a reward/treat tbh! smile

DD1 is in 6th form now but she is becoming a bit of a Nabokov nut lately. Not feel good by any stretch of the imagination but 'Lolita' is a work of genius imho and she LOVED 'The Eye' (which I think is pretty daft tbh).

Might she try Sci-fi stuff like John Wyndham?

Yes to Cold Comfort Farm! Maybe Miss Jean Brodie? Or some Agatha Christie (but only Poirot!).

And if plays =

Educating Rita?

highlandcoo Sat 09-Feb-13 00:15:35

Nancy Mitford : The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate

Jerome K Jerome : Three Men in a Boat

James Thurber : The Thurber Carnival .. and other writings

and best of all .. Diary of a Nobody : George and Weedon Grossmith

It definitely doesn't all have to be doom and gloom smile

Jux Sat 09-Feb-13 11:55:12

Ooh yes! Cold Comfort Farm!!!! Completely forgotten about that. Another one which is in a box somewhere.....

Have given her 100 days of solitude, but she hasn't started it yet. Not sure about Nabokov as I didn't enjoy his books, but worth a try.

Thurber, Mitford, Jerome, I've got them all. In boxes somewhere. grin This w/e shall be a weekend of excavation...

Remus, there are about 6 of them, and they all seemed to think it was a fantastic opportunity and were chuffed to bollocks when the letters arrived over the summer telling them of it and that they were invited. Not sure how they are all feeling now. It's one lesson a fortnight; no idea what they are missing in order to do it.

Just give her a box and let her grab what takes her fancy! smile

When she reads for pleasure, what sort of things does she generally choose? Perhaps we could think of classics or modern texts which link to those?

TempusFuckit Sat 09-Feb-13 16:33:20

Scoop, Travels with my aunt, Moll Flanders, The Woman in White, Bleak House

anonymosity Sun 10-Feb-13 20:16:38

What about American literature - there are stacks of excellent novels all studied at 1st class UK universities:
Writers including
Maya Angelou
Philip Roth
Norman Mailer


MarianMaudsley Sun 10-Feb-13 20:26:16

Decline and Fall
The Pickwick Papers
some Roddy Doyle - I like The Van best I think

Might she consider Bill Bryson as something lighthearted after all the doom? Or the Ladies' Detective Agency series?

Katisha Sun 10-Feb-13 20:37:30

How about some travel stuff? I remember enjoying the Paul Theroux rail journeys across India and China. Some very funny moments.

This is a great thread. I have added lots to my amazon basket smile

I would recommend Gerald Durrell: My family and other animals (or the whole Corfu trilogy). Love humorous travel writing- particularly Tim Moore (not classic literature but if anyone else likes this kind of thing please give 'French Revolutions' a go.

Which is the best Paul Theroux to start with? I have long wanted to read some of his work, and thrilled by a new author (to me) with a big back catalogue. Am hovering over my amazon basket- any suggestions on where to start would be great.

Katisha Sun 10-Feb-13 22:07:47

I liked The Great Railway Bazaar and Riding the Iron Rooster. Maybe the Railway Bazaar first?

I had chosen the Railway Bazaar! Thank you.

Phineyj Sun 10-Feb-13 22:31:12

The Catcher in the Rye
The early Philip Pullmans such as Ruby in the Smoke
The Josephine Tey books are all classics e.g. The Franchise Affair, Brat Farrar
The Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes short stories
Do you know, it's hard to think of cheerful classics!

Phineyj Sun 10-Feb-13 23:24:42

Our Man In Havana (Graham Greene)

Yes to Sherlock Holmes - they are great fun!

Sally Lockheart books brilliant but some v sad bits.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower? Really good apart from its stupidly irritating ending imho.

Jux Mon 11-Feb-13 21:27:59

Thank you so much everyone! So many!

She has read quite a lot of Gerald Durrell, some Pullman (His Dark Materials, and Ruby in the Smoke and possibly some others; enjoyed RitS most), not interested in Holmes strangely enough. I've found Daughter of Time by Tey, but I don't think she's started it.

Not heard of Railway Bazaar.

Catcher in the Rye, great idea and it's in a box somewhere! Also thought Catch 22 - also in a box somewhere! (There are at least 40 boxes which would be unpacked if we had shelves for them; then are my RIP brother's books, another 10 boxes; and my other brother will be coming to live with us soon and his large 2-bed flat is so full of books that you can't see the floor for piles of them as there is no more room on his shelves. My bedroom has 20 or so piles up against walls which are on average 30 high. It's a nightmare. We need another house to make into a library!)

Jux Mon 11-Feb-13 21:29:25

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Sillitoe. Loved it at her age, and just found it, too! Anyone read anything by him? It's the only thing of his I've got.

Silitoe has dated quite a lot, I think.

Catch 22 - have tried six times to read this and failed every time. smile

Jux Mon 11-Feb-13 22:17:37

Yes, he is a bit dated (from what I remember), but then so has Austen!

lamprey42 Tue 12-Feb-13 00:58:01

Catch 22 would be a great idea. Not sure 'Catcher in the Rye' could really be classed as cheerful though! 'Bilgewater' Jane Gardam was one of my teenage favourites and Iain Banks 'The Crow Road' although these maybe aren't literary enough. Lian Hearne's quarter (across the nightingale floor etc) are a good read and following the asian theme 'Wild Swans' Jung Chang might work too.

Austen hasn't dated! Love is universal, don't yer know! smile

Jux Tue 12-Feb-13 21:01:17

Lamprey, I always found Catcher in the Rye very calming. Oddly safe. I think it's that image at the end of someone catching children so they don't come to harm (can't remember the details, obviously due for a re-read!).

Remus, er yes. And those little sojourns to Bath to take the waters, and those horribly cramped houses - old Vicarages are just sooooooo small, one can barely keep a minimal household. grin

You mean you DON'T go to Bath every year? My goodness. Everyone who is anyone goes, you know.

That reminds me. I must remind Mr Remus to prepare the barouche.

Galaxymum Wed 13-Feb-13 20:46:26

I recommend Frost In May by Anthonia White. This is a lovely book, a literary school story and 1st in her trilogy based on her life.

Maya Angelou writes beautifully and you can take positive thoughts from her. Not doom and gloom.

Can't remember author but I read Enchanted April at uni which is a positive read.

drjohnsonscat Thu 14-Feb-13 20:12:49

yy to Frost in May. I read it obsessively as a teenager. It's like a boarding school story for adults - all the friendship and childishness of boarding school with the intensity of emerging adulthood.

Jux Fri 15-Feb-13 01:28:49

Remus, I feel Bath has become rather louche since the Regent took an interest. All the ton now visit Harrogate. Bracing, doncha know?

Will look put for Frost in May (I have a feeling I have it in a box somewhere); have not come across Enchanted April. I have quite a lot of Angelou - very affirming. Again, in a box somewhere.

No I can't just hand over a box. There are books in them which may need to be removed first (dh had some awful junk); everything is higgledy-piggledy as the boxes got moved about a lot, books dragged (all our faves that we could find) and so got repacked with whatever was closest etc.

It's horrible, and I dream of houses with shelves floor to ceiling on every single wall.

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