Autumn Reads: What to Add to Your Reading List

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Autumn Reads

Fiona Points

As soon as the cold Autumn nights start rolling in, my mind switches from beer gardens and beach days and turns to beds, blankets, and books. There’s nothing quite like a compelling novel to see you through these ever darker, ever colder evenings – it’s comforting to lose yourself in a story as the inevitable rain pummels your window.

Whether you’re into classic books or contemporary fiction, I’ve pulled together a list of my top five books for Autumn, celebrating female authors from 1818 to this year’s winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

 

THE SECRET HISTORY – DONNA TARTT [1992]

‘The Secret History’ is one of those powerful, mysterious novels that you never really want to end. Tartt cleverly positions the main character, Richard, as a ‘normal’, straightforward type – a blank canvas if you will – so that she can focus on delving into the complex, glamorous lives of those around him.

Richard joins a prestigious college in New England and finds himself among an elite, cult-ish group of students studying Classics under an elusive and enigmatic professor. Richard is quickly drawn into their world of drugs, alcohol, and secrets. When the group accidentally kills one of their own, we see each member slowly spiral into self-destruction as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the past.

 

HOME FIRE – KAMILA SHAMSIE [2018]

Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018 and a modern retelling of the classic play ‘Antigone’, ‘Home Fire’ offers an emotional insight into the lives of British Muslims. The narrative revolves around Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz, three orphaned siblings grappling with the pressures of their family, religion, politics and British culture. The personal and the political are intrinsically entwined, complicated further by the entrance of Eammon, son of the British Home Secretary.

‘Home Fire’ is a beautifully written novel that will linger in your mind for a while after you finish it - Perfect for a dreary Sunday afternoon.

FUNNY GIRL – NICK HORNBY [2015]

A break from melodrama in the middle of the list! Set in the 1960s, ‘Funny Girl’ tells the story of Sophie Straw, a northern beauty queen who travels to London to become a comedy star. Every step of the way, we follow Sophie into battle against the sexism of the TV industry, the intricacies of creating a TV show and, most damning of all, the impossibility of staying relevant.

‘Funny Girl’ is a humorous, perceptive portrayal of Britain in a post-war slump and Sophie is a breath of fresh air. Hornby manages to create characters that are both interesting and flawed – not entirely likeable, but engaging enough that you want to see their story through.

 

FRANKENSTEIN – MARY SHELLEY [1818]

There’s a good chance you will have read at least part of ‘Frankenstein’ at school, and you probably weren’t all that impressed, but I can assure you that it is well worth a revisit now. A far cry from the cinematic horror, the true Frankenstein story is one of awe-inspiring landscapes, human cruelty, isolation and redemption. Shelley’s writing is beautiful and free of most of the cumbersome structures or language that we have come to expect of the era. Throw everything you think you know about Frankenstein’s monster away and approach this wintry tale with an open mind.

 

THE NIGHTINGALE – KRISTIN HANNAH [2015]

Last on our list is a heart-breaking, haunting and – dare I say it – empowering historical fiction. ‘The Nightingale’ is set in the Nazi occupation of France during World War Two, and focuses on two French sisters, Isabel and Vianne. On the surface the two siblings could not be any more different. Vianne seems entirely focused on surviving, protecting her daughter and waiting for her husband’s return from war, whereas Isabel, the fiery 18 year-old, joins the French resistance and becomes the Nightingale who leads stranded Allied soldiers over the Alps into Switzerland. But, as the novel progresses, we discover that the two sisters are not so different after all.

‘The Nightingale’ is dark and it is beautiful – a raw portrayal of survival, love and strength in the face of atrocity. It is a fitting and moving tribute to the unsung heroes of war – the women who fought for even the smallest of victories on the home front.



With our book wish list now getting ever longer, it’s time to stay in, get warm and settle down with a good read.

Tayla Powell