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A level English set books - clutching at straws for help!

(61 Posts)
tobee Fri 17-Jul-15 14:18:10

My 16 year old son is on long summer break after GCSEs. He wants to do English lit for A level and just been sent a compulsory reading list from school of 3 books for the summer for the AS part.

He's very good at the subject but is a slow reader for various sen reasons. We thought of audible (and whisper sync) . It's surprisingly hard for teenager to get into the habit of audio listening.His dad is planning to download the first book and they can each read a chapter or two a day and then compare notes.

The books are Jane Eyre, A Room With a View and Wide Sargasso Sea. He's mostly read modern novels and Shakespeare for GCSE.

How can I encourage him to not been downhearted if he finds them girly or alien (especially Jane Eyre being Victorian) ? Part of me realises it might just be tough luck!

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mellicauli Fri 17-Jul-15 15:08:49

Why the negativity? I would love to be reading those 3 books for the first time again.

There is a production of Jane Eyre at the National Theatre (London) this summer you could take him to.

sparkysparkysparky Fri 17-Jul-15 15:17:36

The film of A Room With A View is , in my opinion, an enjoyable period film and not a bosom heaver.

tobee Fri 17-Jul-15 15:19:43

I'm just going on past experience with him. He's just already making noises about the books and might have put the kibosh on them before he started. Like me, he finds plays easier to read. I knew I would get some people saying that about wishing they could read it again on this forum and I understand and appreciate what you mean. But he suffered a lot from the difficulty of reading slowly and for years thought it meant he's stupid and when shocked when ex psych said he wasn't! And when he does read texts and analyses them I'm amazed at how trenchant his thoughts are and think "how come I can't think like that?"!

Thanks for heads up about the production.

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tobee Fri 17-Jul-15 15:21:17

Thanks, sparky. I love the film of A Room with a View but find the book much less drole. But maybe that's just me.

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DuchessofMalfi Fri 17-Jul-15 16:05:14

A great selection of books there. It could have been a lot worse grin I am a new fan of Forster and love his close examination of social class. A Room With A View is certainly much more than the film of it which did rather focus on the romance. What you could do is buy the study notes to read along with the novels?

tobee Fri 17-Jul-15 16:22:12

Maybe I'm just sulking coz I did Howard's End at a level and could bore on about it! I think ds looked up the synopses and thought "girl's books". I think the notes might be best plan. The Orson Welles version of Jane Eyre is on this weekend at the bfi but I don't know how much the films/TV versions capture the original. I've not read it (yet).

Poor old ds has so many other distractions at the moment - I sort of promised him nirvana after GCSEs!

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pointythings Sat 25-Jul-15 18:27:07

Whoever chose Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea side by side was a little genius!

LizzieVereker Sat 25-Jul-15 18:39:53

Maybe if he focuses on the male perspective it might help? Much of WSS is narrated by Rochester, and it might be interesting to think about how Rochester from WSS might have narrated the key scenes in Jane Eyre, as opposed to how Jane told the story?

Also the character of George in ARWAV is fascinating - how and why is he different from "typical" Edwardian men such as Cecil and Lucy's brother?

Even more interesting might be to ask - what would Rochester and George think of each other, and each other's view of masculinity?

nooka Sat 25-Jul-15 18:58:58

Surely he is knew he would have to read some books that he didn't like or find approachable if he took English at A level? My ds (year younger and not in the UK school system) had to read To Kill A Mockingbird last term and found it really hard at first because he didn't like any of the characters or the environment. Once he knew that it was OK to say that (using appropriate literary criticism techniques) he really got into it, but before that he was very reluctant to even read the book. He was very pleased to hear that Harper Lee had portrayed grown up Atticus as a racist (backed up his feeling that he was quite a bad person after all).

LeBearPolar Sat 25-Jul-15 19:23:40

Um - as an English teacher, I do have to ask why he is doing A Level? I always tell my students that they may not enjoy the books we study but they will - or should, if they are A Level students - find something intellectually interesting/challenging about them which they will enjoy discussing and responding to. But if your DS is already approaching it negatively, it is going to be an uphill task for him.

Preminstreltension Sat 25-Jul-15 21:57:33

I think you are going to challenge him on the girly thing - a) they are pretty tough books with tough subjects and b) half the world is "girly" Ask him to think about being Jane Eyre, being orphaned and friendless and bullied and penniless and having to survive on her wits. If he can't make anything of that then he shouldn't be doing Eng Lit.

HettyD Sat 25-Jul-15 22:16:58

What other subjects has he chosen? Just thinking if History is one of them you could begin by exploring the society of the period? Knowing the factual restrictions of Victorian women might put JE into context? Look for someone like Caroline Norton to give example of limitations on women. Also treatment of mental health issues in Victorian period is barbaric but v interesting... The concept of the 'grand tour' from RWAV might also appeal?? All 3 really interesting books (rap the combination of JE and WSS - read JE first!!) but strike me as quite limited in style and period of appeal. Is there something like WWI poetry to balance? Something modern?

nooka Sat 25-Jul-15 22:20:02

Thinking about it I think I'd just tell my ds to get on with it. If he really can't read books he might dislike then better to discover that now when he can probably change subjects without too much grief than in a few months time.

