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Which books are on the English Literature A-Level syllabus?

(36 Posts)
ButEmilylovedhim Wed 18-Nov-15 07:42:35

This is a query for me, not the dcs! I didn't do English A-level and wish I had. Could anyone who knows tell me which books are being studied? I know it might vary with the different exam boards. I just feel as if I have a big gap in my knowledge. I've just started reading 1984 because it's referenced so much and it's blowing my mind. I love it! What else have I missed? I do read a lot but because I've followed my own interests, I think I've missed some gems. Thanks so much.

senua Wed 18-Nov-15 08:50:14

The books (and plays and poems) chosen for study seem designed to put people off reading for life eg stuff like Mrs Dalloway or Saturday.hmm
I'd stick to the BBC Big Read list which contains mostly (imo) corkers*. Enjoy!

* oops. I don't think 'corker' is a term much used in literary analysis.blushgrin

LIZS Wed 18-Nov-15 08:56:59

Ds is doing 1984 and dystopian literature, Life of PI, The Canterbury Tales, Great Expectations for A2 . Jane Eyre, Othello, various poems for AS ( there was more but I can't remember!)

RalphSteadmansEye Wed 18-Nov-15 09:19:18

2 Shakespeare plays, some poetry (usually Romantic like Keats), a twentieth century play such as Waiting for Godot or The History Boys, a Victorian novel such as Jane Eyee, something Gothic such as Frankenstein and a twentieth century novel such as Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Atwood's Handmaid's Tale or Hartley's The Go Between - oh and Angela Carter... These seem to be a reasonably typical range over the last decade.

MrsMolesworth Wed 18-Nov-15 09:25:15

Senua please tell me you're joking about Saturday. They don't really inflict that dull, clumsy, pompous novel on A level students do they? It's not worth a quick read, let alone intensive study.

senua Wed 18-Nov-15 09:44:32

Sadly, I'm not joking MrsM.sad DD had to do it. I tried to read it too so I could discuss it with her but couldn't finish it.
"Dull, clumsy and pompous" just about sums it up but probably wouldn't get an A* at A Level.grin

MrsMolesworth Wed 18-Nov-15 09:52:03

Well done on giving up on it Senua - the ending is even worse than the rest. Though it was so bad it was almost funny. Not read anything he's written since. Life is too short and there are plenty of male bores knocking around without having to pay a tenner for the privilege of listening to them drone on in detail about nothing. Your poor DD.

AugustRose Wed 18-Nov-15 09:52:12

DS did 2 Shakespeare plays (Macbeth again in great detail) and I can't remember the other one, many poems and Angela Carter, Silvia Plath and Wuthering Heights.

MrsMolesworth Wed 18-Nov-15 10:02:24

Macbeth is brilliant. You could read and reread it and get something new from it each time. Same with King Lear.

I did English A level decades ago.

We read: Othello (brilliant) and Winter's Tale (meh); Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale & prologue (very funny); Shaw's St Joan (notes more interesting than the play but the notes, which are as long as the play almost, really are fascinating), Fielding's Joseph Andrews (tedious), Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (her only boring novel!) Dickens' Hard Times (one of his best and shortest novels) Hardy Mayor of Casterbridge (good). I can't remember which poetry we did for A level and which for GCSE but we definitely read Eliot's Prufrock poems & Wasteland at some point (loved them all)

Weird, because looking back on that list, I loathed half the books and yet loved the course. I just loved analysing literature and finding out there was more to it than first appeared. Like being a detective.

BestIsWest Wed 18-Nov-15 10:10:24

DD had In Cold Blood by Truman Capote which was excellent.

senua Wed 18-Nov-15 10:13:56

To be fair to Ian McEwan, I thought that Atonement was a good read: it has a plot driven by believable characters and has lots of layering and themes that you could analyse to death. The book is, of course, much better than the film. Films never do justice to the inner-working-of-the-mind that books do so brilliantly.

Wobblystraddle Wed 18-Nov-15 10:57:00

A streetcar named desire.

