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Congratulations on acing your English Literature GCSE! Now that you've conquered the exams, it's time to dive into the wonderful world of books without the pressure looming over you. To help you kickstart your post-GCSE reading journey towards A-Level, we've compiled a list of 10 captivating books that will set you up for sixth form.
From classics to contemporary gems, these reads are sure to keep you entertained, inspire your imagination, and deepen your love for literature.
Titles include classics Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the modern Atonement by Ian McEwan.
Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817)
"Persuasion" tells the story of Anne Elliot, a young woman who is persuaded to reject a marriage proposal from Captain Wentworth due to societal pressures and her family's disapproval. Years later, their paths cross again, and Anne must confront her lingering feelings for Captain Wentworth. This novel explores themes of love, social class, and the consequences of decisions made under the influence of others.
Students of English Literature should read "Persuasion" to appreciate Austen's sharp wit, insightful social commentary, and her skillful portrayal of complex characters.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
"Jane Eyre" follows the journey of its eponymous heroine, Jane Eyre, as she navigates through a series of challenges and personal growth. From her oppressive childhood to her experiences as a governess at Thornfield Hall, Jane Eyre defies societal norms and strives for independence and self-discovery. Brontë's novel explores themes of love, morality, feminism, and the search for personal identity.
Students studying English Literature should read "Jane Eyre" to delve into the rich character development, atmospheric settings, and Brontë's exploration of social constraints faced by women during the Victorian era.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)
"Wuthering Heights" is a dark and passionate tale set in the mysterious and haunting landscape of the Yorkshire moors. The novel revolves around the tempestuous love story between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling raised by Catherine's family. Emily Brontë's masterpiece delves into themes of love, revenge, social class, and the destructive power of unchecked passion.
Students of English Literature should read "Wuthering Heights" to experience Brontë's evocative writing style, explore the complexities of human nature, and analyse the novel's Gothic elements that have made it an enduring literary classic.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899)
"The Awakening" portrays the life of Edna Pontellier, a woman who challenges the societal expectations placed upon her as a wife and mother. Edna embarks on a journey of self-discovery and desires to live a life of personal freedom and individuality, breaking away from the constraints of her role in society. Kate Chopin's novel addresses themes of female identity, sexual awakening, and the limitations imposed on women in the late 19th century.
Students studying English Literature should read "The Awakening" to explore Chopin's portrayal of female agency, her exploration of feminist themes ahead of its time, and the societal criticism embedded within the narrative.
The Rotters' Club by Jonathan Coe (2001)
"The Rotters' Club" is a coming-of-age novel set in 1970s Britain, primarily focusing on a group of students at a Birmingham grammar school. Jonathan Coe presents a vivid portrayal of their lives, their friendships, and the political and social changes taking place in the backdrop of that era. The novel touches on themes of identity, class divisions, personal relationships, and the impact of historical events on individual lives.
Students of English Literature should read "The Rotters' Club" to engage with Coe's insightful depiction of a particular period in British history, his examination of youth and societal shifts, and his adeptness in capturing the complexities of human emotions and experiences.
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860)
"The Mill on the Floss" delves into the lives of Maggie and Tom Tulliver, siblings growing up in a rural community along the Floss River. The novel explores the complexities of family dynamics, societal expectations, and the pursuit of personal happiness. George Eliot weaves a narrative that delves deep into the human psyche, addressing themes of love, loyalty, loss, and the clash between individual desires and societal norms.
Students studying English Literature should read "The Mill on the Floss" to appreciate Eliot's rich character development, her insightful social commentary, and her exploration of the complexities of human relationships.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (1891)
"Tess of the d'Urbervilles" follows the tragic journey of Tess Durbeyfield, a young woman from a rural background who faces immense hardships and injustices in Victorian England. The novel explores themes of fate, morality, social class, and the struggles faced by women in a patriarchal society. Thomas Hardy's powerful prose captures Tess's experiences as she grapples with societal expectations, her own desires, and the consequences of her actions.
Students of English Literature should read "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" to engage with Hardy's poignant portrayal of human suffering, his critique of societal norms, and his examination of the human capacity for both resilience and tragedy.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
"The Great Gatsby'' is a timeless American classic that delves into the Jazz Age of the 1920s. Set in the dazzling world of wealth and excess, the novel follows the enigmatic Jay Gatsby and his pursuit of the elusive American Dream. F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece explores themes of love, greed, social class, and the corrupting influence of materialism. Through vivid prose and captivating characters, Fitzgerald offers a scathing critique of the hollow nature of the American Dream.
Students studying English Literature should read "The Great Gatsby" to experience Fitzgerald's lyrical writing style, his astute social commentary, and his examination of the illusory nature of the pursuit of happiness.
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (1908)
"A Room with a View" transports readers to the early 20th-century Edwardian era, following the journey of Lucy Honeychurch, a young woman caught between the constraints of societal expectations and her own desires for personal freedom and true love. E.M. Forster's novel explores themes of social class, individualism, and the clash between convention and instinct. Through Lucy's experiences and encounters in Florence, Italy, the novel raises questions about love, self-discovery, and the pursuit of genuine human connections.
Students of English Literature should read "A Room with a View" to appreciate Forster's insightful social commentary, his exploration of identity and personal growth, and his portrayal of the complexities of human relationships.
The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley (1953)
"The Go-Between" immerses readers in the world of Leo Colston, a young boy who becomes the unwitting messenger of an illicit love affair. Set in the early 20th century, the novel explores themes of class, desire, innocence, and the power of memory. L.P. Hartley skilfully captures the nuances of social hierarchies and the devastating consequences of forbidden secrets.
Students studying English Literature should read "The Go-Between" to appreciate Hartley's evocative prose, his exploration of the loss of innocence, and his poignant commentary on the long-lasting impact of past events.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
"Rebecca" presents a haunting tale of a young woman who marries the wealthy widower Maxim de Winter and finds herself overshadowed by the lingering presence of his deceased first wife, Rebecca. Set in a grand estate called Manderley, the novel explores themes of identity, love, jealousy, and the dark secrets that lurk beneath the surface. Daphne du Maurier's gripping storytelling, atmospheric descriptions, and psychological suspense have captivated readers for decades.
Students of English Literature should read "Rebecca" to appreciate du Maurier's masterful storytelling, her skillful characterization, and her exploration of themes that delve into the complexities of human relationships.
Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001)
"Atonement" follows the lives of Briony Tallis and the people she impacts, starting from a fateful summer day in 1935 and spanning several decades. The novel delves into themes of guilt, forgiveness, love, and the consequences of actions. Ian McEwan's narrative intricately weaves together multiple perspectives and explores the power of storytelling and the unreliability of memory.
"Atonement" challenges readers to question the nature of truth and the complexities of human motives. Students studying English Literature should read "Atonement" to engage with McEwan's rich prose, his thought-provoking examination of guilt and redemption, and his exploration of the boundaries between fiction and reality.
There we have it, our 10 fantastic books that will kick start your A-Level journey after your English Literature GCSE. Whether you're craving a dose of classic literature, a mind-bending dystopian tale, or a contemporary masterpiece, these reads will ignite your imagination and broaden your literary horizons before the next term.
Remember, reading is not just about academic study - it's about escaping to different worlds, connecting with diverse characters, and exploring the depths of human experience. By reading these books without the pressure of coursework questions and looming exams, you can appreciate the stories for what they are before you have to analyse them in depth.
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