EvilTwins Sat 25-Jul-15 22:25:15

Start with Wide Sargasso Sea then move on to Jane Eyre - hopefully WSS will intrigue him enough to want to know what happened "next".

penny13610 Sat 25-Jul-15 22:26:21

It is not hard for dyslexic teenagers to get the hang of audio books, my DS does about two a week. Think about changing subject.

hackmum Sun 26-Jul-15 12:58:48

A room with a view is quite short and a relatively easy read. DD has been given The Tempest to read over the holidays and is already moaning that she doesn't understand any of it!

LIZS Sun 26-Jul-15 15:10:39

Ds had similar last summer. He reckons you have to get stuck in but not to worry too much as many in his year hadn't actually read them in their entirety by the exam! The questions are thematic so you can be selective and you get unmarked copies in the exams. A2 texts are more appealing - 1984 , Life of Pi et al.--not that he has started on them yet--

tobee Sun 26-Jul-15 17:57:22

Well, lots of replies while I was gone. He's now reading Jane Eyre and seems to be quite enjoying it. I think he was just daunted at first because he'd read things like "Of Mice and Men" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" for GCSE and great, big Victorian classics seemed daunting. But I think he lacks confidence. I lean more to the "get on with it point of view" and I certainly don't think you have to like/enjoy all your set texts at a level. I just would be sad if he sank himself before starting.

Interesting, too, about reading Wide Sargasso Sea first. Would have been better perhaps.

The difficulty is today there's so much less of a culture of reading for teens and schools worry about this and give children shorter books to read. We were given Thomas Hardy to read at 12 and that made me feel grown up and challenged.

Thanks for all the suggestions of different ways to read the texts. People are very thoughtful, in all the ways that word implies!

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Curioushorse Sun 26-Jul-15 18:12:08

Well.....several things:

1. Those are books which are more likely to be appreciated by teenage girls, in my experience. There are a cracking range of texts on all the syllabi however, including some which he is more likely to find accessible. I suspect this is just a holiday list to get them reading (which is key to getting a top grade). If he does find that his set texts next year are not to his taste, get him to have a chat with his teacher. There is a hefty list with a pretty impressive choice.

2. I mean this in the nicest possible way, but is English for him? It is a subject which is fundamentally about reading. If he doesn't like reading and struggles with it, he will find it really difficult to get a decent grade. I've had my first ever dyslexic A-level student this year. She's very bright and dedicated. She has spent a fortune on audio tapes and is entitled to extra time.....but the exam ultimately required her to analyse texts closely. It also required her to apply her further reading knowledge (and because she had not much more than the set texts we'd studied), which put her at a real disadvantage. Really, I'd be telling him to think very carefully before embarking on this course.

antimatter Sun 26-Jul-15 18:46:06

Curioushorse Is there a list of books an aspiring A-level student of English literature should attempt to read? My ds is very good at Eng Lit but I know he doesn't read enough to attempt it at A levels (he thinks he is). I would like to advise him about it. I am also going to gave frank discussion with his teacher because ge is her Golden boy and he thinks he will be able to. I don't want him to perform poorly because of it. I don't want to damoen his spirits during his Gcse's too! Very tough decision how to go on about it sad

tobee Sun 26-Jul-15 18:47:00

Thanks, curious. He wants to do English because he's very good at it. His teachers always say he can analyse texts in a very mature way and puts it down very well and clearly. His father read English at Cambridge and agrees about this. It's a difficult one though, isn't it? I was the complete opposite, for example, I really enjoyed reading for pleasure and so did English literature a level and degree but couldn't analyse texts very well or "put it into words". And subsequently didn't do that well.

I don't think he doesn't like reading, it's just there are. more distractions. I think he needs to get into the habit of reading or re-think. He wants to do history, government and politics and theatre studies too. And most of them aren't exactly light on reading. He's not dyslexic but has very high verbal comprehension but very slow processing speeds.

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tobee Sun 26-Jul-15 18:56:12

It's interesting to see what you say, antimatter. I think it's such a shame about, for want of a better way of putting it, how little reading goes on. I know loads of really bright boys, with no learning difficulties etc. but just can't think of any who's parents would say they read books at the age of 15 or 16. I hope I'm wrong. My son's English teacher is very keen to teach him but says the a s books are dull but a2 are much better. Which seems unfortunate when students often drop a subject after the first year at 6th form.

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Seriouslyffs Sun 26-Jul-15 19:01:24

They're fantastic books, but very, very female!

tobee Sun 26-Jul-15 19:03:50

Do people have 15/16/17/18 year old sons who read a lot for pleasure?

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