Aeons ago I taught Wise Children and A Woman of no Importance. Both great.

Wobblystraddle Wed 18-Nov-15 10:58:20

In Cold Blood. Best book ever.

Ian mcewan-wise, I also taught Enduring Love. Great, unreliable narrator. Good film too. Daniel Craig, if I recall correctly.

senua Wed 18-Nov-15 11:30:56

DS did the combined Lit&Lang A Level and was allowed to choose a book to study. It occurred to me that if OP liked 1984 then she might like another grand-daddy-of-the-genre book, DS's choice of I am Legend by Richard Matheson (again, much better than the film - more philosophical).

Leeds2 Wed 18-Nov-15 11:53:57

DD has done the Great Gatsby and the Color Purple. Also Othello. I can't remember the others!

cressetmama Wed 18-Nov-15 14:04:46

DS is reading Atonement, The Great Gatsby and Othello this term in Y12.

SecretSquirr3ls Wed 18-Nov-15 15:01:35

I remember when that list came out Senua. I had read a good percentage of them and there were perhaps too many children's books for my liking, but I enjoyed going through and filling in some gaps.
Little did I know when I read Mice and Men in 2003 that DC were destined to do that book to death for GCSE grin.

MrsMolesworth Wed 18-Nov-15 16:18:18

In Cold Blood and Gatsby and Colour Purple are all wonderful. Sounds like pot luck whether you get something worth studying or not.

Atonement is OK I suppose. Bit hackneyed, with the (spoiler alert) wicked chocolate factory owner. 'Baddy paedo runs sweety making business' is to my mind very lazy characterisation. And he got away with direct plagiarism by being a snooty member of the establishment literati versus an unknown mere nurse who'd recorded her time as a medic in the war. I reread Enduring Love recently and was disappointed. I remembered it being interesting but there's a lot of padding and some very clumsy plotting. I don't rate McEwan much, except for Child in Time which is clever and moving and would be fascinating to study for its structure.

dayslikethis Wed 18-Nov-15 16:30:09

I did my A-levels almost 2 decades ago, but here's my list...

Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
The Last September - Elizabeth Bowen

Anthony & Cleopatra - Shakespeare
Amadeus - Peter Shaffer
Translations - Brian Friel

Robert Frost
The Pardoner's Tale (Chaucer)
(we also did an unseen poetry question in the exam hence why we only had 2 poetry texts)

I loved Mansfield Park & Age of Innocence - hated The Last September. Loved Translations and hated both the other plays. Loved all my poetry - Frost is still one of my favourite poets.

MissMillament Wed 18-Nov-15 17:51:30

This year I am teaching The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and Frankenstein. Macbeth, Northanger Abbey, The Yellow Wallpaper, Atonement and Dracula are some of the other books being studied in our Sixth Form.

Wobblystraddle Wed 18-Nov-15 19:07:26

I liked the unreliable narrator in enduring love.

Has anyone said The Handmaid's Tale yet?

ButEmilylovedhim Wed 18-Nov-15 19:07:21

Thanks everyone! I've read maybe a tenth of those, so lots to try! Some I've not even heard of! That's what I wanted, some new direction. I know I won't like everything but it would be so worthwhile to me, to just experience these texts. I'm really enjoying learning more history as well. I went down the science route at school so trying to rebalance with some arts!

MrsMolesworth Wed 18-Nov-15 19:26:17

Days Robert Frost is brilliant isn't he? Never studied him but came across him via poems on the tube. Writes poems you fall in love with.

Toadsrevisited Wed 18-Nov-15 19:30:49

What genre do you like? Poems? Short stories? Drama? Novels? Scary? Romantic? I teach A level and am happy to help!

JennyOnAPlate Wed 18-Nov-15 19:31:19

I did a level English many years ago and studied Hamlet, A winters tale, Wuthering Heights, Wide Sargasso Sea, Chaucer, John Donne poetry and some others that I can't remember!

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